Author Topic: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs  (Read 1495 times)

Offline Dennis Glazener

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New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« on: May 03, 2020, 05:45:06 AM »
I recently did a review of Michael Briggs latest book "Longrifle Makers of the Salem School"
I think you will be interested in this book. Click on the link below to read the review.
Dennis

http://americanlongrifles.org/PDF/briggs_book.pdf
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Offline Chris_B

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2020, 10:42:58 AM »
Thanks to Dennis I already received my copy and there is only one thing to say about it: It is great!
Interesting Moravian history and wonderful pictures. A must have!
Kind regards from Germany, Chris

Offline AZshot

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2020, 03:50:25 PM »
Interesting, I'll have to add that book to my library.  I was raised in Winston-Salem, and we went to the gun shop in Old Salem many times growing up.  When playing in the woods, it wasn't unusual to find old pipe stems and other Moravian artifacts in the creek beds.  Two of my brother in laws are Moravian, and we all always have a Moravian star up at our door on Christmas. 

Offline Elnathan

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2020, 05:06:27 AM »
I've been looking forward to this one. How good is the photography, really? In some of the other books in this series - the Guilford and Mecklenburg County books - the pictures seem to have been distorted somewhere along the way to publishing. Since photography isn't really the main focus of those books, that isn't a huge fault, but it is aggravating and makes them rather less valuable to the builder. With the significantly greater cost of this book, though, I'm inclined to be a bit pickier.

Mr. Briggs mentioned here on this forum about 18 months ago that he had, when working on this book, run across a couple 1780s Salem rifles, one with a wooden box. Is that discussed therein?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying...cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. -Robert A. Heinlein

Offline Chris_B

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2020, 06:19:28 AM »
I've been looking forward to this one. How good is the photography, really? In some of the other books in this series - the Guilford and Mecklenburg County books.

I would say it is like in the other books, some photos are excellent, others not so good.

Mr. Briggs mentioned here on this forum about 18 months ago that he had, when working on this book, run across a couple 1780s Salem rifles, one with a wooden box. Is that discussed therein?

I remember at least one with a sliding wooden cover, but since I received 4 of his books last week and read 3 1/2 of them over
the weekend, I am not sure right now if it was in here...

*corrected quotation-Dennis-*
« Last Edit: May 04, 2020, 03:39:19 PM by Dennis Glazener »
Kind regards from Germany, Chris

Offline mbriggs

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2020, 10:34:46 PM »
Dennis,
Thank you for a very kind and complete review of my new book on the Moravian gunsmiths in North Carolina.  I am glad to see you enjoyed reading it.  It has been a three year labor or love.

The book contains over 370 pages making it the largest book I have attempted.

There are 260 pages of color photographs.  78 rifles and 1 pistol are illustrated. The book also includes maps and images of buildings, and gunsmiths graves in this region.

The book includes what I believe to be one of the earliest known Moravian rifles made in this state. From my conversations with Eric Kettenburg, we discussed the great evolution that took place between the early Moravian rifles made in Christian's Spring prior to the Revolution, to the more neoclassical rifles made by Christoph Vogler, his sons Nathaniel and Timothy, and his nephews John and George Vogler in Salem.  Eric and I both wondered where did this new design come from, and what would a rifle made in Wachovia by Andreas Betz, Joseph Muller, Valentine Beck, or Jacob Loesch, Jr. look like?  My search was for a rifle that would serve as a bridge between the early Moravian rifles made in Pennsylvania and Wachovia during the 1760 - 1780 period and the later Vogler (Salem School) rifles made in the 1790 - 1820 period.

An early unsigned rifle surfaced Rowan County in 2018 that best serves this purpose. The barrel is over .50 caliber. The lock is a large English flintlock marked Willett. The wide trigger guard and side-plate are both engraved in a style that would look to have been found on an early rifle from Christian's Spring. In my opinion each of these features could date to the 1770 period. The butt-stock of the rifle would however date to the late 1780 or early 1790 period.  The rifle does have carving behind the cheek-rest and around the barrel tang. The carving is there, but not sophisticated.

Andreas Betz moved from Pennsylvania to Wachovia in 1754. From the information I received from Eric Kettenburg, Bob Lienemann, and Scott Gordon, Betz had worked in the locksmith shop in Pennsylvania and was not formally trained as a gun stocker.  He was sent to North Carolina to repair guns, but could had done some stocking.  Valentine Beck was trained as a gun stocker and was sent down in 1764 to take on that role in Wachovia.

In 1767, it was learned that Andreas Betz had secretly engaged himself to Barbara Bruner in Salisbury, the daughter of Rowan gunsmith Henrig Bruner. When Andreas Betz left Wachovia, he took with him his younger brother George Betz and trained him to work as a gunsmith.  Andreas Betz opened a store and gun shop next door to each other in Salisbury and operated both until his death in 1795.  I found two land deeds listing George Betz as a gunsmith between 1795 and 1804.

I believe this bridge rifle was made by Andreas Betz or possibly his brother George while working in Rowan County.  It is possible the rifle was made in the Moravian shops in Pennsylvania, bought down to North Carolina, had the stock broken during the period of use and had a new stock made by Betz in the 1780's period using the earlier barrel, lock, trigger guard, and side-plate.

I was able to display this "bridge rifle" at my program on the Moravian gunsmiths of Wachovia at the KRA meeting last year in Pittsburgh.

Detailed photographs of the rifle do appear in this new book.

As to the issue concerning the quality of the photographs in my books that someone raised.

I have been gathering information, documents, and photographs on North Carolina Longrifles and the people that made them for the last forty years.  There is no museum or collection you can visit where you will be able to view or photograph a large quantity of these rifles at one place. You have to take them as you find them.

Many of the photographs in the new book come from Old Salem Museum & M.E.S.D.A. One rifle was photographed by David Miller at the Smithsonian.   Some are from professional photographers Kenneth Orr and Mark Elliott. Others are from collectors like myself and and Arron Capel.  They are not all of the same quality.  Some of the photos are over 20 years old.  I have no idea where some of those rifles are now to be able to re-photograph them to get better images.  Would you rather not see those rifles at all?

I will be the first to admit that I am not a professional writer or photographer.  What I am is a passionate student and collector on the subject of North Carolina Longrifles and have been willing to invest the tremendous amount of  time to search to pull the information, documents, photographs, and opinions of the experts to share them with other students and collectors who will appreciate it.  My talent, if I have one, is being able work with so many sources to pull this much information together and package it in one place for those people who are interested in learning about this subject. 

Thanks,

Michael   
                 
« Last Edit: May 06, 2020, 01:59:34 AM by mbriggs »
C. Michael Briggs

Offline mr. no gold

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2020, 11:35:30 PM »
Well said Michael, well said!
Dick


Offline mbriggs

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2020, 09:40:56 PM »
I believe the lock on the early rifle is English and is marked Willett.  Does anyone known when Willett worked?

Thanks,

Michael

C. Michael Briggs

Offline Elnathan

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2020, 10:10:21 PM »
Well, I hesitated before asking the question because I was afraid my comments on the quality of the photography would be taken as a complaint rather than an observation. On the other hand, if I don't ask a straightforward question, I am unlikely to get a straightforward answer....

MBriggs,

I recently bought a copy of Shelby Gallien's book on Kentucky-made muzzleloaders, and he makes essentially the same comments regarding the difficulty of getting uniformly high quality photographs that you do when explaining his decision to use black and white photographs instead of color, so I am aware of and appreciate the nature of the problem. Furthermore, I came long ago to the conclusion that any given book cannot be all things to all people, and that gun books tend to fall into at least three separate categories - history, builders books, and art/collectors and wa' guide books, with many books having elements of two of these categories but rarely covering all three areas well. I've always placed your books firmly in the "history" category and taken them as complementary to Ivey's book, which has superb photography but comparatively little else - both valuable but for written for different purposes and with perhaps slightly different audiences in mind.

Given that purpose, I've never thought that the photography was a huge problem with your books (though pretty pictures are always nice, particularly for builders). With this one, given that you appear to have some new guns that I can't just look up in Ivey if I am curious about details (and I am very interested in any pre-1790 NC rifle), the price being higher than your earlier volumes, and the fact that Dennis specifically mentioned the photography in his review, I was curious as to what exactly I should expect.

In other words, I meant no disparagement and was already planning to buy a copy eventually regardless of the answer, but wanted to know if I am going to be able to build a 1780 NC rifle from the pictures in your new book.

Edited to add: If that picture is representative of the book, I certainly will. Plus: yowza, that looks like a cool gun.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying...cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. -Robert A. Heinlein

Online rich pierce

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2020, 10:35:05 PM »
I believe the lock on the early rifle is English and is marked Willett.  Does anyone known when Willett worked?

Thanks,

Michael


A search brought up a Willett as a gunmaker in Dublin around 1800.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline mbriggs

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2020, 08:27:29 PM »
Elnathan,

No offense taken, just trying to explain the difference in quality of the photos on a project like this.

Searching for a 1780 or earlier North Carolina Longrifle is like searching for a Unicorn.  Good luck.  I have found four examples of 18th Century North Carolina rifles in 40 years. Most are late 1780 or early 1790.  Best of luck in your search and effort.

Rich Pierce,
Thank you for the information.

I am now working on Book number seven.  The Longrifle Makers of the Davidson School. I have so far photographed around 50 examples.  If anyone knows someone who owns a great Henry Ledford, Andrew Long, or other Davidson School rifle, please have them reach out to me.

Thanks,

Michael
C. Michael Briggs

Offline backsplash75

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2020, 09:19:37 PM »
I believe the lock on the early rifle is English and is marked Willett.  Does anyone known when Willett worked?

Thanks,

Michael


I can't quite make it out due to shadow from pan, is that lock marked Willet or WILLETS?
« Last Edit: May 07, 2020, 09:30:19 PM by backsplash75 »

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2020, 11:47:47 PM »
I believe the lock is marked "WILLETS."  That's a very interesting rifle, very.

Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government!

Offline Elnathan

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2020, 12:59:35 AM »
I know nothing, but Track of the Wolf sells a copy of a P1742 Land Pattern lock marked Willits 1746, supposedly cast from an original lock. Slightly different spelling and I'm sure that this lock is at four or so decades younger, but a search into contractors making musket parts for the Tower might provide a starting point for locating this firm.

One person here who might know would be JV Puleo. Maybe Feltwad, too.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying...cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. -Robert A. Heinlein

Online rich pierce

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2020, 01:16:25 AM »
Willets is listed as a Dublin maker.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline jdm

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2020, 02:28:14 AM »
Mbriggs,  Thank you for taking the time a effort to put together  this series  of books. I know there is not a lot of profit  , if any for you  in doing these. There is such a limited market for any longrifle books.  I must be a labor of love. Those of us that have these wonderful pieces of history  or aspire to one day appreciate yours and others efforts . WE REAP THE BENEFITS! 

By the way have you done or know of a good reference on Henderson county guns?   Jim
JIM

Offline Elnathan

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2020, 01:54:47 PM »
Mbriggs,  Thank you for taking the time a effort to put together  this series  of books. I know there is not a lot of profit  , if any for you  in doing these. There is such a limited market for any longrifle books.  I must be a labor of love. Those of us that have these wonderful pieces of history  or aspire to one day appreciate yours and others efforts . WE REAP THE BENEFITS! 

By the way have you done or know of a good reference on Henderson county guns?   Jim

Dennis Glazener's book on the Gillespie family gunsmiths.
https://americanlongrifles.org/gillespierifles.com/catalog_pg.htm
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying...cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. -Robert A. Heinlein

Offline backsplash75

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2020, 04:09:49 PM »
I believe the lock is marked "WILLETS."  That's a very interesting rifle, very.

Are there any initials on the lock interior? Is that the original cock?

There were multiple Willetts gunsmsiths. One was an ordnance contractor as noted above who made some of the p1776 and Ferguson rifles in DW Bailey's rifles book (Mary Willetts of Birmingham is listed as making Baker rifles ca.1800).

https://www.briangodwin.co.uk/Resources/English_gunmakers_1550_-%20_1850a.pdf

15 June 1757 John Willets
Will of John Willets, Gun Maker of Wednesbury, Staffordshire

Apr 1763 Benjamin Willetts
Benjamin Willetts of Wednesbury, gunsmith to appear as witness in the case of Joseph Gibbons of [illegible] labourer, charged with feloniously entering a shop belonging to Benjamin Willetts and stealing a quantity of iron

Jan 1766 Benjamin Willetts
Bond to appear at the next Quarter Sessions                          Benjamin Willetts of Wednesbury, gunsmith, in the case of William Parsons charged with breaking down the rails on a bridge on the property of Benjamin Willetts.


« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 06:40:47 PM by backsplash75 »

Offline bama

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #18 on: May 08, 2020, 04:52:23 PM »
Michael, thank you for your efforts in not only the many years of study but the efforts of putting one book together much less several books. I will be getting the hard backed version and will pick it up at Tim's show if that happens, so save me a copy. Thanks to people like you, we have the benefits of your hard work to enjoy at our leisure and our only effort is to pick the book up. Amazing.

Thank you again, Jim Parker
Jim Parker

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Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2020, 05:42:50 PM »
I have some photos that Michael had the courtesy to send me and when I zoom in on that lock, it is clearly "WILLETS" with one T and definitely an S.  At least that's how it appears to my eye.  Given the info presented above, it seems to point toward the lock being of perhaps the 1760s or 1770s but I am no expert on Brit locks.  Also I definitely agree with Michael's hypothesis that the guard and side plate, and probably lock, are earlier components that were either recycled or possibly just old parts never used.  Where they may have originated I have no idea.  They may have come from PA, or they may have been import pieces ready-engraved.  Or they may have been engraved here.  The engraving is similar, and appears to be of similar style and period, to the common "German import" furniture engraving that is seen on a number of assumed early Bucks County pieces by the 'wonky carver' (the old Dubbs attribution), but it's not identical and it's not quite as professional.  Could be European or could be American.
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Offline backsplash75

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2020, 06:34:36 PM »
I have some photos that Michael had the courtesy to send me and when I zoom in on that lock, it is clearly "WILLETS" with one T and definitely an S.  At least that's how it appears to my eye.  Given the info presented above, it seems to point toward the lock being of perhaps the 1760s or 1770s but I am no expert on Brit locks.  Also I definitely agree with Michael's hypothesis that the guard and side plate, and probably lock, are earlier components that were either recycled or possibly just old parts never used.  Where they may have originated I have no idea.  They may have come from PA, or they may have been import pieces ready-engraved.  Or they may have been engraved here.  The engraving is similar, and appears to be of similar style and period, to the common "German import" furniture engraving that is seen on a number of assumed early Bucks County pieces by the 'wonky carver' (the old Dubbs attribution), but it's not identical and it's not quite as professional.  Could be European or could be American.

Thanks for confirming the S in the signature. The Willets name in English gunmaking covers a pretty wide swath of time. The cock on that lock looks more like 1780s-90s at the oldest to my untrained eye, of course I don't know if that was the original cock to that lock and haven't seen the rest of the gun. There may be internal markings on the other side of the lock that could help pin things down further.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 06:41:07 PM by backsplash75 »

Offline Marcruger

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #21 on: May 08, 2020, 07:02:47 PM »
"Also I definitely agree with Michael's hypothesis that the guard and side plate, and probably lock, are earlier components that were either recycled or possibly just old parts never used.  Where they may have originated I have no idea.  They may have come from PA, or they may have been import pieces ready-engraved.  Or they may have been engraved here.  The engraving is similar, and appears to be of similar style and period, to the common "German import" furniture engraving that is seen on a number of assumed early Bucks County pieces by the 'wonky carver' (the old Dubbs attribution), but it's not identical and it's not quite as professional.  Could be European or could be American."

You've hit on the question I have Eric, namely, where is the rifle from? 

Michael notes that it was located in Rowan County.  A gun can move a long way in 200+ years.  Especially in the last, say, 50 years. 

What specific features about the unsigned rifle say, "Moravian" and/or "North Carolina"?  I am no scholar, and would like to understand.  What remains after restocking that tell the origins? 

Best wishes,   Marc

Offline mbriggs

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #22 on: May 11, 2020, 11:41:35 PM »
Last Saturday I took the early rifle to visit an old gunsmith friend John Braxton in Snow Camp, N.C.  I wanted to put a piece of flint in the cock, but found the top screw was froze and could not be loosened.  John removed the lock and heated the cock and got the screw freed up.  From our study we found the frizzen on the lock is original, but the cock is a replacement. Several of the screws inside the lock are also replacements and the lock showed a lot of use over the years. I was able to complete my project with John's help.

The named engraved on the lock is WILLETS.  Thanks to Eric Kettenburg for confirming that. 

 


John checked the barrel for me, it is rifled, the caliber is .55 and is swamped.

 



The trigger guard and side plate on this rifle do not look like anything I have found on other local North Carolina rifles.

 








When Blake Stevenson (gunsmith at the Timothy Volger Gun Shop in Salem) and I were first shown this rifle by Bill Ivey in 2018 we all agreed this could be the missing link we had been searching for.

Here was a rifle that was found in North Carolina, that featured parts on it you would expect to find on an early rifle made in Pennsylvania (or the Wachovia Tract - as the first four gunsmiths had all come down from there), but had a butt-stock that was only 1 1/2 inches wide and curved butt-plate that could not date before the late 1780's or early 1790's.

The stock was carved, but not sophisticated like RCA #42. Andreas Betz was the first gunsmith to come to mind.  He did work as a gunsmith for many years, but was not formally trained as a gun-stocker. He worked in Bethabara from 1754 to 1767 as a locksmith and repairing guns.  The record shows he did stock a few rifles, but only a few.  He opened a gun shop in Salisbury that he ran from 1767 till his death in 1795.  His brother George Betz operated this shop after his death until 1804.  Might this be something they would have stocked? The rifle was found near Salisbury in Rowan County.

   



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We all would love to find early signed and dated longrifles by Andreas Betz, Joseph Muller, Valentine Beck, and Jacob Loesch, Jr. that we knew were made during their time in Wachovia.

Until these items are found, we will have to make do with rifles that possibly fulfill that mission.

I hope you enjoy the book when you see it.

Thanks,

Michael
« Last Edit: May 11, 2020, 11:45:36 PM by mbriggs »
C. Michael Briggs

Offline mbriggs

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Re: New Salem School book by Michael Briggs
« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2020, 08:53:53 PM »
I wanted to let everyone know that the new Salem book has finally arrived from the printer.  It is available in both hardbound ($80) and softbound $60. I have attached the information below if you want to order with a check.  If you want to pay with a credit card you can order it from Amazon.com.

The book has 370 pages.  The book contains 260 pages of color images and detailed color images of 78 rifles, one pistol, and seven Moravian powder horns.

Thank you,

Michael 

C. Michael Briggs