As in England the hunting in America was restricted but less as in
England. In 1701 the meanest Planter or Labourer could enjoy hunting.
But the settlers devoted litte or no time to hunting. The most of
their time they worked on their land.
Travelling in America among and with many Indians were mostly
There was so less guns and amunition at that time that
a British writher sugested his readers to bring their own arms and
amunition with them to America.
Account books of merchants of that time demontrate that the most
carried little gun powder and shot. And almost non had guns for
Outside of the few cities, there existed always the danger of seeing
the gunpowder rot, as it hat a short shelf life. Very few peoples
appeared in their books as regular purchasers of powder. Most
of them baught one or two ounces every six months. Therefore it
can be asumed that they may have trapped animals.
In 1707 the Cherokee traded a gun against thirty-five deerskins
Historians have found that about 95% ot the polulation of colonial
America famred. The remainig 5% were mostly urban srtisans.
To get a fireamr the simpliest way was to enter in the militia. To
purche one wase much more difficult and expensive. A flintlock
cost between £4 and £5 and that in an age when the average wage for
a worker was £18 a year and when £3 a month was consideres as very
good income. In additional, the American colonies were cash poor and
most merchants insisted on payment in cas for firearms. Almost
every singel wirearm had to cross the Atlantic. There were only
a handful of gunsmiths in America in its first century and a
half of settlement. Most of them were devoted to repairing
other forms of metal work. They were more smiths than gunsmiths.
In fact most labled as blachsmiths. Firearms were mostly imported.
The few guns made in America were mostly assembled from parts
purchased in Europe. It was extremely rare to find a gunmaker
who made the whole gun himself. Generally three or four worked
together on the item. The skill to make the key parts of a gun
or the necessary tools was not developed in America until the
Revolution. So finding someone to repair a gun required a major
effort. For instance, Thomas Archcraft was the single gunsmith
in South Carolina's first quater century of European settlement.
Every study of early American gunmakers reveals a surprisingly
low numer of them. There were a few German gunsmiths who imigrated
to Penssylvania and continued in the trade over many decades. The
only exception was Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. No other
area could boast even half as many gunsmiths.
For exemple Virginia. In the records were found three, possibly four
gunsmiths in the years from 1607 to 1676 with two additional
artisans who performed the task of gunsmiths. From 1676 to 1739
there were seven gunsmiths and again seven, possibly eigt artisans
working on guns. From 1740 to 1770 there were again seven gunsmiths
but seventeen artisans working on guns (population in 1770 showed
259000 white).These eighteen gunsmith in Virginia's first 150 years
had as major task to cleaning guns, seeing by the government as
a task requiring the services of a professional.
New York reported two gunsmiths from 1726 to 1776. Others
professions as jewelers of watchmakers egaly proposed to
Boston reported only four gunsmith from 1704 to 1775. Two of
them were importers and a third had not a shop.
Philadelphia's newspapers did not reveal any gunsmith during the
Contrary to Europe where each gun was rigorously examined, anyone
in America could claim to be a gunsmith and every gun which could
find a customer could be sold. Thus, every Amercian gun was
different and there was no standardization. But even so there was
low interest in becoming gunsmiths in America. Most of the
gunsmiths comming to America found it more profitable to enter other
lines of activity. To persuade gunmakers to continue their
business for exempel in 1633 Virginia ordered tha gunsmiths "be
compelled to worke at theire trade and be not suffered to
plant tobacco or corne or doe any other worke in the ground".
In 1662 exemted smiths from paying taxes if they followed their
trade. But no sucess. In 1672 Virginia's legislature fined
any smith who failed to "lay aside all other worke" and devote
himself to the repair of firearms. This was repeated twenty year
later. In 1705 the assembly granted all militia officers the
authority to "impress any smith.. or ohter artificer, whatoever,
which shall be thought useful for the fixing of arms."
It appears that there was nut sufficient market for the
services of gunsmiths in colonial America.Therefore they had
to get their income elsewere. Gun ownership was far less
widespread that is generally assumed. Exloring inventories and
wills which do exist gun ownership range from 7% in Marylond
to 48% in Providence, Rhode Island. Apparently gun ownership
was not linked to frontier but to prosperity. From 1765 to
1790 only 14% of households inventories included guns and
more than half of these were inoperable.
In Providence 186 inventories from 1680 to 1730 minety mentioned
any form of gun, pistol of gun barell. Half of them were
evaluated as old of of poor quality. Fifty-one of these ninety
man owned one gun, twenty-five had two, nine had three, three
had four and two owned five guns.
At the end of the 17th century, Maryland reported 20 muskets,
38 carbines, 16 bayonets, 16 swords, 56 fuses, 16 horse pistols and
78 barrels of powder accumulated over the previous 25 years but
never used. Some years before the Revolution they had 200 muskets,
86 carbines and six pistols in usable condiditon. Another 400 muskets
were very rusty or not worth repairing.
Contrary to the popular perception which imagines all settlers
as hunters as well as farmers, the vast majorty of them had no
use for firearms, which were costly, difficult to lacate and
maintain and expensive to use. For whose few Amercins who did
won a gun it was an ofject which sat gathering rust.
Of course, this is no proof that there were really so few
gunsmiths in the Colonial America but records are rare. Non the less
gunsmithing in those days was discouraged by simple
economics and the limited availability of raw materials. Allmost all
of the firearms were imported from Great Britain, the Netherlands
or from France. German settlers braught their guns which them and
those guided to the famous Pennsylvania or Kentucky