Longrifles made in Pennsylvania?

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rich pierce

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Chris, do we know where some of the earliest Lancaster gunsmiths came from and how that might have influenced the Lancaster style? Matthias Roesser born Westfalen, Prussia, Abraham Newcomer, John Baker, Christian Durr, Philip LeFevre?
 
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Stophel

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Been a while since I've looked in any of my Lancaster reference books. The thing is, you just don't really see any obvious German influence in much of anything coming out of Lancaster... at least what we know of as Lancaster guns. I mean, yeah, you have the basic form of a SW German gun, more or less. Straight wrist, straight comb, straighforward guns, but nothing specific. I haven't yet seen any Lancaster gun and said "AHA! I have seen that on a German rifle!". I can most definitely say that for Bucks and Lehigh rifles, though.

By the 1780's (and probably for several years before the Revolution) gunsmithing in Lancaster county seems to have become SO cookie-cutter uniform.... and then so many others to the south also emulated the Lancaster style, as it became a sort of standard. Apparently, that's what sold, so that's what they made. Honestly, Lancaster guns bore me to tears... except for the oddballs like Roessor and Valentine Fondersmith, which are a breath of fresh air in a world of very commercialized products. We have the presumed early Dickert guns, the really nice and thick ones (and also the "Albrecht" signed rifle, which some of us think is very possibly a Dickert gun), which are basically straight-wrist versions of the Bethlehem/Christians' Spring guns of only a few years earlier. I think everyone really jumped on this bandwagon, and started making guns like this, no matter what they may have made before.... but what DID they make before?.... the burning question that remains through the ages... They did make something, anyway. There were gunsmiths known to be there back into the 1730's, I believe. Something was going on. Lancaster gunsmithing did not suddenly spring into existence in 1770.
 
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rich pierce

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Seems like the early Lancaster style (which not all Lancaster gunsmiths followed) was in place by 1770 as the earliest English trade rifles are caricatures of early Dickert rifles, even fatter. Buttplates almost 2.2” wide.
 

dave_person

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Hi,
I agree, Chris, Lancaster smiths adopted a generic style by the Revolution and it is very cookie cutter, even the carving. And then it went all over including North Carolina and Virginia. In my opinion, in our consideration of Lancaster and also eastern PA, including Christian's Spring, we really overlook Reading guns. It really looks to me that makers like J. P. Beck had some connection with Reading or Berks county.

My mention of Caspar Wister' s letters and orders is not a reference to Moravian makers. He predates them by more than a decade and was associated with the Penn proprietors. He emphasized guns and long barrels made in Rothenburg, Germany and in particular a gunmaker named I. A. Doll. If you recall, the engraving on the barrel of the Edward Marshall rifle is "I A D Rothenburg".

dave
 

rich pierce

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Dave, now there’s a project! Build a best guess I A Doll 1740s Rothenburg Germanic trade rifle! Stocked in Euro walnut of course. Bob Lienemann’s book 2 on Moravian guns would be a great guide. Put some hints of descendant American guns in there. Decent chance the prototypical Lancaster/ Christians Spring carving styles were adapted or adopted from imports.
 

Stophel

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I have tried in vain to find photos of a Doll rifle, or any other gun from Rothenberg.
 

rich pierce

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I have tried in vain to find photos of a Doll rifle, or any other gun from Rothenberg.
There’s a picture of a barrel signature in Bob Lienemann’s second Moravian book. I’m sure if he had more pix they’d be in the book.

1760s Rothenburg-attributed rifle Bavarian Sporting Rifle, circa 1760. Daniels Antiques.

museum in Rothenburg File:Rothenburg Museum - Steinschloss.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

another from a gunmaker who worked in Rothenburg A rare Bavarian Garniture of Flintlock firearms by John Georg Lauterer of Harburg - Flintlock Rifles - Antique Rifles - ANTIQUES
 
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Stophel

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This is a very good example of the type of rifle that may have been imported here in the 1760's . Good straightforward south German gun. I start seeing square ended finials on the triggerguard about this time, maybe a little back into the 1750's. American gunsmiths quickly followed suit. Too bad they didn't keep the nice big triggerguards and flat cheekpieces.... I hate tiny little two finger grip rails and horrible hollowed out, chin-jabbing cheekpieces! :D

But other imported rifles would have come from other areas... with entirely different styles. Here is a "newly discovered" American restock of a German rifle from somewhere in north or central Germany.... definitely not restocked in the same style that it was originally! And another single set trigger!


I would dare say that you could pretty much ignore the auction house's attributions entirely. Collectors and auction houses LOVE attributions... it means more money.

My own thoughts are that the cheekpiece screams Christian's Spring/Bethlehem, but the carving doesn't so much. The carving does fit in well with other early Lehigh area guns, so my take is that it was restocked in that region, say 1770s. I would propose that the buttplate originally had a long plain square ended tang (common for the style of rifle that this one originally was), and the restocker cut it into this shape.
 

rich pierce

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This is a very good example of the type of rifle that may have been imported here in the 1760's . Good straightforward south German gun. I start seeing square ended finials on the triggerguard about this time, maybe a little back into the 1750's. American gunsmiths quickly followed suit. Too bad they didn't keep the nice big triggerguards and flat cheekpieces.... I hate tiny little two finger grip rails and horrible hollowed out, chin-jabbing cheekpieces! :D

But other imported rifles would have come from other areas... with entirely different styles. Here is a "newly discovered" American restock of a German rifle from somewhere in north or central Germany.... definitely not restocked in the same style that it was originally! And another single set trigger!


I would dare say that you could pretty much ignore the auction house's attributions entirely. Collectors and auction houses LOVE attributions... it means more money.

My own thoughts are that the cheekpiece screams Christian's Spring/Bethlehem, but the carving doesn't so much. The carving does fit in well with other early Lehigh area guns, so my take is that it was restocked in that region, say 1770s. I would propose that the buttplate originally had a long plain square ended tang (common for the style of rifle that this one originally was), and the restocker cut it into this shape.
Yes, saw that one but could not begin to attribute it, as is often the case with early guns. Somebody really liked it.
 

dave_person

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Hi Chris,
Bob Lienemann includes a photo of Johann Adolph Doll's (from Rothenberg) signature on a barrel of German rifle in his second volume on Moravian gun making. Unfortunately, he just writes "online auction site" as the source.

dave
 

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Hi,
I did a little digging on Caspar Wistar who I mentioned in a previous post. He apprenticed as a forester in Germany, which meant he also arranged and conducted hunts for his liege. Apparently, he was very familiar with fine German hunting guns and owned a fine swivel breech "Wender" rifle from Germany. He emigrated to Pennsylvania colony in 1717 and arrived virtually penniless. He began working making brass buttons and the capital from that allowed him to set up a glass making works, the first in America. Wistarberg glass, located in NJ, became famous locally and made Wistar a fortune.
Here are some examples of Wistarberg glass:



He invested that fortune in lands and retail stores in Philadelphia and New York and became one of the wealthiest men in America. He actively imported German rifles to America. According to Marshall family lore, Edward Marshall likely knew Wistar and complained that he could not obtain any good rifle barrels made locally, that is SE Pennsylvania! So he ordered a barrel and components from Germany, possibly through Wistar who favored production by Johann Adolph Doll.

dave
 

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My mention of Caspar Wister' s letters and orders is not a reference to Moravian makers. He predates them by more than a decade and was associated with the Penn proprietors. He emphasized guns and long barrels made in Rothenburg, Germany and in particular a gunmaker named I. A. Doll. If you recall, the engraving on the barrel of the Edward Marshall rifle is "I A D Rothenburg".

dave
Caspar apprenticed under his Father to become a Forester, but either his Dad lost the position or when it came time for his Dad to retire, Caspar didn't get the position. Hence, he decided to come to the New World.

Also, Caspar had a really neat smuggling trick he used to not only get out of British Import Taxes, but the much more expensive import taxes from countries outside Great Britain. He had an agent back in Germany offer to pay immigrants to HIDE his goods in their belongings and thus sneak them past the Tax Collectors. Seems he did that a good deal. 😆

Gus
 

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However, the Germans made a rifle powder often referred to "super fine double strength" beginning in the early 18th century and it was commonly used in their short barreled hunting rifles.
dave
Would that have been more or less equivalent to FFFg powder?

Gus
 

dave_person

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Hi Gus,
Actually, Ernie Cowan suggested it behaved more like something between current 3F and 4F. I don't know more than that. Swiss 3F might be pretty close.

dave
 

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Hi Gus,
Actually, Ernie Cowan suggested it behaved more like something between current 3F and 4F. I don't know more than that. Swiss 3F might be pretty close.

dave
Wow, then it must have gotten at least fair velocities out of the short barreled Jaeger Rifles.

Gus
 

springfield art

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Which came 1st ? We hear a lot about the Longrifles made in Pennsylvania which leads most to believe that that area was where Longrifles originated. The Hot Bed so to speak ...A Friend of mine says :bull: .Of Course he's from Virginia . Soooo what say ye' ? The Chicken or The Egg ? :idunno:
Well, PA was more developed before VA, although they had Williamsburg, etc. This will start another civil war! There was (or still is?) an annual competition between PA & KY to determine "the best".
Certainly members of the Contemporary Longrifle Ass'n. or similar organizations will have learned answers, which I look forward to reading. You've "sparked" a conversation, and many "flint-hard" commentators will chime in!
 

Rod Man

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I just read this thread from beginning to end. Very Impressive my fine Peeps! Better than any Magazine article and very focused!, discussion only getting in the weeds just a lil bit.

RM
 

dave_person

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Hi,
So go back to the original poster's argument that because iron was mined in Virginia in the 17th century they surely made rifle barrels. By that "il" logic iron was mined in New England in the 1640s so they must have made rifles also. The logic is rubbish and more so because England discouraged value added industries in the colonies. They wanted raw materials, like pig iron, to make products then sold back to the colonies as things like gun barrels. Some of what we discussed about Caspar Wistar exemplifies that situation. He hid importation of German guns and components from the English authorities so he did not pay a penalty. Moreover, he hid his glass production from any imperial reporting because it was frowned upon or even illegal under British colonial policy. There were two key areas that drove American colonists nuts and I believe were much more important to ordinary people than "taxation without representation" . One was the stifling of local entrepreneurs by British mercantilism and the fact that Britain provided no good way for the colonists to mint or procure hard currency. You could not pay British imposed taxes with sheep, goats, cattle, or farm produce. You had to pay with currency. The lack of hard currency in the colonies oppressed citizens more than the actual tax policies. After the revolution, Daniel Shay's rebellion highlighted that issue for the new nation and was a major factor forcing the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

dave
 

rich pierce

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The idea that rifles were made from scratch in the colonies, from iron ore to final product, is unsupportable. Ample evidence supports that flintlocks used on colonial period arms stocked here (the lock mechanisms) were primarily imported or recycled. Similarly, there are records of importation of smooth and rifled barrels from Europe. We sometimes imagine that the colonies were wilderness and colonists made everything they needed. On the contrary, there was brisk trade with Europe, excellent seaports, and merchants stocking and selling every manner of merchandise. American craftsmen bought all manner of tools and supplies.
So the presence of iron furnaces does not strongly suggest that guns, let alone rifles, were being made in a location. Iron was traded to England, and made into all manner of goods. Guns probably used less than 20% of iron converted into goods in the 18th century.
 

Longrifle

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The original John Schreit rifle was made near Reading and is dated 1761, the earliest known American made longrifle.

Yep. Around the same time as Haga made rifles. And before that was rifles made by Jacob Dickert. I am from Berks County originally and the Boone homestead has some very early pa longrifles on exhibit, but I haven't been there since 1996.

Pennsylvania was the birthplace of the american longrifle. The term "kentucky rifle" didn't come about untill the mid 1800s. Not say that rifles were not produced by other gun makers along the appalachians. Most gun makers were of germanic descent who settled PA, then moved south and north. You have to understand that most settlements before this were using rifles brought from their perspective homelands and aren't considered american made.
 
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