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Rare William Henry US 1794 Contract Socket Bayonet

Rare William Henry US 1794 Contract Socket Bayonet

  • Product Code: EWB-2533-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

On April 12, 1794 Congress authorized the establishment of two national armories to produce small arms for the use of the United States military and any temporary volunteer forces that might be raised in the case of a national emergency. The act further authorized the expenditure of up to $143,640 (a rather precise amount) to procure small arms for the young nation. These purchases were to be made through a combination of domestic contracts and by acquiring foreign made arms. With this act of congress, what were to be known to collectors as the US Model 1794 series of contract muskets and bayonets had their genesis.


The need to acquire the arms was pressing. A December 16, 1793 report to the Senate by Secretary of War Knox had revealed that only 31,015 serviceable muskets were currently in possession of the Federal Government, spread out over several storage facilities. While an additional 15,670 muskets were in storage as well, all were damaged, and it was not clear how many could be repaired and made serviceable. This left the young United States with very little in the way of small arms should a national crisis arise. Since the end of the American Revolution, tensions with Great Britain had been increasing, primarily on the high seas where the British Navy controlled most of the major international shipping lanes. Additionally, the French Revolution of 1789 had created major unrest in Europe. Not only were other European monarchies concerned about the spread of Frances new egalitarian ideas but were also afraid of the spread of French colonial ambitions. The French had declared war on Austria and Sardinia in 1792 to advance their goals of European domination and by the following year had declared war on Spain, Holland and England. The conflict and instability of the situation in Europe certainly threatened to spread onto the North American continent, and potentially embroil the young United States. As such, the need to prepare for a war that seemed to be looming on the horizon was quite pressing.


The arms contracts of 1794 were a stop-gap measure intended to shore up the supply of small arms in the near term, allowing time for the two national armories to be built and to start delivering arms. Between April of 1794 and December 1795, the US Treasury entered into contracts with at least six contractors to deliver a total of 7,000 muskets complete with bayonets and scabbards at the price of “twelve dollars and one third, bayonet and scabbard one dollar.” The contractors were Thomas Annely (Philadelphia), Peter Brong (Lancaster), Jacob Dickert Lancaster), Owen Evans (Providence Township), John Miles (Philadlephia) and James Nicholson (Philadelphia). These contractors were issued a large number of existing parts from the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia which were to be assembled into complete muskets. Annely, for example, received 50 barrels, stocks, bayonets and ramrods between 1797 and 1798, but no locks. However, records only account for 12 muskets being delivered by Annely in 1797, but it is likely that records of other deliveries simply do not survive. Larger contractors received more parts. For example, Jacob Dickert received 540 barrels, no stocks, 200 locks, 990 bayonets and 990 ramrods between 1797 and 1799, with recorded deliveries of 904 muskets between 1797 and 1800. John Miles, the most prolific of the contractors, was issued 1,055 barrels, 598 stocks, 848 locks, 998 bayonets and 1,098 ramrods between 1797 and 1799 and delivered a total of 1,625 muskets between 1796 and 1800. The samples noted above indicate the following: 1) Some contractors were more able to produce certain parts than other contractors were. For example, Dickert was issued no stocks, so he was apparently capable of making those, and was only issued about 60% of the barrels for his total delivery. This suggests that Dickert was quite capable for producing both of those components on his own. Annely was apparently able to produce locks, as he was not issued any and Miles was able to produce at some of all the components, particularly stocks and locks. 2) None of the contractors were particularly capable of producing ramrods or bayonets, as in all cases the six documented contractors received almost all of their ramrods and bayonets from the Schuylkill Arsenal. Of the 5,575 muskets and bayonets that can be documented as being delivered by these contractors between 1796 and 1800, 2,388 of the ramrods were issued from Schuylkill Arsenal, as were the same number of bayonets, indicating that only about half of those two parts were of new manufacture.


The muskets delivered under these contracts were based upon the French Model 1766 Charleville Musket and it is safe to assume that some of the parts issued from Schuylkill Arsenal were parts salvaged from French made guns, possibly scavenged from the 15,760 damaged and unserviceable muskets in Federal stores. Other parts were sourced from specialty contractors like William Rose who delivered some 2,958 ramrods during the period and some 5,106 bayonets. These components were utilized not only for the new contract arms, but also in the repair and refurbishment of the damaged arms in storage. 


The it is similarly assumed that the newly produced bayonets were also of the French pattern, most likely conforming to the post-1752 production French Model 1746 style as author and researcher Peter Schmidt categorizes them, or the Model 1754 pattern as author and researcher Erik Goldstein from Colonial Williamsburg categorizes them. It is worth noting that in Goldstein’s study of French socket bayonets, The Bayonet in New France 1665-1760, he refers to a pattern of 1716 with multiple contracts that were slightly different and then a post-1750 production that evolved into what he call the Model 1754. He does not include a Model 1746. As none of the model designation terminology used by either author was of the period, and these are designations applied by researchers, authors and collectors, I feel it worth noting that M1746 of Mr. Schmidt and the M1754 of Mr. Goldstein are essentially the same bayonet, particularly when the total lack of consistency of such items during the period is noted. While some of the newly made American bayonets delivered with the 1794 contract arms may have more closely resembled British bayonets, known examples marked MILES and ROSE are certainly of the French pattern.


As can be seen by the above analysis, less than 5,600 newly made muskets with bayonets were delivered by 1800 under the 1794 contract. Likewise, the newly established Springfield Arsenal had produced less than 3,000 arms by 1798 and Harpers Ferry had yet to deliver a single musket. This led the Federal Government to enter into a second and much larger round of contracts in 1798. Between 1798 and 1799 some 40,700 muskets with bayonets were contracted for by the US government, to be provided by 27 contractors. The only contractor from the 1794 contract to receive a contract in 1798 was Owen Evans. Again, most of the contractors obtained at least some parts from the Federal Government, most notably blank stocks. It is also interesting to note that only one of the 1798 contractors other that Owen Evans had ever had arms making experience, this was William Henry II (or Junior) of Nazareth, PA.


Willian Henry (1729-1786), the father of William Henry II (1757-1821) was born in Chester County, PA and was a gunsmith by trade, working in the Lancaster area circa 1750-1786. Willian Henry was the Chief Armorer on the disastrous 1755 expedition led by General Braddock during the French & Indian War. William Henry would survive the near massacre of the English and allied colonial troops at the Battle of the Monongahela and go on to obtain Committee of Safety gunmaking contracts prior to and during the American Revolution. His son William II, born in 1757 at the height of the French & Indian War, was apprenticed to Lancaster, PA gunmaker Matthew Roesser. William Henry II and his brother John Joseph Henry would work in the Lancaster, later Nazareth, PA areas, with JJ Henry in Philadlephia, and produce arms both commercially and for the governments of the United States and Pennsylvania. His sons, William Henry III and John Joseph Henry II (named after William Henry II’s brother John Joseph) would go on to establish a manufactory in Boulton, PA and continue tradition of family gun making and government arms contracting.


As part of the 1798 contracts, William Henry II was given a contract to deliver 500 muskets of the French Charleville pattern, with bayonets to the US government. The sample gun provided to Henry to copy was not a French made gun but rather an Owen Evans contract arm from the 1794 contract. This helps to illustrate why the variation in early contract arms is often so great. Rather than being given a French Model 1766 Charleville musket to copy, Henry was given a copy of a Charleville musket to copy. Much like the child’s game of telephone where very time the story was told it is slightly different, every generation that separates a copy from an original introduces at least some minor changes. Based upon surviving records, it appears that William Henry delivered a total of 372 muskets with bayonets between 1800 and 1802 to the US government. The average price of $13.40 per musket certainly indicates the delivery of bayonets as well, as the 1794 contract noted the price of the guns as being fixed at $12.33 each with an additional $1 for the bayonet and scabbard. 


William Henry II already had some experience in the production of the French Charleville Pattern Musket, as he had also received a contract in 1797 from the State of Pennsylvania to produce 2,000 guns of that pattern. It is generally believed that he delivered all of these muskets and bayonets as well. William Henry II would continue his contracting for the Federal Government and would provide pistols and rifles under an 1807 US contract in conjunction with his brother John Joseph Henry. They would also produce US Model 1808 Flintlock Muskets as well as 1812 contract muskets.


Offered here is a FINE and very scarce example of a US Model 1794 Contract Socket Bayonet by William Henry II. The blade is clearly  stamped with his initials, W H, which are deeply struck by the ricasso. Although the bayonet was delivered as either part of his 1798 US contract, or possibly part of the 1797 Pennsylvania contract the bayonet is still of the 1794 contract form. It is worth noting that based upon surviving documents it does not appear that William Henry II ever received separate contracts for bayonets and only delivered them in conjunction with his musket contracts. That would imply that Henry delivered a maximum of 2,500 of these bayonets based upon the contracts and probably only 2,372 based upon documentable deliveries. While some contractors like Jacob Dickert received orders for bayonets in addition to their stands of arms (muskets with bayonets) it does not appear that Henry did. Dickert delivered at least 200 more bayonets than guns under his contracts. Other makers who made specific bayonet deliveries during the period of 1794-1800 include George & Charles Eberle who delivered 1,885 M1794 contract bayonets and William Rose who delivered 5,106. That means that a Henry marked M1794 contract socket bayonet is roughly twice as rare as the highly desirable Rose contract bayonets. While it is impossible to know for sure if this bayonet was delivered as part of the small number of guns under the US government contract, or the larger Pennsylvania contract, it is my opinion that it is a Federal contract bayonet. Most of the Pennsylvania contract muskets and their accompanying bayonets were marked CP (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) along with an inventory (serial) number. This system also helped mate the bayonets to the guns as they were not fully interchangeable. Although the bayonet does not bear a “US” mark, the lack of a “CP” mark suggests that this is not a Pennsylvania contract piece. In fact, many of the M1794 Contract Bayonets do not bear a “US” mark.


The bayonet measures 18 5/8” in overall length with a 1 1/16” wide blade that measures 14 ½” in length from the tip to the shoulders and 15 ¼” if you measure from the tip back to the face of the neck. The face is flat and does not have a fuller. The socket measures 2 ¾” in length with a 1 1/16” muzzle-to-stud distance. The bore diameter of the socket measures nominally .864” and the rear diameter of the socket measures nominally .923”. The neck of the bayonet measures 1 ½” in length and has a pronounced curve, typical of the French bayonets the 1794 pattern was copied from. The bayonet’s neck also has a flat face that is typical of Federal Era American bayonets. The bayonet has a thin applied bridge at the rear of the socket.


As noted, the bayonet is in FINE condition. The bayonet has a richly oxidized brown patina over most of the metal surfaces with a clearly visible diagonal hammer weld line where the shank of the bayonet joins the blade. The obvious difference in color between the blade and the shank/socket suggest the blade is made of steel with the socket and shank made of iron. The metal is mostly smooth with some scattered patches of surface roughness and some crust that might clean off the blade. The blade shows no significant pitting, only the patches of surface roughness. The socket shows some scattered pinpricking and light pitting, erosion more typical of iron than steel. The blade show a couple of impact marks and mars along the right edge, near the shank. The face of the neck shows numerous impact marks and mars, likely from being pounded onto a musket over the years. The thin applied bridge at the rear of the socket mortise is cracked and has separated from the left side of the socket, but amazingly the thin piece of metal remains in place. Both the front and rear of the socket are slightly out of round, a feature not uncommon of early friction fit bayonets as they were often squeezed and beaten to increase the friction and make the bayonets fit the guns they were mounted to more tightly.


Overall this is a really attractive, untouched and very scarce example of an early American socket bayonet from the Federal Era. The blade is crisply and clearly marked, and the bayonet has a wonderful appearance. It would be a fantastic addition to your William Henry contract musket if you have one of those scarce guns. It would also be a great addition to any collection of early American bayonets, as it would be difficult to find a nicer example of a Henry bayonet or one with a better blade mark.


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Tags: Rare, William, Henry, US, 1794, Contract, Socket, Bayonet