November 17, 2020 Early Arms & Militaria: Age of Exploration, Empire & Revolution
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 11/17/2020
This rifle is featured as rifle No. 30 on pages 130-131 of "Rifles of Colonial America: Volume I" by George Shumway. In addition, this rifle is featured in an article titled "John Philip Beck, American Master Gunsmith" by Mike D'Ambra on pages 18-21 of Vol. 36, No. 2 of "Man at Arms" Magazine from April of 2014. It is also photographed for the "Roll of Honor" on pages 36-37 of Volume 30, No. 3 of "Man at Arms" Magazine from 2008. John Philip Beck was born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1751. His parents arrived in America in 1753 and are believed to have settled in the Reading area of Berks County, Pennsylvania until 1776. Due to the similarities of his early signed rifles with those attributed to Wolfgang Haga (Hachen), it is believed that Beck apprenticed under him. This rifle shows many features associated with Reading guns attributed to Haga. Around 1777, he moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a gunsmith until his death in 1811. This unsigned example was made probably between 1770 and 1775 and is attributed to J.P. Beck and was made during his early years as a gunsmith. One early feature that he continued to use and that evolved as he worked is the "whale's tail" finial that can be seen in its earliest form on this patchbox. The full-length 42 - 3/8" octagonal .54 caliber smoothbore barrel is unsigned and has a deep 4-1/2" groove cut for sighting at the breech and extending into the tang. The flat hand-forged lock is unmarked and has a molding at the tail. The brass furniture includes an early Reading sideplate with beveled edges and an unengraved brass two-piece patchbox surrounded by brass tack and brass wire inlay designs. The finial is an early form of Beck's later well-known "whale's tail" finials. The early buttplate is straight and measures 1-3/4" across the back, tang is faceted and contains round iron patchbox release button. The early trigger guard is faceted and has a wide bow, the bow extension is parallel with the wrist, indicating it is a very early rifle. The highly figured maple stock is of early pre-Revolutionary War Reading form and has elongated relief panels around the lock and sideplate terminating in teardrop shapes at the backs. There is also a fine relief-carved symmetrical scroll design around the barrel tang that terminates in a stylized Fleur-de-Lis. Around the ramrod entry ferrule, there is a relief shell design with incised accents. The carving on this rifle is nearly identical throughout to the early signed J.P. Beck rifle in the following lot. On both sides of the molded high-relief cheekpiece, there are incised foliate designs. The rifle is complete with a wooden ramrod of the proper style. CONDITION: Barrel retains a heavy brown patina with some scattered areas of light pitting and heavier patina. The lock appears to be in its original flintlock configuration and retains a dark patina with some scattered pitting. Stock shows a pleasing dark patina with some age cracks and minor scattered chips and marks from use. Minor sliver replaced above back of lock, as well as a thin 7-1/2" long sliver on the left side of the ramrod channel extending above ramrod entry ferrule, a small piece at the toe (appears to be period-replaced), and a couple small pieces around barrel pins. Barrel and forend have had about the last 7" towards muzzle professionally restored. Brass retains a pleasing mustard patina, front tang of trigger guard has been professionally restored. This is an important and very early pre-Revolutionary War Kentucky attributed to J.P. Beck. This rifle solidifies the belief that he worked first in Berks County and apprenticed under Haga. PROVENANCE: Mike D'Ambra Collection.

Item Dimensions: 58"
Barrel Length
42 - 3/8"
.54 Smoothbore
FFL Status
J.P. Beck, Attributed
Kentucky Longrifle
Serial Number
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $7,500.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $20,910.00
Estimate: $15,000 - $30,000
Number Bids: 13
Auction closed on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.
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