Conclusion, etc.


            Following the aforementioned examinations of both Edward Marshall's rifle (RCA 41) and RCA rifle number 42, as well as the regional contexts within which they have hitherto and currently been assumed to have been constructed, similarities between the two rifles can be easily seen to the degree by which it is very easy to understand the close association of the two pieces for the past thirty or forty years.  The decorative carving to the rear of both cheekpieces, while certainly not identical, is very closely related and would appear to be derivative of the same basic pattern.  This carving pattern was modified and embellished - as the years progressed - and was found not only upon the work of the Moravian gunstocker Christian Oerter at Christiansbrunn but additionally upon signed work of Johannes Moll who had been working in Allentown as early as 1764, upon the work of Peter Neihart of Whitehall Township and upon the work of brothers Herman and Johannes Rupp of Macunji.  Many additional unsigned pieces which fit this progression are also known.

There appear to be a great number of interrelated yet currently inexplicable ties between a number of rifles illustrated herein.  I use the term 'inexplicable' as currently there can not be found any documentation to answer the obvious questions relating to possible relationships between many of these men.  The connection between Albrecht and Oerter is of course solid and well-documented, however how these two Moravians may have influenced - or been influenced by - 'strangers' in the surrounding region is not known.  Bob Lienemann once said to me, "Don't tell people what to think.  Put the information on the table, and let them think for themselves."  This is of course a difficult proposition, as it is quite easy to fall into the trap of speculation and conjecture which, regardless of how well-considered the hypothesis, nevertheless remains speculation.  This makes for exciting reading and fuels debate, but lacking primary source documentation it does not prove anything.

The topic of regional attribution is a hot one indeed.  It is much easier, when considering rifles of the Federal Period and beyond, to point to specific regional characteristics and thus make fairly accurate attributions.  This is due to the later emergence of readily-identifiable regional styles, higher numbers of American-made arms and a vastly-increased rate of survival.  When all is said and done, the early rifles simply are not there to offer a comparable number of puzzle pieces.  Wallace Gusler's series of articles which were presented within Muzzle Blasts magazine throughout 2005 are an excellent example of attempted regional attribution, the rifle in question being Rifle number 42 as originally illustrated in Shumway's Rifles in Colonial America, Volume 1.  As intelligent as Mr. Gusler's argument is, the majority of it remains speculation contrary to his claims of various "proofs."  To be blunt, Mr. Gusler offers no stocking comparisons amongst proven North Carolina rifles, let alone Moravian rifles, all of which are in fact grossly dissimilar:  surviving work of the Brunners at Salisbury - the family associated with Andreas Betz - evidence no similarities whatsoever.  The well-documented work of the Voglers - Christoph Vogler having been trained by Jacob Loesch in Salem - likewise displays a conspicuous lack of similarities with RCA 42.  Finally, between August of 1789 and March of 1791, Valentine Beck, Jacob Loesch and Joseph Mueller (Andreas Betz’s old apprentice) were all living together in Bethania and yet again - despite this considerable concentration of talent - absolutely nothing resembling “Rifle Gun number 42”  has emerged out of the Carolinas.  All of its brethren thus far remain firmly entrenched within the vicinities of Bethlehem and Lititz.  What are we to make of this? 

Gusler's only true comparisons are a small number of excavated or restocked furnishings of the post-War period which quite frankly could have originated anywhere; perhaps they are somehow tied to Jacob Loesch's work at Christiansbrunn and Salem, about which nothing is known.  Judging by the commentary of his contemporaries, Loesch was an ingenious ‘mechanic’ who served as both locksmith and gunsmith in Salem and who certainly would have possessed the talent to develop a simple self-contained, sping-loaded box.  This is at the least as plausible a notion as Mr. Gusler's proposal, is it not?  His hypotheses regarding RCA 42 and a theoretical southern trail of progressional development are peppered with a great many holes and likewise a great many omissions:  where does the Leyendecher box lid fit into this scheme?  David Deshler's rifle?  The strong preponderance of similar side-opening lids in Bucks and Montgomery Counties?  The wonderful Allentown rifle of unknown attribution which blatantly appears to have been carved by the same man who carved RCA 42?  The huge body of work solidly attributable to Pennsylvania bearing close association, and the near-complete lack of it in North Carolina?   Speculation can run rampant and lead us astray down paths which may or may not have any basis in the reality of the matter.  Each year additional surviving rifles are uncovered, occasionally forcing the us to reconsider and reevaluate much that we thought we knew.   My entire treatise presented herein may be outdated next month!  For the present time, then, presented below are a number of comparative photographs which illustrate an obvious web of association.  I believe that any who choose to read this work  are quite capable of connecting the dots for themselves.

       Aside from the obvious and well-explored connections (see previous chapters) between RCA 42 and other arms of the Northampton, upper Montgomery and upper Bucks County regions, there also can be found a very curious series of parallels between RCA 42 and later arms of the Lancaster area.  Isaac Haines, in particular, incorporated a number of details into his earliest work which bear remarkable similarity to the Marshall rifle; it is almost too coincidental that Haines (about whom very little is known) first appeared within the Lancaster Co. records ca. 1773 and thence utilized details during this early period which evidence such a connection not long after Albrecht arrived at Lititz (late 1771).  Other Lancaster-area gunmakers such as Dickert, Ferree and Graef also periodically can be seen to have incorporated small details seemingly associated with Bethlehem-area work, all apparently during the period following Albrecht’s arrival at Lititz.  Albrecht, meanwhile, judging by his lone signed rifle which likely dates ca. 1775-1785, seems to have easily adopted an accepted regional form.  Possibly this is all mere coincidence, but the possibility also exists that Albrecht’s move to Lititz initiated a brief flurry of regional give-and-take; theoretically, he should have been well-respected as for many years he was one of the very few ‘classically’ or European-trained gunstockers working in the entire Northampton County region.  One theory which has been proposed and which at the least merits mention is that RCA 42 was stocked by Albrecht during his initial year or two in Lititz ca. 1771-1773.  Again, for the present time a valid hypothesis which on its face makes some sense but which can not be proven or disproven at this time.

LEFT:  viewing the ‘Lion and Lamb’ rifle in conjunction with two rifles signed and dated by Oerter ca. 1774 and 1776, it quickly becomes apparent that it was very likely he who stocked the unsigned ‘Lion and Lamb.’  Possibly, it was stocked as early as 1766-1770.  It is curious to note that it shares essentially an identical guard with RCA 42, that rifle’s guard being simply modified to accommodate set-triggers.  It is also curious that the ‘Lion and Lamb’ and the 1774 Coykendall rifle make ample use of punched circles, the 1774 rifle in particular carrying circular stippling which is remarkably similar to David Deshler’s rifle.



RIGHT:  Why was John Moll II [working in Allentown ca. 1790-1820] utilizing the same type of engraved semi-circle and dot border as is present upon the ‘southern’ boxes illustrated by Gusler, this border supposedly representative of a transfer of design stemming from RCA 42 [which carries the semi-cirlce/dot at the muzzle and along the edge of the front sight base]?

While it may not have much bearing upon an attribution for RCA 42, the ample dialogue regarding Valentine Beck having been ‘classically’ trained in Suhl has prompted me to include this here.  WHO TAUGHT ISAAC BERLIN?


George Shumway illustrated both of these rifles, the unsigned piece in RCA Vol. II and the signed piece in a March, 1996 article for “Muzzle Blasts” magazine.  He also provided some basic detail of Isaac’s life as well as that of his father Abraham within this article.  Abraham arrived in 1738 aboard the ‘Charming Nancy’ with two others of the same surname, Hans Jacob [22 yrs.] and George Frederick [16 yrs.].  (Strassburger 2 A, B, C)  These other individuals may have been siblings or cousins.  Abraham was only 16 years of age at the time of his arrival, precluding the common misconception that he was a ‘classically’ trained gunsmith.  There is in fact NO evidence at all to indicate that he was ever involved in gunsmithing/gunstocking.  Not to say it could not be possible - as a blacksmith he certainly may have been capable of arms repair and perhaps some degree of fabrication - however none of the extent documentation indicates an involvement with firearms construction.   Shumway notes that Isaac was born in 1754 in Berks County but by the early 1760s the Berlins had relocated to the new town of Easton in Northampton County.  Shumway mentioned an early tax list [1763] which listed Abraham as a “smith,” and thence jumped to the conclusion that he was a gunsmith.  However, this is not a safe assumption:  the original deed for the purchase of Abraham’s lot #203 in Easton [1760] was between Fredrick Nuncaster, Easton, innholder and Abraham Berlin, Easton, blacksmith.  (NH Co. deed book B1, pg. 16-18)  He was noted upon the earliest surviving assessment for Easton in September, 1761, however no trade was listed.  (HSP MFilmXR 699)  There were also numerous payments made to Abraham via the Northampton County treasurer ca, 1761-1770, however no trade nor purpose is noted and these were probably bounty payments.  (HSP MFilmXR 703)  A second property transaction in 1769 again lists him as ‘blacksmith.’  (NH Co. deed book B1, pg. 201-202)  Additional property records throughout the 1770s and early 1780s always specify he was a ‘blacksmith.’  He was quite respected, serving first as an elector for Northampton County in the 1760s, then on the Northampton County Committee of Safety during the War [he was in fact appointed Chairman of the Standing Committee in 1776 - 2 PA Archives XIV, 617]  and finally as a Justice of the Peace as early as 1777.  He died sometime ca. 1784-1785.  I currently believe that due to his involvement in the Committee of Safety and the associated acquisition of arms and accouterments, Abraham has been branded a gunsmith by association.  I have yet to see any contemporary record or document which specifically indicates that he was involved in arms construction; possibly, being a blacksmith, he was involved in forge work integral to gun construction during the War while serving the Committee of Safety.   This, however, is a far step removed from the type of work which Isaac was capable of executing.  He had two sons apart from Isaac who also became blacksmiths:  Abraham Jr., who remained in Easton, and Jacob, initially of Easton and Williams township and thence Frederick Co., Virginia ca. 1794 (NH Co. deed book H1, pg. 637-638).  Abraham Jr. apparently was involved in gun work during the War, for at a meeting of the Standing Committee on January 9, 1777, a number of individuals were exempted from marching with the Easton Company of Militia and two of those thus singled-out were “...Abraham Berlin, Junr., Gun Smith, Jacob Berlin, Blacksmith...”  (2 PA Archives XIV, 622)  By the taking of the 1780 assessments, however, Abraham (along with Jacob) was once more noted as a “blacksmith” while Isaac was noted as “armourer.” (HSP MFilmXR 700)  Nothing of Abraham Junior’s work or potential training is  known, and because he was referenced as a blacksmith before and after the War it is probable that he had an aptitude for mechanical skill and served the cause where most needed, i.e. work upon firearms.  Isaac, however, was the only Berlin ever to be expressly noted as a gunsmith within assessment records and the only Berlin who has left us surviving work to ponder.  So who taught him?


Isaac being born in 1754 indicates that he would have been of journeyman age in approximately 1772-73, this assuming he served some type of formal apprenticeship.  I would speculate that both of these rifles were probably made between ca. 1772 and July of 1776 at which time Berlin joined the Pennsylvania Line.  The magnificent carving adorning both rifles is almost shocking and it is very hard to view such carving without jumping to the notion that surely Isaac must have been trained by a very accomplished artisan.  During the period of his assumed training, the late 1760s through the early 1770s, the town of Easton itself was home to a small number of men variously noted as gunsmiths during this period:  Ephraim Blum, Matthias Miller/Muller, and John Young (Sr.).  John Young’s father Henry Young was an early resident of Easton and was noted as a locksmith, and it should be noted that the family was not of English extraction but had anglicized their German name - Jung - to that of Young.  There is no surviving work which can be attributed to Blum or Miller with certainty and their professional background is unknown.  Miller was mentioned in the 1776 contract for arms along with Christian Oerter [see part 4] however all preliminary investigations into his background as well as that of Blum seem to indicate that they picked up gunsmithing here.  [An excellent article detailing the life of Ephraim Blum/Bloom can be found in Selected Articles..., “Ephraim Bloom, the First Gunsmith of Easton, PA” by William Hillanbrand, pg. 239-242.]  Likewise, there is no surviving work that can be definitively attributed to John Young Sr. or his father Henry [Henry Young is thought to have been somehow involved in gunsmithing although I personally have seen no documentation to this effect], yet signed work of John Jr. of Easton evidences a magnificent hand comparable in quality to that of Isaac Berlin.  For the present time this is a mystery which may know no resolution;  judging by Isaac Berlin’s work illustrated herein, and likewise that of John Young, somebody in Easton was very familiar with professional European decorative form and that the town itself yielded a such a spectacular pool of gunstocking talent is all the more remarkable given the slow growth and low esteem in which the town was initially [1750s-1770s] held:  “...that there could not have been a place devised more improper and inconvenient that Easton appears,  from its being situated at an extreme corner of the county, environed on all sides with hills and rivers, secluding it (as it were) from the rest of the county, with which it can never have any necessary communication, nor become a thoroughfare or place of traffic, the roads, by means of the aforesaid hills and broken lands thereabouts, being rendered, in the winter season, unsafe for traveling on horseback and almost impassable for wagons and other carriages... that in particular the road to Easton is particularly inconvenient, passing through a large tract of land called the Dry Lands, so thinly inhabited that, in the distance of twelve miles from Bethlehem to Easton, there is but one or two huts, and not one drop of water, neither in the summer or fall seasons, to refresh either man or horse, so that in winter travelers are in danger of perishing with cold, or of being parched up in summer with heat...” (Henry 77, petition from inhabitants of NH Co., May 15, 1765.)  While a number of Indian treaties were held at Easton through the 1760s and 1770s, it would appear that it was not until the Revolution and the associated bustle which descended upon Northampton County that Easton became a town of extreme importance:  a crucial ferry, a hospital for sick soldiers, large deposits of military stores, numerous tradesmen working for the American cause, and huge numbers of militia as well as - in 1779 - Sullivan’s entire command passing to and fro through the streets.


Just some random musings on the Berlins!

Above:  Henry Albright [Albrecht], son of Andreas Albrecht.  Henry was born at Lititz in 1772 (Whisker 5) and was trained by his father.  When he was approximately 19 years of age, the ‘wanderjahre’ or journeyman year in the old European guild tradition, he apparently was sent to Andreas Albrecht’s old apprentice William Henry Jr. [who by that time was operating a substantial gunmaking operation in Nazareth] to complete his training.  The evidence for this can be found in Northampton County deed book B2, wherein he and Will Henry were witnesses to property transactions in adjoining Moore township [October 1791] and Plainfield township [March 1792].  Why are some quirky details present upon ‘Rifle Gun number 42’ also present in the work of Henry Albright?