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Muzzle-loading percussion sporting rifle

Date: 1834 -1880
Display dimensions: 55 x 1215 x 210 mm
Medium: Wood, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Rifle
Object No: 00029484
Place Manufactured:Pennsylvania

User Terms

    This long rifle was made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States. It is a muzzle-loading percussion sporting rifle with a .650 calibre and a 32 inch octagonal barrel. During the 1850s the gold diggers in Australia were armed with this type of rifle. They were also popular in California for protection against bears but there was no animal threat in Australia that required this powerful firearm.
    SignificanceThis rifle is representative of guns used by miners in the Australian gold fields. It highlights the riots of the Ballarat uprising in 1854.
    HistoryThis is a 'Kentucky' style rifle manufactured by Henry E. Lehman in Lancaster Pennsylvania. The Leman factory was active between 1834 and 1880. Leman held numerous military contracts but focused on 'Indian' guns for trade purposes. Kentucky-style rifles were individually produced product, and although they were produced in standard styles, no two were exactly alike. The short octagonal barrel is typical of Lehman hunting rifles.

    Short barrelled rifles were the preference of frontiersmen and miners in California and Australia during the mid-19th century. They were favoured for their compactness and accuracy over the longer military issued musket. Miners on the Victorian goldfields near Ballarat carried guns such as this and may even have formed their armament in the conflict at the Eureka stockade.

    By 1854, expensive gold licenses and variable returns from mining had created resentment against the Victorian colonial government. The miner's tension simmered and diggers refused to pay for their gold digging licenses. On 3 December violence erupted with miners exchanging fire with troops from within a stockade at Ballarat, Victoria. During a 20-minute battle 25 miners and one soldier were killed. The Eureka stockade has been immortalised in Australian folk history and is a favourite topic of poets, novelists, journalists and filmmakers. As a result of the conflict, the Miners' license fee was abolished and replaced by an annual £1 fee called a Miner's right.
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