Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Eric Kettenburg

Genuine Folk Art: Eastern Berks County.

The area of Eastern Berks County surrounding the Kutztown region (as well as extending in a northerly direction through Greenwich and into Albany township at the base of the Blue Mountain) is particularly noted for Federal period rifles which display more “folk-art” influence of the Pennsylvania German culture than anywhere else in the state. Some of the gunmakers who are known to have worked within this area apparently were not full-time gunsmiths but rather were farmers, generalized smiths, stonemasons etc., while others would appear not to have undergone a formal apprenticeship. This somewhat informal approach to the trade carries through into many of the surviving rifles as they variously display awkward (yet equally charming) architecture, whimsical decorative details and the occasional use of bone or horn as distinctive elements of the rifles’ design. Very often the workmanship of these pieces falls short when compared to the more developed work of surrounding Lehigh, Bucks and Montgomery counties (as well as the more western areas of Berks County itself, i.e. Reading), however the entire picture presented by these pieces really “works” and it is impossible to be anything but fascinated and strongly attracted to such odd rifles.

Jacob George, Greenwich Township, Berks County.

Despite a fairly good survival rate for rifles signed ‘I. Georg’ (other variations known), it would seem that there has been little research into what was apparently a fairly long-lived family of gunsmiths. Jacob was a son of Henry George, also a gunsmith and locksmith, who died in 1803 (Greenwich township); to date, no rifles signed by Henry are known. Kauffman noted (Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle, pg. 236-237) that Jacob was present in Greenwich township as a property owner as early as 1793 but was taxed as a gunsmith in 1805 only. However, many of his signed rifles are also marked with a year of manufacture and dates as late as 1821 are known. It is believed that there may have been a later-generation Jacob George working as a gunsmith as well as other, later family members also. The known George rifles all possess manifestations of folk-art decoration to varying degrees, whether it be via carving or - upon some rifles - extensive inlay work. This family definitely is deserving of additional investigation. This particular rifle was created as a ‘fake.’ E.K.

Pictures by Eric of this gun an be seen at his site

Photos by Jan Riser. Photo of the signature by Eric.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Excellent photography of the highest caliber of work! The accompanying text is very much appreciated and informative. I wish every submission to this blog had such background text.
    Question: Why does the maker refer to this gun as a fake? What is the strict definition between the terms fake and reproduction?
    p.s. Can anyone provide a translation of the previous comment?

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