This is an extremely rare and early made Simeon North Common Rifle from 1823, which Moller and Reilly had been unable to document in their books due to the very low production numbers in 1823. There is no doubt the buyer will be the only one with this early made piece.
Simeon North was primarily the leading military pistol manufacturer in the United States of the early 19th century. He began with the m1799 North Contract Pistol, followed by the m1813 Army, and then the m1816 Navy and Army Flintlock Pistols. It was in 1816 that North expressed his desire to produce military rifles and muskets for the US Military. But he would still need to wait until after the m1819 Flintlock Pistol contract (concluded with extension in 1823).
On March 5, 1823, while North was in Washington, he submitted a proposal for the production of 10,000 m1817 Common Rifles "Equal to that manufactured by Mr. Johnson for the United States in 1822." North's proposed production figures would be:
1823- 1,000 m1817 Rifles 1824- 1,400 1825- 2,000 1826- 2,600 1827- 3,000
[it is key to point out that at this time, North returned from Washington last spring, and had "procured a quantity of rifle stocks at Philadelphia, part of which were sawn from seasoned plank." These stocks were too curved for use in lengthy muskets, but were fit for rifle production.]
Either the need was not great or there were doubts with awarding North such a large contract, the armorer reduced the number down to 6,000 rifles. He was directed to proceed with the arrangements and production measures.
In an Aug. 13th letter from Col. Bomford of the Ordnance Bureau, a contract was drafted for Simeon North's rifles, appendages, moulds, and flint caps.
On August 19th, North acknowledged the drafted rifle contract, but also the extension of his m1819 Flintlock Pistol contract (delivered in 1823), and the authorization to proceed with the rifle contract pending the agreement of contract specifics (namely on the price). North also mentions that he "about 200 barrels ready for proving."
A month later, North discussed the procurement of the aforementioned stocks from Philadelphia, but also expressed his frustrations with obtaining three-year seasoned planks unless they were from the Public Armories- "As I am about ready ready to commence on the stocking of rifles," which North hoped he could obtain stocks from the Springfield Armory, that "won't answer for muskets."
On Dec. 10, North wrote to Col. Bomford, and had signed his contract for the 6,000 m1817s. North was not optimistic about his production numbers for 1823, "But the preparations are now so advanced, and the business are now so arranged and in such progress, that I hope to have two-hundred rifles completed for inspection in the month of January next."
It is critical to note in his contract, that North "shall manufacture and deliver, for the military service of the United States six-thousand Rifles Complete; at the rate of 1,200 per year, for five years, commencing with the first day of July 1823." No matter of the deadlines, North managed to produce all 6,000 rifles by 1827.
His success in making the m1817 allowed him to obtain a contract in producing the first true interchangeable parts firearm of the United States, the m1819 Hall rifle.
Based upon the letters published in, "Simeon North, First Official Pistol Maker of the United States; a Memoir" (1913), the m1817 Common Rifle presented here is most likely from North's first production of 200 rifles, with the barrels he mentions that were ready for proving, and the rifle stocks obtained from the Philadelphia armory in his letters to Col. Bomford.
This percussion altered rifle has a 5-1/2" lockplate that fits no known North pistols- all of which were 5-1/4" and shorter. The m1819 pistol was produced in 1823, but this year date was omitted from 1823 produced pistols (as mentioned by Tim Prince in his write-up on a m1819 pistol dated 1821), not to mention it had a shorter lockplate of 4-5/8". Further examination by a collector with examples of the various North pistols also suggest that not a single version of his pistol lockplates were ever large enough to fit the lock mortise of a m1817.
Next, then year date on m1819 pistols were horizontally stamped, not vertically as this rifle was. Also, the m1819 pistols by North had the unique and largely unpopular safety in the rear of the hammer. This fitting required a slim cut through the lockplate, which is non-existent in this rifle's lockplate. Another interesting feature is the style of the North markings on the lockplate. They are the same as the m1819 flintlock pistols, however, this design would be subsequently changed on future year models.
The rifle has many mated parts. The trigger guard, patch box cover, and lockplate washer are all mated with "60," and the barrel and brass pan are both mated with a "6."
The action is strong, and the .54 rifle bore is very fine, and would surely shoot very well today!
My conclusion is this is among the first two-hundred m1817 rifles ever produced by Simeon North, and one of the very few and first produced in -or with parts from- 1823. We welcome anyone able to show another m1817 North dated 1823 for comparison.