Indiana Poised to Designate State Rifle
Most states have an official tree, bird, flower and song, but with the anticipated signature of Gov. Mitch Daniels, a measure that recently passed both houses of the Indiana Legislature will give Hoosiers bragging rights as the first to designate an official state rifle.
The Indiana House of Representatives voted 78-2 on Tuesday, March 6 to declare the Grouseland Rifle as the state's official firearm because of its significance to the state and its importance as one of the finest examples of historic and artistic early 19th century firearms. The measure was earlier approved 48-2 by the Indiana Senate.
The Grouseland Rifle, part of a collection displayed at President William Henry Harrison's Vincennes home of the same name, is one of only six known remaining long rifles made by famed Hoosier gunsmith John Small sometime between 1803 and 1812.
As the first sheriff in what was to become the state of Indiana, John Small was a Revolutionary War veteran who moved to Vincennes in 1785, where he was a tavern-keeper, ferry operator, surveyor, territorial legislator, artist, gunsmith and adjutant general of the territorial militia under Harrison. Beyond that, Small was known to have been "shot in the butt," during a 1786 skirmish with Indians, according to Sen. John Waterman (R-Shelburn), who introduced the measure to honor the firearm.
John Small, the artist, was commissioned by Harrison-governor of the Indiana Territory and later president for 32 days before succumbing to pneumonia-to design the seal of the Indiana Territory, which later became the official state seal that continues to be used today.
Recognizing the modern market for historically accurate replica firearms by collectors and modern craftsman alike, the legislation requires that duplication or reproduction of the Grouseland Rifle to first be approved by the Grouseland Foundation.
"There is concern they didn't want people to start making copies of the gun and they start floating around," Jim Corridan, president of the Grouseland Foundation and the state archivist and director of the Indiana Commission on Public Records told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette this week. "Grouseland had to pay some decent money for it and wanted to have some control over replicas since the state doesn't own it."
Of the six known long rifles made by Small, one currently on display at the Missouri Historical Society was owned by American explorer William Clark and may have been carried on the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Indiana State Museum currently has two John Small rifles, along with the only Small pistol known to exist.
This John Small 18th century flintlock set a new world record at auction for a Kentucky rifle at $184,000.
Built in the Kentucky long-rifle tradition at 61 ½ inches in length, the Grouseland Rifle was originally a flintlock and later converted to percussion cap. Utilizing a fine example of tiger maple that was popular in the day, it features silver and brass inlays, including a round silver medallion engraved with the United States emblem and the angel Gabriel on the brass patch box, opposite the medallion.
In 2010, a campaign was launched by the Jacobsburg Historical Society's Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum president and muzzleloading author Dave Ehrig to designate the historic Pennsylvania Rifle as the official firearm of The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A bill was subsequently introduced in the state Senate, but stalled in committee.
Ehrig expressed disappointment this week that Pennsylvania could not have been first to acknowledge the historic significance of its namesake rifle, but nonetheless had kind words for the Hoosier State.
"Indiana certainly has my respect and support for this effort," Ehrig said.
With Gov. Daniels' approval, Indiana will join two other states that named official firearms last year-both of the pistol variety. In 2011 the 1873 Colt SAA Revolver-the Peacemaker-became Arizona's official firearm, and the Browning M1911 pistol-the creation of Ogden native John Moses Browning-was named the Utah state firearm.