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Joslyn M-1855 Monkey Tail Carbine - Very Rare

Joslyn M-1855 Monkey Tail Carbine - Very Rare

  • Product Code: FLA-2999-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The M-1855 Joslyn Carbine, known today by collectors as the Monkey Tail carbine, was the first of a series of Civil War era firearms to be designed and patented Benjamin Franklin Joslyn. B.F. Joslyn was born in 1821 and had grown up in Worchester, MA. Worchester was where the firm of Allen & Thurber (later Allen & Wheelock) had relocated to in 1847, and established a large firearms manufacturing facility. Although little is known of Joslyn’s early life, it is reasonable to assume that the arrival of this major manufacturer in his home town while he was in his mid-20s probably had an effect on a young, mechanically minded, man who was interested in firearms. By 1855 Joslyn had field for and received his first firearms related patent. The patent, issued August 23, 1855, was for a percussion breechloading carbine. The gun had a 22 ““ round barrel, secured to the stock with a single brass barrel band and the breechblock. The carbine was .54 caliber and utilized a nitrated paper cartridge. Pushing a large oval ring at the rear of the action forward unlocked the breech lever and allowed it to be swung upward, actuating the breech loading mechanism and exposing the breech for loading. A fixed plunger at the end of the breech lever forced the charge home into the chamber when the lever was closed. A long pin at the rear of the breech lever actuated a trigger safety mechanism that locked the trigger and prevented it from releasing the hammer, even if it was cocked, while the breech was open. This system prevented accidental discharges while the breech was open, and only allowed the trigger to work while the breech was securely closed. The carbine was mounted in a half-length walnut stock, with a sling bar and ring on the flat, opposite the lock, to facilitate carry by cavalry. The lock, breech and lever mechanism were all case hardened, and the barrel was browned or blued, depending upon the era of manufacturing. The furniture, consisting of the triggerguard, buttplate and barrel band was all of brass. The rear sight was a flip up adjustable ladder with a fixed notch for use as a quick acquisition sight when it was in the down position and a sliding bar to adjust the sight for longer distances when the ladder was flipped up. The sight was dovetailed into the top of the barrel, about 3 ““ forward of the breech hinge. The sight was similar to those used on some early Sharps rifles & carbines, and was particularly sturdy. A large iron front sight, with a “shark fin” profile was mounted on top of the barrel about a half-inch from the muzzle. Now that Joslyn had a design and a patent, he only needed two more things: a way to manufacture his new carbine and customers for it, preferably the US military. Joslyn subsequently approached the venerable Asa H. Waters firearms company of Millbury, MA to manufacture his carbine. The Waters company could trace its roots to the early days of the 19th century and had been a US military arms contractor since the 1808 Contract Musket orders. Waters provided experience in military arms manufacturing and a relationship with the US Ordnance Department that would be helpful to get Joslyn’s foot in the door to acquire a US military contract for his carbine. Interestingly, the Joslyn carbine would be the last firearm produced by this iconic American gun maker. Joslyn also hired William C. Freeman of New York City to help market and distribute the design. Freeman must have been heavily involved in the firearms industry, as he is often attributed as the manufacturer (or arranged for the manufacture) of the first 500 B.F. Joslyn revolvers. Freeman was apparently well connected with the US Ordnance Department and managed to arrange for Joslyn’s design to be included in the 1857 and 1858 Army Board Trials for breechloading arms. While the Joslyn did not win the trials, it came in second to the Burnside design, it did well enough for Joslyn to receive an order for 1,200 carbines. The Navy was apparently impressed as well, and they further ordered 500 of the guns as long barreled rifles, with a saber bayonet lug under the barrel. While it appears that all of the carbines ordered by the Army were delivered, it is generally believed that only about 200 of the rifles were ever manufactured. Some arms historians theorize that the balance of the Navy order was filled with remaining carbines on hand. By the time these sales were going through, Joslyn was already on to his new designs, which included a new breechloading rimfire carbine (which would be designated the M-1862 Joslyn Carbine) and 5-shot, solid frame, .44 caliber percussion revolver. Both of these arms would be manufactured at Joslyn’s new established factory in Stonington, CT, and with the coming of the American Civil War, Joslyn would find a ready customer in the US Ordnance Department. An improved version of his M-1862 breechloader, the M-1864 was even more popular, and its action would become the basis for the first breechloading metallic cartridge rifle to be manufactured at the Springfield Arsenal during early 1865. As with most firearms manufacturers who had profited and flourished during the Civil War, the end of the conflict brought financial ruin. The civilian market could not begin to support the factories that had been designed for wartime output, and by the end of 1868 Joslyn was bankrupt and his assets were sold at a sheriff’s auction. Joslyn does, however, hold the distinction of having his M-1855 carbine among the first breechloaders to be in the field with Union cavalry during the Civil War. As the 1,200 carbines ordered after the 1857-58 trials were already in the hands of the Ordnance Department, they were readily available for issue. The carbines seems to have seen the most field use with Ohio volunteer cavalry regiments, with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry all receiving “monkey tail” carbines. Only 1,500 of the guns were manufactured by Waters, and with 1,200 going to the US government it would seem that the majority of the surviving examples would bear US inspector marks. However, this is not the case, and may be the result of the delivered arms not being inspected upon delivery. As the arms were already manufactured prior to their “open market” sale to the Ordnance Department, there are no sub-inspector marks on the guns, as no Federal inspectors were working in the factory. Similarly, most “open market” purchases of arms from the “civilian” market by the US Ordnance Department are not inspected in any way. It appears that the Joslyn carbines were probably delivered c1858 and the handful sent out for trials in the field were inspected at that time, with the thought that others would be inspected as they were issued. With the sudden need to issue carbines at the beginning of the war, the guns appear to have been largely issued without inspection cartouches. Other anomalies exist with the production of the carbines. While some are serial numbered on the tops of their breech levers, many are not. These guns typically only have an alphanumeric mark on the left side of the breech lever, which is probably some sort of batch or assembly number. It is my belief that the guns with these marks were the earliest production carbines, and the later production guns are serial numbered. This is supported by the fact that the handful of extant M-1855 Joslyn Naval rifles known are serial numbered, and these would have been among the last guns produced by Waters for Joslyn. It also appears that the early production carbines were manufactured with browned barrels, while the later production carbines and Naval rifles were blued. Examples of carbines with both finishes, clearly original, are known to exist. Many of the carbines are further marked with a cryptic alphanumeric mark on the right side of the barrel band. This could be an assembly or mating mark, but in only one case have I ever seen this mark match the alphanumeric mark on the breech lever. It seems much more likely that these marks are some sort of rack or issue mark. They are not present on all carbines, but appear on the large majority of them, suggesting that they are some sort of military marking. With only 1,500 of the Joslyn M-1855 “Monkey Tail” Carbines being produced, they are extremely rare today in any condition. As most of these carbines were issued and in the field at the beginning of the Civil War, a high condition example is an extremely rare and highly prized find for the advanced US Civil War carbine collector.

This Joslyn M-1855 “Monkey Tail” Carbines is in about NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The carbine is extremely well marked throughout, is very crisp and sharp and retains the large majority of its original finish. This is one of the guns that I feel is an early production carbine, in that it is not serial numbered and has a browned barrel. The top of the breech lever is crisply and clearly marked in three lines: PATD BY / B.F. JOSLYN / AUG. 26, 1855. The lever is not serial numbered, but the inner left side of the lever is marked with the alphanumeric code G 3. The brass barrel band is marked with the alphanumeric code F 1. The lock is clearly marked in two lines, forward of the hammer: A.H. WATERS & Co / MILBURY MASS. The lock retains about 60%+ of its original case hardened finish, with the mottled colors of blue, brown and purple still quite visible. The coloring has faded and dulled with age, with a smoky silvery gray patina beginning to dominate the formerly vibrant lock. The hammer matches well, with the colors being slightly more muted than on the lock. The breech lever retains about the same amount of case coloring, with the exterior colors being somewhat more muted than the lock, with more dark blue and brown hues, and the entire lever fading to a mixture of smoky pewter and dull mottled grays. The interior of the lever and the interior of the breech system retain more vibrant colors, similar to those on the lock and hammer. The sling bar mounting plate has faded to a mostly dully pewter patina with only traces of darker mottling, and the original sling bar and ring are bright metal. The barrel retains about 85%+ of its original brown finish, which is also starting to fade, thin and dull slightly from age. There are some small, scattered patches of lightly oxidized surface scale noted on the barrel, where age and handling have combined to create some patches of finish wear. There are also a couple of thumb sized patches of more significant surface oxidation and minor surface roughness on the reverse of the barrel, forward of the forend. In addition, there are a handful of more modern minor scratches and light scrapes on the barrel where finish has been lost and the silver colored steel of the barrel has become exposed. The bore of the carbine is in EXCELLENT condition, and is extremely bright with excellent, sharp 3-groove rifling and a mirror polish to the bore. The lock is extremely crisp as well, and is mechanically excellent, functioning perfectly on all positions. The breech loading mechanism is in equally excellent condition, also functioning perfectly in every way. The brass furniture has a lovely, mellow golden patina that is very attractive. The gun appears to be 100% complete, correct and original in all respects. The original sling bar and ring are in place on the side of the carbine, and what appears to be the original rear sight is in place as well. Interestingly, the ladder of the rear sight is not graduated. This suggests very early production, or possibly that this was one of the carbines delivered to the Navy in place of Joslyn 1855 Rifles. The earliest deliveries of Whitney M-1861 Navy (Plymouth) Rifles were also with sight ladders that were not regulated and graduated. The sight functions smoothly and correctly and appears to be 100% complete, correct and original. All of the metal and its markings remain crisp and sharp and very attractive throughout, with crisp screw heads and very fine wood to metal fit. The stock of the carbine is in NEAR EXCELLENT condition as well and also very sharp throughout. The edges and lines are as crisp as the day the carbine left the Waters factory, and the stock has never been sanded or tampered with in any way. The stock is full length and solid, and is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. This is practically unheard of with Joslyn carbines, as the large majority of them have cracks in their wrists due to the very thin wood there, where the breech loading action is inlet into the stock. The stock does show some scattered bumps, dings and minor mars from handling, use and storage, but no abuse or damage. In fact the only two minor nitpicking issues I can find are two very tiny surface chips with a very small surface sliver or wood is missing. One is near at the edge of the buttplate tang and one is at the rear of the triggerguard extension plate. Both are barely noticeable and incredibly minor, but are mentioned for exactness. The stock still retains that “feathery” feel to the wood grain and is really very striking to look at.

Overall this is simply a wonderful example of a very scarce US military carbine that is rarely seen on the market in this state of overall preservation and condition. The last one of these carbines that I saw for sale in anywhere near this condition was just slightly less than $10,000. This gun is every bit as nice, and possibly nicer and is much more reasonably priced. For any serious collector of scarce US 19th century martial arms, this gun has everything you want, condition, originality, scarcity and condition (yes, I listed “condition” twice). You will be extremely pleased to add this fantastic carbine to your collection and it will certainly be a standout in even the most advanced carbine collection.


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Tags: Joslyn, M, 1855, Monkey, Tail, Carbine, Very, Rare