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Login Name Post: The Dating Game (Colonial Rifles)        (Topic#269294)
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-14-12 04:56 PM - Post#1146141    


There is a lot of interest in the origin and "evolution" of the longrifle. Because signed, dated, pre-Revolutionary War rifles are scarce as hen's teeth, we're forced to (well, we like it!) make educated or wild guesses about where some early flintlock rifle-built guns were made, and when. We don't have and won't find a 1750's Guns and Ammo magazine with an article on "Rifles Preferred by Longhunters and Other Colonials" that doucments who was making what styles of longrifles in the 1750-1775 era. So we speculate and theorize. There is always a desire to early-date some rifles, because we wish we had some really early rifles we could base our builds on and say, "that's a 1750's rifle".

To promote discussion I will list some early rifles and my rough estimates of when they were made, and when they could not have been made. I do this recognizing that it is possible to be off by 10 or even 15 years. I am trying to provide the basis for good debate. "RCA" means "Rifles of Colonial America" volumes 1 or 2 by Shumway.

RCA 17 and RCA 19: I would estimate these smooth rifles to have been made from the late 1750's-1770.

RCA 20:I estimate this Berks county rifle to 1750's-1760's, because of robust architecture and construction details.

RCA 40: This big rough gun was likely made near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania from the 1750's-1760's. It would be rare to find open guard colonial rifles made in the 1770's.

The Marshall rifle (RCA 41) was probably re-stocked in the 1760's, but the original was probably 1750's. It's not built like a 1770's Christians Spring rifle.

RCA 42: This highly debated rifle I estimate from 1760-1770, based on the known other side-opening patchbox rifles.

RCA 48 & 49: I think of these as the earlierst Dickerts and place them early in his career, about 1765-1775. After that I'd expect the brass box to be a daisy style.

RCA 52: this rifle has always intrigued me; I know there is a lot of debate. I think it was stocked between 1765-1775 from a collection of parts. The lock and hardware look more worn than the stock.

RCA 73: I place this Newcomer rifle from between 1765-1775. I believe the current patchbox is a later, in use, addition.

RCA 83: This Berlin rifle, I'd place from 1765-1775 compared to other work by the same maker.

RCA 84: "the Ugly Bird Head Patchbox Gun". Recognizing the secondary work done on this rifle during it's working years (patchbox, nasty guard, and cobbed up lock reconversion), it is still a big step-wristed rifle, and the boldness of it suggests 1765-1775 to me. Other think it could be as late as the 1780s.

RCA 87: J Graef. For me, the Christians Spring box places it as an early 1770's rifle.

RCA 90: Schroyer attributed, 1765-1775.

RCA 92: Schroyer-attributed, so robust. 1765-1775. I wonder if this was made by Matthias Roesser and what is the connection between him, Newcomer, and Schroyer.

RCA 103, the brass barreled rifle, now with a date of 1771, I believe. But it looks earlier, so this is a lesson as we estimate other rifles.

RCA 104- a weird rifle with all that drop at the heel. The furniture suggests it's a 1760's rifle, but it may be a restock of earlier parts, perhaps from a European rifle.

RCA 106: whattizit? Much of it looks so early but the sideplate looks American so 1770's.

RCA 108: huge rifle probably captured during the Revolutionary war and taken to England. Huge. But the guard does not look 1760's to me. So 1770's.

RCA 110: probably a European rifle and if Scandinavian, could be 1770's.

RCA 111: a weird little rifle. I've handled this one and it's maybe a European 1740's-1760 rifle. It's stocked in ash and all the furniture is early.

RCA 114:Free Born: I place this from 1765-1775. I have a hard time seeing a well-evolved cross-hinge brass box as earlier than 1765, but the Musician's rifle gives me fits too. On Free Born, the sideplate is not early in design, nor is the guard particularly early-looking. These features influence my guess.

RCA 117, Faber rifle. There's nothing there that makes me need to eliminate the 1750's for this rifle, but it could be well into the 1760's. It has an early lock and furniture and super robust buttstock architecture.

RCA 118: This is a rifle nobody talks about but seems to me it could be the elusive English influenced Southern rifle of the 1740'-1750's. This gun is worn OUT and has unique features that are fascinating. a nailed on buttplate, a fowler style guard, and weird carving.

RCA 124: I love this early walnut stocked rifle and it could be earlier but some features look "evolved" to me so 1770-ish. 1765-1775.

RCA 127: 1770's restock of an earlier rifle.

RCA 131: Adam Haymaker rifle. Looks 1770's to me (curvature of the buttplate, looks evolved). As I understand it the owner died in 1774 so I guess it must pre-date that.

RCA 132: a shortened rifle, wonderful early robust architecture, 1765-1775.

RCA 142: 1740's-1770's. We know it was built of used parts some of which were much earlier. If it was stocked by a guy making muskets during the Revolutionary War it could be that late as many parts guns of that era look similar. But there's nothing there to preclude it being much earlier. I can't fine tune the date on this one.

Musician's rifle: 1755-1765. Not a 1770's rifle, not a 1740's rifle. The brass box is spectacular and Germanic in design, but I hesitate to think of a brass box rifle before 1755.

Woodsrunner gun: 1765-1775. Some will argue that Southern rifles evolved faster but without dates and names, this is speculation.

Deshler rifle: mid 1760's to mid-1770's. Why do I propose a narrow range for this rifle? Because the evolution of the side-opening brass patchbox is pretty well documented.

Have away at it, boys and girls. Pick a rifle and let's discuss it.



 
Roundball 
Cannon
Posts: 22964
Roundball
05-15-12 08:42 AM - Post#1146413    

    In response to Rich Pierce

  • Rich Pierce Said:

"RCA" means "Rifles of Colonial America" volumes 1 or 2 by Shumway.




Rich, this seems like it would be an interesting exercise...but it has a dependency on access to the RCA books...hoped to find an electronic version that Google might have already scanned into their book section but there wasn't...pretty hefty price tag on hard copies
Roundball's ML Formula:
"Whompability...Across The Fields and In The Woods"


 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-15-12 09:16 AM - Post#1146430    

    In response to Roundball

$60 each. Get them while you can. I got mine before the second edition came out, and with Shumway being sick at the time, there was "no way" another edition would ever be published. If you build guns you HAVE to have them. Try $250 per volume and then complain about $60!

 
Roundball 
Cannon
Posts: 22964
Roundball
05-15-12 09:56 AM - Post#1146449    

    In response to Stophel

  • Stophel Said:

If you build guns you HAVE to have them.



That won't be an issue...I don't have the interest, know-how, skills, tools, patience, space, etc...think that about covers it.

Instead, all time & money like that can be spent at the range and in the woods...
Roundball's ML Formula:
"Whompability...Across The Fields and In The Woods"


 
Spence10 
Cannon
Posts: 6346
05-15-12 10:30 AM - Post#1146470    

    In response to Rich Pierce

  • Rich Pierce Said:
"RCA" means "Rifles of Colonial America" volumes 1 or 2 by Shumway.


Are the books by Joseph Kindig and Merrill Lindsay no longer considered proper sources? I don't see them mentioned very often, but there are pretty good pictures of several hundred rifles in them.

Do you by any chance know if any of the rifles shown in RCA are also shown in either of the other two?

Spence


 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-15-12 10:49 AM - Post#1146480    

    In response to Spence10

There may be one or two RCA guns in Kindig's book, I don't recall..

The Merill Lindsay book (only one I know of, and offhand, I can't recall the title. I think it's just "The Kentucky Rifle"...) has several COLOR photos of guns that are in RCA. Shumway illustrated a lot of guns in MuzzleBlasts magazine that are not in any other books. Get back issues, or order the collected photocopied reprint books.

There are several good reference books that have been done over the years (and some not so good...). I believe I have them all, down to the last booklet, pamphlet, and flyer! Anywhere and everywhere a Kentucky Rifle might be pictured. This is why I have no money.

 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-15-12 11:13 AM - Post#1146488    

    In response to Spence10

  • Spence10 Said:
  • Rich Pierce Said:
"RCA" means "Rifles of Colonial America" volumes 1 or 2 by Shumway.


Are the books by Joseph Kindig and Merrill Lindsay no longer considered proper sources? I don't see them mentioned very often, but there are pretty good pictures of several hundred rifles in them.

Do you by any chance know if any of the rifles shown in RCA are also shown in either of the other two?

Spence




"Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age" by Kindig is a great resource but he was generally off on his dating of early rifles by as much as 20 years. I don't pay any attention to his estimates of when the guns were made. For example the great Verner rifle, he dated as Pre-Revolutionary or Revolutionary War period, when we now think the Bucks County style reached its zenith 1790-1810.

"Kentucky Rifles and Pistols 1750- (I forget the date)" is a good picture book and the dates are more in line with current thinking.

We all got spoiled by Shumway's articles and books that provided so many views and actual dimensions, that some of the other books have lost some luster in comparison, even when the photos are superior. I also appreciated Shumway's research and conservative conclusions.

 
LaBonte 
Passed On
Posts: 2238
05-15-12 11:49 AM - Post#1146501    

    In response to Rich Pierce

Another option is to get the RCA (or any other books) books via the library - if not in your local library have them order it through interlibrary loan. Even if you're not interested in building they are worth a good view and will give one a better understanding of originals.

 
tg 
Cannon
Posts: 10776
05-15-12 12:25 PM - Post#1146518    

    In response to Stophel

There are a few crossover guns in Schumways and kindigs books, I no longer have them so I cannot tell you which ones, they are post rev war for the most part as I recall, Schumway has what are thought to be the earlier guns of the two books

Edited by tg on 05-15-12 12:26 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-15-12 12:46 PM - Post#1146528    

    In response to tg

RCA 40 is in Kindig's book, and some of the Bucks county rifles and Beck rifles are in both, and maybe a Lehigh or two. I am not sure why some guns were put in Shumway's books entitled Rifles of Colonial America when they were clearly later than the colonial period but I am not complaining.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-15-12 08:53 PM - Post#1146734    

    In response to Rich Pierce

I'll play. I'm pretty well in agreement with you.

17. Eric Kettenburg has posited that this gun is of the Bethlehem/Christians' Spring variety. The more I look at it, the more I agree with him.

19 is just flat out neat.

20. I have grown hesitant to give very "early" dates to the series of similar Reading guns. My FEELING is that most of these are of the 1765-1775 range. 20 and 21 might be among the earliest of the series, though. Hachen is a likely candidate for the man that made them, since I don't think there were any other gunsmiths in Reading except him and Schreidt for some time (?).

41. The Marshall Rifle. Stylistically, it could easily be 1740. However, again, my feeling is that it is from closer to 1765-1770. Note the lock engraving is nearly identical to the lock on the "brass barreled gun".

42. I cannot see anything that could be used to attribute it to Valentine Beck, or that it was made in North Carolina (it could be by him, but even if so, how could one tell whether it was made in PA or NC???). The arguments for NC and against PA are definitely not convincing for me, to say the least.

52 is a neat gun.EK once again put forth how this gun has remarkable similarities to a gun by Johann Gumpf (Gunsmiths of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, p. 159), and I think this may well be a somewhat earlier gun by him.

103. The Brass barreled gun. Another one I have yet to see any good reason to attribute to a specific maker, or even a region. It's dated 1771, and that's as good a date as any. Just because it's big or thick, doesn't necessarily make it any earlier. Some of the Isaac Haines guns are super nice big, "early" looking guns, yet he was born in 1750, so the earliest any of his guns could be would be 1770's.

104 is a neat, weird gun. It has enough Berks-isms to make me think it is from Berks county. Date? maybe 1780's-1790's. I wonder if it is imported German hardware.

110. I am reasonably certain it is Scandinavian.

111. neat gun, crude carving. Does it have take down splices in the fore end??? I'm assuming it's German.

117. While I might want to call it a 1750's gun, honestly, I think it's from about 1770. No particular reason, just the gut feeling.

118. I don't know what to make of this one. Without seeing it firsthand, I have a hard time believing that it was made with that cruddy buttplate and sideplate.

127 is clearly restocked with earlier Berks county hardware.

131 ... another one of the icons that it is not recommended to question, but here goes... Am I the only one who sees "AC" behind the cheekpiece and not "AH"??? Besides, why would the gunsmith put his initials in carving behind the cheek? I have never seen it in person, but from the less than stellar photos, those initials just do not look right to me at all. They don't belong. As if the original carving (if there was any there at all) was knocked off and "improved" by carving the owner's initials. And I have yet to see any other gun by any other of the Haymaker family (none are published that I am aware of), so I cannot offer any opinion on the similarities of the tang carving. I'm just questioning, not claiming it is not so.

132. How can you tell that it has been shortened?

142. This one also has been given a location attribution... According to a card next to it when I saw it at a show a few years ago.

The "woodsrunner" and the "Feather" gun I don't think are as early as others do. That sideplate just screams Lancaster 1780 (not that I think it is from Lancaster..but that sideplate design sure is.)

The Deshler gun is just awesome. Brass barrel to boot. Too bad it has suffered so.

 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-15-12 09:17 PM - Post#1146743    

    In response to Stophel

my responses in BOLD
  • Stophel Said:

I'll play. I'm pretty well in agreement with you.41. The Marshall Rifle. Stylistically, it could easily be 1740. However, again, my feeling is that it is from closer to 1765-1770. Note the lock engraving is nearly identical to the lock on the "brass barreled gun".
True about the lock. Incredibly robust gun, more so than the Oerters.

42. I cannot see anything that could be used to attribute it to Valentine Beck, or that it was made in North Carolina (it could be by him, but even if so, how could one tell whether it was made in PA or NC???). The arguments for NC and against PA are definitely not convincing for me, to say the least. Nuff said, the attributions are attributions.

52 is a neat gun.EK once again put forth how this gun has remarkable similarities to a gun by Johann Gumpf (Gunsmiths of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, p. 159), and I think this may well be a somewhat earlier gun by him. Didn't notice this, will go back and look.

103. The Brass barreled gun. Another one I have yet to see any good reason to attribute to a specific maker, or even a region. It's dated 1771, and that's as good a date as any. Just because it's big or thick, doesn't necessarily make it any earlier. Some of the Isaac Haines guns are super nice big, "early" looking guns, yet he was born in 1750, so the earliest any of his guns could be would be 1770's. True, we can only hope to get close dating these rifles.

104 is a neat, weird gun. It has enough Berks-isms to make me think it is from Berks county. Date? maybe 1780's-1790's. I wonder if it is imported German hardware. Hardware is early, buttplate width might have been trimmed.I could buy Berks origin.

110. I am reasonably certain it is Scandinavian. After you posted that somewhere, I looked at some Scandinavian guns and tend to agree.

111. neat gun, crude carving. Does it have take down splices in the fore end??? I'm assuming it's German. It does have a take down splice. I saw it at a show when Shumway photographed ot and he let me handle it.

117. While I might want to call it a 1750's gun, honestly, I think it's from about 1770. No particular reason, just the gut feeling. The rear of the cheekpiece sells me on it being really early, along with the lock.

118. I don't know what to make of this one. Without seeing it firsthand, I have a hard time believing that it was made with that cruddy buttplate and sideplate. I love this gun. It's being or has been restored.The step wrist is really robust and the carving wonderfully folksy.

127 is clearly restocked with earlier Berks county hardware.

131 ... another one of the icons that it is not recommended to question, but here goes... Am I the only one who sees "AC" behind the cheekpiece and not "AH"??? Besides, why would the gunsmith put his initials in carving behind the cheek? I have never seen it in person, but from the less than stellar photos, those initials just do not look right to me at all. They don't belong. As if the original carving (if there was any there at all) was knocked off and "improved" by carving the owner's initials. And I have yet to see any other gun by any other of the Haymaker family (none are published that I am aware of), so I cannot offer any opinion on the similarities of the tang carving. I'm just questioning, not claiming it is not so. You devil. I think there is family history linking it to Haymaker. Anyway it's a wonderful rifle.

132. How can you tell that it has been shortened? Mostly a feeling, fore-arm seems long for the length of the barrel. and Shumway said it was shortened

142. This one also has been given a location attribution... According to a card next to it when I saw it at a show a few years ago. Probably collected in South Carolina.

The "woodsrunner" and the "Feather" gun I don't think are as early as others do. That sideplate just screams Lancaster 1780 (not that I think it is from Lancaster..but that sideplate design sure is.) The woodsrunner gun is dated early because the feather rifle is dated later.

The Deshler gun is just awesome. Brass barrel to boot. Too bad it has suffered so. It IS awesome and one I want to use as the basis for a build. So ridiculously robust and funky but can't be pre-1765. Now if it had a sliding wooden box, we'd think 1750's-1760's, maybe.






 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-16-12 07:25 AM - Post#1146821    

    In response to Stophel

  • Stophel Said:

131 Am I the only one who sees "AC" behind the cheekpiece and not "AH"??? Besides, why would the gunsmith put his initials in carving behind the cheek?



There is a John Moll rifle with the initials JM behind the cheekpiece in Kindig's book, so I guess it was done sometimes.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-16-12 08:15 AM - Post#1146829    

    In response to Rich Pierce

I don't see any initials there at all...



 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-16-12 09:00 AM - Post#1146847    

    In response to Stophel

You're such a stickler. If you think the JM initials are hopeful imagination on the Moll rifle, you must think my suggestion that the carving behind the cheekpiece on RCA 17 may represent "WA" (potentially William Antes) is evidence of mind-altering substance use, LOL.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-16-12 10:08 AM - Post#1146883    

    In response to Rich Pierce

Psychedelic!

It's been a while since I looked, but the carving design behind the cheek of 17 is basically the same (though less refined) as the design on a German gun or two. I'll look again when I get home.

I have my own theories as to some German-American gun connections.

 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-16-12 11:26 AM - Post#1146901    

    In response to Stophel

What I was talking about regarding RCA 17, the smooth rifle very tentatively attributed to William Antes in the Moravian Gunmakers book:


A stretch, no doubt.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-17-12 08:48 PM - Post#1147437    

    In response to Rich Pierce

I'm looking for the gun that has the carving behind the cheek that is the same basic design as 17. Haven't found it yet. If you have the "Steinschloss Jaegerbuechsen" book, look at the gun by Christoph Wilhelm Freund on p.350-356. The design behind the cheek has the same type of back to back scrolls with the little connecting doo dad (the technical artsy term) in between. Granted, not the same design, but a similar theme. I KNOW somewhere I have pictures of one that is much more similar.... still looking...

sort of related:

When you look at a Freund gun, I believe you are seeing a proto-Lehigh gun. The Freund family was very influential in the region, and the style is distinctive. Fuerstanau is near Frankfurt-am-Main, and this region is where a great many PA German immigrants came from. SOME gunsmith in the Lehigh/Northampton area was familiar with the Freund forms stocking and carving. The unique design elements and the way they are carved came straight from there to PA. The prodigious use of little chip cuts everywhere is a big feature. I don't think I've seen this done on German guns from anywhere else, at least not this profusely. Look at the flerdylee that the Freunds carved on their patchbox lids. These SCREAM Lehigh. When you see the design coming off the nose of the comb on the lockside of the stock of a Moll rifle, you are looking at a Freund design, which is essentially identical. It stunned me when it first hit me, just how close the carving themes were.

Sorry, not entirely pertinent to the subject at hand, but with the "Antes" gun, I started thinking about it!


 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-18-12 09:25 AM - Post#1147576    

    In response to Stophel

I need to get the Steinschloss or whatever book. It's on my list. What do you think of this one?



 
Mike Brooks 
Cannon
Posts: 6686
05-18-12 11:17 AM - Post#1147619    

    In response to Rich Pierce

I'd like to play but I have to go plant corn for a couple days....I'll warn you, I,m a Heretic when it comes to this subject.

 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4092
05-18-12 12:04 PM - Post#1147641    

    In response to Mike Brooks

Let's not all get in trouble at once. You're probably better off planting corn. The corn here(St. Louis)is knee high in many places already but we used to plant corn in mid-May in upstate NY when I was a kid.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-18-12 12:23 PM - Post#1147654    

    In response to Rich Pierce

That's a neat gun. Seriously wild carving. The stock is shaped in French form (though with the added cheekpiece). Not uncommon at all to see a German/Austrian gun done this way. German gunsmiths would make whatever was fashionable and what their customer wanted, so there are a lot of German guns done in French or Spanish styles. The wooden triggerguards that we sometimes see on German rifles are in imitation of Italian guns.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5185
Stophel
05-18-12 12:34 PM - Post#1147661    

    In response to Stophel

Ah, good, I was hoping I'd find a Zweibr├╝cken gun...



It is rifled, I will presume it is straight rifled.



 
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