Sunday, January 31, 2010

NMLRA Announces Museum Exhibits for National Spring Shoot 2010

National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association Announces Museum Exhibits for National Spring Shoot 2010
By Leslie Martin Conwell
American History Events Coordinator
The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association will be offering several exhibits at the Rand House Museum for the National Spring Shoot.  The NMLRA welcomes as guest curators Curtis Johnson, Jeff Jaeger, and the National Firearms Museum of the National Rifle Association.
Curt Johnson is bringing a large collection of Illinois-made firearms.  Curt’s interested in collecting Illinois guns began in 1968 when he was shown a locally made, 19th century rifle.  Although he was familiar with many of the gunmakers from out east, seeing this piece sparked his interest in finding out more about the gunmakers from the state where he lived. These gunmakers helped outfit not only the local settlers, but also those headed on their way to settle the American West.  Curt then began his long quest to learn all he could about Illinois-made firearms, and amassed a beautiful collection of original pieces.  Curt has agreed to share his passion for these guns by displaying many of them at the Rand House Museum for the 2010 National Spring Shoot.  These will include longrifles, Plains rifles, percussion Schuetzen rifles, and shotguns.  Tools and photos related to the history of Illinois firearms will also be on display.  Curt exhibited part of his collection in 1998 at the Rand House Museum, but states that he has amassed many fine new pieces since that time, and some of these will be on exhibit in June.  
Besides being an avid collector, Curt is an accomplished author.  He will have available for sale his series of volumes entitled “Gunmakers of Illinois,” published by George Shumway.
Jeff Jaeger, who is well known as a collector of Indiana-made firearms and who has exhibited parts of his personal collection in the past at the Rand House, will be on hand to talk about and promote a new book he co-authored with Jim Dresslar, “John Small of Vincennes, Gunsmith on the Western Frontier.”  The book chronicles the life of John Small, and discusses his many diverse craft skills and business interests.  Jaeger and Dresslar highlight specific examples of Small’s work owned by well-known names in American frontier history, such as William Clark, the Girty brothers, Francis Vigo, and Pierre Menard.  Recently reviewed in Muzzle Blasts (December 2009), the book provides fascinating insight into the life of this early Indiana gunsmith.  In his review of the Jaeger/Dresslar work, noted author James Alexander Thom (Panther in the Sky, Follow the River, etc.) wrote “It is a quality work, about quality work…congratulations on such a beautiful production…the photographic representations of John Small’s fine handiwork show that your verbal praise is not exaggerated…the research is thorough, the history accurate.”   The book will be on sale at the Rand House Museum during the course of the Spring Shoot.
Philip Schreier of the National Rifle Association’s National Firearms Museum is a frequent guest curator at the Rand House, and is planning on bringing some collection pieces for display.  Watch the NMLRA website at for future updates on the NRA’s exhibit.
The NMLRA is grateful to these guest curators for their willingness to share their collections and knowledge with others.
Museum hours for the National Spring Shoot will be posted on the NMLRA website at  For more information on the Rand House Museum, or if you are interested in exhibiting at the museum in the future, please contact Leslie Martin Conwell, NMLRA American History Events Coordinator, 765.563.6792,