Sunday, March 7, 2010

Governor Frank Steunenberg's Model 1895 .303 Savage Rifle

I guess this is guns week, so in addition to the Bob Meldrum and Harry Orchard Colts discussed in the immediately preceding posts, we might as well cover Frank Steunenberg's Savage Model 1895 .303 rifle. I would like to get better documentation and photographs of this personally engraved rifle given as a gift to then Governor Steunenberg in 1899--but here is what I have to date.
The Savage was reportedly given to Frank by several mine owners. I don't know which ones specifically but would like to find out. One would assume it was presented as a token of appreciation for his action to suppress labor unrest in the Coeur d'Alene. I know that opens up a political Pandora's box but those issues are covered elsewhere throughout this blog, in the history books and the production of Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century.

This 1895 has a custom checkered stock, a 26" octagon barrel, a engraved patent date of 1893, a gold crescent butt plate and a blade front site. It takes a .303 cartridge (not British .303) that is no longer available commercially but can still be purchased from various re-loaders. Unfortunately, well intentioned kinfolk had the rifle re-blued, stock refinished and checkering probably sharpened up a bit. Never a good idea with an antique firearm.

A nameplate affixed to the stock says "Frank Stennenberg, 1899, Governor of Idaho." As often happens with the Steunenberg name, it is misspelled on the nameplate. You would have expected the mine owners and/or engraver to have been a bit more careful in that regard. An interesting mistake when presenting such a special gift to a standing governor. The picture to the right is not very clear but you get the idea. The engraved plague may have been silver but was unfortunately blued.

After Frank's murder by Harry Orchard on December 30th, 1905, the rifle passed into the possession of his brother, Will Steunenberg, who mentioned it in his last will and testament ("To Hell With the Man Who Breaks My Will"). Will indicated the rifle should be passed on to either of Frank's two sons, one being my grandfather Julian and the other Frank Jr. Although Julian hunted as a teenager and young man, I don't believe he or Frank Jr. had any propensity toward guns later in life. This picture (Caldwell, ID circa 1905) shows by grandfather Julian on the right, after a fresh kill, a knife in his mouth and holding a rifle. Maybe this one? Probably not but always fun to speculate.

I am not sure the exact chain of ownership from there, but assume the rifle came into the possession of the Steunenberg sisters and passed into the hands of my Crookham kinfolk through the marriage of our families. Later, George Crookham Jr., passed it on to the current kin's possession. Those family members wish to remain anonymous and I will respect their request.
I would like to get the serial # and obtain a letter of authenticity available from a former Savage employee and historian (link is a sample, not for this rifle) documenting the rifles manufacturing date, shipping date, who it was sold to, etc. It would be good to have that letter with the rifle and might be helpful in tracing the early provenance.

I am gratified to know this great old Savage 1895 it is still within the family. Hopefully, I may be able to make a trip in the not too distant future and examine the rifle more closely, study and document its history, obtain more detailed closeup photographs.... and maybe shoot off a couple rounds.

Thanks to my kinfolk for providing the photographs of the rifle.

Shorter barrel on the 1895 pictured above. I believe it was available in carbine (23"), rifle (26"), musket (30") or thereabouts.

Related Websites

Savage Arms Co. History

Early Savage Model 1895

Unofficial Savage Website

Model 1895

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