"The Buffalo Harvest" - Fact or Fiction?

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Hidehunter
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"The Buffalo Harvest" - Fact or Fiction?

Postby Hidehunter » Tue Jun 01, 2004 12:15 pm

Frank Mayer's story "The Buffalo Harvest" rates right up there with "Quigley Down Under" in stirring up interest in the Sharps rifle. We all acknowledge that "Quigley," although a great story, is fiction. But, to put it mildly, there is some doubt about the historical accuracy of "The Buffalo Harvest."

On one hand there are those who point to [what they see as] numerous problems with technical details described in "The Buffalo Harvest." These include the issue of the .45-120, the use of antelope skin as bullet patching, among several others. These [supposed] errors are glaring enough to cast doubt on the whole story.

On the other hand there are those who believe Frank Mayer has left us a well written and accurate account of his experiences on the buffalo range. Those in Col. Mayer's 'camp' defend him as they would their own great grandpappy. After all, anybody can get a few numbers mixed up or have a problem remembering some obscure details decades later. What the heck, I'm less than half Frank Mayer's age and often have trouble remembering what I did yesterday..

Even a careful and unbiased reading of "The Buffalo Harvest" does not provide enough clues to positively prove the story one way or the other. You either believe or you don't.

I tried to post this as a poll but it didn't work. So here's the question:

Do you think Frank Mayer's story is FACT or FICTION?

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Troll
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Postby Troll » Tue Jun 01, 2004 2:58 pm

Oh...oh... Here we go again.
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Hidehunter
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Postby Hidehunter » Tue Jun 01, 2004 3:07 pm

Unfortunatly I was unable to get the poll feature working. I hoped that having this question set up as a poll (which could be answered simply and anonymously) would eliminate arguments. Without the poll, the post is sort of "troll bait." If I could edit or delete it, I would do so.

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RMulhern
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"The Buffalo Harvest"

Postby RMulhern » Tue Jun 01, 2004 4:37 pm

In Defense of Frank H. Mayer, Buffalo Hunter!


Frank H. Mayer was born in 1850 in New Orleans, La. In 1855 his entire family moved to Pennsylvania and settled in the Allegheny Mountains. As a youngster growing up he had access to hunting and fishing country that was unlimited. He had one major wish in life which was to see as many "gunshops" as possible! There in the heart of the mountains there were many riflemen and rifles with the latter outnumbering shotguns by, in his words "a hundred to one". Frank H. Mayer had numerous gunshops to visit including some of the most renown makers of the day. Names such as Golcher, Lehmans, Henrys, Billinghurst, Schalk, Rein, Miller, whose names today are world famous for expert craftsmanship. With ALL of the above, Frank H. Mayer was personally acquainted, most of which lived near where he and his family had homesteaded. In his words, "urged on by itchy feet, my people were constantly on the move, always hoping for social and financial betterment. This suited me fine, for that itch was, and is, hereditary, as my after years so proved to be"! Whenever he saw a mountain range, he was always constantly obsessed with a great desire to see what was on the other side.

Frank H. Mayers' personal experience with these "gems of guncraft" as he called the gunshops was at the early age of ten years when he traded his entire fur catch of two years work to the owner of a general goods store for a 120-to-the-pound, full-stocked Kentucky rifle with double set triggers and a 51" barrel. He kept and maintained this rifle for 74 years and had the worn rifling recut three times until the caliber was exactly .45. He never sold it. Using this rifle and in his words he stated "I shot against the cream of those nail-driving mountaineers, and was able to lick up a few drops of victory now and then, fairly holding my own in the goodly company"! By this time he was indissolubly wedded now to the rifle and his interest in its actual manufacture began to awaken and from this time on he became more or less a nuisance around the gunshops. The "smiths" soon discovered that he could not be driven away by anything short of a beating and the owners cannily proceeded to take advantage of his obsession and made him pay for his footing by keeping him busy by redding-up the shop and making himself useful. Apparently Frank Mayer was a very observant young man for his age and soon he became familiar with every facet and method of gun-making, from the raw iron, brass, and wood to the completed masterpiece. In time, he was actually permitted, without pay, to really help in the actual making of quality rifles. In the authors' opinion, there is no doubt whatsoever that Frank H. Mayer was until the very day that he died....a true, dyed-in-the-wool "GUN-CRANK"! By the time he was sixteen years of age he had graduated sufficiently in the art of gun making to the point whereby he could build, unassisted, accept for some invaluable advice by his peers, a rifle complete in all its appointments, from the purely American-sourced billet up to the globe and tang sights, and the checkered "flame" maple stock and Schuetzen buttplate. In addition, he also made the bullet mould, the cherry which cut the mould, a graduated-measure "honey-bull" powder horn, bullet pouch, and the patch-cutter....all of his own manufacture!

So...beyond the shadow of any doubt, to the prudent thinking individual it should be highly evident that Frank H. Mayer was a very unusual individual concerning his experience with rifles and the usage thereof. Modern readers seem to take with a "grain of salt" the writings of Frank Mayer and scoff at some of his writings, such as the use of antelope skin for bullet patching material which he states he utilized when he had no regular paper for so doing. Yet....even before he took to the plains hunting the bison and prior to his introduction to the Sharps...he mentions utilizing fawn skin and the entrails of various animals for bullet patching material for his muzzle-loading rifles! I find it difficult to comprehend that he just came up with this method right off the top of his head so to speak; rather he had been taught this by those that came before him....his peers. Frank H. Mayer was the "crankiest of cranks" in his adolescence and those that knew him often reminded him that this trait had followed him throughout his very lengthy life! An apparent view of his "crankiness" was the fact that his Dad....whom also was a crank...and a renown carver.....would always require that his son roll all of his bullets. Yes...I wrote "roll"! It seems that Frank Mayer was never satisfied with the quality of various moulds produced during his day because the bullets would not be perfectly round. He stated that many complications arose in mould making and finding a mould that produced "perfectly round" bullets was as "rare as frog hair"! So what did he do? He had been taught by some of the old timers to gently roll the freshly cast bullets between two seasoned maple boards, employing a circular motion and very light pressure until the bullets, when placed upon a pane of glass would easily roll off in a straight line! This rolling process also had the effect of slightly increasing the surface density of the lead, which helped the bullets somewhat to resist deformation in the pouches in which they were carried.

It has been written that in some instances, old buffalo hunters, due to dimming memory and many years of age had stated that cartridge cases had been 3" in length..... and that they were in error. Well....we know that the Sharps .45x110 case was 2.875" in length and that in my opinion is quite close to 3"! There is no doubt that the above words were intended for Frank Mayer but in my opinion, I find it very difficult to believe that even at 90 years of age that Frank Mayer would have been a senile old man.....forgetful of things and equipment that had not been a hobby but rather a way of life!
Do we know for certain that 3" cases were not available in any form prior to 1884 like one author states? Today we order cases from a supplier that takes cases of another caliber and "stretches" them to another length for use in our Sharps rifles! On this evidence, are we to believe that our fore-fathers were so ignorant that they could not have done the same thing? We are also informed that, in reference to the first sentence of this paragraph, that there were no 3" cases available until at least 1884 but in a noted authors' book there is mention of, in William T. Hornadys' reference works, of (1) .45/120 Sharps rifle (breech loading) being in an inventory list of equipment in 1881 belonging to one James McNaney of Miles City, Montana. If so and this is correct....I'd be willing to say that this .45/120 was of 3 1/4" length! So....the question as I see it is......are we to think that all of these old timers were senile.....or slightly daft from age....OR...is there any likely-hood that they were correct on many things such as caliber and case length....moreso possibly than any inventory of sales records?

As for the debate concerning the date of usage of the .50x140x3 1/4" case I would just like to throw this into the pot. To quote old Elmer Keith, "The old buffalo hunters I talked with, and who are now gone to the Happy Hunting Ground, differed in their descriptions of the cartridge used by the big fifty, some claiming it was .50-95-473, and using a 2.5" straight taper case, while a few others, including Waldo P. Abbott, were just as postive that it took a 3.25" straight taper case and a charge of 165-170 grains of powder and a 700 grain patched ball. Mr. Lenneville knew a man who had seen the .50-170-700 used on buffalo and who stated flatly it took a 3.25" case!"

In conclusion, I have researched all available data that I know how to use to find more information concerning Frank H. Mayer. I have not gone to the National Archives as yet to ascertain whether or not I can find anything on him concerning his service in the Union Army as a bugler boy but I intend to do so in the near future. Mr Mayer wrote several articles for the National Rifle Association back around 1934-1936 and without a doubt he was quite literate and well educated......certainly several cuts above the normal individual that would have been on the plains hunting bison! Living until 1954 at the age of 104....and killing his last buck at 102 one would have to assume that he was more than "starchy" and certainly blessed by our Maker! He is buried at the below listed site in Fairplay, Colorado. He retired in Denver, Colorado and apparently stayed in that area until his death! I have a very strong feeling.....that he was more than.....an honorable man!

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cg ... Ipi=87504&

FWIW :lol: :roll: :lol:

Ray Newman
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Postby Ray Newman » Tue Jun 01, 2004 5:58 pm

TROLL: agreed.

Maybe to keep everybody happy, we should call it "historical fiction"?

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RMulhern
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Frank Mayer

Postby RMulhern » Tue Jun 01, 2004 7:33 pm

Come on Ray!

Ya know us can't "discriminate" agin the elderly!! :lol: :lol: :roll:

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Re: "The Buffalo Harvest"

Postby Kenny Wasserburger » Tue Jun 01, 2004 9:52 pm

[q a noted authors' book there is mention of, in William T. Hornadys' reference works, of (1) .45/120 Sharps rifle (breech loading) being in an inventory list of equipment in 1881 belonging to one James McNaney of Miles City, Montana. If so and this is correct....I'd be willing to say that this .45/120 was of 3 1/4" length! So....the question as I see it is......are we to think that all of these old timers were senile.....or slightly daft from age....OR...is there any likely-hood that they were correct on many things such as caliber and case length....moreso possibly than any inventory of sales records?

Rick,

I bet your wrong on this one, Why? Because L.A. Huffman was the official photographer for this very trip that McNaney was on and you mention. In Huffman's personal effects are some 45-120 ammo, YES THATS RIGHT! hate to bust your bubble but they are 2-7/8ths cases. Listed on the box is 45-120 For Sharps rifles. With a 120 gr charge of powder and 500 Gr PP Bullet. One box is unopened and the other is. I have done some serrious Research on this one and not just Conjecture, I have found 45-120 ammo and sadly all of them have been 2-7/8ths cases.

While many are WILLING TO SAY their opinons, I have facts to back up my statements, I have seen this ammo many times. Its in a showcase at the Shiloh Factory. Sharps records state that the 2-7/8ths case can be loaded with 90-120 grs of powder depending on the grade used and the care in filling the case, Thats a quote out of the 1878 catalog.

We all can agree on one thing Frank Mayer was a rifle Crank and thats a well known fact.

Kenny Wasserburger
We'll raise up our Glasses against Evil Forces, Singing, Whiskey for my men, Beer for my horses.

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Lee Stone
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Postby Lee Stone » Wed Jun 02, 2004 9:26 am

Anyone know the origins of the use of the word "Crank" to define or describe a shooting enthusiast?

I am very familiar with the word crank as a name for a handle for starting an engine by hand (been there, done that many times) or used to describe someone in bad temper as in "my but she is cranky today".

But I am curious as to the origins of its use to describe a shooting enthusiast. Obviously the word crank has been so used for many years as Colonel Mayer so descrided himself as rifle crank.
Lee Stone

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Troll
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Postby Troll » Wed Jun 02, 2004 9:46 am

Even though I'm unsure myself. Seller's himself stated that all the Mayer rifles are well documented and known to exist. So both the 40-90 SS and the 45-120 (3-1/2") that don't suppose to exist, do. Sellers was the most stauchist against these cartridges being used in the buffalo hunts. Hard to argue with existing rifles. I would personally like to see one to satisfy my curiousity. They must be in some Super Rich guys collection.
-Finese is choosing the right size hammer

gmartin
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Postby gmartin » Wed Jun 02, 2004 10:11 am

Sharpsman,
You didn't identify your sources but the treatsie you took the time to share was rather convincing. I of cours own Mr. Mayer's book and for a long time took as gospel the criticism of it. Over more time and with the aid of these forums I'm willing to accept more notions as to his writings' accuracy. The information provided by others following with regards to absolute cartridge availability ie, length, etc. takes nothing from what you wrote. I own Seller's book and it is my "Bible," (uh, Sharps) and found MR. Keith's writing very hard to follow, but will try again my copy of "Hell, I was There." Senility? We've been presented with no evidence of this for mr. Mayer, to the contrary.
Good stuff, thus far I'd vote a hesitant (sp) fact.
Gregg

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JAGG
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Postby JAGG » Wed Jun 02, 2004 1:22 pm

Mayers probably used antelope intestents for bullet patching ! This type of material was also used in loaded BP bullet making for years ! He did mention that the patched bullet diameter had to just fit thumb pressure tight at the muzzle , or bore diameter ! Mayers used a number of rifles in his hunting days ! If you will remember he shot a large lone Bull Buffalo in his last outing just for sport in his writings , and left it there after the herds were gone ! That is the way people thought and were back in those days ! Did he tell the truth ? Well where did he not tell the truth ? JAGG
JAGG

pete
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Postby pete » Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:08 pm

I admit I haven't read the book. That's because of the quotes I've read from it. But as far as the buffalo hunting part goes I vote fiction. As far as the antelope skin thing goes a believe for muzzleloader round balls yeah. For cartridge bullets no. I have an 1800's 44-77 paper patch cartridge and the bullet meas. .429 just fwd of the edge of the paper and .439 on the paper at the edge. that's only .010 difference. I don't think antelope skin could be shaved down that thin or thinner if more than one wrap is used without falling apart. Even if it were possible can you imagine how tedious it would be to shave enough skin evenly for even 50 bullets?
I think I read he also said he ate buffalo once and hated it so much he didn't eat any more. I've eaten 2 and they are great tasting. Besides that it's been written by many many buffalo hunters that if you were a buffalo hunter you ate buffalo.
Hidehunter I think you owe it to us to tell us where you stand. :)

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Postby Omaha Poke » Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:47 pm

I personally think that Mayers was a very "late comer" to the buffalo hunt. I have read nearly every book written about this period and activity, and Mayers is mentioned little in other works. This is not to say that he wasn't a player, but other books tell of persons that were there, and a lot of them mention the same person. Such as Cook, Dixon, Nixon, etc. It would be more believeable if he were mentioned as often as these men. Randy
Randy Ruwe

Ray Newman
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Postby Ray Newman » Fri Jun 04, 2004 11:01 pm

Poke: best better be careful what you say about the godly Mayer. Do you have a fetish for feathers & tar?

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Postby Omaha Poke » Sat Jun 05, 2004 1:02 am

Ray, there have been a lot of false Gods. :D
Randy Ruwe


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