Here's a "Boy's Rifle" made by the famous John Wurfflein, during his brief partnership with Fredrick Psotta.
The Wurfflein family of gunmakers were prolific firearms designers and gunsmiths throughout the majority of the 19th Century. Their legacy began in 1832 with the emigration of Andrew Wurfflein from Germany. Shortly after his arrival in America, Andrew set up a gunsmithing shop in Philadelphia. There, he quickly established a flourishing business in both repairing and building fine target rifles. With his business established, Andrew sent for his brother John to come to America to help in he expanding shop. John was also a talented craftsman, and after arriving in Philadelphia in 1846, it wasn't long before he opened his own shop; partnering with another Philadelphia-based Gunmaker, Fredrick Psotta, in 1854. This partnership was lucrative for both men, but was ulitmately cut shot when Psotta relocated to San Francisco in 1857. During their partnership, the duo offered several types of sporting arms including half stock rifles, "boy's rifles" (small caliber half stock rifles) and an innovative revolving rifle. These guns are identified by the "J. WURFFLEIN AND PSOTTA PHILADa" stamp on the top of their barrels and represent a very brief period in both Wurfflein's and Psotta's careers; making them highly sought after by collectors.
This particular piece is a Wufflein and Psotta "Boy's Rifle". Like most of the guns they offered, the Boys rifles built by Wurfflein and Psotta were "built to order" with the specifications and design features of each gun tailored to the needs of the customer. Still, all of these rifles share common characteristics, like the graceful back action lock made by John Wurfflein and the fine relief carved stocks cut by Psotta. Of the small number of rifles produced by Wurfflein and Psotta, the Boy's Rifles represent the rarest of arms produced by the duo. In fact, a nearly identical Boy's Rifle made by Wurfflein and Psotta was sold by the James D. Julia Auction Company for $4600.00 in 2008!
This Boy's Rifle is in excellent condition. It features a beautifully shaped burled walnut stock with a German silver patchbox and beautiful relief carving. The stock is excellent shape with no cracks or damage other than a few minor handling marks. These were expensive rifles back in the 1850's and its evident that the family who commissioned this rifle treasured it for generations.
The finely-built back action lock works flawlessly, as do the double set triggers.
The .45 caliber barrel features beautiful rifling with no rust or pitting. The Wurfflein and Psotta maker's stamp is clear and legible on the barrel. Another interesting barrel feature can be found neatly dovetailed into the breech - a set of M1861 Springfield rifle musket leaves has been neatly installed in the barrel, complete with a custom-made sight base. The workmanship of both the base and the dovetail is extremely fine and was clearly preformed by a professional gunsmith, and not a "hobbyist". This addition of military sights was likely an attempt to convert the gun into a "Turner Rifle" for use during the Civil War.
The "Turners" were nationalistic German-American gymnastics (athletic) clubs. Many were recent immigrants to the US, arriving in the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. When war broke out in their newly adopted land, many Turners rushed to enlist, and often sought out units comprised of their own members. The most famous Turner regiments were the 9th OH volunteer infantry (raised in the Cincinnati area) and the 17th MO volunteer infantry, known as the Western Turner Rifles raised in the St. Louis area. Although both of these units were raised in specific areas, they drew Turner’s from all over the US, including cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia, as well as those in the mid-west and west. Many of these men arrived in camp with their own personal weapons. Usually they arrived with civilian style percussion target rifles, both half stock and full stock, in calibers that were typically between .42 and .45. The Wurfflein brothers were heavily involved in the Turner movement, with John listed as a member of several Turner athletic clubs and a founding member of the "Philadelphia Schuetzen Verein" shooting club, along with his brother Andrew. John also built several rifles for the Turner Regiments for use during the Civil War, which utilized his now famous sporting rifle back-action lock and Schuetzen trigger guard.
Given the fact that this rifle still retains its original buck horn rear sight, it's clear that the M1861 sights leaves weren't simply installed as a make-shift replacement to a lost or broken "factory sight", but rather a supplement to the original sight. Given that the original buckhorn sight is perfectly adequate for sporting purposes, it can only be surmised that the addition of the musket sight was to aide the gun's owner with quick range adjustment in a combat-type setting.
Additionally, given the quality of the sight's workmanship, it wouldn't be far fetched to suggest that the sight modification work may have been done by John Wurfflein himself; given his involvement in building guns for Turner rifle regiments. Additionally, Wurfflein's relationship with the US military (Wurfflein had been commision by several officers for target rifles during the war. He and his brother also converted M1816 Flintlock musket to percussion for the state of Pennsylvania prior to the outbreak of the war), would have meant that not only would he have had access to a set of rifle musket sight leaves, but would also have been familiar with their use; allowing him to locate them on the barrel for accurate elevation.