“Beecher Bible” Was a Rifle

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Jan. 4, 1904

“Beecher Bible” Was a Rifle

Sharpe Rifle Was Given That Peaceful Name

Rare Specimen of First Breech Loaders Ever Made Found at Webster City.

Webster City, Jan. 5 – A “Beecher Bible” was found in Webster City a few days ago by a collector of old and interesting arms, who pronounces it as one of the most perfect specimens of its kind in existence. How it happens that this valuable relic should have found its way to this city might, perhaps, be an interesting story if the facts could ever be learned.

A “Beecher Bible” is a rifle, manufactured by Sharpe, the most famous of early gunmakers in the United States. The specimen now in this city was the property of George MacKown, the missing and much wanted embezzler, ex-manager of the Northwestern Felt Shoe company, and was sold in sheriff’s sale at the court house, when all of MacKown’s personal effects were disposed of on an attachment for debt. There was a long list of goods and much fine furniture, w hich caught the eye of the intending purchaser, and smaller articles were overlooked. Among the effects was a queer-looking gun, a sort of a cross between a rifle and a shotgun. It had a short barrel and a monstrous hammer. It caused a few jocular remarks from the auctioneer and the bidders.

“How much am I offered for this?” said the auctioneer. The first bid was a quarter, which caused a laugh. The rifle was finally knocked down to the proprietor of a second hand store for 75 cents. The second hand dealer placed the rifle in his store window and forgot about it. One day last week a man walked into the second hand store and asked to look at the old rifle. He examined it carefully, but let out no hint as to his value. The proprietor offered to sell the gun for $5, but the man said he would give him just $2 which was finally accepted and t he gun carries away. The second hand dealer had made $1.25 and was satisfied. Had he known the true value of the old rifle he would have hesitated before disposing of it to a stranger for even the sum of $200.

The man carried the gun away and then told what he had found. He said it was perhaps the finest specimen of the original Sharpe rifle in existence. They are very scarce and correspondingly valuable. It is the first practical breech-loader invented and created a reformation in the gun making business when it was manufactured. The gun was made by the Sharpe Manufacturing company at their factories in Meriden, Conn., and was invented shortly before the breaking out of the Civil war. They were first used to any extent in the Kansas-Nebraska war and were shipped to those states in cases marked “Bible,” and afterwards named “Beecher’s Bibles” from a speech made by Henry Ward Beecher.

The gun is a carbine with a 22-inch barrel and shoots the old-fashioned 56-caliber government paper cartridge. The cartridge is shoved into the breech of the gun and the paper end is cut off by the closing of the sliding of hte breech-block, thus exposing the powder which is ignited by a cap. This model was a top-notcher in the rifle building business for many years. In the Civil war they were largely used by the Union cavalry. The specimen picked up here is said to be the finest in the United States.

(Editor’s note: The correct name of the manufacturer is Sharps Manufacuring Company. The Beecher Bible is an actual gun. A modified version was used in “Quigley Down Under”, a movie starring Tom Selleck. An article from the Kansas Historical Society includes a three-page ad for the rifle. I was unable to find any online reference connecting a Beecher Bible and Webster City.)

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