Author Topic: Signed rifles  (Read 6759 times)

billd

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Signed rifles
« on: June 04, 2009, 02:53:59 AM »
Any idea why 200+ years ago a well known and respected gunmaker would sign some of his guns and not others?  I'm talking in general, signed guns vs accredited guns.  Just curious.

Bill

Offline MKemper

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2009, 04:04:31 PM »
There are mixed views on this topic.  Some believe that gunmakers during the time feared oppression from the Brittish Crown and did not want their name associated with "assisting the colonials."  It's certainly interesting that some notable gunmakers sometimes signed their pieces and sometimes did not.  It may have been a general preference on their part.  In other words, their better pieces were worthy of signing, while the less embellished pieces did not garner the time or effort.  One could also argue that perhaps the gunmaker's customer may or may not have wanted the rifle signed.

Offline WElliott

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2009, 10:47:28 PM »
I believe the majority of American longrifles made before 1830 were unsigned.  Some makers may have not signed their work out of modesty (perhaps giving credit to God alone for the work of their hands), but I expect most sold their work locally and understood that, to their friends and neighbors, their "signature" clearly appeared in the furniture, architecture, carving, etc., of their work.
Wayne
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Offline mbriggs

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2009, 05:41:20 PM »
This has always been one of the greatest mysteries to me. In North Carolina 30% to 40% of the best early longrifles are not signed. I would agree that rifle makers working between 1771 (Battle of Alamance) and 1783 when America won it's independence and also made during the War of 1812 to 1814 (when the South was subject to be invaded) might not want their name on a Longrifle used to kill a British Officer.

I still see North Carolina longrifles I think were made between 1820 and 1840 that are some the best examples of a School or individual's work that are unsigned and yet a plain rifle from the same period or shop that is signed.

One other possible explanation is that many gunshops had apprentices working in them and rifles while stocked in the style of the master gunsmith and shopowner but by the hand of the apprentice were left unsigned while rifles stocked by the master gunsmith were signed.

Michael Briggs
« Last Edit: June 06, 2009, 08:26:08 PM by mbriggs »
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Online Dennis Glazener

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2009, 01:43:13 AM »
Another thought is the replacement of shot out barrels and barrels that have had signatures/initials cutoff by re-breaching rifles.
Dennis
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Offline Curt J

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2009, 09:19:21 PM »
This enigma carries through right on up to the end of the percussion era.  I have seen some very fine rifles which were certainly made by makers who are known to have signed at least some of their guns.  These are guns that appear to be all original, and have not been set-back.  One has to wonder whether the customer for whom the rifle was made, wanted it that way.

jwh1947

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2009, 11:08:28 PM »
Consider the following for general backdrop.  18th and 19th century silversmiths, coppersmiths, blacksmiths, whitesmiths, ironmongers, carriage makers and printers sometimes signed their work and sometimes did not.  For instance I have several good copper gooseneck tea kettles that are signed, but two of my best are not.  Ditto for scythes, some even signed by gunsmiths, but most unsigned.  We revere the gunsmith's work because we see his products as a cultural icon.  They were tools of necessity then, perhaps like our cars.  Most of us see cars as a necessity for getting from point A to point B.  Yes, some even use them to show off their wealth or ostentation, but, for the rest of us, they are a necessary expense and not an object of passion, albiet the presence of lots of car clubs. 

Also, it seems rather logical that Sam Dyke and other previous researchers were correct in arguing that during the Revolution, guns were intentionally left unsigned, as the British would have no reservation regarding dispaching a gunsmith whose rifles were bad for their soldiers' health.  Incidentally, more than one contemporary rifle has been left unsigned so that the maker couldn't be harassed by the excise tax collectors, so I've been told.  Maybe early gunsmiths didn't want ousiders meddling into their business any more than we do.  Moreover, in any locality, the inhabitants could likely identify the local gunsmith's work by sheer sight.  Name not necessary, and pride a vice to Pennsylvania Dutchmen.  Point of note:  a majority of guns in some counties, Berks for one, are unsigned.  Incidentally, I have yet to see a signed Wolfgang Haga (Hachen), yet lots of enthusiasts speak of Haga-type rifles.  As they used to say, "Where's the beef?" 

Offline Tanselman

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2009, 04:52:27 AM »
I think the last response pretty much hit the nail on the head. A related thought is that the British felt the use of rifled guns, rather than the "acceptable" smooth bore muskets for conventional war, was akin to murdering someone. If they gave orders early in the Rev War to bayonette rifleman that were caught and show them no mercy, since they were murderers in the eyes of the British, I bet there was somewhat similar hatred for the makers of those deadly rifles detested by the British.  As such, the early gunmakers porbably didn't really want to find out just how much hatred and/or scorn they carried in the eyes of the British troops. I think they had reason to worry about more than just their shops getting trashed, if identified and caught.  Shelby Gallien

billd

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2009, 05:46:58 AM »
Thanks for all the answers, much food for thought.

Bill

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2009, 12:22:39 AM »
It might not have been the British government that PA makers were worried about.

Early on  in the Rev War the PA government passed regulations forbidding the production of rifles and requiring that the shops produce muskets for the government. There are some accounts of inspectors visiting shops to check on compliance with these regulations.

Some of the gunsmiths of the Quaker faith had a real problem with this and either shut down or produced rifles in secret rather than make muskets specifically intended for war/killing.

Gary
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Offline Sequatchie Rifle

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2009, 05:25:58 AM »
What about taxes?  Were the makers not taxed based upon the number of rifles produced?  Just a thought!
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Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: Signed rifles
« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2009, 06:16:09 PM »
What about taxes?  Were the makers not taxed based upon the number of rifles produced?  Just a thought!

No. The income tax had not yet been invented.

The local tax was determined by adding up all the expenses for running that counties government (everything from fees paid to officers of the court to bounties paid on wolf scalps) and dividing that total by the number of taxable individuals in the county. The county sheriff was then responsible for collecting the taxes. Taxes collected in one year were to offset the previous year's operating costs.

Colony wide taxes generally came from fees and duties.


Later on there were also taxes on luxury items like tall case clocks and carriages as well.

Gary
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