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General discussion => Antique Gun Collecting => Topic started by: spgordon on May 04, 2015, 01:46:38 PM

Title: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: spgordon on May 04, 2015, 01:46:38 PM
Hey everybody,

There's a question that has puzzled me a few times, but I don't think I've ever asked it to the folks on this list. I hope you will take it as an instance of honest curiosity.

If I understand correctly, there is no signed Wolfgang Haga rifle. So how is it possible to attribute rifles to him? If there is no signed instance of a rifle that would identify a maker's style, how can one attribute any rifles to that maker? What elements can be used to suggest an attribution?


Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: Tom Currie on May 04, 2015, 02:39:42 PM
Scott, I believe in Wolfgang Hachen's case, other than John Screit he is the earliest documented builder in Berks County. There are quite a few extand rifles with very similar characteristics so there is an assumed perception that they must be his rifles. Without a single signature I'm not sure how attributions are made either. 
Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: E.vonAschwege on May 04, 2015, 04:45:41 PM
   Tom has hit the nail on the head for why so many rifles are attributed to him.  While I can accept that some of the much larger (and we assume earlier) rifles might be safe attributions to make, there are dozens of smaller, MUCH later rifles that are similar in style that I have a lot of trouble believing were made in the 1770s.  I hope one day a rifle emerges with his signature (very wishful thinking), and I wouldn't be surprised at all to find it doesn't look a thing like any of the attributed rifles we know.
Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: spgordon on May 04, 2015, 05:34:37 PM
As I understand what you guys have said: the rationale is that certain rifles seem to have been built at a certain time and Haga is the builder we know to have worked at that time in Berks County. This explanation would assume there aren't any other candidates who could have been the maker, though. If there were other candidates ... without a signed Haga, how could one attribute any of the rifles to one candidate rather than the other?

And ... what about Eric's last comment: "I hope one day a rifle emerges with his signature (very wishful thinking), and I wouldn't be surprised at all to find it doesn't look a thing like any of the attributed rifles we know." Is the implication there that there's a good chance that none of the rifles attributed to Haga were actually made by Haga?

Thanks for these replies. I appreciate it!


Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: HIB on May 04, 2015, 06:14:18 PM
Scott and Gentlemen,    The replies, so far, are correct. However, there is more to the story. There are documents providing interesting facts regarding 'Haga', his most popular referred to name, that in fact confuse the issue somewhat.  Several of the most interesting refer to him as Hachen, Hagga, Haggan and Hagi along with another version I don't recall at the moment.

However, the most significant document is a June 29, 1752 extract appearing in the July 2, 1752 Pennsylvania Gazette, Philadelphia, of a letter from Reading. The extract states: A sad Accident happen'd here likewise on Friday last; One Wolfgang Haggan, a gunsmith, snapping a lock carelessly in his shop, a Spark fir'd about three Pounds of Powder, that lay near him, which burnt him in a terrible Manner; and forcing its Way thro' to the upper floor, overturn'd a Cask of near One Hundred Weight of Powder, which blowing off, rent the house from the first story into a Thousand Pieces. The shock was felt thro' the whole Town; but happily no other Mischief ensued, and tis thought the Man will recover.

I bring this to your attention as it implies the man was severly injured. When coupled with the review of about 40+ individual rifles attributed to him it becomes obvious to the student there are four distinct different hands making the 'so called' Haga type rifles. There are several significant 'Shop Characteristics' which allow the reviewer to conclude the guns studied where in fact made in one shop but by four different gunsmiths. It would take a slew of pictures  to verify this statement and a hands on experience to separate the 4. The 'Shop Characteristics' or 'Shop Signatures' are easy to define with a review of the material published by Kindig and Shumway. The basic clue is the shape of the cheek rest and the consistant brass hardware design.

It would take some time to dig out all the photo examples but certainly worth the time to have several other individuals in agreement with my observations.

There are two other situations that have lead to the Haga attributions: The first is the most simple to explain; most of the early discoveries [1930-1950] by collectors were found in the Reading area. And the second relates to one gun in particular, always known about, but only recently rediscovered in the late Dr. Murphy collection. It is clearly engraved Reading on the patch box and carries all of the 'Signature Characteristics' we associate with 'Haga, Hachen, Haggan etc.' The engraving only suggests the guns origin. The attribution, however, remains in the minds of many.

I realize these comments require further pictorial or personal viewing. You might wish to organize a symposium up your way to make the thought possible as there are at least 20 examples within easy distance of your home town. I'll be glad to help as I still know where 10 of them are.

About 30 years ago I stopped using the description 'Haga' and changed most of my correspondence regarding the subject to 'Boro of Reading' rifles. I believe it is more appropriate.  Regards, HIB

Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: Shreckmeister on May 04, 2015, 06:34:33 PM
Thank you for so concisely sharing that with us Henry.  I had been wondering about the same thing.
Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: Majorjoel on May 04, 2015, 11:29:56 PM
Way back in '07 I asked a very similar question to yours Scott. It is in the ALR archives on page 27 under Antique Gun Collecting.
Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: spgordon on May 05, 2015, 01:24:58 AM
Thanks, Joel. I hadn't read that thread and am glad to have done so now.

I understand that attribution involves speculation; that's impossible to avoid. A well-trained eye can see resemblances on which good attributions are based. So, when Eric K writes (in that thread) "Short of a signature or first-hand documentation, all you can ever have is speculation," I get what he means.

But my confusion is how one even starts to attribute a rifle to Haga when no instance of his work is signed. How can we say that a "two piece patchbox and a lock...was the type known to have been used by Haga" when we have no signed Haga rifles whose patchboxes we can see? We have unsigned rifles: what are we comparing them to in order to draw a conclusion that their features (profile, patchbox, whatever) resemble those of Haga's rifle when we have no signed Haga rifle?

I just can't get my head around that. Doesn't there have to be a signed rifle in order to compare the features of other rifles to?

I do get the point that, if we can date the rifles to certain years, and Haga is the only maker working in Berks county at that time, we can assign these to Haga and then have something to start from. But this only works if Haga is the only maker. If there are others: how could one know whether to assign these unsigned rifles to Haga or to his fellow gunsmith?
Title: Re: Attributions (Haga)
Post by: Buck on May 05, 2015, 01:32:22 AM
I believe the attribution came from Kindig. He thought since Peter Gonter was Hagas son in law, the patch box finial pattern that he used must of come from Hagas shop. I believe he assumed that Gonter was Hagas apprentice, I do not recall if he had solidified that portion of theory but thats where it started. He mentions that relationship several times throughout the book.