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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bigger Is Better

Never let anyone tell you that bigger isn't better.  Especially if that person is a Pennsylvania gunsmith or a 15th century German bladesmith.  They knew better and made the weapons to prove it.  The following items are oddities that I couldn't help but spot as I browsed the items to be auctioned in our Premiere Auction being held April 19-21st, 2013.  They are absolutely massive in scale and sure to be a focal point of any collection.
Click on the gun for more high resolution photos!

There was a time in American history when a single man could craft an entire rifle.  The trade of manufacturing longrifles, as they are more accurately known, was popularized early on by German immigrants who had been gunsmiths in their homelands.  The German gunsmiths were initially centralized in south-eastern Pennsylvania, but eventually the trade thrived in many states including Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and of course, Kentucky.  This craft boomed in the years between the early 18th and 19th centuries.  As the industrial revolution roared forward, the need for such gunsmiths waned and the trade was nearly lost until a renewed interest around the time of America's sesquicentennial.

According to the documentation included with this rifle, gunsmiths often would boast about the distance their creations could shoot.  Apparently, accuracy took a back seat in the performance department.  Well, one Pennsylvania gunsmith had heard enough of everyone's braggadocio and decided to put an end to the debates once and for all by creating a gun that no one would dare challenge.  During the long and cabin fever-inducing winter, this gunsmith created a longrifle he coined the "Over the Mountain Gun."  The letter that comes with it is a bit confusing in its explanation of the name so I'll elaborate.  Pennsylvania is smack dab in the middle of two mountain ranges: the Alleghenies and the Appalachians.  If you saw a "nearby" peak, and it would typically take you a day of traveling on foot to climb over said mountain, then this gun would shoot over that mountain.  Why they don't call it the "Day's Travel Gun" or the "Mountain Jumper" is beyond me, but then again I'm not a 19th century Pennsylvanian gunsmith.  The papers also state that "you load the powder and ball and a handfull of rock salt to preserve the game until you get there."

This gun is almost 10 feet(!) in total length, with the barrel itself measuring just short of 8 1/2 feet.  There is some nice brass furniture on the piece, which is a nice reminder that frontier gunsmiths of that era often required that they possess the talents of many tradesmen: wood workers, silversmiths, furniture makers, blacksmiths, whitesmiths, metal founders, and engravers.  Also, get a good look at the beautiful striations that appear on every inch of the stock!  This is likely thanks to the curly maple or "flame maple" often used in making guns of this style.

Auction Description

Lot #3286, Documented E.J. Sewell Pennsylvania Kentucky "Over the Mountain" Flintlock Rifle from the Famous Stagecoach Museum
"This impressive Kentucky rifle was once part of the Stagecoach Museum collection and is pictured in the book THE STAGECOACH MUSEUM GUN COLLECTION on page 55. The rifle is numbered 133 in the book with a caption reading, "Perhaps the longest 'Kentucky' shoulder gun known. Made by Pennsylvania gunsmith, who got tired of hearing how far his competitors gun would shoot, so time hanging heavy in the winter, fashioned this "Over the Mountain Gun". An Ozzie and Marie Klavestad autographed copy of the Stagecoach Museum collections book and an original brass Stagecoach Museum inventory tag are included with the rifle. The included 1978 dated notarized letter with Stagecoach Museum letter head states that the rifle was referred to as the "Over the Mountain Gun… because it would take you a day to climb the heights and a gun of this proportions would most certainly shoot right over the mountain". The rifle has an 8 foot, 5 1/2 inch barrel and is nearly 10 feet in overall length. The rifled barrel has a 45 inch long octagon section at the front with the remainder of the barrel being round and is equipped with fixed brass sights. The top of the barrel is marked "E.J. SEWELL" behind the rear sight. The rifle has brass furniture including a patch box on the right side of the buttstock. The shadow cheekpiece on the left side of the buttstock has a brass star inlay. The rifle also has a brass tipped ramrod. The famous Stagecoach Museum of Shakopee, Minnesota, housed a collection of firearms spanning 400 years of history and was a life long project of Ozzie and Marie Klavestad. The museum was a popular tourist attraction and the most famous firearms in the collection included guns owned by Billy the Kid and Annie Oakley. The museum closed in 1996."

For those wondering just how huge this rifle is, here is one of our photographers, Sarah, standing next to it in our warehouse area.

Anybody have shooting sticks?

Our next super-sized item is a large Germanic sword.  The zweihänder (two-handed) sword, represented the final stage of the "bigger is better" during 15th century and into the end of the 16th century.  The term zweihänder is a modern term and the more historically accurate term for these swords is doppelhänder.  Being carried more like polearms than swords, they were almost certainly slung over a shoulder instead of carried in a scabbard or sheath.  They were used against the popular pike formations of the time and there are accounts of these massive swords cutting the heads off of the pikes of their opponents!  Their size ranged anywhere from 4.5 ft. - 5.9  ft. and typically weighed in at 5 - 8 lbs.  Anything larger was considered for ceremonial use only, these were often called "'bearing-swords' or 'parade-swords' (Paratschwert), weighing up to 10 or even 15 pounds and which were intended only for carrying in ceremonial processions and parades" (Clements). For those who don't feel like reading the auction description below, our sword is approximately 58% longer and 300% heavier than even the largest swords listed, weighing in at 26 pounds and measuring 7.75 feet!  This is an absolute behemoth of a weapon!

Auction Description

Lot #3341, Zweihander Style Processional Sword
"Measuring 93 inches overall, with a 68 1/2 inch wavy blade, fitted with a pair of upturned 13 inch wide parrying hooks, and a stitched black leather ricasso cover. The hilt is equipped with a set of 8 inch wide upturned guard arms, a 24 inch spiked crossguard with double guard rings on each side, turned hardwood grip with brass tacked leather cover and a round quillion. Overall the weapon weighs 26 pounds."

Look at the edge on this thing!  It's mean!

Sword as held by my 6'1" tall self.

-written by Joel Kolander


Clements, J.,