Author Topic: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)  (Read 3265 times)

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #25 on: December 04, 2019, 09:38:58 PM »
Scott is there any possibility that work on PA state arms during the war occurring at CS may have been "funneled" (for lack of a better way to say it) through someone in Bethlehem?

"There were some time ago between two & three hundred old Arms in bad order left at Bethlehem by the Continental Troops passing thro' the Place, & Mr. Okely, who had the care of them, wrote about two months ago that he was putting them into the hands of Workmen to be repaired..."
Board of War to Timothy Matlack, October 18, 1777
(1 PA Archives V, 685)

Who might the "workmen" have been?  This does not seem to in any way tie into the work being done over in Allentown by Cowell and Tyler as Cowell dealt with the continental congress directly and there are copious references of this available.  While there are many references in the archives to Bethlehem during the period the Brits were occupying Philadelphia, I don't believe I ever have uncovered any reference to arms makers or gunsmiths or whatever actually working on arms in Bethlehem.  So who were these Workmen?
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Offline spgordon

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #26 on: December 04, 2019, 11:00:22 PM »
I don't think I had ever seen this quotation before. I wish I had! Thanks.

I think it is likely that the "Workmen" were the folks at Christiansbrunn, the "four five and some times six hands" that Henry recalled: Henry himself, Weiss, Loesch, Levering, Hantsch. Authorities diverted a lot of labor to the Christiansbrunn gunshop in these years.

Matlack indicates that these were "Continental" arms, not PA state arms. So perhaps they were the arms that Henry referred to when he said that, in addition to the PA contract that Oerter had secured, he (Henry) had after he took over "more than one thousand stand [of ] Arms to repair for the U States army"? Maybe?

So now I want to find that August 1778 letter from John Okely to the Board of War about these arms!

« Last Edit: December 04, 2019, 11:08:25 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 Tim Crosby

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #27 on: December 04, 2019, 11:16:56 PM »
 This is fascinating guys. Thanks for taking the time and sharing.

   Tim C.

Offline smart dog

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #28 on: December 04, 2019, 11:20:20 PM »
Hi Eric and Scott,
Thanks to both of you for a lot of great information.  Eric, I understand your desire to get back to the rifle in question. I am not trying to change the discussion but it seems to some extent that speculation about Beck and the rifle attributed to him are based mostly on where he worked and for how long.  It seems to me that the larger context of what was happening around the Moravian settlements might provide more insight.  For example, both of you mention that Beck was at Nazareth during 1761-1764 and I believe, Scott, you said he was teaching school.  Prior to that he was in Bethlehem for a few months only.  It is unlikely, he could have made the rifle in question then.  He goes to Nazareth to teach and while there, Pontiac's rebellion happens. The gun shop at CS might have been affected by that and pushed to produce arms for defense or sale to worried civilians. Is it not plausible despite the surviving documentation Scott mentioned, that Beck was recruited to assist making guns during that period or was the shop oblivious to those external events?  The emergency lasted until 1764, when he left for NC.  I am not trying to desperately place Beck at CS but Moravian records might not cover every detail and forces acting outside the Moravian bubble might force them to change plans.

dave     
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Offline backsplash75

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #29 on: December 04, 2019, 11:24:21 PM »
snip...

It is crucial to realize, though, that these arms were not produced by Moravian gunsmiths: they were purchased from New York. The merchant Dirck Brinkenhoff reported in December 1755 that Moravians in Bethlehem had sent to New York “to purchase some small arms & to borrow as many more as they could.” With “about 60 small arms, 7 or 8 Blunderbusses & 2 Wall-Pieces,” Brinkenhoff added, “they are determined to make a vigorous Defence.”

VERY cool stuff, is there any further info on this purchase or what types of arms these were?

Offline spgordon

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #30 on: December 04, 2019, 11:28:04 PM »
Dave: We know that Albrecht, who was assigned to teach in the schools, was also doing some work in the gunshop, so it is certainly possible that Beck--who is 1762 is living at Christiansbrunn and in 1764 living at Nazareth Hall (very close to one another)--could have worked in the Christiansbrunn gunshop.

The Moravians were definitely not oblivious to external events and Christiansbrunn gunshop adjusts to accommodate what were surely demands from the outside during the 1770s. We don't know exactly what motivated the construction of the shop itself in late summer 1763 (though I think it is the Indian war) or exactly what the shop produced and how the shop's products were sold--even whether they were sold to a "general public"--but it certainly is possible that Beck worked in it at times from 1762 to 1764. Just cannot know for sure.
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: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #31 on: December 04, 2019, 11:32:47 PM »
snip...

It is crucial to realize, though, that these arms were not produced by Moravian gunsmiths: they were purchased from New York. The merchant Dirck Brinkenhoff reported in December 1755 that Moravians in Bethlehem had sent to New York “to purchase some small arms & to borrow as many more as they could.” With “about 60 small arms, 7 or 8 Blunderbusses & 2 Wall-Pieces,” Brinkenhoff added, “they are determined to make a vigorous Defence.”

VERY cool stuff, is there any further info on this purchase or what types of arms these were?

The Moravians saved a lot, including this invoice describing some of the arms collected in NY and sent to Bethlehem (as well as, on a subsequent page, who contributed $$ to enable this exchange):


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: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #32 on: December 04, 2019, 11:37:09 PM »
And here's the passport that permitted the guns to be sent.





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 backsplash75

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #33 on: December 05, 2019, 03:05:31 AM »
snip
Quote

The Moravians saved a lot, including this invoice describing some of the arms collected in NY and sent to Bethlehem (as well as, on a subsequent page, who contributed $$ to enable this exchange):



Mr. Gordon,
WOWSA. Thanks so much, that is pretty spectacular stuff. Interesting to note that they didn't buy in Philly, but given the amount of post Braddock panic and Pennsylvania buying anything that went bang around the same time a scarcity of such in the colony makes total sense.

From "Of Sorts for Provincials" by Mullins

"...Pennsylvania acquired firearms from a dizzying array of sources in 1756 (seventeen total), in quantities as small as two from Leon'd. Melchoir, to the year's largest purchase of 1,500 Fire Arms and fifteen “18 Lbrs” cannon from Barclay & Sons (An Account of Arms and Ammunition 1756: Pennsylvania Archives 1756 page 25).  Along with the 4,789 total firearms received that year were 29 cannon, 14 swivels, 710 tomahawks 66 Pistols, 13 wall guns, 68 cutlasses, and ammunition... "

 Thanks so much for sharing that info, it made my day!

 8)

Offline spgordon

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #34 on: December 05, 2019, 03:52:56 AM »
Hmm, wish we knew more about that Leonard Melchior (1714-1777), who arrived in Philadelphia in 1732 and was a merchant. Two summers ago I found this receipt in the Moravian Archives--documenting that in 1770 the Moravians bought five gun barrels and four gun locks from him. (That's his signature in German script on the top image!)





« Last Edit: December 05, 2019, 03:56:53 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 Levy

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #35 on: December 05, 2019, 05:04:24 AM »
As an aside to this informative discussion.  In 1949 two Seminole burials were discovered and excavated at Payne's Prairie in Florida.  Payne's Prairie is located just south of Gainesville, FL.  Parts of a rifle were excavated.  The butt plate was early, wide and had several bands filed into the butt plate return.  The trigger guard recovered was like the one on #42.  The rear of the trigger bow was vertical.  The side plate looked rather crude in the drawing and the ram rod pipes were ribbed, like on a trade gun.  Wallace looked at the pictures and thought the gun was a restock.  Some of the artifacts reside in the U of F's artifact collections and others have been misplaced.  James Levy
James Levy

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #36 on: December 06, 2019, 01:56:47 AM »
I believe Wallace has illustrated some of the hardware found in those burials.  Also, I believe the 1785 Colhoun box in silver (not to mention the guard and sideplate) is likewise somehow tied to this rifle (42).  If the date on the pre-restocked Colhoun rifle is accurate and original to the time of stocking (i.e., not retroactively engraved) and the original rifle was a product of the Moravians in NC, then I can't see any other way that it (the Calhoun rifle) wasn't a product of Jacob Loesch.  Loesch has been described as an "ingenious mechanic" and surely was quite familiar with Oerter's two-piece cast boxes.  Are these 'beehive' versions attributable to Loesch's development and potentially carried on - at least initially - by Christopher Vogler?

Meanwhile, before my old website crashed, I had published photos of a buttstock ca 1790 + or - that appeared to have been stocked in the Allentown area and was extensively carved in a manner I believe was consistent with whoever carved #42.  The majority of the gun was long gone but the buttstock had been turned into a lamp for a school shop project.  This stock was at KRA @ 2006, and a number of use both viewed and photographed it, yet I have never seen any discussion of it despite the fact that I personally find it almost impossible to view it as *not* having been carved by the same guy.  It is a remarkable piece of carving.

Trying to put rifle 42 into a specific box has proven to be elusive, and to my way of thinking, has only gotten more complicated as more comparisons are brought to light.  The rifle seems to have have one foot firmly planted in PA and one firmly planted in NC.  It gives me a headache.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2019, 05:54:07 PM by Eric Kettenburg »
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Offline mr. no gold

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #37 on: December 07, 2019, 07:14:56 AM »
At my age, it takes awhile, but I finally caught up to Rifle #42. For a time that piece lived out here in California and it has my finger prints on it, too. It is a truly wonderful rifle and one of the best out there. It is a big gun and appears to be a tad unwieldy, but that is far from the case. That alone makes me thing that it can't be CB product. The carving is splendid, but oddly there is no engraving at a time when engraving would sometimes appear at various place on such superior guns. The side opeming lid to the patch box is unusual and until you get to Bucks County, you don't see the same treatment, and at a later time. The carving appeared to my eye to be quite unique with a prominent plateau around the tang. The cheek rest area carving is bold and extremely well done. As I looked at the style with the opposed whorls I was remined of the later maker George Beck of Western PA, and much later the work of John Sherrry. Too many years of separation, I know, but the Beck connection might be in there somewhere as G. Beck was somewhat early. Call it a visual connection, I guess.
So, I don't have any idea who made it but thought that I would share what I do know about the gun. Wallace may be right on this one as he has been on many others.
Dick

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #38 on: December 07, 2019, 08:15:22 PM »
Definitely a big gun, Dick, in fact I'm 5'10" plus a hair and I think it likely was made for someone bigger.  Shoulders very nicely though, and despite the size and weight, it's shapely and extremely well-stocked.

Interesting that you mention the "unusual" nature of the box.  As time has gone by, I too think the box seems more and more unusual.  It's a very stark contrast to the exceptional nature of the stocking and carving, and while the buttplate, pipes and guard are finely filed and shaped, then you have this somewhat awkward and frankly amateurish box (not to mention the somewhat jerry rigged spring setup which interferes with the usefulness of the mortise) and very plain, 'slabby' sideplate on the gun.

On thing I'll say as delicately as possible - that is one huge, honking big hole in the stock as a box mortise.  Looking at the much more competent two-piece self-contained "beehive" boxes that apparently were in use by 1785 (Colhoun rifle) if not earlier, the box and mortise on 42 would completely swallow one of those including the mounting screws...
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Offline mr. no gold

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #39 on: December 07, 2019, 10:00:37 PM »
Eric, seems to me that I once heard that the lid might have been replaced. Don't know, but it didn't impress me that it was. Curiously, at a time not too far removed from when #42 lived in CA, the much celebrated Oerter 'Marshall' rifle spent some time in the far west. I was fortunate to get to see it often. And, it too is a wonderful rifle, in a superlative condition when found. But, it is a big, clunky gun in my opinion and somewhat awkward to handle. Of the two I think that I like the 'mystery' rifle the best. Perhaps, some more investigation into the early Beck and his family might reveal something.   
 

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #40 on: December 08, 2019, 12:55:40 AM »
The issue of whether the box is a replacement is too 'political' for lack of a better way to put it to have a genuinely honest discussion about the concept.  I already feel like walking on eggshells as it is, and I have no financial interest in the piece whatsoever!  As you know, this is not any "mere" 10K or 20K rifle.

I would challenge anyone to tell me how - if the box was replaced early in it's life, say 20 years in or so - one would be able to determine it was not original.  The enlarged mortise, the box, everything about it would be aged equally with the remainder of the rifle unless it was done by a total hack.

Just to be even more contrary, I have lately been thinking that perhaps the rifle is not quite as early as we may otherwise tend to believe, but may simply be a very conservatively stocked piece.  The step-wrist design persisted well beyond the War in various areas.  Simply using the brass barreled rifle as an example, if the 1771 date marked inside that box is original to time of stocking, that's probably 10 to 20 years later than the overall style of the stock architecture via 'conventional' thought.
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Offline mr. no gold

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #41 on: December 08, 2019, 09:48:16 AM »
In rereading the Shumway information regarding #42, I note that George raised the issue for some reason. The owner and I spoke about that and saw nothing that suggested to us that it had ever been tampered with. If replaced it may have been done scores of years ago. The mortise, the hinge, the interlor of the lid, with all the attendant dust and such, plus the dings and dents on the lid exterior appeared to us to be consistent with the condition of the rest of the rifle. Another highly knowledgeable individual who also examined the rifle came to the same conclusion. The gun seems to be in original 'as found' condition and that may argue against any repairs of whatever type.
You could be correct as to the actual time of when it was made. Not at all impossible that it could have been made sometime later than what we theorize. Everything about it, however seemed to be consistent with the earlier genre of rifles. So, I guess that it will remain the 'mistery
rifle.'

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #42 on: December 08, 2019, 04:34:03 PM »
If replaced it may have been done scores of years ago. The mortise, the hinge, the interlor of the lid, with all the attendant dust and such, plus the dings and dents on the lid exterior appeared to us to be consistent with the condition of the rest of the rifle.

I agree 100%, I'm definitely not saying that it potentially may be a more recent replacement.  Regardless, I'm not going to belabor the point because there's no way to prove it either way.  As you note, for the present time the piece is a mystery!
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #43 on: December 08, 2019, 11:02:13 PM »
No reason to believe it has to be earlier than the Isaac Berlin stepped wrist rifle or the Leyendecker patchbox, is there?
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Offline bob in the woods

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #44 on: December 09, 2019, 12:26:15 AM »
I built the Chambers E. M. kit, and have used it in the woods extensively. I do like it,  but I agree that it doesn't "fit" me as well as  some other rifles . I honestly wish that they offered a No. 42 , since I truly prefer it.  It just looks like it would jump to your shoulder and should be out hunting .

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #45 on: December 09, 2019, 12:38:48 AM »
Very interesting!  I found the Marshall rifle to fit me like a glove, while 42 (to me) felt very muzzle heavy and just really "big" overall, despite the Marshall gun being bigger through the butt and wrist.

The 'fantastically carved' Issac Berlin rifles can't really date earlier than the early 1770s, given his age, and yes the Leyendecher box is dated 1771.  That box is similar, but different to 42 in that the Leyendecher box appears to be a fairly substantial casting while 42 - while potentially being planished, cast sheet - is much thinner.  Just an opinion, but I would tend to view the Leyendecher box as earlier based solely on substance alone, but that's probably not a fair assessment as during that period it certainly appears brass boxes were in their infancy and who knows what kind of curious developments were underway.
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Offline bob in the woods

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #46 on: December 09, 2019, 03:07:44 AM »
Very interesting  ,indeed  !   This really shows the differences in "fit " re firearms.  I'm 6 ft 3 inches tall.  Chambers N.E. fowling gun fits me perfectly.  A bespoke gun wouldn't be any better.

Offline mbriggs

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Re: Gusler's "An 18th-Century Moravian Rifle Gun from North Carolina" (2005)
« Reply #47 on: December 09, 2019, 11:11:02 PM »
I have enjoyed reading the many posts and responses on this topic for the last week. Most of you know that I have spent the last two years writing an upcoming book on the Moravian gunsmiths who worked in the Wachovia Tract. During this time I have had many interesting discussions on the work of these early gunsmiths in North Carolina with people I think are very knowledgeable on the subject at hand.

I have learned there are several competing theories on who made RCA #42, and where it was made.  The more I learn, the more questions I have, and the less I know for sure. (laughs)

Eric Kettenburg and Steve Hench (who once owned the rifle) both believe the rifle was made in Pennsylvania. 

Wallace Gusler believes it was made in North Carolina by John Valentine Beck.

Mel Hankla and Frank House were kind enough to provide me a copy of their unpublished manuscript "Origins." In this they examine the early important rifles made and used in the Cumberland Gap region of Tennessee and Kentucky, made by Thomas Simpson and Jacob Young, were based on techniques that both men learned working in Rowan County, N.C., before they moved west. Their theory is these gunsmiths were influenced by Andreas Betz, who moved to Rowan County in 1767, after he married Barbara Bruner, (daughter of Rowan gunsmith Henrig Bruner.)  Betz was the first locksmith/gunsmith sent down to the Wachovia Tract by the Moravian's. He arrived in Bethabara in 1754. Hankla & House (sounds like a law firm) have put forth the theory that Andreas Betz was the maker of RCA #42.

So, who is right?  I have no idea. A rifle would both need to be signed and dated to know for sure who made it, and where.

The fact is Andreas Betz worked in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but there is no documentation he was trained as a gun stocker.  The same goes for Joseph Muller. Both primarily worked as lock-smiths repairing rifles during their time in Wachovia.  Betz did open a gun shop in Salisbury after he moved there in 1767, and did train his younger brother George Betz and orphan Peter Crouse as gunsmiths in Rowan.

John Valentine Beck was trained as a gunsmith in Germany, and worked in that trade in Pennsylvania, before moving to Wachovia.  He was the master gunsmith from 1764 to 1775, when the gun shop closed due to the Revolution.

Jacob Loesch, Jr. was born in Wachovia, moved to Pennsylvania as a child with his family, trained as a gunsmith there, became master gunsmith at Christian's Spring, and then moved to Salem, North Carolina on December 18, 1781. He arrived to find the gun shop was still closed and was not allowed to open it until March 1783. On August 25, 1784, Christoph Vogler was bound to him as an apprentice for a term of five years. Loesch did not fit in well in Salem and was asked to leave the town and congregation on May 1, 1787.

It is unfortunate there are no signed rifles that still exist by Andreas Betz, Joseph Muller, John Valentine Beck, or Jacob Loesch, Jr.  We are lucky the Moravian's were such great record keepers so we do know a lot about their early years in this state and their trade system.

We are also blessed to have many wonderful eagle patchbox rifles made by Christoph Vogler and the other members of his extended family who worked in Salem and Salisbury making ornate longrifles.

It is my plan that my new book, "The Longrifle Makers of the Salem School" will be in print in the next three months.  I have photographed 66 Salem School rifles and 12 additional rifles that were made by gunsmiths in neighboring schools who were influenced by the Vogler's.

Thanks,

Michael Briggs                               

« Last Edit: December 10, 2019, 12:55:15 AM by mbriggs »
C. Michael Briggs