Author Topic: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.  (Read 388 times)

Offline WESTbury

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THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« on: June 11, 2021, 02:59:26 AM »
Like probably most people on this forum, I purchased Kindig's book centered around Golden Age rifles. He put a rather loose definition of after the Rev War to 1815.
Kindig seems to have been good at self promotion of himself and his collection so coining a phrase like The Golden Age of the Kentucky Rifle got everybody's attention. It is also a heck of a title to sell books, and it worked!

But, what does it really mean to collectors, is it important to collectors, does it really mean anything other than inflated values?
"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."
President Lyndon B. Johnson October 21, 1964

Offline JTR

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2021, 03:13:55 AM »
I think Golden age means different things to different folks.
If you think of Golden age as when the guns were fully developed, that can easily run past 1815.
If you think of Golden Age as Kindig owned rifles, they certainly bring a premium.
Any way you look at it, even with inflated prices, which at this point are still somewhat below previous prices, they are still way less expensive than a cheap Ferrari!
John ;-)
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Offline Chris_B

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2021, 05:15:47 AM »
I definitely see Kindig‘s point, but for me every rifle is Golden Age that pleases my eye at first ( or sometimes second) sight and makes me happy to hold and admire it.
Kind regards from Germany, Chris

Offline WESTbury

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2021, 01:59:39 PM »
There is an excellent paper by Dr A. Lewis Katzowitz, who new Joe Kindig very well, on the American Society website. It is dated Spring 1977. Rifle s were a small part of Kindig's interest. Kindig was a yachtsman, pilot, antique furniture collector, etc.

https://americansocietyofarmscollectors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/1977-B36-Thoughts-Of-Joe-Kindig-Jr.pdf
"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."
President Lyndon B. Johnson October 21, 1964

Online smart dog

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2021, 02:40:34 PM »
Hi,
Kent, I think you misinterpreted that paper.  Antique furniture was his business but American long rifles were his hobby and avocation.  I think we owe Joe Kindig a lot of deference here with respect to defining what most of us call the "golden age" of Pennsylvania-Kentucky rifles.  He based his notion on the study of more rifles than most of us will see in 10 lifetimes and then he did us the great service of writing his book.  The beginning of what most of us refer to as the golden age is fairly easy to define, the last couple of years of the American Revolution (1782-1783) when nothing much militarily was going on and the US was starting and recovering from the war.  There were a lot of gunsmiths in PA, MD, and northern VA, and probably a lot of competition for customers.  That shake up produced a lot of innovative and creative gun work by makers who still carried on strong European traditions of decoration and workmanship, albeit becoming more "Americanized" all the time.  The ambiguous part is defining the end point or points because those features and traditions died out over different time periods in different places.  Kindig was clear, his golden age started just after the war and lasted 25 to 30 years to about 1815.  After that time, the quality and decoration started to decline.  It also must be understood that he was referring to long rifles as works of American art not as important utilitarian tools. He doesn't even consider most southern mountain rifles because they came later and were mostly utilitarian.  As I wrote previously, the end points are the hard bit because some places carried on artistic quality and creativity long after 1815 but they all mostly petered out by the 1840s.  Again, Kindig emphasized the "golden age" rifles as expressions of American decorative arts not as an important technical or utilitarian tool.

dave   
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Offline WESTbury

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2021, 05:28:17 PM »
Dave,

Thanks for the reply and your interpretation of Katzowitz passages about his business. You are correct, his business was antique furniture. That was possibly his primary source of funds to purchase longrifles as his hobby.

Again, his interests were many over the years as Katzowitz outlines, horses, antique furniture, airplanes, yachts, and antique arms and armour.

His book is great, no question.

I have a copy of an article he wrote, which was published in Sept 1932 in the magazine Antiques. It was entitiled The Pedigree of the Pennsylvania Rifle. It is a very interesting read. Some of Kindig's thoughts about the longrifle seem to have developed early and ended up in his book 28 years later. No mention of the Golden Age though in the article. That idea obviously developed later. You need a catchy title to sell books and Kindig or the editor found one.

My post is focused on what the term "Golden Age" means to the collector that's where I'd like to stay focused.

Below is a page from the Katzowitz paper.

« Last Edit: June 11, 2021, 05:55:56 PM by WESTbury »
"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."
President Lyndon B. Johnson October 21, 1964

Offline spgordon

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2021, 06:04:57 PM »
Very interesting discussion, to which I'll add two thoughts.

It is usually not meant as disrespect when somebody questions something published sixty years ago, as Mr. Kindig's Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in Its Golden Age was. It is a good thing that we know more--a lot more--now than we did sixty years ago. The only way to advance our knowledge is to question what others have written in the past. To just accept it, or defer to it, is to ensure stagnation and the repetition of mistakes. This isn't a matter of disrespect. It's the sort of engagement that I would think somebody who cared as much about this field as Joe Kindig did would welcome. After all, he titles his book "Thoughts on..." not "The Definitive Word on..." Such a title welcomes further thoughts.

I agree entirely that Mr. Kindig considered "the 'golden age' rifles as expressions of American decorative arts not as an important technical or utilitarian tool." This is a very important insight, as it means that the things that he valued in a rifle were (probably) not the things that original users valued in a rifle. There are certainly some incredible, baroquely-decorated European rifles that, in their own time, aspired to the status of "art"--but I've yet to see any evidence from the Golden Age itself that anybody in early America thought of rifles in this way. It is hard for me to know what to make of this except to say again that this gulf between "them" and "us" is liable to introduce a distortion into how we view these objects unless we correct for it.

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

Online smart dog

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2021, 06:30:49 PM »
Hi Scott,
I do not mean deference as "submission" but as a mark of respect.  As a well published research scientist, I know all about challenging the status quo.  My comment about Kindig looking at the artistic qualities rather than use of rifles was made to highlight that very disconnect between what 18th century people and what we perceive. I am sure rifle buyers then did not identify with any "golden age", which is a label we apply now and in Kindig's case, a label applied solely to artistic merit and features.  And that is perfectly fine because it does not require any link to the practical use of rifles or what folks thought back in the day to be appropriate or legitimate.  It is a label we apply now like the Renaissance.

dave
« Last Edit: June 12, 2021, 01:03:59 AM by smart dog »
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Offline spgordon

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2021, 07:23:16 PM »
I do not mean deference as "submission" but as a mark of respect.  As a well published research scientist, I know all about challenging the status quo.  My comment about Kindig looking at the artistic qualities rather than use of rifles was made to highlight that very disconnect between what 18th century people and what we perceive. I am sure rifle buyers then did not identify with any "golden age", which is a label we apply now and in Kindig's case, a label applied solely to artistic merit and features.  And that is perfectly fine because it does not require any link to the practical use of rifles or what folks thought back in the day to be appropriate of legitimate.  It is a label we apply now like the Renaissance.

I understand, and thanks.

Mr. Kindig's 1960 publication, and then the 2 vol. RCA in 1980, effectively established the field of rifles that get studied & the sorts of things that get discussed. That "canon" is not ironclad, of course, as fine new rifles have entered it, etc. But I think it fair to say that Kindig set the parameters of the discussion. It is interesting to wonder, then, if somebody with different "tastes" (if artistic merit weren't a main criterion for admission) had established the field, what we'd be discussing. Pointless speculation, of course, since we are where we are. And one of Mr. Kindig's great accomplishments was the very fact of having established what had been considered a utilitarian object as a candidate for a work of art.
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

Online smart dog

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2021, 08:07:35 PM »
Hi Scott,
The truth is most of us don't really think of rifles inside and out side of the "golden age".  We focus on certain makers and regional "schools" or styles that move in and out of Kindig's "golden age" meme.  Indeed, Kindig focused and organized his book on those makers and styles, and only used the term "golden age" to limit his focus to a period when he thought they were at their zenith of artistic merit.  His real contribution was identifying makers and assigning rifles to them and to their regional styles not coining the phrase "golden age of rifles".  I think others later assigned more importance to that label than Kindig did.

dave   
"Flick Lives!"

Offline spgordon

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Re: THE GOLDEN AGE-What does it mean to you.
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2021, 08:12:55 PM »
The truth is most of us don't really think of rifles inside and out side of the "golden age".  We focus on certain makers and regional "schools" or styles that move in and out of Kindig's "golden age" meme.  Indeed, Kindig focused and organized his book on those makers and styles, and only used the term "golden age" to limit his focus to a period when he thought they were at their zenith of artistic merit.  His real contribution was identifying makers and assigning rifles to them and to their regional styles not coining the phrase "golden age of rifles".  I think others later assigned more importance to that label than Kindig did.

I didn't mean the "Golden Age" label at all. I meant, most of all, the "canon" of rifles that began the conversation and keeps it going; what rifles/makers get discussed; what rifles/styles don't get discussed; the way "schools" are thought of (much more could be said about this); etc. Maybe RCA has been more influential, in the end. It's very interesting to read the things that--because he was at the beginning--that Mr. Kindig just didn't know that, by the time Mr. Shumway was writing, were (sort of) better known.
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