STYLE: Unlike other gunsmiths who changed styles from gun to gun, Armstrong is noted for keeping a similar style in all his works. Most rifles in the MESDA collection have imported parts, but Armstrong made every piece himself. Typical features of the Emmitsburg School that are evident in the piece include: 1. initials in script on the lock, 2. a straight, high comb set away from the wrist by carving that extends towards the cheek and patchbox, 3. fine fore-stock molding, 4. six screws fastening the patchbox head, and 5. a long muzzle cap.
TERMINOLOGY: Technically this is not a rifle because it does not have spiral grooves in the bore of the gun. The grooves allowed the gun to shoot more accurately and further. The inside of this gun is smooth. A later owner probably had the barrel made smooth so that it could function as a shotgun. See: ARMS MAKERS OF MARYLAND; ARMS MAKING IN MARYLAND; GUNSMITHS OF PEN-MAR-VA, 1790-1840; THOUGHTS ON THE KENTUCKY RIFLE IN ITS GOLDEN AGE)
MAKER: John Armstrong (ca. 1770-1841) is considered by many to be the most important gunsmith in early Maryland. Based in the Frederick County town of Emmitsburg, he took several apprentices to the gunsmithing trade and is documented performing various metalworking tasks for the Roman Catholic girls school, St. Joseph’s Academy, under the leadership of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seaton.