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Glassick & Co of Memphis Plains Rifle

Glassick & Co of Memphis Plains Rifle

  • Product Code: FLA-3185-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

Frederick G. Glassick was a gunsmith, gunmaker and retailer working in Memphis, TN during the tumultuous years leading up to the American Civil War. He is probably most famous as the partner of William S. Schneider, who made up the second half of the firm Schneider & Glassick. Schneider & Glassick repaired hundreds (if not thousands) of guns for the Confederacy during the twelve-month period from April 1861 to March of 1862. They are also credited with producing (or at least retailing) one of the rarest of the secondary Confederate revolvers, the Schneider & Glassick, of which only about 20-50 are believed to have been manufactured and only 3 or 4 authentic specimens are known today. The work they performed for the southern Confederacy ranged from simple repairs of locks and mechanisms to altering shotguns for cavalry use by “cutting off” barrels and adding musket sized cones (nipples), along with sling rings or swivels. According to Frank Sellers’ American Gunsmiths Frederick G. Glassick worked under his own name (or as F. Glassick & Co) in Memphis from 1840-1864, and worked as Schneider & Glassick from 1860-1862. He also notes that William S. Schneider worked under his name (or as Schneider & Co) in Memphis from 1859-1873. Apparently most of these dates and research are wrong, as delving into the Memphis City directories that are available online reveal that the two men were both working out of the same location for most of their careers and were working under the name “Schneider & Glassick” much earlier than had been previously thought. The 1849 Memphis City Directory lists neither man in business in Memphis, suggesting that Glassick was probably not working there prior to about 1850. The 1855-56 City Directory for Memphis lists “F Glassick “ Gunsmith” working on Jefferson Street (between Main & Front) and “William S. Schneider “ Gunmaker” at 20 Jefferson Street. This same directory also lists “Schneider & Glassick “ Gunsmith” also at 20 Jefferson Street. The next available directory is for 1859, and both men are again listed individually as “gunsmith” (Glassick) and “gunmaker” (Schneider). The firm “Schneider & Co” is also listed as “gunmakers”. The next available directory is a post Civil War 1865-1866 directory that no longer lists Glassick, but does list “Wm Schneider Gunsmith 193 Main”. Schneider disappears from the 1866 directory but reappears at 42 Washington Street in 1867, where he remains in business through 1873. The 1874 directory lists “Mrs. Wm. Schneider “ Gunsmith Shop 42 Washington”. No 1875 directory is available, but even “Mrs. Wm. Schneider” is no longer listed as of 1876. What is interesting is that apparently Schneider & Glassick made a go at working as partners around 1856-57, but apparently gave up by 1859. They then reunited about 1860 and worked together through the fall of Memphis in mid-March of 1862. The firm of F. Glassick & Company, which is not listed in the post-war Memphis business directory for 1865-66, was taking out advertisements in the Memphis Daily Appeal in late 1865, and the advertisements continued intermittently through the spring of 1870, with the most ads being taken during 1867. The advertisements list Glassick & Co as:

IMPORTERS, Manufacturers and Dealers in Guns, Rifles, Pistols, Gun Material for Gunmaker’s use, Gun Implements, Sporting Apparatus, Fishing Tackle, etc.

The ad lists the firm as being located at No. 250 Main street, under Odd Fellows’ Hall. Memphis, Tenn. and also states that Glassick & Co offered gunsmithing services, noting: Repairing done and warranted. Like his sometime partner William Schneider, Glassick advertised that he was a “manufacturer” of guns, but in reality it is unlikely that he made many, if any at all. Rather Glassick appears to have concentrated on selling arms made by other makers, and often marked them with his retailer’s mark. He likely also derived a substantial income from working as a gunsmith and repairing arms in the Memphis area. The handful of F. Glassick & Company marked arms that have been examined are the work of other makers, with Glassick’s name added to the guns. Percussion derringer type pistols with Glassick’s mark are known, but like those offered by Schneider (and later Schneider & Glassick), these guns appear to be the work of Nashville gunmaker Franz J. Bitterlich. A small number of sporting rifles with Glassick’s mark are known as well. Firearms author and historian Charles Worman postulates that the location of Memphis on the Mississippi River may have created a substantial market among the riverboat men for derringer style pocket pistols, and this may explain why the most commonly encountered Schneider, Glassick or Schneider & Glassick marked firearms are of that pattern. The location of Memphis also created a reasonable market for “Plains Rifles’ among the men who used that river port city as a jumping off point for locations further west, particularly the gold fields of California.

Offered here is one of the rarely encountered F. Glassick & Company marked half-stocked Plains Rifles, that was probably made and retailed during the 1850s. The top flat of the rifle’s octagon barrel is marked in a single line: F. GLASSICK & Co, MEMPHIS, TENN. The percussion lock is marked in a single line on the lower edge, forward of the hammer: MOORE N.Y. This mark suggests that the rifle was manufactured by either J.P. Moore or Daniel Moore, who were both working in New York State as gunmakers during that era. It is possible that Moore only produced the lock, but realistically, based upon what we know about Glassick’s operation, it is more likely that Moore produced the entire rifle. The rifle is a classic mid-1850s half-stock plains style percussion rifle, although the barrel is slightly longer than typical for these arms, and the gun is of the highest “trim level” or grade usually encountered for that type of gun. The typical Plains Rifle has a barrel length of about 30” to 36”, although shorter and longer examples have been noted. The rifles also came in three basic trim levels, with the lowest level being an unadorned, “workingman’s” rifle usually with a single trigger, the mid-level rifle being brass or iron mounted (with or without patchbox) and usually with double set triggers, and the finest grade having German silver mountings, often with a circular patchbox and double set triggers. The rifle is about 55 ““ in overall length with a 39” octagon barrel that measures about 7/16” across the flats and just shy of 1” in cross section. The breech is decorated with a pair of platinum bands, indicative of a higher end rifle. The bore measures about .45 caliber, and appears to have had the first couple of inches of the bore nearest the muzzle bored smooth as a built in “false muzzle” for bullet starting. The barrel is secured to the stock with two wood screws through breech plug tang and a pair of wedges through the stock and barrel tenons. The barrel has a heavy 25 ““ long under lug, with two iron ramrod pipes secured to it. The half-stocked forend is tipped with an iron cap. The balance of the rifle’s furniture is of German silver, an option only found on the highest grade of the plains rifles of the era. The triggerguard, buttplate, round patchbox, entry pipe, lock screw escutcheon and wedge escutcheons are all of German silver. A German silver decorative figure is mounted on the check rest of the rifle, showing a sporting man with his dog and rifle at the shoulder. A circular German silver patchbox is set into the obverse butt, and it is lightly engraved with simple decorations. The triggerguard has very nicely executed foliate vines engraved on it, and the buttplate and entry pipe have simple engraved embellishments. The triggerguard has a pair of finger rest extensions at its rear, and the guard surrounds a double-set trigger mechanism with a heavily curved rear “set” trigger and straight front “firing” trigger. The percussion lock is secured to the stock with a single screw through flat opposite the lock. The lock is decorated with a punch dot and double line boarder pattern around its edges and simple foliate engraving at the front and the rear. The hammer has the same pattern of foliate engraving as well. The rifle has simple fixed sights, with a semi-buckhorn rear sight dovetailed onto the barrel about 10” forward of the breech plug. The front sight is a German silver Rocky Mountain style blade dovetailed about 1 ““ from the muzzle. The blade is about 1” long, .13” tall and .05” wide. A simple, and somewhat crudely fashioned 38” long wooden ramrod is located under the barrel, secured by the iron two pipes and the German silver entry pipe.

This F. Glassick & Company Plains Rifle is in about VERY GOOD+ condition overall. The gun appears to be all original and complete with the exception of the wooden ramrod, which appears to be a more recent replacement. The rifle retains good markings throughout, although the Glassick retailer mark on the barrel is slightly weak. The barrel is mostly smooth with a lovely dark brown coloration that appears to be a combination of remaining original browned finish, oxidized brown patina and some more recent touch-up browning or toning to make the appearance more even. The barrel shows some moderate pinpricking and light pitting around the breech area, indicative of significant use with the highly caustic mercuric percussion caps of the period. Otherwise the metal remains mostly smooth, with only some scattered areas of light pinpricking and some small flecks and patches of minor surface oxidation. The barrel also shows some impact marks and minor surface mars around the breech area as well. The bore of the rifle rates about FAIR to GOOD. It is dark and dirty and appears to only retain traces of the original rifling, although a cleaning might improve it somewhat. As noted, the upper couple of inches of the bore appear smooth, probably for use as a false muzzle for bullet starting. The percussion lock has a medium pewter patina, with some scattered pinpricking and minor surface oxidation present, as well as some oxidized age discoloration. The hammer has a darker patina and shows light to moderate pitting over its surfaces, again the result of the corrosive percussion cap flash. The action of the rifle functions correctly, with the set trigger mechanism operating as it should. The sear and tumbler both show wear, and the hammer will no longer engage in the half-cock notch. However, the full-cock position does operate correctly and the trigger pull with the trigger set remains very light and crisp. All of the German silver hardware remains in FINE condition and any engraved embellishments remain relatively crisp and clear. The mountings have an attractive dull silvery patina with a slightly milky tone, showing nice age. The patchbox is in fine mechanical shape and functions as it should, closing tightly and opening only when appropriate pressure is applied. Both sights appear original to the rifle and present a sharp, clear sight picture. The stock of the rifle remains in VERY GOOD condition and matches the condition of the balance of the gun very well. The stock is solid, complete and full length, with no splices or breaks noted. Upon removing the barrel is appears that there was an internal crack in the stock that was repaired at some point in time, but there does not appear to be any replaced wood. About 1” of the crack appears to have gone all the way through the stock, and under strong light it can barely be seen, forward of the lock mortise. The repair is solid and tight and no structural issues appear to be present in the wood. The stock retains nice edges and shows no obvious signs of sanding. The cheek rest remains crisp and sharp with nice edges as well. The stock does show some minor bumps and dings, but nothing serious or indicative of abuse or misuse.

Overall this is a really nice example of a mid-1850s Plains Rifle retailer marked by a very desirable and rarely encountered Memphis gunsmith, Frederick Glassick. While it is possible that the rifle went west during the Gold Rush era, it is just as likely that it remained in the south and may well have went to war with a Confederate volunteer at the very beginning of the American Civil War. While civilian rifles did not remain in Confederate service very long, they certainly played an important role in the arming of the southern volunteers during spring and summer of 1861. Memphis marked guns from this era are particularly desirable and very scarce. They are rarely offered for sale, and when they are they are usually derringer pattern pocket pistols. Don’t miss your chance to own a very nice Glassick marked pre-Civil War Plains Rifle, as it may be quite some time before another such rifle appears on the market.


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Tags: Glassick, Co, of, Memphis, Plains, Rifle