Out of Africa

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In an age when African explorers were adored like today's movie stars, one of the greatest was the American journalist who uttered the famous line, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume." Henry M. Stanley, seeking the missing doctor on the Dark Continent, found him in 1871 living on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Stanley, despite mutiny and desertion by his bearers and plagued by dysentery, smallpox and malaria, had prepared carefully for his eight-month expedition.

Among the arms purchased for the journey was a massive Belgian-proofed four-bore elephant rifle - a single-shot piece that weighed in at 22 pounds. Stanley's experiences as a soldier serving on both sides of the American Civil War likely led him to also purchase Joslyn, Starr and Winchester rifles. But this 4-bore was the largest firearm of the expedition, and Stanley's journal recorded its employment against both dangerous animals and attacking enemy canoes. Stamped with Stanley's name, the rifle may have traveled with him later in his unsuccessful attempt to discover the source of the Nile.

Recently donated by Fred J. Rowan, the Stanley rifle is one of the many historic arms on daily exhibition in the National Firearms Museum galleries in Fairfax, Va.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, January 2004.