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The Civil War Collector – July 2013

The Civil War Collector

The Civil War Collector – July 2013

By John Sexton

The Civil War Collector
A Kentucky-Pennsylvania long rifle, ca. 1830, $2,000-$3,000.
Q: Hello John, this long rifle has been in my possession over 40 years and was in my wife’s grandfather’s antique shop that closed in 1936. I have no information on the maker or where it was made.
It is: a Kentucky Pennsylvania rifle, percussion cap, muzzle-loading rifle; curly maple stock; barrel is octagonal and 45.5-inches long; brass patch box and butt plate; stock has carving on opposite side of patch box (bird?); and engraving on stock plate (ducks and dog), on hammer, lock plate has name of “Josh C. Randle” with “Warranted: printed under the name. Any information would be appreciated and lend to the conversation as house guests admire it hanging over our fireplace.
J.S.: Your rifle, known as a “Kentucky” rifle, was probably made in central Pennsylvania, circa 1830, originally as a flintlock. The gun was converted to percussion for continued use probably in the 1840s or 1850s. There are many schools or areas where these American long rifles were made, and there are many books written on the subject. The style of the patch box is similar to a gun made in Snyder County, Pennsylvania, though unsigned. The maker would only be a guess as most long rifles are of unknown manufacture. The name found on the lock plate is typically not the gun maker’s but the lock plate maker; makers’ marks are generally found engraved to the top of the barrel flat.
In the early 19th century in rural America, you would have probably had a rifle in your home for hunting small game and protecting your property. If you didn’t have an old military musket, you probably had one of the tens of thousands of the only truly American rifle form seen here.
The most typical Kentucky rifle was just a utilitarian tool, no embellishment, just functionality. Your gun has some added decorative and functional features, such as the long three-piece, hinged, decorated patch box and the fancy striped maple stock with a bit of incised carving.
Unfortunately, this gun has been cleaned, and like a fine piece of furniture from this era, it loses a lot of its value. With “untouched,” great patina on wood and metal, this gun would sell for between $4,000 and $6,000 as is. Now, it will probably bring about half that figure, $2,000-$3,000. James D. Julia auction of Fairfield, Maine, has sold a great many high-quality rifles of this genre in their last couple of catalogs, which can be seen online to give anyone interested a better idea of what the best “Kentucky” rifles can bring.
Q: Dear Mr. Sexton: Found a metal pair of pants about three inches high.  Remembered what my grandmother said about these, but you know how grandmothers can be. Her story is that during the Civil War, they used these holders to keep matches dry. I know on the inside top it says, “Patented Nov. 9, 1886”; however, maybe this item just wasn’t patented until then, but was still in use before that. What are your ideas on this?
JS:  Well, your match safe is not Civil War, but I have seen several of these in auctions over the years. A quick search shows that on October 19, 2012, Ivey-Selkirk Auctions in St. Louis sold a match safe collection, including two figural safes in the form of a pair of pants very similar to yours. One advertised a clothing store in small script on the suspenders, and it sold for $170; another 3-inch “pants” safe sold for $160. Sohn & Associates of Evansville Indiana auctioned another advertising pants safe for a Denver retailer on May 5, 2012; I could not find a price realized or a presale estimate, but imagine it was like the others.
Q: I have recently purchased a stretcher at a flee market, and the woman who sold it to me said it was Civil War Era, but I am not 100% sure. I believe it is a very unique piece, and it is in amazing condition.  There are faint blood stains from top to bottom. The pillow connects to the legs and was filled with horse hair or straw. I just know that it truly is from long ago.
JS: I do believe the dealer who sold you this bed is correct in that it is Civil War Era. This is not an uncommon item used by officers in the field who had wagons carrying their gear. James Julia auctions sold in March 2012 a bed with a similar sized thin mattress filled with hemp with a wood frame. It folded up and fit into a canvas bag with the Rhode Island officer’s name painted on the bag. That particular “camp bed” was made particularly for that purpose and was sold to soldiers during the Civil War. The bed at Julia’s sold for about $2,000. Other camp beds with no maker’s marks or identification as to the specific soldier who used it are found at Civil War shows and auctions occasionally priced at several hundred dollars. All in all, your “stretcher” or “camp bed” is no doubt of the era, but what its actual use was is unknown without identification.
John Sexton is an independent appraiser and expert of Civil War memorabilia. He is an accredited member of various appraiser organizations. He can be contacted at 770-329-4984 or If you have a Civil War item for him to appraise, email a photo and a description to

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