Author Topic: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."  (Read 10060 times)

jwh1947

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"Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« on: July 31, 2010, 11:40:19 PM »
OK, in another thread I questioned a recently-coined term to refer to a big chunk of a, as-of-yet, technically undefined region of eastern Pennsylvania.

If that newly created "school" of gunsmithing stands historically on its own merits, and if it helps people understand things, good.  However, I want to go on record as  being the first to approach the following issues in print.

1.)  The Lancaster school, upon which I once wrote a book, could easily be broken into two distinct areas.  What I call "Downtown" and then the outlying area which is Berks influenced.  Maybe call the latter the Muddy Creek School, centered on Pannebecker's shop.  I'd want to hear from Pat Hornberger on how he would approach this from Berks studies.  I submit an hypothesis:  Downtown butt architecture straight, like Kauffman's explanation.  Downtown=straight epicenter.  The closer you get to the hinterland, county borders, like a bomb blast, the more "Roman nose" and "individualism" will be extant in the specimens that you examine.  This does stand to reason, as well as to empirical evidence.

2.)  Berks County, itself.  Heard once that the "Kutztown school" was distinct.  Is this now part of Allemengle?  Does not Henry Bishop have data to show a distinct Womelsdorf motif?  Then the above mentioned area on the Lancaster/Berks border?  Room for 3 schools/subschools here.

3.)  Ron Gabel has written a lot of important papers on the Lehigh guns.  Taken together, you see sub-schools emerge.  He does a good job of highlighting differences with photographic evidence.  Expand.

4.) I want to hear from men like DeCamp and Renn on the emergence and development of the upper-Susquehanna school, for I've seen rifles from Milton that looked nothing like ones from 35 miles away, on the river.  Comment.

5.) And generic-Ohio guns?  There should be at least a reliable set of papers printed up to really flesh out those relevant details...a collection or compendium, of sorts.  RifleResearcher to the rescue.  I offer free editing on this one, as it is long overdue.

6.)  Perhaps Wallace, et al., could ramrod a definitive book on Virginia schools, because they are most important to the big picture of early guns.

Nowhere did "schoolmesiter" say you can't start a new school or publish what you think.  Just prove your case.  

Now, budding scholars.  Don't say that there are no American Studies, history, or education thesis and dissertation topics out there.  Next generation needs to step up.

 Upon one thing we can all agree.  Eastern PA and down the Appalachian Range to the Virginia valley and tidewater holds the bulwark of America's early gun history. Thanks, ALR, for provding a medium for cultural exchange and educational progress.  Wayne
« Last Edit: August 02, 2010, 08:17:15 AM by jwh1947 »

Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2010, 03:30:54 AM »
Does that mean that down here in GA, the Carolinas, Alabama and Louisiana that we only had bows and arrows?  Or that we bought all of our guns from British or French traders or PA gunsmiths?? ???  >:(   ;D ;D ;D  ::)
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jwh1947

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2010, 03:56:59 AM »
Your point is well taken, Tim, and that area, too, needs to be documented.  There  is much to be done.  

 By the way, I have (had) a paperback about 1/4" thick around here on Canadian gunsmiths.  Perhaps somebody up north can give the reference.  Mine is either mislaid or ripped off. 
« Last Edit: August 01, 2010, 03:59:49 AM by jwh1947 »

Offline smshea

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2010, 05:40:03 AM »
Wayne 

  Ive gone on record before as not wanting to upset some of my favorite people in the fraternity and I do generally except their research and conclusions( yours included). Ive also said that I think the whole 'School" thing is way over stressed.
 Having restated that, I think we will continue to have these discusions forever until we(THE KRA , CLA, Whoever?) can come up with a more concreate set of guidelines for what a "School" actually is.  The valley region of Pa has its entrenched schools given to us by Kindig,Dyke, Shumway etc. but today can be subdivided as you have stated about Lancaster and I have stated about Lebanon. 
 In  Lebanon Beck and Beyer likely had a Master/Apprentice relationship and I would be shocked if Lauck dd not spend his brief time in Lebanon with them.... but that's a shop...not a school. This is just one example of this. If that is in fact what makes a school , I'm fine with that...but then we need to make room for a few more schools because there will be allot of upcoming divisions and sub schools.
 Like I said before, when we finally get a full glimpse of Wallace's research on Virginia I'm sure we will take it as gospel (and we should) but 30-50 years down the road that will have spawned more research and they will be having this discussion about Virginia Schools....It's endless without a more strict definition and I'm not sure that this is possible as I think its over simplified as it is. I think further study of guns in smaller geographical regions should be just that , rather than drilling down to the smallest possible sub school. Some of the most exciting guns Ive ever seen , slip through the research cracks because they can't be pegged into the tidy little boxes we like to think of them in.
I might be rambling now so Ill stop. ;D     

Offline spgordon

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2010, 11:43:51 PM »
Is it fair to say that the system of regional schools (which, if I understand it, links visible characteristics of particular guns to a particular region at a particular period) has two purposes:

A) to enable historians to trace lines of relation between makers or areas (i.e., who influenced whom), and
B) to enable collectors to identify makers or locations for, or to date, the unsigned guns that have survived?

Or is there another important aspect of the emphasis on regional schools that I am overlooking?

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jwh1947

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2010, 07:25:39 AM »
spgordon.  Yes, those would be the important aspects.  As Scotty mentions, schools were 20th/21st century mental constructs, created to enable collectors/students to compartmentalize neatly for discussion.  Professor Kauffman referred to them as "county characteristics."  His term evolved from how he saw things in his day.  County discussions served the purposes of Henry, Joe Kindig and Sam Dyke, the principal longrifle writers of the day.  Today we know that the characteristics don't follow rigid county lines any more than they do state police districts.

Also, did you ever think of something like this hypothetical scenario of 200 years ago, when Jake the hunter came into Stophel's gunshop in Reading.

Jake comes in and says, "Hi, Stoph.  Hey, I had a good year, and want you to make me a new rifle.  I want one just like Henry's new one.  Have you seen that beauty?  Got it somewhere around Philadelphia.  I want one just like his, but fancier."

Stophel looks up from the leg vise and says, "Nope, haven't seen Henry's rifle.  So Henry's spending money out of town, eh?"

Jake: "Well, I'll have him bring it in.  It is shaped a bit differently than our rifles, a little sleeker, and the patch box is different.  That gun fits me and I can hit with it! I want one shaped like his!"

Stophel:  "Well, dammerung, quit talking and have him bring it in.  If they can make it near Philadelphia, I can make it here better.  But, if I don't like the looks of it, I ain't signing the barrel."

Then Stoph tried his hand at what we now refer to as Bucks County school work, thus giving collectors today something to stare at in amazement and perplexity.  And, further, allowing all to pontificate about fine points...finials, volutes, golden mean dimensions, school motifs, and engraving style.  Some are inclined to get off on tangents regarding symbolism which usually further diverts attention from the true matter in hand.   Oddly, if someone came up with a scenario like the one above, he may be dismissed by the "experts" because his analysis is too simple.



What we don't mean by "schools." An example of a difference in the use of the simple word "school" as associated to collecting.

If one considers Japanese culture, their pivotal, historical counterpart to the Kentucky rifle would be the Samurai sword, specifically the katana sword.  Make no mistake about it, Japanese family lines buy and covet these swords every bit as much as we do a J. P. Beck.  

Early, original Samurai swords can be grouped for classification into five ancient schools.  Experts usually concur upon examination as to the nature of the piece being examined.  

In those days, a master would train his apprentices to do exactly the same thing, in the same manner, thus producing  pieces only up to the master's standards and style.  They went out to the countryside and did the best they could to build swords identical to those of the master.  Many are indistinguishable, one from the other, within any given school, because the work is so uniform and meticulous.  Then to add to the amazement, all this was passed down with language that we would best call poetry, such as, "your coals should be as the color of the setting sun."  They did use hallmarks, touch marks, and sometimes signatures, and the term "school" is more well defined there.  In other words, any changing of schools would have happened by now.  The concept is better established and agreed upon by students of the blades.

If the architecture is there, the blade is old and pristine, all the parts appear to have evolved together and if there is blatant school association, someone will pay big bucks for that sword.  

Because of our industrial goals and the development of our countryside, our reference to "school" is looser than the Japanese cognate referring to swords.  We did have some movement and blending of styles.  Individualism was tolerated and imitation was not the objective.   Groups of shops shared styles but there is obviously room for debate about where these groups started and stopped.  

ALR philosophers can argue whether this is a difference in kind or degree, but there is a difference, and one need only listen once to two sword men discuss an old katana and then listen to two Kentucky guys discuss a rifle to hear it firsthand.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2010, 08:19:50 AM by jwh1947 »

Offline rich pierce

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2010, 03:47:02 PM »
I am not sure that the "customer walks into a gunshop and says he wants "X" scenario is not a complete time-traveler fantasy.  Certainly price, caliber, and general features would have determined whether or not a deal could be struck.  But Moravian records indicate finished rifles in the shop.  No doubt when dozens to scores of rifles were ordered (trade rifles) the details were hashed out carefully.  I just find it hard to reconcile the variety of longrifles made, even in the same neighborhoods and timeframes, as being driven to any extent by customer choices.  Dickert, Newcomer and Fainot. 

(added in edit- for me "schools" are artificial constructs that are overrated or over-extended, but it is important to know where guns were made and what the relationships between gunmakers were).
« Last Edit: August 02, 2010, 06:12:25 PM by richpierce »
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jwh1947

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2010, 10:51:28 PM »
Yep, I'm allowed to be a fantasy time traveler; other people are certainly creating conjectural things based on times long gone! 

Offline Spotz

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2010, 04:21:47 AM »
I am not one of those mentioned for the Upper Susquehanna school, but I feel the need to share that frustration abounds in the definition of this overused and innacurate attempt to squeeze all relatively late, roman nose, silver-lad rifles into a generalization.

A school is a generalization and nothing more.  A so-called common understanding that makes a complex topic easier to understand, at least in theory.  What the heck is the Upper Susquehanna?  Is it the area north of Harrisburg to the sourthern tier of New York?  A more accurate term for this school is the Central Pennsylvania school, but that rules out several major makers.  I tried to get cute and thought about creating a new school, the SUN school, for the three main counties (Snyder, Union and Northumberland), but what do you do with those to the east and the Albrights to the west?

The most common mistake with the Upper Susquehanna school is the fact that many Ohio and southern tier New York rifles have common characteristics.  If you look at mailboxes alone, a drive through Pickaway County, Ohio is much like a drive through Union County, Pennsylvania (at least based on the names).  Simply put, the Upper Susquehanna school is an inaccurate term that gets attention and following, without substantiation.

Offline Spotz

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2010, 04:32:48 AM »
In further support of the simplistic time travel discussed above, which may or may not be meritorious, query why makers who made a move didn't keep the same exact style they previsouly built?  Seems to me that consumerism was driving the maker and not vice versa.  For example, take a look at Peter Smith in New Berlin circa 1810.  After his move to Mifflin and eventually Huntingdon County, and a few children later, we end up with a true Huntingdon County rifle and family of makers.  Mifflin County serves as an interesting blend of two schools, displaying both Snyder County and Huntingdon County features, but it is clear that styles end at the county line and within distinct regions.  The wall between the so-called Upper Susquehanna and Huntingdon schools is quite distinct.  Look also at the many variations of Christian Beck (a J.P Beck style versus the so-called Chambersburg style).  If the customer isn't pushing in one direction, why wouldn't the maker continue with what he knows and did elsewhere?  There are many factors, but I am about to board that 1980's limited run sports car and take a travel (a reference to Back to the Future for those who are not movie buffs).

Offline rich pierce

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2010, 06:21:06 AM »
Spotz, there are some other good examples of makers who changed their styles upon moving- Andreas Albrecht the first I know of.  When he moved to Lititz, it seems he made at least one Lancaster styled gun.  The Lancaster "triangle stock" and CS-related carving seem to have been so well established then that they became a prototype for British trade rifles.  Albrecht was a true journeyman, though a master- he had worked around Europe before coming here.  He may have been quite adaptable, or factors we can't know about may have been at play. In many cases, gunsmiths who moved, joined an existing production shop, and likely helped meet demand.  This would explain some cases of changing styles.

It seems likely that when local styles developed, they developed somewhat of a local or even wider following.  But not for long, as styles changed constantly.  The wide variety of styles among longrifles suggests to me creativity of the gunsmiths more than the customers.   Some were more creative than others. Maybe their circumstances allowed it.  We don't often find a Verner or a J.P. Beck, or a Bonewitz, Nicholas Hawk, or a Schroyer with a Lancaster daisy patchbox.  

The idea of customers stopping into a shop to order a custom rifle quite distinct from what was being made by the gunsmith or by other local makers, is an interesting proposition.  We lack documentation of how or why styles developed or changed from the viewpoint of the makers, so this is all interesting speculation.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2010, 06:30:59 AM by richpierce »
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Offline Dphariss

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2010, 03:39:33 AM »
I am not sure that the "customer walks into a gunshop and says he wants "X" scenario is not a complete time-traveler fantasy.  Certainly price, caliber, and general features would have determined whether or not a deal could be struck.  But Moravian records indicate finished rifles in the shop.  No doubt when dozens to scores of rifles were ordered (trade rifles) the details were hashed out carefully.  I just find it hard to reconcile the variety of longrifles made, even in the same neighborhoods and timeframes, as being driven to any extent by customer choices.  Dickert, Newcomer and Fainot. 

(added in edit- for me "schools" are artificial constructs that are overrated or over-extended, but it is important to know where guns were made and what the relationships between gunmakers were).


The customer is always right unless one chooses to simply turn him away.

Thinking that a competent gunstocker could not  or would not reproduce a rifle if the price was right goes against common sense.
If someone came in with a broken gun from another maker and wanted the original stock replicated as closely as possible it would be done if a price could be agreed upon.
They made what the customer wanted.
Thinking they made guns ahead and thus would not do custom work is well and good in theory but money always talks.
This is simply human nature and gunsmiths did all sorts of things to keep the money coming in repairing and making almost anything.

Dan
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2010, 03:56:07 AM »
Now we're expanding the discussion to restocking a broken gun.  This obviously happened a lot just as you suggested.  Totally different scenario from the initial post where a customer decides what style of gun he wants from a builder with an established style.  What we're talking about now is like a customer walking into JP Becks shop and saying he wants a Bucks county rifle.  I'd love to see an example.  There's a lot of reasoning or imaginary history that goes on.  Show me a signed Beck that is Bucks County, for example.  Would love to see one example.  Sure, coulda happened.  Reasonable that it coulda happened.  No evidence it happened.
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Offline T*O*F

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2010, 03:49:49 PM »
Quote
What we're talking about now is like a customer walking into JP Becks shop and saying he wants a Bucks county rifle.
Couldn't happen........simply because the Bucks county school had not yet been defined....the terminology being 20th century.  Neither would know what a "Bucks county gun" was.  Beck wouldn't know what to to build, unless he copied a specific maker's pattern with which he was familiar.
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Offline smshea

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2010, 05:33:12 PM »
 The speculation over what could have happened is endless and I'm sure that most "what ifs" happened somewhere, sometime.
 I take Wayne's point to be that if such a gun turned up ,that it would create allot of discussion about a gun where the truth of the scenario might be as simple as Stoph and Jake.
  There are several examples I know of where a signed barrel is sitting in a stock that is likely a Restock by another hand and with all the info we have today we see it for exactly what it is, 20-30 years ago guys might make the case that so and so's eyes were going  or putting research time into finding out if this gummaker moved...and this is good, it allows us to have a better picture of truth today. The nicest signed Herman Rupp barrel known to man is sitting in a restock as we speak with all hardware from the original gun and showing vague late Lehigh/Eatern Berks architecture. I'm sure sometime in the last 50  years someone could have thought this his late work or more likely the work of someone in the shop....but its just a restock by some nameless gunsmith from the region. Maybe an over simplified example ???
 Back to the endless speculation...Ill add my own
 If we scrape away all the 20th-21st century romance and our entrenched thought regarding "Schools"....Guy in the 18th-early19th century walks into the gunshop of owner X ,with a gun from another region built by gunmaker Y ...broken or not, I would expect him more often than not to point out Why what he is doing is "better" to the Client and quietly take notes on the outstanding features of the other gun for future reference. I don't think business and human nature have changed that much. 
 

jwh1947

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2010, 12:17:32 AM »
Agreed, Scotty.  I would reiterate somewhat that just because a man was working in upper Bucks doesn't mean that his work had not been seen by others down the road in any direction.

I am probably biased by my location in Dauphin/Lebanon, where the gunsmiths did share some traits but are not known for strong uniformity in anything, except quality.  Twenty years from now Scotty can worry about providing his customers with an "Upper Dauphin County archetype" as opposed to a "full-blown Annville special" complete with tulips, Distlefinks, weeping hearts and folky raised carving in all directions.  That's for his generation to work out. 

Offline smshea

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2010, 04:32:58 AM »
I'm with you 100%

 I just got done looking at the KRA article by Frank K on G.M. Dewees of Wommelsdorf.....again. I realize he was more early/mid 19th century so he would have had more opportunity to see other makers goods, he sure did not come up with that Pineapple finial box in the wommelsdorf area. At least I would not think so. Just one example.

jwh1947

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2010, 05:44:57 AM »
Yep. a well written article on something new, and a great gun, too.

Offline JCKelly

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2010, 04:13:55 AM »
jwk1947 (Henry Ford died that year, remember?) asked about Canadian guns. Only hard-bound book I know is The Canadian Gunsmiths 1608 to 1900
by S. James Gooding.

Perhaps Gooding has a reference to the 1/4" thick thing you have  Can you give any details about it?

Historical Arms Series Nos. 14, S. James Gooding, and 29, John A. Belton also list Canadian tradesmen in the arms industry. 

Anyone looked at The New York State Firearms Trade ?  I have it for background, as I'm getting up something on Michigan gunsmiths. No such thing as a "school" out here, so far as I can tell. Mountings tended to be mass produced by someone other than the gunsmith, the same style capbox, inlays, etc are all over Michigan and New York. Mid-19th Century stuff.

Obviously, I don't know how to un-italicize stuff here.

jwh1947

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Re: "Schoolmeister" comments on "schools."
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2010, 10:10:17 PM »
Thanks.  Any documentation on the Canadian gunsmiths would be of use.