A Nicely Decorated Rifle by Samuel Baum.


        Pictured here is a wonderfully decorative and graceful rifle marked upon the top barrel flat with the initials “S*B.”  This marking (fig. 9)
, coupled with a distinctive styling, points directly to manufacture by Samuel Baum of New Berlin, Union County in Pennsylvania.  It would appear that Baum was quite a prolific maker, for numerous examples of his work have survived to the present day and while the beautifully-scripted “S B” marking illustrated here is most commonly found, other variants are known:  “S * W * B,” “S * Baum” and “Samuel Baum.”  While the focus of this article is of course upon the beautiful rifle pictured herein (fig. 1, fig. 2), I had initially intended to include a large amount of biographical information concerning the maker.  However, my attempts at researching such information soon led to a virtually impenetrable morass of common familial naming practices, mountains of undocumented publications and not nearly enough Tylenol to assuage
my raging headache!  Apparently, the Baum family group in question was a very large family, each generation possessive of six to ten siblings who inexplicably seemed to delight in sharing common naming practices as applied to their equally numerous offspring.
  Adding yet another level of complexity to this hopelessly tangled situation is the fact that Baum was not an uncommon name during the mid-18th through mid-19th centuries, and throughout this period various Baum family groupings can be found from the banks of the Delaware river in eastern Pennsylvania as far westward as Illinois.  In particular, the Baum family cut quite a wide swath across the southern counties of Pennsylvania.  For these reasons, the biographical information which I have chosen to include is extremely basic and should be viewed as merely a cursory examination of Samuel Baum - or perhaps I should say the Samuel Baums - and by no means a complete record.
        This rifle is quite typical of the later pieces marked by Baum.
  It is probably best to attribute it somewhat broadly to the period ca. 1830 through 1850 and is a textbook ‘Upper Susquehanna School’ rifle.  The rifle barrel is 42 7/8 inches in length, of .38 caliber and has been intentionally browned; the lock has been intentionally browned likewise.  As is evident, the lock is marked “C. Bird and Co. - Philada Warranted” and was originally a flintlock (fig. 22).  It was converted to percussion, however this conversion took place prior to it being utilized upon this rifle:  this rifle was built as a percussion piece.
  The lock is relatively small at 4 5/16 by 13/16 inches.  According to Kaufman’s The Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle, Charles Bird and Company were Philadelphia lock/hardware merchants ca. 1814; this dating seems fairly accurate, being that these locks are by no means uncommon and are most often found upon arms constructed ca. 1810 through 1830.
        The barrel is essentially a straight barrel:  it measures .895 at the breech and .850 at the muzzle.  There is a ‘small’ diameter of .810 approximately ten inches to the rear of the muzzle, however when casually viewing the barrel it looks to be dead-straight.  Such extremely small variations in dimension are to be expected
in straight barrel of the 19th century and would not by any means infringe upon the realm of a ‘swamped’ or tapered-and-flared barrel.  There is very typical decorative stamping present at the muzzle (fig. 19) and the brass nosecap is constructed in two pieces soldered together with a shallow rod groove formed and filed into the lower side (fig. 10).  It is attached to the forestock with two brass rivets which blend almost invisibly into the cap, one through each side.
        The buttplate is quite small, measuring 3 15/16 by 1 ½ inches.  One interesting characteristic of the piece, seemingly common to signed examples of Baum’s work as well as a number of related Upper Susquehanna-area rifles, is that despite the very slender and “skinny’ nature of the butt, an excellent shaping is maintained by virtue of the buttplate (and consequently the butt) being diamond-shaped in cross-section (fig. 24).  This feature is extremely helpful in preventing the stereotypical ‘board-like’ feel of many 19th century rifles despite the much reduced size (in comparison to 18th century arms).  The trigger reach is relatively short at 12 7/8 inches to the front trigger (fig.7, fig. 21).  Other relevant dimensions of the rifle are as follows:  the wrist measures 1.165” in width and is 1.315” in height.  The stock measures 1 7/16” across the tail of the lock panels.
  The ramrod groove and accompanying rod are 5/16” in diameter and the pipes are 1 ¾” in length.  The box mortise is 3 ½” by ¾” and is 11/16” in depth.  The barrel is mounted to the stock with four iron keys which are not captured (fig. 20) and the stock contains a total of thirty silver inlays (fig. 15).  Both a decorative comb inlay and lower forearm inlay are present, the forearm inlay possessive of an ivory insert (fig. 3, fig. 18).  One interesting bit of information which was only discovered upon disassembly of this rifle is that both the triggerguard and entry thimble both carry an extra set of pin holes, indicating that both components were probably at one time utilized upon another rifle, whether completed or not.
        Some of the characteristics present which are very typical to the Upper Susquehanna region during this period are the silver inlays arranged in groups of three (fig. 8, fig. 17); the late ’roman-nose’ architecture and characteristic patchbox design (one of a small number of very common regional box designs, the stock architecture and box being quite reminiscent of Berks County) (fig. 6, fig. 23); the ‘football’ side plate which has come to be popularly associated with Joseph Long of nearby Snyder County (fig. 13); the use of many very small (approximately 1/32” diameter) iron brads to retain all of the inlays, silver and brass alike; and the profuse use of ivory to fill the numerous piercings in the brass components and inlays (fig. 12, fig. 13).  Additionally, the engraving present upon this particular box lid (fig. 14) is a signature form of the region,
displaying interlocking scrolls with many integral ‘fingers’ worked into the design (fig. 5).  [On many occasions - particularly earlier rifles - a very similar design will be present incised to the rear of the cheekpiece.]  Another extremely common characteristic is the means by which the entry pipe is constructed, being made in two pieces (pipe and skirt) which are held together with one rivet and soldered (fig. 11).  The silver inlays fore and aft upon the lock panels are very typical to Baum’s work (fig. 13, fig. 22).

        This rifle does not feature any true cast-off worked into the architectural design, the lack of which is essentially standard upon most late flint and early percussion arms (due to their relatively thin stocks):  the line of the barrel is fully in line with the upper buttplate return (fig. 8).  However, as will be readily visible upon viewing figure 4, the stock was formed with a noticeable bow away from the shooters face which is absolutely not a result of any warping but is quite deliberate.  This is not an uncommon feature upon the Upper Susquehanna rifles which I have handled and is effected in a very graceful manner.

       For as many years as Samuel Baum rifles have been gracing collections, there has been somewhat of a controversy as to exactly which Samuel Baum actually was the builder.  To compound the issue, it is strongly suspected that two Samuel Baums - a father and son - may have been involved in the making of the signed pieces.
  Virtually all of the signed rifles in question bear strong evidence, stylistically, of having been built in the Northumberland and later Union (formed from Northumberland) County region.  When searching through the tax, census and various other records of this area, a number of Baums immediately can be found.  A man named John Baum was already ‘up the river’ by the time the 1790 Federal Census was taken, and he is believed to be the man responsible for the creation of the rifle signed “J. Baum” which is pictured in Shumway’s Rifles in Colonial America Vol. II, pages 380-383 (rifle number 86).  Where this particular rifle was made is unclear but it is certainly possible that is one of the earliest of the Upper Susquehanna pieces, possibly being made in Mifflin County.
  Whether or not this John Baum was related to the Samuel Baums herein studied is an open question.  Also present within the 1790 Federal Census were Frederick Baum (Mifflin County, died prior to 1800) and Charles Baum of Northumberland County, all three men possibly in or near what would become Union County in 1813.  Frederick’s relation to Samuel Baum is uncertain, but Charles (born Carl Ludwig Baum, 1743) was definitely the father of the elder Samuel who is within this article referred to as Samuel Sr.  It has been unproven speculation that this Charles was a gunsmith, however if so it is not known whether any arms can be attributed to this man as he left Pennsylvania by 1797/98 and died in Clermont County, Ohio in 1817.  There do exist rifles signed “Charles Baum” of “C * B,” one of which is pictured in The Kentucky Rifle:  A True American Heritage in Picture on page 10, however this is a late rifle and it would seem to be extremely doubtful that it could have been built pre-1817 when Charles Baum died.
  It certainly was not built prior to his removal from Pennsylvania in 1797/98.  Charles Baum did have a son who likewise was named Charles (Charles Jr., born 1775 Bucks County), this man being a brother to Samuel Baum of New Berlin (born 1769 Bucks County).  However, Charles Jr. apparently went west with his father (and continued onward) as he was married in 1803 in Kentucky and died at quite an advanced age in 1871 in Illinois.  [There is a good deal of Baum genealogy presented in William Davis’s History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.]  This man - Charles Jr. - has sometimes also  been assumed to be the man who built the aforementioned Charles Baum-signed rifle, but this would not seem to make sense as he had already removed himself westward a considerable time prior to the evolution of the Upper Susquehanna School.  Furthermore, this particular C*B-signed rifle (KRA pg. 10) is so incredibly similar to the Samuel Baum-signed pieces (definitely built in New Berlin) that it is impossible to believe that there was not some direct working connection between the two men.
  For reasons which will shortly be made clear, I believe that Samuel Baum Sr. of New Berlin had a son which - as so his own father and brother - he named Charles and this man was trained by and worked with him in New Berlin, Union County Pennsylvania.

        If you, the reader, have not by now become hopelessly lost, I beg you to bear with me a while longer.  Looking at the Federal Census records for 1800, we find Samuel Baum Sr. listed in East Buffalo Township, Northumberland County.  At this point the is listed between 26 and 45 years of age (approx. 31 years, based upon birth date), is married and has both one son and one daughter (both under 10 years of age) living in the household.  In the 1810 Federal Census, he is listed in Berlin Town, Northumberland County with two sons under 10 years of age and two sons between the ages of 10 and 16 years of age, yielding a total as of 1810 of 4 sons.  The 1810 census also lists the occupation for each head-of-household, and here we find Samuel Baum Sr. listed as a “Gun Smith.”  [The only other gunsmith listed in Berlin Town for 1810 was Peter Smith, of whom a wonderful representative piece can be found on page 82 of the aforementioned The Kentucky Rifle:  A True American Heritage…  Note the similarities to Baum’s work.]  So here we have definitive proof that the elder Samuel Baum of what would become New Berlin in Union County was a gunsmith. 

        Viewing the 1820 Federal Census for New Berlin, Union County Pennsylvania, Samuel Baum Sr. shows five sons in the household:  three of them under 10 years of age, one between the ages of 10 and 16 and one between the ages of 26 and 45.
  I do not know who this elder son could be, based upon subsequent census records, but it is definitely not Samuel Jr. and is could not be Charles for reasons which will be outlined shortly; the boy between 10 and 16 years was very likely Charles.  [It should be noted that Samuel Sr. also had an equally large number of daughters, five of them being shown within this 1820 census]  Finally, in the same census record for New Berlin, there now is seen for the first time a second Samuel Baum listed as “Samuel Baum 2.”  This is the man referred to as Samuel Jr. within this article.  This man is shown as being married between the ages of 20 and 30 with one son but sadly no occupation is listed upon this census.  By the time of the 1830 census, Samuel Baum Sr. was between 60 and 70 years of age with two sons remaining at home, and Samuel Jr. had left New Berlin for Mahoning (Township?) in Columbia County.  There, he was shown to have had five sons of his own by that point and himself being between the ages of 30 and 40.
        The 1840 Federal Census is even more interesting.  Samuel Baum Sr. is now between 70 and 80 years of age, Samuel Jr. has returned to New Berlin and is 40 to 50 years old, and finally we find an entry for “Baum, Charly” who is 30 to 40 years of age and married with two sons between the ages of 5 and 10.
  It is again extremely unfortunate that no trades are listed upon this census, for such notations could go far towards explaining some of the mystery as to who built the rifle pictured here as well as the numerous others.  Looking closely at the late rifle pictured within this article as well as other very late flint or early percussion examples of Samuel Baum’s work, it is difficult to date them to any time prior to 1830.  We then must assume that if Samuel Baum Sr. built these later pieces, he was still working between the ages of 60 and 70 and apparently remained quite vigorous.  The inletting, fine detail and overall workmanship evident upon this rifle and in fact all of the signed rifles - both earlier and later - is absolutely excellent and displays a razor-sharp competence.  If constructed by the elder man, he was evidently not suffering from arthritic afflictions nor failing eyesight!
        Samuel Baum Sr. died in 1842 and for this reason is not shown upon the 1850 Federal Census.  Samuel Jr. was still listed in New Berlin and now we are provided with a bit of additional information:  in 1850, he was 52 years old married to a woman named Elizabeth who was herself 50.  Samuel Jr. was noted as being an innkeeper!  He was born in Pennsylvania and his wife born in Michigan.  Charles can also be found within the 1850 Federal Census, however he had left New Berlin and had moved south east to Pottsville, Schuylkill County Pennsylvania.  He was listed as being 43 years of age (therefore indicating a birth date of approx. 1807), married to a woman named Maria who was 34 years old, and he was noted as being a “Gun Smith.”
His eldest son Jacob Baum, who was listed as being 18 years old and still living in the same household, was also noted as being a “Gun Smith.”  This information, in conjunction with the aforementioned census information provided for Charles, would seem to prove the theory that the Charles Baum-signed rifles of Upper Susquehanna School styling were built by a son of Samuel Baum Sr. who likely learned the trade from his father in New Berlin.  [As a side note, this information would also tend to support the notion that the very late rifle with a mule-ear lock which is pictured on page 9 of The Kentucky Rifle:  A True American Heritage… , this rifle being signed “J*B,” was in fact made by young Jacob Baum.  Note the strong Upper Susquehanna styling and virtually identical patchbox as found upon the aforementioned Charles Baum rifle (KRA page 10).]      
        Back in New Berlin, upon the 1860 Federal Census, Samuel Jr. and Elizabeth are 62 and 60 years of age respectively although no trades are listed.  I have not been able to locate Charles, (who would be 53 years old in 1860) nor his son Jacob (who would have been 28 years old) upon any Federal Census for 1860.
  Due to a large influx of Baum immigrants from Germany ca. 1840-1860, the potential candidate pool also becomes infinitely larger.  Charles Baum was certainly an extremely common name during this period but I have yet to find a suitable candidate based upon listed ages, birth dates and/or trades.  This difficulty would seem to apply likewise for Jacob.   

        In 1870, Samuel Baum Jr. is listed as being 72 years of age and a “Day Laborer” who can both read and write.  His wife Elizabeth is 70 years of age, “Keeping House” and cannot read nor write.  I do not currently have death dates for Samuel Jr. and Elizabeth but both were apparently deceased by the time the 1880 Federal Census was taken for they are no longer listed.

        In terms of determining which of the two Samuel Baums may have built this rifle - or any of the signed rifles - the census information would tend to confuse matters rather than clarify them.  Samuel Baum Sr. was definitely a gunsmith, as was his son Charles, but the only two scant census references to a trade for Samuel Jr. indicate that of an innkeeper and a day laborer.
  Digging further, there are a few references to the Baums in John Blair Linn’s Annals of Buffalo Valley, Pennsylvania, 1755-1855.  Charles Carl Ludwig Baum (Charles Sr.) is listed as one of the residents of Buffalo Township (which at the time encompassed much of what is now Union County) in 1787 (Linn 244) and his [assumed] son Samuel Sr. is listed as moving to the area in 1793 (Linn 283).
  Neither is noted as being a gunsmith.  Later, a Samuel Baum is listed as being an auditor on September 10, 1817 during a “convention” (seemingly an Independent Republican meeting, although this is not clear) held at New Berlin, Union County (Linn 437) and a Samuel Baum is noted as being a Postmaster of New Berlin in April 1826 (Linn 487).  Finally, in 1851 it is noted that Samuel R. Baum was Postmaster of Chestnut Ridge (Linn 552) although it is currently unclear exactly where Chestnut Ridge was located (it is believed to have been in close proximity to New Berlin).  Does any of this information shed additional light on the two Samuel Baums?  Not really.  The man who was noted as an auditor in 1817 was probably Samuel Sr., as Samuel Jr. would have been only 19 years old at the time, while the Samuel R. Baum who was noted as a postmaster in 1851 was very likely Samuel Jr. as his father had died in 1842.  I find it a bit too coincidental
that the son would happen to be a postmaster at one point and the father likewise (the 1826 reference to the Postmaster of New Berlin) so both of these entries probably refer to Samuel Jr.  It is not outside the realm of possibility that Samuel Sr. had served as a postmaster in the earlier instance, however, so this cannot be said for certain.  [I would personally suspect that the numerous duties of a postmaster would possibly conflict with the time-consuming operation of a gunsmithing shop, and it has definitively been proven that Samuel Sr. was a gunsmith.]
  The occupations of innkeeper, as Samuel Jr. was enumerated in 1850, and of a postmaster would seem to be fairly compatible.  Currently, therefore, it must remain entirely unclear as to whether Samuel Jr. ever practiced the trade of gunsmith.  To my knowledge, neither this rifle nor any of the other signed Samuel Baum rifles evidence any feature or characteristic which would mandate a dating of post-1842 and the death of Samuel Baum Sr.

        For the present time, then, we must be content with the knowledge that all of the surviving rifles of the Baum family display a propensity for excellent workmanship and decoration regardless of which man can be determined to have made which rifle.  All are representative of a very high level of craftsmanship.  The rifle pictured herein is a modest example of such work, and while many later flint period rifles tend to go unnoticed I would urge the reader to seek out and seriously study the numerous extant examples of the Upper Susquehanna School gunsmiths; the rifles of Samuel and Charles Baum, Joseph Long, Peter Smith, Samuel Morrison and a number of other men display a classic grace and enduring presentation of quality which has forever endeared them to those of us who have warmed to such “up the river” rifles.







































Source Documents:


Linn, John Blair.  Annals of Buffalo Valley, Pennsylvania, 1755-1855.  Harrisburg, PA:  Lane S. Hart, Printer and Binder, 1877.


Davis, William W. H.  History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  New York - Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Co., 1905.


Whedon, Nellie Woods.  Richey-Woods-Baum.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1940.


US Federal Census:


1790 Mifflin County, Pennsylvania.

1790 Buffalo Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

1800 E. Buffalo Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

1810 Berlin Town, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

1820 New Berlin, Union County, Pennsylvania.

1830 New Berlin, Union County, Pennsylvania.

1830 Mahoning, Columbia County, Pennsylvania.

1840 New Berlin, Union County, Pennsylvania.

1850 New Berlin, Union County, Pennsylvania.

1850 Pottsville, North East Ward, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

1860 New Berlin, Union County, Pennsylvania.

1870 New Berlin, Union County, Pennsylvania.


Shumway, George.  Rifles in Colonial America (2 Volumes).  York, PA:  George Shumway, Publisher, 2002.


KRA.  The Kentucky Rifle:  A True American Heritage in Picture.  Alexandria, VA:  The Forte Group, 1985.