The Rockwell Museum is proud to display an important selection of historic long arms and handguns from the Robert F. “Bobby” Rockwell, III collection. The firearms on display explore two and a half centuries of innovation in technology. From flint-lock Colonial-era muskets to classic Kentucky rifles to the Colt revolvers, the technological revolution in firearms came to a peak during Western Expansion period (1860s-1890s). Most settlers relied on firearms for something — food, defense, sport — and thus rifles and handguns became important tools of Westward expansion. The two firearms commonly cited as “the gun that won the West”, the Springfield Model 1873 and the Colt Single Action Army Model Revolver, are both on view. The Springfield, a slow but effective, dependable rifle, was used early on by General Custer’s troopers at Battle of the Little Bighorn (Battle of the Greasy Grass), and saw continuous military use until the 1898 Spanish-American War in Cuba. The Colt revolver, the first practical revolving firearm capable of firing more than one shot without having to be reloaded, became an invaluable sidearm for people living on the frontier. From the American Revolution to the Hollywood cowboy, these historic firearms help tell the story of America.
Robert F. “Bobby” Rockwell, III, the son of the Museum’s founding collectors Bob and Hertha Rockwell has carried on the family tradition and love of collecting. Over the past four decades, Bobby has amassed an impressive collection of over 800 historic firearms. His fascination began more than 40 years ago when he began firing antique firearms in shooting competitions. By using these antique firearms, he came to learn about the technology, craftsmanship, and history behind each gun. Bobby has purchased firearms throughout the United States, including from many individuals in New York, Pennsylvania, and New England, various auctions and estate sales, and even from the Apache Reservation in Arizona. This inaugural display celebrates Bobby as a collector by featuring a broad selection of long arms and handguns ranging from the American Colonial period (1760s–1790s) to World War I (1914–1918). In the coming years, the Rockwell Museum will explore more of Bobby’s historic firearms through various displays drawn from his one-of-a-kind collection.
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