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Rifle

Artist/Maker:
Vogler, Christoph –possibly
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
1785-1795
Medium:
curly maple –iron –brass
Dimensions:
LOA 58-11/16″
Accession Number:
5715.1
Description:
Salem longrifle with full curly maple stock has the last few inches missing at the muzzle along with its nose-cap; converted from flint to percussion and retaining its original lock face, side-plate and lock screws. The barrel contains no visible marks with the exception of the eight rings marked at the muzzle and a single ring nearest the bore of the rifle. The forty-five caliber barrel is forty-two and fifteen-sixteenths long and it appears the barrel was cut down at some point. In addition there is also a cut in the fore-stock near the entry pipe, with this all key wedge still register to their barrel lug. The cut must have been made at the breech; maybe at the time of conversion to percussion, as the barrels muzzle marks and low silver front sight appear to be untouched. The barrel is octagonal from the muzzle to the breech. It is slightly tapered and flared moving from one inch at the breech to thirteen-sixteenths at the waist and flaring back to fifteen-sixteenths at the muzzle. A percussion drum was added at the time of the longrifles conversion. The two screw tang is typical of longrifles from the Salem School; it cares long parallel side, the last half inch tapering to a point. This style of tang can be found on a majority of Salem School longrifles.

The brass side-plate is a common shape for longrifles in both Northern Davidson County and Salem. The double set triggers are most common on North Carolina longrifles. The triggers seen on Salem’s longrifles are typically well defined in their mechanics and execution. The triggers on this longrifle appear to be the same style used on other Salem longrifles. The mounts on the longrifle are brass with the trigger-guard showing characteristics of a single hook at the rear and a large open bow making room for the double-set triggers. The facets and filing on this guard are similar in style and used on many of the early longrifle’s of Salem. The brass butt-plate of this longrifle is much like the trigger-guard showing early form, consistent with rifles from the early Salem period.

The other decorative mounts on this longrifle include a pierced brass toe-plate, a pierced brass four piece patch-box, a tobacco shaped silver inlay on the cheek-rest, a silver wrist inlay and eight pseudo-barrel wedges in silver lining the forestock. The most distinctive of these is the brass patch-box with its federal stylized eagle. The patch-box side-plates are reminiscent of the George Vogler patch-box seen on longrifle No. 6, page 64, of Longrifles of North Carolina by John Bivins. The eagle is almost identical to many of the Salem rifles including longrifle No. 4, page 56, in Longrifles of North Carolina by John Bivins. A unique characteristic is that the eagle on this longrifle has his head pointed toward the toe instead of the comb. The patch-box door and finial carry a small indention in the shape of a quarter-moon nearest the hinge. This dimpled dome characteristic has only been observed on Salem longrifles. The release for the patch-box is located on the upper plate of the patch-box nearest the butt of the stock. This style of release is most common on Salem styled longrifles and while seen in other schools of gunsmithing in North Carolina it is uncommon to see this style of release on a rifle from this early a period. The engraving on the inlays is characteristic of Salem’s gunsmiths. The cheek-rest inlay, while inversed, is almost exactly like the cheek-rest inlay on the John Vogler silver-mount longrifle No. 5, page 60, Longrifles of North Carolina by John Bivins. Although the inlay is tarnished it cares an engraved federal-styled eagle clutching arrows in its talons.

The curly maple stock retains its original finish and the overall architecture of the stock is large. The width of the wrist is quite large measuring one and three-eight inch. The height of the wrist measures a tall one and seven-sixteenth of an inch. The butt of the stock is quite large with a height of the butt-plate measuring four and thirteen-sixteenth tall and almost one and three-quarters inch wide. The raised areas of carving around the lock-face and side-plate draws similarity to longrifle No.4, page 56, in Longrifles of North Carolina by John Bivins. The beaver-tail shaped finial at the tail of the lock and side-plates are the largest seen on a federal-eagle patch-box longrifle. The longrifle also carries a common molding profile along the fore-stock and it can be found on most high style longrifles from this region. This fore-stock molding terminates with an incised volute with foliage on the belly of the fore-stock nearest the entry pipe. This is very reminiscent to longrifle No. 124 in North Carolina Schools of Longrifles 1765-1865 by William Ivey.

The comb of the stock also carries an incised line running from the butt-plate to the wrist and probably terminated to a beaver-tail on the top of the wrist. This area has long since worn away. Another incised line runs above the toe-plate from the butt-plate to the trigger-plate. By far, the most unique characteristic of this longrifle is the relief carving found in areas around the tang and in front and behind the cheek-rest. The carving shows a delicate hand and follows a c-scroll volute a section of foliage extends towards the butt-plate. This style of carving motif can be seen on many Moravian longrifles from Christian Spring’s, Pennsylvania. If longrifle No. 101 in William Ivey’s book North Carolina Schools of Longrifles 1765-1865, is an early Bethabara longrifle as believed. It shows a consistent similarity in its basic design. The carving style can also be seen in longrifle No. 123 in William Ivey’s book North Carolina Schools of Longrifles 1765-1865. Rifle No. 122 shares the same design as the above mentioned longrifle only in an incised form.

(Description provided by Blake Stevenson, Manager of the Vogler Gunsmith & Silversmith Shops)

History:
The roots of this longrifle fall into a late eighteenth century form and can be traced back to the Berrier family in the Northern part of Davidson County of North Carolina. The longrifle’s original owner is believed to be George Berrier (1759-1810) with several generations of the Berrier family possessing the longrifle until the 20th century when the McGee name took ownership. The longrifle has been in continuous family ownership and remained in the same general geographic location over the last two hundred plus year existents.

Dating and attributing a longrifle to a time and maker can be a difficult, long and tedious process. At this time no one is sure of the makers of longrifles No. 122, 123, & 124 all shown in William Ivey’s book North Carolina Schools of Longrifles 1765-1865. In the past longrifle No. 124 was attributed to Christoph Vogler by many who have had the privilege to look at it first hand. I place the Berrier-McGee longrifle in the same category in its architecture style and decorative motifs. All of these rifles have an appearance of forms seen in the late part of the eighteenth century.

Few makers would have a better chance at producing a high style relief carved longrifle with a federal styled eagle than Christoph Vogler. Christoph was apprenticed to Jacob Loesch. Before arriving in Salem Loesch had served as master of the gunsmith shop in Christian Spring’s, Pennsylvania. Christoph would being his apprenticeship at the age of nineteen and would spend only three years working under Jacob Loesch Jr. before being allowed to purchase the rights of the gunsmith trade in the town of Salem in 1787. He is credited with creating the eagle-finial patch-box design and as stated previously his work helps define the Salem School of Gunsmithing. The 1787 inventory of Christoph’s shop list dozens of items including: thirteen chisels, eight gouges, and most importantly ten or (eighteen) pairs of carving tools. With George Berrier being age thirty in 1789 and with Christoph fully in charge of the gunsmith shop in Salem it is highly likely this longrifle was produced by his hand. Much more research will be needed to formally place this longrifle into an attributed Chritoph Vogler longrifle but areas of the barrel channel, underside of the barrel, lock mortise and triggers have yet to be explored.

(Information provided by Blake Stevenson, Manager of the Vogler Gunsmith & Silversmith Shops)

Credit Line:
Gift of The McGee Family in memory of Janet Berrier McGee and Ray Ellis Berrier.