This is a nice 1847 dated Harpers Ferry Lock Plate for the US Model 1841 Mississippi Rifle. I got this plate along with several others from author and dealer, Norm Flayderman's about 11 or 12 years ago. This was the best one of the group by far although there was a decent 1842 lock in there with it. There was also what looks like a Model 1861 plate with no markings...just a Mexican stamp of a Rurales Sombrero. I would have loved to have asked him what the story was behind that one.
Norm wrote nine editions of Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms which is the hands down standard "go-to" book on early American firearms. Flayderman's 3rd edition was the first gun book I ever bought which was thirty years ago. That book never made it onto a shelf...it lived on my desk. I read it so much that I wore the spine off the book and had to tape the pieces together. I have hundreds of books but if I could only have one, his would be it! He was the best!
The lock is in Very Good condition with very good Harpers Ferry and date towards the end of the plate. Forward of the hammer area is a clear Eagle and Shield clutching arrows and an olive branch of the letters US. No pits or damage. Good edges. The back of the plate has an armory sub-inspector's initial that appear to be J.B. Those initials really got the wheels turning. Although he probably would have been an apprentice of three years in 1847 at Harpers Ferry, one of the best master armorers on the American continent was a man named James Burton. A more likely possibility would be James Bell, a fellow Virginian, who is listed as an armory sub-inspector in 1827. My biggest question is whether or not he'd have been there twenty years later? I'm sure some of you US ordnance gurus know the answer to this.
At any rate, this is a nice plate which would go nicely in a display or go towards getting a project Mississippi rifle back on its feet again. It is well above average for what we usually see and Harpers Ferry and perhaps Tryon being the most desirable makers.