Signed "S Lauck" Simon Lauck, Winchester, VA Ca. 1790
Simon was born in 1760 and died in 1815 leaving 3 sons active in his gunsmithing business on Loudoun St, Winchester. He left Winchester in 1775 with his brother Peter and the Dutch Mess (Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen) to join Washington at Cambridge, Mass.
Simon probably apprenticed with J.P. Beck during the revolution. Beck's first wife, Anna Maria Lauck, was probably related to Simon. Listed as a gunsmith 1783-1785 in Lebanon Township, Lancaster County, Simon returned to Winchester by 1787 and took on Henry Harding as an apprentice early that year. He trained 4 sons, took on apprentices, employed journeymen, and was a successful businessman.
This rifle is his earliest known example produced in Winchester. There are strong Lebanon characteristics, i.e. architecture, trigger guard, and engraving technique. However, Simon’s transition to existing design characteristics already established in Winchester are evident. The upper and lower plates of the patchbox, carving and engraving design, and patchbox lid release relate to those used by the Haymakers prior to 1790.
The keyhole patchbox finial is a precursor to the Q finial patchboxes seen later in other areas. Hidden in the upper section of the hinge is the release for the lid. Moving the hinge section toward the butt operates a rod engaging a spring catch to release the lid. The small engraved gouges on the patchbox (and toe plate) are reminiscent of J.P. Beck’s technique. The dotted outline of the c scrolls are a Haymaker detail as is the wavy line with parallel lateral veining.
Simon preferred the Lebanon style trigger guard to the Haymakers, probably because he continued to cast new ones from previous ones retaining the form.
The sideplate is an improvement in design barrowing from Lebanon and the existing early Virginia examples. The addition of the horns and the ovoid section behind the front screw are a signature of his and seen on examples by those associated with his shop.
The beautifully engraved toe plate is missing a small section closest to the butt plate; a common loss on Kentucky rifles.
The English flintlock is signed Ketland and Co. and is unquestionably original to the rifle.
Partially broken through the wrist a brass band was applied to save the rifle for further use. This is an acceptable repair, without it the rifle would surely have been restocked and lost its importance. The silver thumb plate was retained in a new location which partially obscures the carving behind the tang. Another signature of Simon’s is the parallel fluting between the tang and connecting C scroll.
Simon was an excellent carver but never executed in high relief. This design is not too distant from Lebanon but is seen on a rifle by John Haymaker dating to 1785. Rocco styling is evident in the venated wavy line surrounding the C scrolls. This rocaille motif, found on furniture, silver, and other decorative arts in Europe and America, is based on the naturalistic appearance of the edge of a shell. One of Simon’s rifles was exhibited/published by Morrison Hecksher and Leslie Greene Bowman in “American Rocco, 1750-1775”.
This rifle has remained in unrestored condition through the years. Even though it saw hard use it never suffered the changes many rifles saw. The octagonal tapered barrel (43&1/2 inches) has never been shortened and retains rifling. There are no wood repairs at all, not even around the lock or forestock. There are minor losses and the wrist repair.
Rarity, originality, and artistic merit drive the prices of any collectable object from the 18th century.
Ex Coll. Siro Toffolon, Stephen Hench, R E Neville, Gordon Barlow, Wallace Gusler
Recently displayed at the National Firearms Museum, Fairfax, Virginia