Author Topic: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature  (Read 1705 times)

Offline spgordon

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Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« on: November 07, 2019, 12:57:02 AM »
Museum of the American Revolution recently posted these photos to its Facebook page.











« Last Edit: November 11, 2019, 12:39:15 AM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline Cades Cove Fiddler

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2019, 02:04:22 AM »
 ;) ;)... thanx for the great pix,... !!! ... I barely know anything about Pennsylvania rifles, but this has been a good story to follow,... However , I have noticed something in one photo, and my ignorance of Pennsylvania guns decrees I must ask a question .......I notice the rear extension of the trigger-guard is anchored by a screw,... I had thought these guns used a tab and pins to hold them,... thanx in advance for replies ,....  CCF


Offline k gahagan

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2019, 04:32:47 AM »
Thank God this was recovered. Fantastic example of Oerters work. Thanks for the pictures

Offline Karl Kunkel

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2019, 04:51:52 AM »
CCF,

Until more learned members reply . . .

Early germanic influenced pieces used screws to secure the rear extension of the trigger guard.  PA Rifles used tabs and pins (one less screw to make). A very general answer, exceptions are found everywhere, depending on the maker and school.
Kunk

Offline WESTbury

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2019, 06:53:13 AM »
Thanks for posting these additional photos.

What a shame that the selfish criminal greed of one or more persons deprived collectors and arms students the chance to see this rifle.
"We are not about to send American Boys 9 to 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian Boys ought to be doing for themselves."
      Lyndon B. Johnson Oct 21, 1964

Offline Northof54

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2019, 08:50:04 PM »
Great to see this Oeter back home and to being available to the public.

I have a question.... or maybe its several. I'm sure Scott will be able to help set me straight.
Oerter signed the barrel "Christ Springs"
My understanding is that Christian Springs is synonymous with Christiansbrunn. The Moravian community originally named Albrechtsbrunn, later changed to Christiansbrunn in 1749. Brunn translating to spring in German.
Oeter began his apprenticeship with Albrecht around 1759 and took over his shop in 1766. I'm assuming that most of the Moravian communities were still under a lot of Germanic influence at that time, but English colonials were also intermixed.

Was the name Christian Spring's the English (slang) renaming, that was never official, but became the most used during Oerter's time and continues today?

Richard

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2019, 09:49:18 PM »
Northof54--this is an awesome question, and I cannot help set you straight! But I can speculate a bit.

I've always thought it was interesting that he signed these barrels with the English, not the German, version of the name of the settlement. It was "Christiansbrunn" in German and "Christian's Spring" (not "Christian Springs"--singular spring, named after Christian Renatus Zinzendorf) in English.

But you're right: Oerter, as a German-speaker, would surely use "Christiansbrunn." The English version was definitely not the most common usage in Oerter's time. One finds it in Moravian documents from time to time but it is unusual.

So ... what to make of all this? I think it suggests that the rifles that he began to sign and date in the mid-1770s were meant for a non-Moravian customers, perhaps even a large order (hence the numbering on some of them, which I do not believe are production numbers dating back to his start at Christiansbrunn), and it makes me even more convinced that he signed them not out of "pride in craftsmanship" as some people have written but because he was taking responsibility for them if there should be a problem with them. This became required in some later government contracts: the contracts required makers to put their names on the barrels, so if there were any flaws/problems the barrels could be traced back to the particular maker.

I suspect that the tendency to sign rifles as Oerter did (earlier than most) has to do with taking responsibility for the product (like a current label in a shirt) more than "pride in craftsmanship." And if he was providing these rifles to non-Moravians (hence "Christian's Spring" rather than "Christiansbrunn" on the barrel), it is even more likely that he would need to mark them so the product could be traced back to him.

The above is largely speculation!
« Last Edit: November 08, 2019, 09:54:27 PM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline mr. no gold

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2019, 10:05:35 PM »
Many (most?) of the rilfes produced in Germany at that time, and before, seem to have been signed by the maker. Perhaps the practice over here was a continuation of what the local masters trained in Europe had done. Pure speculation here.
It is gratifying to see that whoever kept the rifle in the 'missing' years kept it in good repair and did not fool with it. If my olde memory is correct, Wester White owned the gun and sold it to the 'Society' who then loaned it to Valley Forge for display.
Have to say that the attitudes toward rifles was considerably different in those days. No one save few collectors paid a whole lot of attention to the truly old pieces. Collectors seemed to be most interested in the typical long rifle and to be really desirable it had to be an original flintlock. Most early or converted guns even though carved were not greatly sought after. With Kindig and Shumway, all this changed as it properly should have. With that too, came reconversions and all sorts and manners of 'restoration.'
Dick

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2019, 10:12:33 PM »
But I think few that we know of are signed in colonial America before the 1770s. (Maybe just that 1761 one?) And we know a lot of active makers from the 1750s and 1760s, some of them (Albrecht) having learned their trades in Europe. I suppose a lot of signed rifles from those years may have just not survived. But for a couple of decades, at least, most rifles made in colonial America seem not have been signed by their makers--very typical, btw, of other products made (paintings, furniture, etc.).
« Last Edit: November 08, 2019, 10:29:03 PM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2019, 01:35:17 AM »
The issue of the signature language may elude us other than through speculation.  I suspect that we may overthink the issue and at it's root, it was purely a wise business decision.  I would have to "guess" that the location of Christian's Spring was better known than Christiansbrunn.

I know of two barrels signed "Johannes Moll" but a whole lot more pieces signed "John Moll."  Same way of thinking.  These guys weren't giving them away, they were in business to make money.  And, there was no Facebook or Instagram or twitter for advertising.  The only advertising was word-of-mouth and whatever was advertised on the barrel. 

What might dovetail into this discussion would be an examination of the primary language spoken in Northampton Co. at the time.  We know the residents were largely (proportionately) of German heritage, but were they predominantly speaking German or English?
Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government!

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2019, 04:15:41 AM »
I agree that we're unlikely to learn anything definitive about signatures, so any claim will always be speculative. But I think the fruitful place to look for evidence, or reasonable context, is outside the gunmaking trade. That is: it may be that the development of signatures on Moravian rifles is not a development "internal" to the trade itself. In 1767, Bethlehem authorities directed their hatter to stamp his name in his hats “so that other people can not, as has been occurring, sell other and poor hats as Bethlehem hats.” Maybe similar issues, entirely unrelated to the gunmaking trade, led Oerter to sign his rifles.

I don't know the percentage of German v. English speakers in Northampton County. Whatever the exact percentage is, it's clear that there were lots of both (the percentage of English speakers would be much greater in Easton). In any case, I don't think the settlement was better known as "Christian's Spring" than as "Christiansbrunn." In documents that Moravians produced for county officials during the French and Indian War (and after, such as tax records)--i.e., English language documents--they stick with "Christiansbrunn" or "Christians Brunn." See here:

https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/sites/christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/files/Christiansbrunn%20Tax%201773_0.jpg

I do think the question of why Oerter, who as far as we know spoke little English (Albrecht did not speak English well), would sign his rifles Christian "Springs" (and not Christiansbrunn) is an incredibly interesting and important one. It really goes against everything you would expect. I cannot think of another explanation except that he expected English speakers to purchase/own/use them. Even then, to be honest, I would have thought he would have signed them "Christiansbrunn"!

« Last Edit: November 10, 2019, 12:32:23 AM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2019, 12:14:15 AM »
It occurred to me that the 1776 receipt (which used to be owned by Walt O'Connor) regarding Oerter's wartime production, written in English for an English-speaking audience (the Northampton County commissioners), used "Christiansbrunn" rather than Christian's Spring. Makes "Christian's Spring" on the rifle barrels even more curious.



Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline Dan Fruth

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2019, 02:24:55 AM »
Just  speculation, but my guess is that "local" residents referred to Christiansbrunn as Christian's Spring, and as Eric said, it was a decision to use the name most familiar, or the vernacular that most would recognize. It would be interesting to research any correspondence from folks in the area, and see if this idea bears any fruit.
We are non-resistance friend, but ye are standing where I intend to shoot!

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2019, 03:32:56 AM »
I just don't think I have ever come across a contemporary document before 1780 or so that calls the settlement "Christian's Spring." Admittedly, these are mostly Moravian-produced documents (as are the post-1780 ones that use "Christianspring"). But I'd feel better about this theory if there were a single instance of that term being used. (There might be. I just cannot think of one. And probably Eric will post one!)

I understand that Eric's theory (Oerter used "Christian's Spring" because it was the common usage) "solves" the puzzle. But it's often better not to solve the puzzle if there's no evidence for the particular solution--so people can keep looking for a solution (or just thinking up one). Nobody bothers to keep looking into puzzles that are solved.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2019, 04:37:22 AM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline Northof54

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2019, 08:19:03 AM »
I didn't mean to derail this topic of the museums recovery by questioning Oerters use of Christian's Spring. A past teacher once told me "notice what you notice". That quote has always stuck with me. I have enjoyed reading all the follow-up posts. All the theories are completely plausible, but I can only imagine what things were influencing Oerter. A boy, sent away from his parents, growing up in a communal setting, experiencing the opportunities of American capitalism, and the onset of a new independence.
These two signed barrels, both from 1775, with a difference in signatures. I found it interesting that he would drop the "T".
Richard





Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2019, 02:28:06 PM »
I don't think anything has been solved - my speculation is just speculation, after all.  I do not recall seeing the term 'Christian's Spring' in a document of the period, although I will double check my notes.

I think the earliest of these is 1773 dated, isn't it? And the latest is/are 1776.  Possibly the choice of using English as opposed to German was somehow tied into the changing political winds during the lead-up to the War?  Again, just speculating out loud.  I think it's possible the 'reason' underlying the conscious choice to use English may have been multi-faceted.  Possibly it was as simple as advertising for a primary customer base, but on the other hand when you consider what was going on at the time as well as the fact that during this period it seems not to have been common for gunmakers to so boldly sign their work, and here we have Oerter plastering his name and location pretty darned boldly where everyone is going to see it, I think it likely there were multiple reasons at play.

Briefly looking at it purely from an economic perspective, his target market may have been broader than Northampton County, which also potentially ties into the concept of language choice relative to target market.  It's a real mystery!
Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government!

Offline WESTbury

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2019, 03:57:38 PM »
Perhaps he signed these rifles so boldly, and in English, as his personal act of defiance toward the British. The late 1760's and early 1770's were very turbulent times with the Stamp Act, Tea Party, etc.
"We are not about to send American Boys 9 to 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian Boys ought to be doing for themselves."
      Lyndon B. Johnson Oct 21, 1964

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #18 on: November 11, 2019, 07:46:24 PM »
If only we could see whether and how Oerter inscribed the barrel on the high-end rifle he made for the German-speaking Mennonite Martin Baer in Lancaster county in 1773! That would help us rule in or out some of our theories.

My own theory (speculation, admittedly) is that these signatures have nothing to do with Oerter's preferences or choices and the timing is unrelated to political events. I suspect that they were prescribed by Moravian authorities, much as authorities had told the hatter to stamp his work. John Antes, who made musical instruments, had identical or almost identical labels in each (from 1758-1764, I think).

Perhaps some neighbor complained about a defective rifle, claiming it had been made in Christiansbrunn and requesting some sort of compensation, or somebody was passing off non-Moravian made rifles as Moravian-made rifles (making the Moravians concerned about the above scenario). As a consequence, they direct Oerter to mark all his products.

Still doesn't explain why he inscribed the barrels in English rather than German. I suppose one possibility is that he didn't inscribe them at all--that task was undertaken by an English-speaking Moravian who without much thought signed them Christian's Spring.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2019, 07:52:31 PM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #19 on: November 11, 2019, 08:27:05 PM »
I suppose one possibility is that he didn't inscribe them at all--that task was undertaken by an English-speaking Moravian who without much thought signed them Christian's Spring.

That's also a very interesting possibility.  The question then would be - within the gunshop, or without?  You or Bob would know much more about exactly how these may have been sold.  Being master of the shop, he had one or more apprentices/employees - was one of them tasked with marking the shop 'products?'  Or, was someone else marking them, i.e an intermediary or someone along those lines?
Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government!

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2019, 09:33:51 PM »
I suppose one possibility is that he didn't inscribe them at all--that task was undertaken by an English-speaking Moravian who without much thought signed them Christian's Spring.

That's also a very interesting possibility.  The question then would be - within the gunshop, or without?  You or Bob would know much more about exactly how these may have been sold.  Being master of the shop, he had one or more apprentices/employees - was one of them tasked with marking the shop 'products?'  Or, was someone else marking them, i.e an intermediary or someone along those lines?

I am afraid that, as far as I know, no evidence survives to answer any of these questions! We don't know how work was divided up between Oerter and his apprentice--Levering starting in 1767 and Loesch in 1773--or how these rifles moved from the "shop" (one man and an apprentice) to a customer. That 1773 letter from Oerter to Baer offers the best information on that topic but, even then, we don't exactly know why Baer, surrounded by accomplished gunsmiths in Lancaster County, would have purchased a rifle from Oerter at Christiansbrunn. Just no evidence to even hint about any of these things.
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline Dan Fruth

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2019, 09:34:22 PM »
Great points...The letter Mr. Gordon posted at the beginning of this thread was written in English, and signed by Oerter….Oerter trusted that the letter he was signing was indeed accurate. I guess it was even possible Oerter was given a "prepared statement" which he was to inscribe on his work....Someone needs to dig into the archive and see if this is just a rabbit trail leading to nowhere....Like you all don't have anything else to do!......FWIW...Thanks to Mr. Gordon and Mr. Lienemann and all the rest for all the work you have done to allow us "flint-nerds" to see into the past....Dan
We are non-resistance friend, but ye are standing where I intend to shoot!

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #22 on: November 11, 2019, 09:38:54 PM »
The receipt that Walt O'Connor owned is in English, yes: but that isn't Oerter's handwriting. That is the bookkeeper's handwriting! 

The 1773 letter that Oerter wrote to Baer (the only surviving one) is in German. To be honest, I am not sure that that is Oerter's handwriting in that letter. We don't have any other document to check it against! Many letters of business were written by clerks, who had that neat handwriting.

I am now wondering whether we have any Oerter signatures on a document--document on which all the folks in Nazareth and surrounding communities signed at various points. I will need to check & get back to you all on that!
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline spgordon

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2019, 12:53:58 AM »
This document is so close!--but Oerter had died (March 1777) by the time the Test Act was passed and began to be used to torment Moravians. But several of the men who worked in the Christiansbrunn gunshop--William Henry, Joseph Levering, Georg Weiss, Jacob Loesch--signed this petition (second image, first column):






« Last Edit: November 12, 2019, 09:24:27 PM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline Dan Fruth

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Re: Recovered Oerter Rifle: new photos--and signature
« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2019, 01:42:43 AM »
I assume there was a "test act" in England or a similar sentiment that prompted Joseph Perkin, who left the Church of England when he was converted and joined the Moravians, to come to the colonies. ( Hope I'm not derailing the thread )
We are non-resistance friend, but ye are standing where I intend to shoot!