View Full Version : Ever heard of a "Wagenhorst PA Muzzleloader?

January 5, 2010, 03:02 PM
I'm posting this on a few forums, hoping someone has heard of and knows something about Wagenhorst.

I'm trying to do some research into an old percussion muzzleloader that's been in our family for a long time. It's in fair condition, but it's solid and original. The maker remains a mystery, though, but since it has some local provenance, and we have a tantalizing lead, we'd love to find out who made it.

My father bought the gun as a kid in PA, and some years later had some repair work done on it. The gunsmith told him at the time he thought the gun might be a "Wagenhorst" gun, but my father didn't follow up on it.

Fast forward about 40 years: My father took the gun to a respected muzzleloader appraiser/consultant, who said it was fowler built in or near Lehigh County PA in the mid 19th century. Asked about the maker, he said he couldn't identify one and had no knowledge of a maker named "Wagenhorst".

A bit intrigued, I did a bit of sleuthing of my own, I found some reference to a "gun builder" Isaac Wagenhorst who lived in the early-to-mid-19th century in Eastern Berks County PA, very close to the Lehigh County line. Indeed, with a bit more sleuthing, I found a map from the same era showing the exact location of a "Wagenhorst Gun Factory".

This was all pretty exciting, but it certainly doesn't prove this gun is was built by Wagenhorst. Heck, it doesn't even prove Wagenhorst built complete guns (maybe he only built barrels?). Digging into the county archives further hasn't paid out yet, though I'm still digging.

No one I've contact has even heard of this builder (though I haven't contacted many people), so we know of no other Wagenhorsts to compare it to. Nor are there are there markings on the gun to tie it to any maker. Even if there were, we don't know what Wagenhorst's markings were.

So...any of y'all ever heard of Wagenhorst?




Harley Nolden
January 6, 2010, 07:03 AM
The only thing I could find is that he was a maker of Kentucky style rifles. No year is given

Mr Harley

January 6, 2010, 09:35 AM
That's great, Harley. That's more than I found. if I might ask, where did you find this?

That he was a "maker of Kentucky style rifles" suggests he was a bona fide PA gun maker, no? As opposed to a barrel maker, or a farmer putting guns together from parts in the winter months.

That (to my uneducated eye) this particular gun looks like a Kentucky-style rifle (though it's a fowler) would seem to jive with Wagenhorst as the maker. Still looking for the smoking gun, though.

Harley Nolden
January 6, 2010, 09:41 AM
I found his name from the US Patent office files, and this would indicate that he was a gun maker, not a "shade tree" dealer

Mr Harley

January 6, 2010, 11:50 AM
Excellent. This is a lead definitely following up on. If he filed something with the patent office, it stands to reason that it'd be a description of something unique and identifiable which could be matched to this gun.

Trouble is, I'm having a hard time pulling this info up from my (albeit perfunctory) patent searches. Can you tell me how you found this? Do you have a link? Using several search engines, I've only managed to pull up the non-gun-related patents of "J.H. Wagenhorst" from the 1920s.

Thanks again -

January 7, 2010, 08:53 PM
Well it is tough with an unmarked gun. I have a nice looking wallhanger. Only thing is I had the barrel out and the barrel makers name is on the bottom so it is a start but probably does not guarantee that the gunmaker was in the same area as the barrel maker. Barrel maker in NY and I have seen a very similiar gun made in Ohio, but no proof of anything. Clean it up, wax it good instead of oil, and hang it up for all to admire, but not over a fireplace or in a basement!