Every now and then one encounters someone or something so significance, so special and unexpected it’s hard to grasp the reality of its presence. That was how it recently was at the Hawken Shop.
For some time we had been in communication with a person who said he had a Hawken rifle. He was in search of a screw for the hammer of this gun which had been in his possession for a long while. He admitted to having no knowledge about muzzleloaders but was absolutely certain this was a Hawken.
In the early 1970’s; following the movie Jeremiah Johnson, several companies began offering what they referred to as a Hawken Rifle. Production was high and the market was flooded resulting in these guns being deemed as Hawken . With that, Hawken became a generic word and was tagged onto nearly any half stocked muzzleloading rifle being made. Years ago guns made in a production manner as such were calłed “Hardware Guns”. A handful of major firearm companies produced guns of a certain style making some minor mechanical and visual changes. They would give these guns a different name or model than those of their regular production and offer them up for sale in hardware stores. This was and still remains a common practice among some companies. In a similar vein this is what occurred with the Hawken rifle.
Continue reading “A SCENT WAS IN THE AIR”
October 26th is an important day for those of us harboring a fascination with HAWKEN rifles and rifles of that style. On that day in 1792 Samuel Hawken was born to Christian and Juliana HAwken in Hagerstown Maryland. Sam was one of their many children and is closely associated in history with his older brother Jacob. It is thought that the bothers learned the gunsmithing trade from their father Christian who some believe worked at the Harper’s Ferry Arsenal/Armory. Sam and Jacob eventually joined together in St. Louis and created what has become a rifle of much notarity. This renown half stock plains rifle is most recognized from the 1970’s movie Jeremian Johnson. The movie staring Robert Redford did much in establishng an aura of irrepressible mystique and rekindled an ever growing interest in the rifle and the era in which it was portrayed. It is a place and time in American history that has captured and held the interest of many ……it needs to be preserved. We at the HAWKEN SHOP are working to do just that and with that in mind decided to pay homage to Sam by acknowledging his birthday with a celebration!H
The day concluded in our little cabin with a hearty meal of chili, macaroni salads, deviled eggs, apple crisp, coffee, brownies, and more. Of course there was cake……….not the typical birthday cake but a delicious lemon cake provided by B.Z. One of our newest inductees.
A small gathering of others also involved with muzzleloading came in full dress to join us in the celebration. The weather threatened to dampen our spirits with a tiny sprinkling of rain but it did not succeed. Smoke was made as shots were fired in a friendly competition. When the shooting was finished and the targets checked “TWO BALLS” was the overall winner. He will be the first to have his name on our S. Hawken Annual Birthday Shoot perpetual plaque. He received an individual trophy to take home as well.
And what’s a birthday party without presents?!!!! All attending received a short printed article about Sam himself, a HAWKEN SHOP key fob and a small pocket knife.
We had fun celebrating Sam’s 224th birthday Andt while we didn’t see the guest of honor wandering around we figure he was there in spirit. Then again…..at the end of the day all the lemon cake had somehow disappeared. Guess Sam might like cake.
We thank everyone who attended and look forward to next year’s celebration.
THE HAWKEN SHOP
Think it’s true? “What is in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In the case of Sam HAWKEN he just happened to be the rose. There were a great many gunsmiths in St. Louis Mo. in the early 1800’s and Jacob and Sam HAWKEN were among them. That era saw St. Louis as a bustling city busy with traders, trappers and fur companies all preparing for their adventures to the west. Across the rivers and the plains to the Rocky Mountains and beyond they went in search of furs to meet public demand. These large fur companies employed a lot of men and these men needed to be outfitted with knives, traps and of course firearms. Small shops like the one run by Sam and Jacob HAWKEN didn’t have the manpower to build enough rifles to meet the needs of these large companies. There were, however; shops that could.
St. Louis was home to a lot of gunsmiths of different levels of talent. HAWKEN wasn’t necessarily the best gunsmith but his name is the one most often brought to mind when talking about the fur trade and its firearms. Sam HAWKEN built a fine rifle, a half stocked large caliber gun capable of taking big game. Grizzly bear, bighorn sheep, elk, bison and more would be encountered on travels to the west. A firearm sturdy enough to endure the abuse it would encounter on long journeys into the unsettled wilderness was a must. For the most part however, Sam Hawken’s name is associated with mountain men of such notarity, as Bridger, Carson, Meek, Tobin, Cody and a score of others. While these men owned HAWKEN rifles it was in their later years, long after the heyday of the fur trade. Still, the HAWKEN name prevails. In the 1970’s, by chance; the name HAWKEN was the Rose that was plucked from a bush of many roses and used in a very popular movie. It was then that “Jeremiah Johnson” (Johnston) came on the scene starring Robert Redford as the mountain man who left civilization after the civil war and headed for the wilderness looking for the peace he hoped to find. In the movie Johnson wanted a certain rifle…….a HAWKEN. It’s through the choice made by the movie people to use HAWKEN as the key firearm in the movie that is responsible for the recognition this gun enjoys after so many years.
A rifle built by any other gunsmith in St. Louisduring that time could have just as well become the rose. So, in this case a rose by any other name COULD have smelled as sweet. But it is HAWKEN that became the Rose and his name is now synonymous with the fur trappers and their phenomenal adventures.