John Jacob Ruslin, incorrectly identified as a gunsmith

This project includes individuals who may have been incorrectly identified as a gunmaker, so that the attributions can be scrutinized. Older collector publications list Jacob Ruslin as a gunmaker, based on rifles that bear his name. The Whiskers have (correctly, in my opinion) determined that Jacob Ruslin was not a gunmaker. It is now believed that Samuel Spangler made several guns for Jacob Ruslin that include Ruslin's name.

Volume III of Charles Winthrop Sawyer's 1920 book "Our Rifles" shows a percussion conversion rifle, reports that it was made by Jacob Rusily, and reports that the lock incorporates the name "S. Spangler". The same rifle is pictured in Horace Kephart's article "Early American Rifles De Luxe" in the December, 1921 issue of the "All Outdoors" magazine. The article says that the rifle was made by Jacob Ruslin, whose name is on the barrel in gold. This rifle is also pictured on page 42 of the Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania", which (correctly, in my opinion) identifies the maker as Samuel Spangler.

The 1953 edition of "American Gun Makers" lists Jacob Ruslin as an unlocated maker of flintlock rifles.

The 1953 edition of "American Gun Makers" also lists Jacob Rusily as a gunmaker from Lancaster who made flintlock rifles, and mentions a rifle estimated to be from circa 1830 that has a lock marked "S. Spangler". Incongruously, the book reports that Rusily died in 1822.

George Shumway included Calvin Hetrick's study of Bedford County rifles as a new chapter in the fourth edition of John G. W. Dillin's book "The Kentucky Rifle" in 1959, and the study was published as a booklet in 1973. Plate 141 depicts a double barrel rifle with mule ear locks that are engraved in script, "S. Spangler" and indicates that the maker's name "John Jacob Rusley" is engraved in script somewhere on the rifle. The rifle has three triggers. This rifle is included on page 129 of the Whisker's 1991 book "Guns of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties", which (correctly, in my opinion) attributes the rifle to Samuel Spangler.

The Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" indicates that:

  • John Jacob Ruslin's name is included in the records of the Saint Thomas Catholic Church in Bedford, Pennsylvania.
  • John Jacob Ruslin was a sheep farmer.
  • John Jacob Ruslin owned and operated a woolen mill.
  • John Jacob Ruslin owned and operated a tavern.
  • The guns bearing the name of Jacob Ruslin were probably made by Samuel Spangler.

    This Somerset and Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith project is intended to be a collaborative effort with gun collectors, historians, genealogists, etc. who may have information or photos to share.

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