US M1816 Musket by Wickham - Rare Browned Example
- Product Code: FLA-3394
- Availability: In Stock
In 1812 the US military began the process of improving and upgrading the design of the “Charleville Pattern” muskets then in use by the army, which were being produced at Springfield, Harpers Ferry and by various contractors. The project would take some three years, would involve the production of a number of model and sample guns, and would involve ideas gleaned from Eli Whitney’s state contract arms from the first decade of the 1800s. Additionally innovations from all levels of the US government, from the director of procurements (predecessor to the chief of the ordnance department) to input from arms inspectors and workmen at the national armories were taken into consideration as the new model of arm was developed. The resulting Standard Model of 1815 would be the first truly “American” designed military musket to be put into widespread production. As the name of the pattern implied, one of the primary motivations in the adoption of the new design was to standardize production. Up until this point, the arms of “Charleville Pattern” (US M-1795 muskets) manufactured at Springfield and Harpers Ferry were different enough that for a very long time, collectors thought they were actually two different patterns of musket! No level of standardization existed in the arms delivered by contractors either, as in the era of non-interchangeable parts, the contract arms were produced by copying a pattern arm supplied by one of the armories, and thus the contractors working from a Harpers Ferry pattern musket produced a gun different from those working from a Springfield pattern. The goal of the Standard Model of 1815 was to rectify this, improve upon known deficiencies in the “Charleville Pattern” arms, and to take the first baby steps towards interchangeability of parts. The pattern went into production in 1815 and like most US arms of the era, immediately went through a number of small changes (noted as Type I-Type IV) by collectors, over the next three years, with the “Standard Model” being produced from 1815 through 1818. These are the muskets that have long been misidentified as the Model of 1812, based primarily upon the fact that the design process that resulted in these muskets had started in that year. The evolution of the Standard Model of 1815 soon resulted in the identification of areas of design that should be addressed and improved. Most notably the stock design, which had been radically altered from the “Charleville Pattern” by making it more robust and adopting a lower comb and thicker wrist, was further altered by lowering the comb even more and extending the rail of the butt. A multi-year debate about band spring placement and type was finally resolved, and a new, rounded lock plate was adopted. Even though the new stock profile would begin to appear on muskets produced in 1816, the newly adopted Model 1816 would not really go into full production (with all newly made parts, not using older pattern parts on hand) until January of 1818, when it was noted that the guns being produced at Springfield were “All of the new model.” The US Model 1816 Musket would remain in production through about 1840 at the Springfield Arsenal and 1844 at Harpers Ferry and more than 800,000 of the muskets would be produced during that period between the two national armories and the various contractors who provided the arms as well. Over the years collectors have divided the 1816 into three types, Type I, II and III. More recent scholarship has indicated that the more appropriate terminology is probably Model 1816 (Type I), Model 1822 (Type II) and Model 1822/28 (Type III). However, the primary changes between the three variants are extremely minor and focus on a change in the attachment of the rear sling swivel (Type I on a stud, Type II on the triggerguard bow), a change in finish (Type IIs “National Armory Brown”, while most Type Is and Type IIIs are “National Armory Bright”) and a push to make the dimensions of the musket consistent enough that major components (locks, stocks and barrels) would be able to interchange. It is interesting that the push towards a greater level of interchangeability was a driving force behind the adoption of the Model 1828 (1816 Type III), as this very lack of standardization and inconsistency in parts production had been the primary motivation in the design of the Standard Model of 1815 more than a decade earlier. While some authors suggest the technology of the period placed inherent limitations on the potential to manufacture arms with interchangeable parts, the process had been applied successfully to firearms by the beginning of the 1820s by John Hall, Simeon North, and to some extent Eli Whitney. In the case of the National Armories, I think it was the slowness of the bureaucracy that kept the armories from improving machinery and production techniques that prevented them from achieving this goal. In fact, John Hall would establish the rifle works at Harpers Ferry and produce fully interchangeable Hall Rifles there some two decades before Harpers Ferry would be able manufacture its first muskets with interchangeable parts, the US Model 1842. During the early part of US M1816 production it was determined that the guns were to be serial numbered, a process that had never been in place at Springfield before, but had previously been at Harpers Ferry during the much of the production of the “Charleville Pattern” musket, as well as for pistols and rifles. The system, adopted in 1820 and abandoned in 1832 used an alphanumeric marking to serialize the guns in lots of 2,500 and had the ability to number some 60,000 arms before repeating. It utilized a capital letter to indicate the series, for example “A”. The guns in the “A” series would then be numbered from “0” to “99” for a total of 100 “A” guns. An additional lowercase letter would be added next, so the next series of 100 guns would be marked A/a 0-99. This would be repeated with A/b, A/c, etc. until the lowercase letter options were exhausted, with the exception of the letters “j” or “v”, which were not used. With a single uppercase letter without a secondary lowercase letter and then 24 additional lower-case letter options for each 0-99 guns, this allowed a single uppercase letter to be used for 2,500 total muskets. When all of the “A” combinations were exhausted, the uppercase letter advanced to “B” until all 2,500 combinations had been used for that letter, then advanced to “C”, and so on. It is important to note that these serial numbers were not applied as soon as the arms were completed, but rather after some period of time in storage, usually prior to being shipped to another arsenal or being issued. In fact, once the period of National Armory Brown finish was entered, it was standard practice for the arms to remain in racks for some 5 years and allowed to cure with air circulating around them prior to being packed into cases. The cases were organized by date of manufacture, with the oldest guns on hand always being slated to be issued prior to newer arms.
The US Model 1816 Musket was a single shot, muzzle loading smoothbore flintlock musket that was nominally .69 caliber. It had a 42” round barrel, that was secured to the American black walnut stock by three flat, spring retained barrel bands and a single screw through the breech plug tang. With the exception of the National Armory Brown period, the metal parts of the musket were left “in the white” and polished bright. The locks were case hardened and were typically polished to bright, but examination of high condition early production M1816s as well as guns from the National Armory Brown period indicate that the locks were sometimes left with their original mottled colors from the hardening process visible. When the US Ordnance Department officially adopted the percussion ignition system for all long arms with Model 1841 rifle and Model 1842 musket, a process of analyzing and evaluating the now obsolete flintlock muskets in store was undertaken during the years of 1842 through 1845. Those guns manufactured after 1831 that were in good repair were considered 1st Class and were to be retained in storage and only issued upon special orders. Eventually almost all of these guns would be altered to percussion. Those muskets manufactured between 1822 and 1831 that were in good repair were classified as 2nd Class and would be issued as needed in their current flintlock state, marked with inspectors’ initials and a “2”, and most would eventually be altered to percussion after the newer muskets rated as 1st Class had been so altered. Those muskets manufactured between 1812 and 1820 were considered 3rd Class arms and were not considered suitable for use as flintlocks, and were not considered satisfactory to be altered to percussion, but were to be retained in storage should some exigency require that they be altered and issued. These guns were marked with inspector initials and a “3”. Finally, those muskets produced prior to 1812 were considered unserviceable and were to be culled from inventory and sold as surplus. As a result of the active percussion alteration program that took place during the first half of the 1850s at the various US arsenals, as well as those alterations performed by contractors, original flintlock US M1816 muskets are rather scarce. When encountered they are typically early guns (usually “Type I” muskets), but are still usually marked with the classification cartouche and “3”. While it was generally assumed that the US military went to war with Mexico in 1846 carrying the newly adopted US M1842 percussion musket, more recent scholarship has revealed that the Ordnance Department was concerned that insufficient quantities of the new musket were available for issue to all troops, and as such a combination of flint and percussion muskets would have to be used. This would create an ammunition supply issue, as the paper cartridge for the M1816 contained extra gun powder for priming the pan, powder that was not required for the percussion M1842. The Ordnance Department was concerned that with a mix of guns and ammunition in the field, the flintlock cartridges might be issued to men with percussion muskets, resulting in overcharged (and potentially hazardous) loads. More concerning, if the percussion cartridges were issued to men with flintlocks there would not be a sufficient powder charge for the load once the pan was primed. As a result, it was decided that only the flintlock muskets would be issued to the troops embarking for Mexico. As a result, the M1816 musket was the mainstay infantry arm for the US forces during that war.
Offered here is an exceptionally attractive and very high condition example of a US M-1816 “Type I” Musket in its original flintlock configuration, produced on contract by Marine T. Wickham of Philadelphia. Wickham had been apprenticed to John Armstrong, an Emmitsburg, MD based gunmaker who worked from 1793-1841 (Sellers). After completing his apprenticeship, Wickham apparently started working as an armorer at the newly established Harpers Ferry Arsenal. His work was of such high quality that on November 9, 1808, Wickham was appointed the Master Armorer at Harpers Ferry. On March 16, 1811, Wickham was appointed to the position of Inspector of Small Arms by the Secretary of War William Eustis, and was moved to the Philadelphia area to inspect arms delivered by contractors at the Schuylkill Arsenal. Wickham spent the next few years as an arms inspector not only working from his Philadelphia base, but also traveling to other US arsenal and to the contractor’s premises to perform his duties. Wickham was engaged as an arms inspector through the summer of 1815; the crisis of the War of 1812 having kept him extremely busy from 1812-1814. After the conclusion of the war, Wickham began thinking about returning to his original vocation as an arms maker. His intimate knowledge of the arms contract procurement process, combined with his manufacturing experience and term as Master Armorer at Harpers Ferry placed Wickham in the position to establish himself as a major arms contractor for the US government. In 1816, Wickham received his first contract to produce US arms, a total of 5,000 Standard Model of 1815 flintlock muskets. His next musket contract would be received in 1819, again for 5,000 stands of arms, with another 5,000-musket contract being received in 1822. Wickham would receive two additional muskets contracts during the 1816 musket production period, on in 1823 for 10,000 arms and a final one in 1829 for 8,750, of which only 8,450 would be delivered. In all, Wickham would deliver some 33,450 flintlock muskets to the US government over a two-decade period, with his final deliveries from his last contract being made during 1836. Wickham’s arms were delivered with two different lock plate markings. The guns from his first two contracts, and part of his third contract, were simply marked M.T. WICKHAM in an arc over PHILA below the pan. These guns were not marked on the tail of the locks and were not dated. During the third contract deliveries, Wickham moved the “PHILA” mark to the tail of the lock and added a date in that location as well. Wickham’s earliest arms deliveries were inspected by George Flegel, who had previously been a Schuylkill Arsenal foreman under the direction of Wickham. Flegel inspected Wickham’s arms that were delivered to the Schuylkill Arsenal through April 29, 1823, when arsenal inspector Luther Sage took over that duty.
The Wickham Contract US M1816 Flintlock Musket offered here is in VERY FINEcondition and was probably manufactured during the beginning of Wickham’s 1822 contract for 5,000 muskets. The musket is a “Type I”, a pure Model 1816, with the rear sling swivel suspended from a stud forward of the triggerguard bow, rather than mounted on the guard bow itself as it was with the Type II (M1822) muskets. The gun is also finished National Armory Brown, a finish not regularly encountered on “Type I” M1816 muskets. The browning of muskets started to be experimented with at the national armories during the summer of 1820, and was official policy by the summer of 1822. This gun appears to be one of the early deliveries from Wickham’s 1822 contract, which utilized older “Type I” parts, but had the newly adopted finish applied to it. The lock of the musket is clearly marked in two horizontal lines under the brass pan: M.T. WICKHAM / PHILA with the top line in an arc. Neither the lock nor the barrel tang is dated, which is typical of Wickham’s deliveries during his first two contracts. It was sometime during the 1822 contract that his arms started to be dated. The left upper quadrant of the breech is marked with the view and inspection marks of George Flegel, including the initial F, a P for “proved” and the letters US, indicating government ownership. The buttplate tang is unmarked. The counterpane of the stock, opposite the lock is stamped with George Flegel’s inspection mark of a V / GF. This inspection indicates that the gun was delivered no later than April 29, 1823, the last time that Flegel inspected Wickham contract arms. Flegel’s F is also found throughout the interior of the lock on the small parts and on the inside neck of the hammer. The sub-inspection initials W B are present behind the triggerguard in the toe line of the stock.
As noted the musket is in VERY FINE condition and remains in its original flintlock configuration. The gun retains about 30%+ of its original National Armory Brown finish, which has thinned and faded substantially from handling and use over the years. There are patches of surface oxidation and some surface roughness present on the browned barrel and furniture, particularly on the buttplate and around the muzzle of the gun. This is not uncommon and was actually a period complaint about the early brown finished guns, that were noted to simply start rusting in their racks, a problem that had not been experienced with the National Armory Bright guns. The lock retains about 20% of its original casehardened coloring from the hardening and was not polished to bright. The case coloring is not the vibrant type of color associated with high condition Colts, but rather the more muted grays, blues and browns that occurred naturally as part of the heat treating and hardening process. The finish has dulled and oxidized to dusky plum patina and matches the gun very well. The markings on the lock remain crisp and clear and fully legible. The lock is mechanically excellent and functions perfectly on all positions. The springs all remain stiff and tight and the hammer and frizzen both function crisply. The brass pan shows some old discoloration and oxidation, primarily in its recesses. The touchhole is original and appears unmolested, though it does shows some minor erosion and wear around its exterior. The hole is well centered in the pan and retains the correct tapered entrance to the chamber of the barrel. The bore of the musket is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. It remains mostly bright and relatively smooth along most of its length with some scattered pitting and light oxidation here and there along its length, with the most notable patches located in the last two to three inches closest to the muzzle. A good scrubbing would probably improve the barrel in that region. The stock of the musket remains in VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition as well and matches the condition of the metal perfectly. The musket retains both of its original sling swivels, as well as its original button head ramrod. The rod is full-length and retains good, usable threads at its end. The stock is solid and full-length with no breaks or repairs noted. The stock is very crisp throughout with no signs of having been sanded. It retains extremely sharp lines and edges and has a feathery texture to its surface. The stock does show some lightly scattered bumps, dings and minor mars from handling, use and storage, but shows no signs of abuse or mishandling.
Overall, this is a really wonderful example of a 100% original and correct US M1816 Type I Musket, which is rarely encountered with a National Armory Brown finish. The gun remains in its original flintlock configuration and is incredibly sharp throughout. It retains excellent markings everywhere and has an extremely crisp stock. It is a mystery how this musket escaped a classification inspection cartouche during the 1842-45 period, as the condition of this gun certainly warranted it being placed in emergency reserve for issue or conversion, with the only factor making is a “3rd Class” gun being that it would be considered a Model 1816 rather than a Model 1822. Realistically this gun is probably in better shape nearly 200 years after it was manufactured than many of the flintlock muskets that were examined only a decade after being built. It has to be assumed that this musket was issued to one of the states under the Militia Act of 1808 and somehow escaped being re-inspected, possibly by being liberated from the local arsenal, thus explaining its fine condition with minimal indications of field service. Fine condition original flint 1816s like this don’t come along often, and are highly prized when they are found. This will be a great addition to any serious collection of US martial arms and will no doubt be a gun that you will be very proud to display in your collection.