Author Topic: Diary of a Longrifle Collector  (Read 5668 times)

Offline Majorjoel

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Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« on: December 16, 2011, 02:51:08 PM »
The topic of Gibster's 1876 halfstock rifle tugs at my roots regarding why I enjoy longrifle collecting. Speaking only for myself, I would like to share some of the "sparks" that go off inside my brain when an old rifle is displayed before me. First of all,  most of the world out there does not see what I see when viewing an old original Kentucky longrifle. I get lots of ribbing from family and friends alike with "It's just old junk" or "That's kind of cool, but if you can't shoot it, what good is it?" And of coarse, "Why do you like these old relics so much?" There is a lot more there to me than most of the world sees. In this small circle of collectors I hang with, the most often encountered statement is "If only that rifle could talk". Well, to me, they surely do talk and they sometimes speak volumes! Just using Gibster's rifle as an example here, it is one of those very rare pieces to have a date on it. Just with this date alone, so many flashes of history open up to me. In 1876 U.S. Grant was president of The United States. The wild west was at it's most colorful peak. The Indian Wars were rampant with the death of General Custer and his 7th calvery on the hills of the Little Big Horn. Wild Bill Hickok met his fate over a card table in the golden hill's of Dakota territory. Our country was alive with celebration of it's first 100 years centennial. The gunsmith who made this rifle was "of age" to have voted for Grant or his opponent in the last election. Being from the Carolina's I would assume the opponent. The scars of the Civil War on the South were still very much an aching sore festering among the people there. So many pictures come to me, just from looking at this rifle. To see longrifles from colonial times and into the late 18th and early 19th century.........can really blow me away! I can almost hear the fife and drums beating.     These are the mere generalized surface thoughts I have when seeing Gib's rifle. The real challenge is in the fine tuneing of many of these thoughts and questions. Just who was the maker of this piece. What was his life span and what can be learned about him. Is there anything known about where this rifle has been and who may have owned it over the years. Are there any of this gunsmiths kin folk still around who may have more to add to this mans story? The rifle's main purpose......probably hunting and recreational shooting. What caliber? Just who did run against Grant in that election?  Well, for me it is the fun of the endless quest to find these things out and much more as more questions come up with the answers along the way. The internet has really opened up an endless library of encyclopedias for information. The only thing that is needed is coming up with the right question. The Country of today is a whole different world from the nation of 1876. To learn of it's history shines a spotlight on many of these differences and inspires me to seek more. All of this excitement from an old rifle!
« Last Edit: December 16, 2011, 03:54:57 PM by Majorjoel »
Joel Hall

Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2011, 06:31:28 PM »
Well said!!!!!!!!!!!. I also think it is genetic or congenital, at least. Passionate collecting and preserving. It is our history!!! More so, who today , other than our contemporary maker colleagues, can and did  create such beauty by a single hand ( often) in multiple artistic media , with utilitarian intent and by the way, can  last 200-300 years and more???. It indeed stirs ones imaginations!!!!.
Happy Holidays and Collecting and Preserving.
Hurricane

Offline JTR

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2011, 06:54:06 PM »
I agree! Excellent comment Joel!

John
John Robbins

Offline vtbuck223

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2011, 07:12:12 PM »
Beautifully articulated....and ofcourse this translates to all antique collectibles. It definitely starts with an appreciation and understanding of history as you have said. When you look at an original piece your mind is making all those connections which are lost to many people. For example...I recently sold an original buffalo hide blanket that had been in my collection for many years. I would tell my wife and children "just think that buffalo was alive in the days of Geronimo". My wife doesn't get it...but my children are coming around. I don't think that it is genetic....you have to pass it on.

Online Shreckmeister

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2011, 07:26:48 PM »
Joel,  All of those things come to mind.  For me, I look at the pieces and know it was my ancestors
family who was doing this work and I wonder, who were these people, what were their lives like.  They were
likely still speaking german in the early 1800s among themselves.  In my discussions with the descendants,
they often have a story to tell that has been passed down through the generations, like the elderly man
who carried his Shreckengost rifle to Kittanning to enlist for the Spanish American War.  The recruiter
laughed at him and sent him home with his rifle asking him something like "what do you plan to do old
man", but the spirit of a man who is aged and still wants to join the fight is interesting to me.  He was either
very passionate or just plain crazy.   I had always heard the story of a rifle that was passed down through the
generations and was likely in New York state.  One day out of the blue the owner calls me and says
"I hear you are interested in Shreckengost rifles"  turns out he has a rifle, bag, horn and diary of
one of the gunsmiths.  These are the things that excite me.  It's been alot of fun.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2011, 07:47:44 PM by suzkat »
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Offline Bill-52

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2011, 07:47:34 PM »
Joel,

Your post really resonated with me -- it was one of those moments when the lightbulb goes on.  I'm a long time collector of US Navy Civil War firearms.  And while collecting variations of the US Navy's Colt M1851 is fun, it's the inscribed pistols, swords, etc. that I treasure most.  That's because I can identify with a person, research their careers & history and more fully appreciate the significance of that specific piece.

Then it hit me.  Because longrifles were custom made by a gunsmith, there is an immediate link to an individual.  Even if the longrifle is unsigned, it can almost always be attributed to a school or region.  I look at Dauphin County rifles (my favorite) and think of trade routes, geography & topography, settlement patterns, the who & when of individual gunsmiths, what was occurring in Pennsylvania and America at that time, and so on.  Besides being beautiful works of art, the link to our history is right there.

Thanks for posting this, Joel.  Good, thought provoking commentary.

Bill

Offline Majorjoel

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2011, 07:59:16 PM »
Suzkat, you talk about iceing on the cake!! You share your passion with the folks you encounter and out of obscureity comes a rare family treasure! Priceless! vtbuck223, I can relate with your buffalo hide story. I sometimes measure objects that have been around since Crocket at the Alamo or after Crocket at the Alamo (1836). Kind of like dateing time BC and AD.  I should start using my formula as BCA and ACA! :D Collecting is about as close to time travel as one can get.
Joel Hall

Offline WElliott

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2011, 12:35:55 AM »
Majorjoel, well said, indeed!  The romance of historical and sociological context is the  primary reason I have enjoyed collecting Kentucky rifles for so many years.  These are documents of American history; tangible evidence of the struggles, hardships and victories of our ancestors. 
Wayne Elliott

GrampaJack

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2011, 02:27:50 AM »
I can relate to everything that has been said. We first started collecting civil war guns in the late 70s. As time went on I had a little more money to spend and could have got the high end examples but I always wanted that Springfield or Harpers Ferry musket that had enough scars to show it had seen service. The pristine "never issued" stuff just didn't appeal to me. If you all will promise not to tell I will admit to having conversations with some of the original gun makers.  I recently did quite a bit of restoration on a Philip Schantz half stock that had been badly molested. I'm just about finished and I believe it went something like "Well Phil, I did my best to fix your gun. I hope you approve".  I try not to do that out loud.  Jack 

msmith

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2011, 05:06:02 AM »
GrandpaJack, talking to the old gunsmiths is OK, I do it to.. I have found the graves of several gunmakers of guns I collect and have visited them. When I get a gun from a maker in our area, I have taken some rifles back to where it was built, for a lil visit. I have long time ago stopped caring what other people think about my wonderful disorder.Merry Christmas :)

Offline Curt J

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2011, 06:17:47 AM »
Joel, you have certainly "nailed it" with this post!  To fully appreciate any antique, one must have a passion for history.  Without it, most people are mystified by people like us. I drive within a few hundred feet of the sites of three local gunsmith's shops every day. One of them, S D Hinsdale, settled here in 1838.  The shop site is now a parking lot, but I have a wonderful walnut fullstock with his name on it, a picture of him, a picture of his home, and I can walk right to his grave in Oakland Cemetery. His great-great granddaughter is around my age, and has been here in my gun room with the Hinsdale rifle in her hands. I portrayed him in a "cemetery walk" put on by our county historical society.  I almost feel as though I knew him, and he is only one of the several hundred with whom I feel a connection.

A couple of years ago, I killed a whitetail buck with a .58 caliber Plains Rifle, made by Rudolph Pelck of Freeport, Illinois, probably during the 1850's.  Real or imagined, taking a deer with an original rifle by a maker you almost feel as though you knew, is very special. I don't make a habit of shooting originals, but this rifle was mechanically excellent (but with a wonderful patina), fit me like it was made for me (sights and all), and had been in recent use when I bought it. I may never shoot it again, but have now bonded with it in a unique way. I think old Rudolph would be pleased!  Do I sound like I'm "losing it"?

LBOYLE

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Re: Diary of a Longrifle Collector
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2011, 07:39:38 PM »
Whenever I'm around an antique of any sort, especially a longrifle of course, I can't help but remember that wonderful line from Raiders of the Lost Ark; "Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This, this IS history."