Much study has been devoted to Marshall's rifle and an equally large number of opinions have been circulated as to its dating, ranging wildly from the 1730s through the 1770s. It is quite large and a very sturdy rifle: the buttplate measurements are 5.150" in height and 2.310" in width and the wrist at its smallest point is 1.775" (height) by 1.600 (width). The width across the tail of the lock panels is fairly broad at 1.875", this being necessitated by the somewhat large breech diameter of the barrel at 1.20". As per many earlier German rifles, the buttstock has been shaped with a relatively small drop at the heel of the butt, it measuring only 2.375". The trigger reach distance is 13 3/4", slightly full, to the forward trigger pad and the rifle has a relatively high, straight comb, similar to both RCA 42 as well as David Deshler's rifle. The buttstock carries a less-prominent stepped wrist/stepped toe profile than either, however.
The majority of the debate surrounding this rifle revolves around two questions: first, whether or not the rifle is a restock of an earlier (though assumed similar) rifle, the restock being executed ca. approximately 1760-1770; second, the location and date of its manufacture are a constant source of speculation. The issue of the potential restocking has primarily arisen due to a few facts concerning the hardware present upon the rifle. The barrel is certainly of German manufacture and bears a slightly crude stamping upon the upper barrel flat: I*A*D RoThEN BERG* The assumption which is engendered by the presence of such a crude marking in a highly visible location is that this marking was originally intended to be upon the bottom of the barrel and thus hidden within the stock. If the barrel had been re-breached [a common practice sometimes effected during a restocking but not limited to such] and mounted within a new stock, so the speculation runs, the marking now being present upon the upper flat could be thus explained. Shallow tenon dovetails could have easily been dressed-down. One problem with this theory, however, is the presence of a relatively large, deep stamp which displays the image of a pair of shears and is upon the underside of the barrel. (Bivins 6) Such a marking surely indicates a blacksmith's stamp - the stamp of the barrel forger - and would be most unlikely to be found upon the upper portion of the barrel. Furthermore, the tennons currently upon the bottom of the barrel show no sign of having been moved within this stock (Bivins 6) and the stock shows no signs of any shortening, so any potential breechplug change would have occured prior to the barrel being inlet into its current home. This barrel, while certainly German [along with the flintlock mechanism itself, a spectacular piece which is a classic example of heavy over-engineering], could have been 'lifted' from either an even earlier American rifle or likewise could have been obtained from perhaps an imported shipment of old German 'sundry' components. There are far too many variables present to make a definitive determination. Caspar Wistar in Philadelphia was importing German rifles for resale in the colonies by the 1740-1750 period at the latest, and there are specific references within his papers to a supplier or gunstocker in Rothenberg, so it is quite likely that the barrel upon this rifle was recycled from an earlier piece which very well may have been one such imported rifle. Unfortunately, there has not - as of yet - been any determination as to who "IAD" working in one of the various Rothenberg/Rottenburg locations in Germany ca. 1700-1760 may have been. Hopefully, a future identification may help towards further pinpointing a specific period and supplier.
Those who favor the notion of the rifle having been restocked likewise point to specific characteristics of the buttplate as bearing indications that it was remounted upon a new stock. The buttplate is extremely thin over its entirety, measuring no more than 1/16 inch in thickness. It does appear to be somewhat uniform in thickness and evidences a slightly bulbous heel which bears witness to ample scars left by a swage block around the lower edge of this heel. The heel has worn through and lead is visible through the hole. These features have led some to believe that this points to a buttplate which had seen use upon an earlier rifle, was subsequently removed, dressed-down, reshaped and remounted. What is equally possible, however, is that the buttplate itself is not a casting - it is quite thin and suspiciously uniform - but rather was formed out of a piece of sheet brass. It carries considerable external evidence of having been hammered-upon to no small degree. This hypothesis would easily explain the substantial scarring around the heel as well as the lead cast into the internal cavity (it would offer substantial support). This was by no means a 'make-do' method of buttplate construction but knows considerable precedent primarily upon long fowlers constructed along the Hudson River ca. 1680-1725, complete with long decorative upper returns. Bivins, in fact, favored this assumption, noting that the "...entire inside surface is covered with marks of a cross-pein hammer." (Bivins 7) Finally, there is an obvious repair to the barrel tang indicating a crack or break right through the weakest point, this being the hole for the tang screw. John Bivins noted that this was repaired via a ship-lapped joint which was brazed with copper. He noted that this type of damage did not occur within the current stock and put forth the speculation that perhaps the broken tang was a result of some form of traumatic break which had destroyed an earlier stock. (Bivins 6) He also did concede, however, that it could represent damage caused by dropping the barrel on its tang while the barrel had been removed, and I would add that at the base level, all the broken tang indicates is the probability that somebody long ago began to remove the barrel before remembering to remove the tang screw and the iron cracked at its weakest point. Judging by the number of surviving rifles which also bear witness to an identical break and have not been forced to bear the stigma of assumed restocking, this was apparently a very common mistake. Bivins also noted that he removed the triggerguard and found absolutely no evidence that it had been used upon a prior rifle: there were no secondary pin-holes present in the forward retaining lug, thus leading to the conclusion that this guard was a new piece when utilized upon this stock. Unfortunately, some would believe that the primary use of a new triggerguard in this instance supports the theory of a restocked rifle, as whatever caused the barrel tang to break could have been severe enough of a situation to completely destroy the original guard. This is a somewhat twisted supporting characteristic, as this logic begins with the assumption of a restock and thence fits specific interpretations to that assumption.
It can therefore be seen that the alleged evidence indicating that the rifle is a restock ca. 1770 is nothing more than speculation. It is possible that the piece was restocked from a single pre-existing rifle, however it is equally possible - and perhaps more believable - that the piece was stocked with a combination of German and locally-made/obtained components which were on-hand, this practice apparently being a very common one amongst the earliest extant American arms. The triggerguard in particular is a beautiful, complex casting which could easily represent either an imported German guard or likewise an American guard cast by an accomplished founder; Philadelphia newspaper advertisements easily substantiate the fact that both imported as well as home-cast brass gun mountings were available in large quantities. John Bivins, probably the only individual in the past century who was a liberty to disassemble the rifle, concluded: "Strictly speaking, the rifle should not be considered a restock, but rather a full American stocking-up of a European barrel and lock." (Bivins 7)
The second question of great import [and of equally great debate] is that of a probable time and location of manufacture. Perhaps no other rifle, save perhaps RCA 42, has engendered such passionate argument on both counts. As early as 1927, at which time Dillin's The Kentucky Rifle was published, the rifle was associated with the Walking Purchase due to its Marshall family provenance, and thus for a good portion of the 20th century the piece was viewed as dating to 1737 or even earlier. Curiously, none of the earlier textual discussion of the rifle and/or family tradition - William Buck, W.W.H. Davis, Repsher etc. - held that the rifle was associated with the "Indian Walk," and neither Marshall's own account nor those of eyewitnesses mention Marshall carrying a rifle; he is noted as carrying an axe or hatchet. Somewhat of a revolution in thought occurred following the publication of Kindig's Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age ca. 1959/60, at which point many students of the American longrifle began to develop a firmer grasp of the evolution and dating of such pieces. It would appear that about this time, ca. 1960-1970, the rifle began to be associated with Andreas Albrecht and/or Christian's Spring via a decorative design comparison with a number of rifles signed by John Christian Oerter. This was - and continues to be - the only tangible link which connects the Marshall Rifle (RCA 41) to the Moravian smiths at either Bethlehem or Christian's Spring. By virtue of this association, RCA 42 and RCA 43 have likewise been similarly relegated to Moravian kinship. However, this speculation is tenuously dependent upon the notion that Oerter could only have copied the decorative form from a Moravian and that any other regional rifles by non-Moravians would not have figured into his vocabulary. I view this as a relatively shallow assumption.
The shop records of the Bethlehem 'locksmith and gunstock maker' ca. 1755-62 (Lienemann/Moravian Archives, Bethlehem) are witness to ample notations of gun repair executed upon the arms of many individuals, the majority of them 'strangers' or non-Moravians. For example, during the aforementioned period, the accounts receivable indicate a number of repairs made upon arms brought in by Charles Folck [Capt. Charles Foulk of Lynn Township, serving at Gnadenhutten/Fort Allen ca. 1755: 2 PA Archives II, 443] on various occasions, multiple "Province Accounts" for repairs made to the company arms [Northampton County militia] of Col. Wm. Clapham, Captains Arnd [Arndt], Wetterhold and Reinhold, repairs for Tattenaskund, repairs for "Newcastel & Co.," a number of repairs on arms brought in by Richard Shakleton [all for other individuals, which is curious; Shakleton/Shackleton was the manager of the Oxford Furnace, Sussex Co., West New Jersey ca. 1753 (Northamton Co. deed book A1, pg. 57-58)] etc. (Lienemann/MAB) There are noted quite a variety of others as well. There is absolutely no reason to assume that Albrecht stocked Marshall's rifle and that Oerter was taught this specific decorative form by him ca. 1762-66. In fact, the two lion-carved rifles (the "lion and lamb" rifle and the "two-tailed dog" rifle) which also are often attributed in some way to either Albrecht or Oerter, and are likely earlier than Oerter's 1774-76 dated rifles (whereupon the ‘Marshall’ carved forms are imitated in brass ribbon) could be interpreted as supporting the notion that Oerter did not pick up this decorative form from Albrecht but perhaps had seen it elsewhere, Albrecht having left Christian's Spring and temporarily having ceased gunsmithing seven to eight years prior. A variable which also figures into the speculative equation is the very real possibility that Albrecht and/or Oerter were utilizing various decorative forms interchangeably; on the face of it, this assumption [again, there is no proof of this] is likely the safest bet as it does not straightjacket either individual. The blanket assumption that a particular man would or could only utilize one particular style is likewise a very closed-minded approach. Certainly there are men whose known body of work would seem to indicate that they worked within a single style and essentially 'stuck with it' for a lengthy period of time; however, there likewise exist signed examples of work which indicate that some individuals were much more experimental in various aspects of rifle construction.
Finally, if we are to thoroughly examine the notion of a Moravian kinship for any of these aforementioned pieces, and are to - for the moment - consider the 1750 through 1760 period particularly in relation to RCA 41 and 42, it behooves us to ask: was Albrecht the only man present in Bethlehem capable of stocking a rifle? This is a question which leads one into very murky waters hopelessly clouded with speculation. Albrecht is often believed to have been the only man specifically noted as being a gunstocker, this being in 1759 upon the oft-quoted trade distribution list. (MAB) Is it possible that any of the locksmiths or any other woodworking tradesmen in Bethlehem were capable of stocking and carving such a fine rifle? There is no definitive answer to this question. Common sense would dictate that the answer to this question would be, "Of course it is possible!" However, there are assorted notations to be found throughout various Journals as well as other records which indicate that the Moravian artisans were not practicing multiple trades [multiple tasks - yes, particularly in North Carolina by necessity - but not multiple trades] and in fact Hollenbaugh quotes one of the stipulations documented at the initial transition from the old Oeconomy to a more free-enterprise based system [this occurred in stages ca. 1762-1771] which is to the effect that "No resident shall practice another trade than the one which he has begun....nor shall he impinge on any other business in the settlement." (Bishop Selected Articles... 120) This would seem to be a straightforward philosophy, however in actuality there would seem to have been some flexibility within this system.
A prime example of a contraindication to this philosophy is the existence of a flintlock mechanism signed "Albrecht . A . Bethleh" which has been exhibited previously within the article, "Andreas Albrecht - Bethleh: Gunlock" by Timothy Lubenesky. This article was reprinted in Selected Articles from the KRA Bulletin on pages 184-185. The Albrecht lock creates some problems if we are to attempt a definitive statement to the effect that the tradesmen did not infringe upon each others' trades. Albrecht was not a locksmith and was never master of the lock shop. He was present in Bethlehem ca. 1750-59 as a teacher and gunstocker [gunstocker ca. 1750-54 (Lienemann), teaching ca. 1755-56 and possibly through 1759?] and was again present in Bethlehem ca. 1767-71 as manager of the Sun Inn. None of these vocations involved the forging of a flintlock mechanism. As it is most unlikely that he was executing gun work while he was running the inn, the lock in all probability dates to the 1750-54 period, this dating being reinforced by the style of the lockplate which evidences a noticeable curve, fairly large size and octagonal nose. If we are to assume that Albrecht actually constructed the lock, it follows then that it must have been constructed in the smithy and therefore the locksmiths must have been aware of it. Perhaps one of them was involved in its construction? Perhaps here we have proof that even in the colonies, it was the 'Buchsenmacher' or 'Buchsenschafter' who indeed made the flintlock? The possibility also exists, given the European style of the phrase, 'Albrecht A Bethleh' ("Albrecht at Bethlehem"), that Albrecht - as did many German master craftsmen - signed his name to the lock upon a gun which was 'his' product, regardless of whether or not he actually constructed the lock.
Are there in fact any other individuals who can be viewed as possible candidates, Albrecht aside? Andreas Betz was present in Bethlehem ca. 1748-9 through 1754 when he was relocated upon the Wachovia tract in North Carolina. His career has been examined in more detail elsewhere in my writings, however the fact that he was given permission in 1758 to establish a gunsmith shop in Bethabara indicates that he was capable of more than just simple lock- or blacksmith work. It remains unknown, however, if he was capable of stocking any rifle, let alone rifles such as RCA 41 and/or 42. It is equally uncertain, perhaps even more so, as to whether or not any of the other men who worked as locksmiths in Bethlehem were capable of stocking and carving a rifle. Probably this was most unlikely, this assumption being reinforced by a very interesting ledger entry (Locksmith and Gunstock Maker) for August 31, 1757: "Locksmith to the Joyner for Stocking 2 guns..." (Lienemann/MAB) Was this “Joyner” Albrecht or one of the cabinetmakers? The joiners seem to have been fairly well tied to the lock shop, for there are a few entries ca. 1758-59 which indicate payments made to the "Joyner" for cutting the wood for gunstocks as well as a payment to the joiner for making wooden patterns (presumably casting patterns) of indeterminate type. (Lienemann/MAB) Upon the 1759 trades list, [see elsewhere in text], there are three men listed in Bethlehem as "Schreiner:" Richter, Demuth and Okely. At Christiansbrunn (Christian's Spring), there were three additional joiners: Thomas, Bulitschek and Rubel Sr. I mention the three additional men at Christian's Spring because the trade distribution list was made two years after the Bethlehem ledger entry and it is possible that one or more of these men could have been in Bethlehem at the time. It is also very possible that other individuals not mentioned above may have been practicing the trade prior to the 1759 list, but by 1759 were either elsewhere or working at other tasks.
One additional individual also presents us with a bit of a mysterious situation, especially if the 1759 trade distribution list is loosely viewed as being representative of the decade of the 1750s [this interpretation being quite common], which it most certainly is not, rather than clearly cataloging the year 1759 only, which it most certainly does. Within the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, there are copious records preserved of the Single Brothers Choir in that place from ca. 1742 through the 19th century. For the decade of the 1750s, there were 'catalogs' taken nearly every year of the individuals living within the Single Brothers Choir [the term "Choir" here indicating a division of congregation members by gender and status, i.e. Single Brothers, Single Sisters etc.]. It is believed that the motives underlying the taking of these inventories of individuals were basically those of taxation provided to provincial authorities, although I can not prove this with certainty. These catalogs, as with many of the early records, were written in German. For the period ca. 1755-56 [I have not exactly clarified whether it was a single year only, or both years] a man named Joseph Haberland is listed as "Buchsen Schafter" which of course translates as 'gunstocker.' This is the same period that Albrecht was noted in the school, or 'Anstalt.' (MAB) Why was Albrecht not the gunstocker, and who was Joseph Haberland? Neither question can be completely answered to satisfaction. According to Miloslav Rechcigl [see bibliography], Joseph Haberland is noted as being born in Moravia [area of the Czech-lands] in 1726. He arrived aboard the Moravian transport ship 'Irene' on September 9, 1753, and was noted as working as a mason. In 1774 he was sent from Bethlehem to Denmark and thence to Tranquebar [India] where the Moravians had established a mission known as 'Brother Garden' or 'Salomon Garden' just outside of Tranquebar town. This town remains a small town south of Madras. Haberland died at Tranquebar in 1782.
The only additional information I was able to preliminarily find regarding this man was within Fries' Records of the Moravians in North Carolina wherein he is mentioned within the 'Travel Diary of the First Company of Single Brethren going to North Carolina' as accompanying the initial settlement party for part of the trip. The Diary entry for October 8, 1753 [only a month after Haberland had arrived at Bethlehem] states, "And so with a feeling of blessing and contentment we set out from our beloved Bethlehem, the Brn...Joseph Haberland, the last named to accompany us only to the Susquehannah..." (Fries v1, 327) Apparently, however, Haberland actually accompanied the party all the way to the site of Bethabara, for he is mentioned within additional Diary entries for November 15 and 22 as well as December 3. On December 19, it was noted that four of the Brethren who had made the trip but would not be staying in North Carolina began their return journey to Bethlehem, and Haberland was one of these individuals. I do not know anything else regarding Joseph Haberland save the single mention in the aforementioned catalog ca. 1755/56 indicating that he was working in the role of gunstocker, and thence in 1759 - according to the trade list for that year - he was the sole man working in the "Seiden Fabric" or Silk Factory. (MAB) The waters here are very murky indeed.
Wallace Gusler has hypothesized within his series of Muzle Blasts articles that RCA 42 was not carved by the same man who carved the Marshall Rifle. He has stated that "Rifle no. 42 in Shumway's sequence has the most professional and fine carving within the group." (MB, Jan. 2005: 4) This statement is certainly accurate, however when comparing the quality of carving upon RCA 42 to that present upon the Marshall Rifle (RCA 41), one must carefully consider the very disparate overall condition and wear of each rifle. RCA 42 has survived the centuries with practically no wear to the carving whatsoever, and thus it retains its original crisp and clean appearance; RCA 41, conversely, has undergone a large amount of wear and the carving has been worn to a very considerable degree. It no longer is possessive of the clarity of detail it once must have displayed and a fair degree of its initial boldness has been lost. The carving to the rear of the entry pipe is nearly gone. The carving upon Marshall's rifle, in other words, has undergone a general and substantial 'diminishment.' There is nothing about the quality of the carving upon RCA 41 - which is itself of extremely professional and fine quality - which would suggest that it was not carved by the same man who carved RCA 42. Certainly there are differences in the execution of what are two similar and obviously related designs, however to view them through the lens of two different individual hands is again to make an assumption that a lineal progression was in effect. This closed-minded assumption negates the possibility that one man could execute variations on similar forms, or even different forms for that matter.
Additionally, it is unclear as to exactly why Edward Marshall's rifle, and RCA 42 for that matter, are typically dated to the 1765-1770 period. Both of these rifles are of large size, display bold German architecture and are adorned by very precise, professional relief carving which certainly could be dated as early as the decade of the 1750s, or conversely, as late as the 1770s. Joe Kindig, Jr. stated within his monumental text Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age, "The only reasonable way to date a Kentucky rifle is by its latest detail, and...No gun could possibly have been made before the time when its latest detail came into use." (Kindig 32) It is unclear to this author exactly what features upon either RCA 41 or RCA 42 could not have been present ca. 1750-1760. Even John Bivins, writing in August 1996 (see Bibliography), stated that "..it is possible that the stock was made as early as the 1750s." (Bivins 7) The furnishings utilized upon the Marshall gun would appear to be the earlier set although the carving details upon both pieces could easily be contemporaneous. By the time Albrecht, for example, emigrated from Germany in 1749/50, decorative forms much more florid and rocaille than found upon either rifle had already been established and utilized upon German arms. The embellishment present upon RCA 41 and 42, in fact, are extremely conservative when compared to the rococo - the "French taste" - illustrations put forth by Thomas Chippendale in his Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director which was first published in 1754. This publication was incredibly popular amongst English-speaking artisans, although similar works expounding the 'new' rococo philosophy had been published by French and German artisans as early as the 1730s and 1740s.
Upon the tax assessment for the city of Philadelphia in 1756, there are ten men listed who were known cabinet makers and who would have been creating work along these much more elaborate lines. By 1769, Philadelphia County (which included all of what is now Montgomery County) was home to at least thirty-three "joiners" and the city proper was home to an additional forty-eight. (3 PA Archives XIV) Some of these men were native-born while a large number of them were immigrants who had comprised a constant stream of cabinetmakers from Europe throughout the 1740-60 period. While Chippendale-era (ca. 1750-1785) furniture made in Philadelphia tended to be more conservative than than its English counterparts, the continuous influx of men into southeastern Pennsylvania who were very aware of the best and newest tastes in furniture carving would have certainly ensured that these decorative forms permeated the surrounding settled portions of the countryside; continual trade in supplies and finished goods via Philadelphia agents as well as artisan mobility would certainly have seen to this.
Considering the circumstances of Marshall's life, if we are to assume that he purchased RCA 41 of the Moravians then the dating of his rifle to the decade of the 1750s also 'fits' as he has been shown to have been in Northampton County by 1752-55 (if not earlier), only a few years after a highly-trained gunstocker (Albrecht) arrived in Bethlehem, one of the largest towns of the region and centrally located. He has also been shown [above] to have left Mount Bethel township and returned to Bucks County prior to 1759, the last year that Albrecht worked in Bethlehem and the year he was noted as being the only gunstocker via the trade distribution list (discussed elsewhere in this text). While this is purely speculative, it is a very interesting coincidence.
*****Addendum: On the other side of this coin, however, is the existence of a rifle signed by Christian Oerter and dated 1776. This rifle carries a wonderfully-carved griffin to the rear of the cheekpiece and evidences strong carving ties to both the ‘Lion and Lamb’ rifle as well as the Marshall rifle. What is even more provocative about Oerter’s rifle is that the box carries the initials “WM” and there is near-positive proof that the rifle was built for Edward Marshall’s son William. [See article here.] This being the case, it would then seem to indicate that for some reason or another Marshall’s son [or perhaps Edward himself] traveled from Tinicum in Bucks County to Christian’s Spring to purchase a rifle from Oerter in 1776, this being at least sixteen years after the Marshall’s had removed from the area. The proximity of Tincum to other gunsmiths in upper Bucks and Philadelphia [now Montgomery] Counties, not to mention the city of Philadelphia itself, would seem to preclude the need to travel so far to purchase a rifle unless perhaps Edward Marshall retained some form of ‘connection’ or familiarity with the Moravians. Possibly Edward’s rifle had been more recently purchased or stocked? Possibly the Marshall’s retention of land in Chestnuthill township [see above; now part of Monroe County] as well as Edward’s claim to additional land in the Chestnut Hill/Lower Smithfield area which was deemed invalid (NH Co. deed book D1, 214-215) indicates a greater attachment of some type to Northampton County than his move back to Tinicum would indicate. These questions can not currently be answered.
*****Addendum II: Below, Edward Marshall’s ‘other’ gun [see above notes pertaining to Gene Miller’s 1978 KRA article]. This gun is purported to have descended within the family of Edward’s daughter Rebecca [Hinkle] and is allegedly one of the “2 guns” which was noted in the inventory of his estate. The brass wear plate is a 19th century addition and the inscription reads thus: “Purchased by H.B. Harmer near Marshall's Island on the Delaware River from Elizabeth F. Hinkle daughter of Philip Hinkle the Son of Joseph Hinkle and Becky Marshall - his wife who was the daughter of Edward Marshall.” Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way to verify this story although Gene Miller mentioned within his article that he was in possession of a 1928-dated letter from H.B. Harmer which specifically mentioned the piece. The rifle displays imported furnishings and the walnut stock may be American walnut but is most likely of European origin; I am unaware as to whether or not it has been tested. The piece may possibly represent an American stocking (by an unknown gunstocker) of imported components, but it is much more probable that it is a German import fowler in-entirety. It does seem to bear somewhat of an overall resemblance to the generally-discredited “Martin Meillin in Germantaun 1705” piece [“The Mysterious Case of Martin Meillin, Gunsmith?” by Richard Headley, KRA Bulletin, Winter 1978; Bishop, 398-404], that stock also believed to be American walnut but, upon testing, determined to be of European origin and stylistically of the 1760s-1770s period. Photos from Greg Martin Auctions, lot 1265, Fine Arms, Armor and Sporting Guns, November 12-14, 2007.