An historic American percussion rifle owned by early California frontiersman Seth Kinman

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An historic American percussion rifle owned by early California frontiersman Seth Kinman
Old Cottonblossom

Sold for US$ 18,720 inc. premium

Arms and Armour

28 Jun 2010, 10:00 PDT

San Francisco

An historic American percussion rifle owned by early California frontiersman Seth Kinman
Old Cottonblossom
Heavy 48 inch octagonal barrel with seven groove rifling in . 68 caliber. Elephant ivory fore-sight. Breech inscribed Gave Many an Englishman the Belly ake(sic)/From off the Cotton Bails(sic) at New Orleans/Jan. the 8 1815 Old Kentuck. Long barrel tang inscribed Seth Kinman Old Cott-- B--. Double-set triggers. Scrolling triggerguard. Stock, evidently fashioned by Mr. Kinman himself, with circular patch recess in the Southern fashion. Wooden ramrod secured to stock by a leather string. Together with a cabinet photo of Seth Kinman with President Rutherford B. Hayes, documenting letter from the consignor, a direct descendent of Mr. Kinman and with a transcription of The Tales of Seth Kinman, a group of stories, or more properly tall tales in the classic mold of the period, told by Kinman to his friend G.M. Richmond and transcribed from the manuscript in the Gensoli Collection at Humboldt State University by R.H. Roberts.
Condition: Good. Metal with dark patina showing areas of pitting. Stock with numerous dents, gouges and bruises, pinned repair to left of breech and with fore-end shortened during period of use. Lock changed and buttplate added during period of use.
See Illustration


  • Note: Seth Kinman (September 29, 1815 – February 24, 1888) was a California '49er and one of the great characters of early California. His personal rifle, Old Cottonblossom, offered here for sale, has had a colorful career. Used at the Battle of New Orleans by a friend of Mr. Kinman's father, Kinman's biography stated it was the gun used to kill British General Pakenham at that famous engagement, it then passed to Kinman's father, who used it during the Blackhawk Wars, alongside Abraham Lincoln's father, and afterwards to Kinman himself. He used it to kill an untold amount of bears, elk and other game, showed it off to Abraham Lincoln and modified it as he saw fit. When the original stock was damaged by a bear he made the replacement himself and, as can be seen, he replaced the conversion lock and added a buttplate. It can clearly be seen that this is the same weapon he holds in the series of photographs by Brady.
    He is recorded as being the first American to purchase land in Humboldt County and in 1853 he started working as a hunter for the government, feeding U.S. troops in Fort Humboldt. There he met future President, Ulysses S. Grant, and future General, George Crook. He became famous for his grizzly bear and elk horn chairs which he presented to four presidents; Lincoln, Johnson, Hayes and Buchanan. He was photographed by Brady in his famous buckskins and Alfred Waud did a sketch of Lincoln examining this very rifle in 1864, while accepting an elkhorn chair.
    Five months later, Kinman marched in President Lincoln's funeral cortege in Washington. Kinman was allegedly in Ford's Theater the night of the assassination and witnessed the murder. He escorted Lincoln's body on its way to burial. On April 26, 1865, the New York Times described Kinman in the funeral cortege in New York City: "Much attention was attracted to Mr. Kinman, who walked in a full hunting suit of buckskin and fur, rifle on shoulder. Mr. Kinman, it will be remembered, presented to Mr. Lincoln some time ago a chair made of California elk-horn, and continuing his acquaintance with him, it is said, enjoyed quite a long conversation with him the very day before the murder."
    In his later years, Kinman lived in Table Bluff, California with his family, where he owned a hotel and bar. In 1886, Kinman was preparing to send chairs to President Grover Cleveland and former presidential candidate General Winfield Scott Hancock. He died in 1888 after accidentally shooting himself in the leg. He was interred at Table Bluff Cemetery in Loleta, California. One of his grizzly bear chairs and the famous mule bone fiddle were displayed at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka displays his buckskin clothing, complete with beaded moccasins, as well as a wooden chest he owned.
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Lot symbols
ANTIQUE Antique - pre 1899

Handguns that fall outside the Section 5 authority will be labelled ANTIQUE.