The Fine and Rare Whitmore Buggy Rifle, Outstanding
Nathaniel Whitmore & Son, Nathaniel Gilbert Whitmore
- Nickel Plated, .32-Caliber, Rifled, Bright Bore
- Overall length: 37": barrel length: 23.75": rifle alone: 28”
- Excellent original condition (see notes below)
Nathaniel Gilbert Whitmore (1828-1927) Mansfield, Massachusetts, (1866-1882)
Taunton, Massachusetts, (1882-1900)
Eastondale, Massachusetts, (1900-1917)
Son of Nathaniel (Sutton, Massachusetts 1804-1809, Mansfield 1828)
Whitmore. Made President Grant’s Percussion ½ Stock.
This is a most interesting rifle, likely made for a mariner who wanted to commemorate his
successful life. He may have supplied the materials from his travels and/or voyages, however
this is conjecture. The art that is so clear far surpasses pure engineering in design. This gun is
ELEGANT, far beyond the realm of a practical gun. Art and utility combined. What is abundantly
clear is that this is an outstanding and amazing piece of American Folk Art displaying the
precision of one of America’ s finest gunmakers of the period.
The maker is Nathaniel Whitmore (1804-1885), of Boston and Mansfield, Massachusetts, son of
a well-known and respected maker of the 1808-1828 period [also named Nathaniel, b. 1770]
who worked in Sutton and Mansfield Massachusetts. Nathaniel Sr. made U.S. Model M1808
contract muskets as Waters & Whitmore and sporting arms. Nathaniel Gilbert Whitmore (1828-
1917) worked with his father in Mansfield and thence at Taunton and Eastondale [Easton],
Massachusetts. This effort, likely a father and son collaboration, N. Whitmore, and N. G.
Whitmore, maker of the famous and magnificent half stock presentation percussion rifle gifted to
President Ulysses S. Grant by the residents of the city of Providence, Rhode Island that is in the
American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. To our knowledge
Grant’s rifle by Whitmore has never been in private hands.
• The basic design of all Whitmore examples is the same with the only differences being
with the trigger and barrel release system.
• Evidence suggests that these were not “production” guns, they were made by special
order; therefore, no two were identical.
• The rear sight is purely of Whitmore’s design, a work of art and has not been seen on
any other gun.
• The long extremely tapered barrel featuring multiple wedding rings is unique to
Whitmore guns, as is the shape of grip, frame, and hammer.
We have seen only one other gun with similar detachable stock of wood with a metal
attachment frame. That percussion buggy rifle in a private collection, is signed.
We are abundantly confident that this extremely rare and important example was made in the
Massachusetts (Whittemore) shop by its overall design, and by comparing the nomenclature to
the known signed gun by Nathaniel Whitmore.
There are four plain examples by Whitmore extant…and one fancy example being the subject
gun. It is likely that it was made as an unadorned example and was ornamented in San
Francisco during the period. Extraordinarily decorated and engraved; the engraving is
stylistically San Francisco Goldrush period. The grips and decorative inlays are from marine
sources; grips are walrus ivory featuring tortoise shell and whale baleen discs as screw
escutcheons; forend likewise inlaid with marine ivory and baleen and an applied and engraved
silver band. The detachable buttstock is decorated with a baleen star and oval which center
abalone shell roundels; black horn butt-plate is buttressed with a whale ivory inlay at top of
stock. The balance of magnificent, engraved silver plaques symbolically depicting various
endeavors or interests of the owner, including maritime, patriotic, Masonic, ranching, and other
unknown events. It is obvious that the engraver who made and inscribed these silver plaques
was the artist who decorated the gun action and stock.
Every example made by the Whitmore’s displays meticulous attention to fit, finished by masters
possessing an artistic eye, regardless of the gun being simple/functional or fancy. The quality of
production assigns the Whitmore’s to a respected position at the pinnacle of 19th century
gunmakers in America.
Pasted below are two photographs depicting the other known Buggy rifle including the maker’s
name. Also included are photographs of the magnificent Whitmore bench rifle made for
President Grant (Smithsonian)…note the outstanding quality produced by Whitmore.
From a book titled The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant Jan 1 - Sept 30, 1867
1867, MARCH 13. To N. and N. G. Whitmore.
"I have the pleasure to acknowledge receipt of the beautiful rifle of your manufacture entirely from
American material presented to me by the citizens of Providence, R. I. I scarcely know how to thank the
citizens of Providence, yourself included, for this token of their esteem. Through you, however, I do
extend my sin-cere thanks for this testimonial, which will ever be appreciated."-Philip B. Sharpe, The Rifle
in America (New York, 1938), p. 90. See W.C. Over-street, "A President's Rifle...,"Muzzle Blasts (March
1948). U.S. Senator William Sprague of R. I. and eight others joined the manufacturers in presenting the
rifle-DS, USG 3. On Dec. 2, Nathaniel G. Whitmore, Mansfield Mass., wrote to USG. "I have the honor to
apply for the appointment of Master Armorer of the U.S. Armory at Springfield Mass. I have also the
honor to call your attention to the following statement I have been for the past twenty years a
constructor of all kinds of rifles-I have also had large experience in constructing machinery for making
rifles-and also in the superintending of the Manufacture of Fire Arms-I would also inform you that I have
made the principles of Gunnery and Ordnance large and small my sole and entire study-for the past
twenty years-And understand I believe thoroughly every branch of the business of Manufacturing and
Inspecting Fire Arms-And as a specimen of my work I would very respectfully call your attention to the
Rifle Manufactured for the Citizens of Providence R. I. for presentation to you-And I would also refer your
honor to the following Gentlemen-they being familiar with my
qualifications as a Mechanic and rifle Maker-viz Hon. William Sprague,
Hon. Oakes, Ames, and Hon. Henry Wilson,-and would also refer you to testimonials as to my fitness for
the position-now on file in your Department.-And if in your judgment after Examination as to my ability
to fill acceptably the position asked for you should deem me competent to dis-charge the duties thereof.-
I would be very happy to receive the appointment"-ALS, DNA, RG 156, Letters Received.
The Images Below are U.S. Grant’s Whitmore Rifle, National Museum of American History
The below images depict a signed buggy rifle by N. Whitmore.
Courtesy of private collection; photographs by AAAWT, Inc.
Condition: Excellent original overall condition. As is common and accepted fact, nickel degrades
on convoluted/stippled and engraved surfaces. There are scattered nickel losses to stippled
surfaces within scroll engraving, else fine. Light speckling caused by salt air is displayed on
barrel and frame, fortunately it does not distract and displays well. The action is as it should be,
smooth and crisp.