Imagine being a collector of historical artifacts. Imagine having in your possession, possibly the only one of its kind existing in the United States 200 years ago.
This is the experience of Dr. Robert Beeman.
Dr. Beeman is an authority on airguns. Not the Daisy air rifles of our youth - "You'll shoot your eye out!" - but a very sophisticated, powerful, innovative and impressive piece of firepower.
Dr. Beeman is an authority on a particular type of Austrian air rifle - the Girandoni. He has owned one for 30 years. That rifle, as it turns out, is not just any old Austrian air rifle, but the air rifle that traveled across country with none other than Meriwether Lewis.
Imagine having a love of the physical culture of history, and finding that for 30 years, in your possession has been Lewis' air rifle. Stunning...absolutely stunning. It makes my knees weak to think of this.
I asked Dr. Beeman a few questions that I'm glad to share here.
1. Dr. Beeman, how did you first come to have an interest in historic airguns? Is this a passion from childhood?
This is best answered in
section of our website
2. As you have researched Lewis’ airgun, what have you learned about the expedition that has surprised you?
The most surprising, by far, was the realization, voiced near the end of my Lewis airgun section about the probable huge significance of the airgun in American history. Historians keep telling me that this may well be the most important gun, of any kind, in the history and development of the United States. If it had not been for Lewis’s “Firepower Diplomacy” shows with this gun, we Westerners might be flying the Union Jack or Spanish flag and talking differently – think how that would have changed world history!
3. For readers who may not have an appreciation of history weaponry, can you say what you believe the last legacy of Lewis’ airgun is for understanding and appreciating the significance of Expedition?
question is best answered near the end of my Lewis Airgun treatise –
under the heading of The First Gun That Won the West and in the
introduction to the treatise, at the very beginning.
4. Where can people see your gun?
Sorry to keep referring you to our website, but this is well answered in the Post-Scripts to the Lewis Airgun treatise. The best chance to see it, for a long time, will be at the Kansas City NRA show, the Antique Gun Collectors section, from July 28-31, 2005. Then at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA. It is under 24/7 guard by Special Forces security experts – definitely not a group to fool with – and special security travel, storage, and display arrangements – some details are not public.
This is an important find for followers of the Expedition. While there are a few places along the trail that are as they were 200 years ago, there are precious few artifacts that are definitely from the Expedition. I'm sure over time, that other artifacts will be discovered. Here though is the airgun that served as such an attraction and impressive deterent.
Some of the material you'll find at Dr. Beeman's site will be published next year in WPO. Go get a preview and marvel at it all.