I have come into possession of a percussion rifle, I assume made by Daniel Newkirk- The top of the barrel is marked D * Newkirk, etched in a cursive script, and has an Elwell percussion lockworks. I am looking for any info I can get pertaining to this rifle, and the maker. I gather that he worked from Ohio, if I am following the right leads. Any help would be appreciated.
I can tell you that Elwell was an Ohio lock maker; his locks turn up on many percussion rifles in the mid-19th century, mainly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.
There is a common belief, fostered perhaps by the gunsmiths at Williamsburg, that American gunsmiths in the 18th and 19th centuries made guns from scratch. This was almost never true. Even in the Pennsylvania flintlock days, semi-factories were set up to make locks, ramrods, barrels, furniture (decorative patch boxes, inlays and the like), and even rough cut stocks. Collectors often talk about this or that type of decoration being of the "school" of so-and-so. Not surprising, since so-and-so bought his stuff from the same place as the others of his "school." By mid-century, companies like J. & D. Little, of Pittsburgh, were supplying gunsmiths with barrels, locks, and everything else required to turn out those "hand made" rifles. (The Little company has been called the Brownells of the day, a fairly accurate description.)