GILLETTE, Wyo. — Weapons dating back to the 19th century will join the collections of the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne, thanks to a local donor.
The museum’s volunteer firearms historian, Evan Green, said each artifact is representative of items in use in Wyoming in the frontier era. While there is no plan for an exhibit of these artifacts in the near future, they will be featured in the museum’s Firearms Friday video series. A video specifically about this donation is available here.
The collection of 19th century firearms, edged weapons and associated accessories includes several one-of-a-kind artifacts such as an engraved and inlaid Sharps 1863 carbine, an Austrian Schutzen percussion target rifle that may have been created for a royal family member, and an elaborately engraved and carved German Jaeger hunting rifle, the museum said in a news release.
The donor also gave the museum U.S. military firearms that are in pristine condition, including Springfield Trapdoor rifles and carbines, the release said. These rifles and carbines were often used on the Wyoming frontier after the military adopted them in 1873. Lt. Col. George A. Custer’s 7th Cavalry was armed with Trapdoor carbines at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876. An early version of the Allin Trapdoor Conversion in this collection was of the type used at the Wagon Box Fight on Aug. 2, 1867, near present-day Story, where Lakota warriors first encountered fast-firing, breech-loading firearms with self-contained metallic cartridges.
A California gunsmith’s prototype rifle that was prepared for U.S. Military Trials may be the only one in existence, and a muzzle-loading percussion rifle made in New York and sold in San Francisco may have crossed Wyoming en route to its eventual owner. Edged weapons include various bayonets for the Springfield firearms, swords issued to infantry and cavalry officers, and a rare 1880 Springfield hunting knife.
Accoutrements such as cartridge boxes and belts, reloading kits, scabbards, sheaths and carbine boots are representative of items that would have been issued to individual soldiers or to military units in Wyoming during the Indian Wars or subsequent service in the 19th and early 20th centuries.