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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've got a really nice old black powder rifle with William Bennett marked on the (very heavy) barrel and Harper Eaton on the lockplate, its set in a beautiful striped stock and has a nice set trigger but I have no idea where this came from or what its worth.

I've found almost no info on William Bennett and none on Harper Eaton.

If anyone has any idea what this is or where it came from, or what its worth I'd love to hear, thanks.
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From the Database of USA Gunmakers:
BENNETT, William N.
Elgin, Iowa, 1854-84. Born February 14, 1834, at Middlebury, Addison Co., Vt. Came to California in his youth via Cape Horn, thence in the 1850's, after a three months over land journey, to Iowa, where he located 3 miles from Elgin and worked for thirty-five years. Made muzzle loading, percussion, hunting and target rifles with gain twist rifling of noted accuracy. William Bennett died in 1914 in Stowe, Vermont.

I suspect Harper is the name of the lock maker or supplier and Eaton, Iowa is where he was located.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I found that reference of William Bennett, I think its either one of his or possibly a converted flintlock from a British gunmaker of the same name, John Eaton was the name of a British gun lock maker around the same time as the British William Bennett so perhaps the lock was a collab with someone named Harper.

Still would like to know something more concrete, and the value.
 

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It wasn't ever a flintlock and it definitely isn't of British origin, it has always been a percussion rifle and it's American. That information is likely all you'll ever find on William Bennett, at least online. The name or names on the lock were done with a set of letter stamps rather than being roll stamped or cast in, That's why I think it more likely it was a retail establishment and location rather than a person. I have some hard bound reference books at the office at work. (I work for a retail establishment that specializes in antique firearms) I'll look the names up and see what I can find. Meanwhile, if the bore is clear and you have a tight fitting cleaning jag, test for gain twist rifling that William Bennett was noted for using, it will have a faster twist rate near the muzzle than it does at the breech.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I appreciate it Griz, I'm dealing with a severe injury right now and just thinking about lifting this thing hurts so I won't be shooting it for some time, I swear you could crush an elephant's skull with this rifle its so heavy. It'd be great to find out its worth something.
 

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I'm crippled up by a stroke so lifting an old war horse like this one is beyond me as well these days. It's size and mass is what tells me it isn't British, their rifles were more slender and delicate. It definitely has value but it isn't enough to let you retire in comfort. Value depends on condition and your rifle shows signs of a refinish and cleaning of the metal, that could just be from the lighting or photography, you'd need to get it in the hands of an expert appraiser of antique arms to get an accurate value on it.
 
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If it's been reblued or refinished the value will have been cut in half. Hopefully it hasn't been rebored.
 
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Is that stock original to the rifle? It doesn't appear to show any indication of burn marks around the nipple and the wrist seems inordinately thick for a skilled maker. It could just be me but it doesn't look right.....:unsure:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Is that stock original to the rifle? It doesn't appear to show any indication of burn marks around the nipple and the wrist seems inordinately thick for a skilled maker. It could just be me but it doesn't look right.....:unsure:
The only info that came with it was "William Bennett Rifle" though the stock seems appropriate for such a heavy barrel
 

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Well, my hardbound books lists him but with different dates. Born 1827 in Vermont, went to San Francisco and from 1849 worked as a gunsmith there until 1855 when he moved to Elgin, Iowa. Made rifles in Elgin from 1856 to 1884. No listings for Harper-Eaton.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the effort Griz, I guess this rifle is like life itself, one can only marvel at its beauty without truly knowing where it came from or what it's worth.
 
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