Identify "Schools " of  Kentucky Rifle Gunsmiths and Makers

Comment: There were no schools of gunsmithing. Master gunsmiths had apprentices, usually indentured for 7 years. The concept of "schools" developed  in recent times based on "REGIONAL" architectural characteristics and decorations ( referred to as "furniture"). Presumably the gentlemen were in business competition. The "customers" preferences and local "tradition" significantly influenced the form and furniture on guns made by "local" gunsmiths. It is known that many moved about during their careers and thus carried with them "older" styles and adopted "newer" ideas as they relocated. This is most evident is Pennsylvania and North Carolina where there are several distinct "schools" or "regions" where similar characteristics are easily identified . Others are recognized today, in general, by the State in which they worked : Ohio, New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Southern , New England, Vermont, Mid West, West Virginia ( then Virginia). 


Lancaster Co.

York Co.

Bedford, Somerset Cos.

Reading , Berks Co

Huntingdon Co.

Upper Susquehanna Region

Allentown, Lehigh, North Hampton

North Carolina

Identify the Gunmaker :***

Barrel Signature: The makers name or initials ,either engraved or stamped, in the top flat of the barrel in the style of the period and usualy showing expected wear. The "name/ initials is usually equadistant between the breech and the rear site.  If placed closer to the breech it suggests the barrel has been shorten at the breech; usually done as a repair as this area of the gun and  also the muzzle experienced most damage when fired. Wear is almost always apparent in the area of the signature due to age and use.

Lockplates Names: Usualy the name of the lockmaker, not the gunsmith with rare exceptions  when they match the barrel signature. Many gunmakers made locks that were used by other makers and thus the name of a known gunsmith can appear on the lockplate or it could be a replacement. 

Provenance: Not usualy reliable.

Guns with unsigned Barrels:  Can often be reliably identified from closely similar signed rifles or by patchbox and furnitrue  (  could have been made by a neighbor gunsmith, however or some maker copying a popular item.) But, they are still "attributions"

ATTRIBUTION IS  GUESSING ( many times with likely good support if done by an experienced scholar)

Carving , particularly raised or relief , can at times be so distinct in character as to identify the maker i.e. Beyer, Sell Family. Incised carving can be skillfilly added, unfortunately

Patchbox Designs: For many makers,  there are uniquely designed or engraved patchboxes that may be almost as good as a signature

*** Recall that parts were reused or broken rifles were often restocked with parts available durin their "period of use" as well as more recently for historic preservation.  Also there have been many instances of attempted "fraud" by embellishing rifles, engraving names on barrels, adding incised carving, adding furniture, "aging",  etc. "Anything made by man can be remade by man!"

Initials: Engraved on the patchpox lid, thumb plate or side plate are usually the "owners" ( not the makers). Owners names were often engraved on the patchbox lids "upside down".  Engraving could easily be added after original production. The name on the lockplate is that of the lockmaker.


"Golden Age"  Makers Signatures

Contemporary Maker Signatures

Regional Stock Profiles or "Forms"

Bucks Co

Rifle Simiarities: Compare a signed gun to an unsigned gun from a  similar period ( Age).

Tennessee essay