Jack T. Haugh
~ Fit & Finish to the Highest Degree ~
By Mel Hankla
Reprinted by permission of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, Muzzle Blasts magazine
Jack Theodore Haugh was born February 1931 in Lincoln Park, Michigan during The Great Depression. He came from a farming family; however his father not wanting to work on the farm moved north to find work in the factories. Soon after the death of his grandfather in 1933, the Family moved back to Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio. Jack says that during his teenage years, Ohio half stock percussion rifles were abundant and that he and his friends got great pleasure out of repairing and getting them to shoot and the first rifles he produced were of this style. Rather ironically, his first job was trimming trees and just last year at 76 years old he fell out of a tree while trimming limbs and about broke his back, having to wear an aggravating turtle shell brace for several months.
Jack and his wife Barbara were married May, 1950 in Greenup, Kentucky. In 1951 he started working at the Webster Foundry in Tiffin, Ohio and worked there for 20 years. During this time, Jack states, “I started building guns full time in 1954 and from then on I held down two jobs, I worked at the foundry during the day and came home and worked building guns to 1:00 or 2:00 o’clock in the morning, always getting up and going back to the foundry the next day…” he still embraces that work ethic to this day. Recently Jack discovered from his daughter’s research into family genealogy, that his Great-Grandfather was a blacksmith and lived just outside of Frederick, Maryland. He says this was somewhat of a surprise as his Grandfather was an educator and while amassed and managed many acres of rich Seneca county farmland was by profession a professor at historic Tiffin University.
Through the years, Jack has been most influenced by English firearms, both muzzleloading and cartridge guns. Early on Jack worked with Jim Houston and Tilton Bowden at “H & B Forge”, famous for their throwing knives and tomahawks. In order to make financial ends meet he built several rather simple, unadorned rifles and produced a cast pipe tomahawk that H&B Forge still markets today. However, his true interest was soon focused upon European firearms and finer more artistic fowlers, jaegers, and English rifles. Jack had family in Colorado and moved there in 1972 after leaving the foundry in Ohio, but in 1975 he moved from Fort Collins, Colorado to the little town of Elrod, Indiana on the ridge above Friendship, home of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association. Staying there only a short while, he soon moved to the town of Friendship and established his muzzle-loading career at that location. He quickly became quite a legend and his shop was a famous hang out for the best contemporary muzzleloading artists of the day. In 1982 after another short stint in Fort Collins, he moved to his current abode, 30 or so miles away in Milan, Indiana. Here he has made a name for himself as a builder of fine muzzleloading firearms, exclusive cartridge rifles, and as a restoration artist of fine European firearms.
Becoming a Legend
In 1976, Jack Haugh became a household name in the muzzleloading world when he along with John Bivins, assisted by Monte Mandarino and Mark Silver, produced a much publicized series of longrifles in honor and celebration of the bi-centennial of America’s independence. The odd numbered rifles were signed by Bivins and the even numbers by Haugh, and were accompanying with engraved powder horns by Tom White. These Pennsylvania styled rifles are highly sought by contemporary longrifle collectors today.
Jack has always been known for his superior handmade locks. However about 1980, he became interested in 18th century English guns by makers such as Twigg, Manton, Durs Egg and others. At that time he decided to recreate some examples of their work. Mike Parish, long time friend and student of Jack’s sums it up, “The guns of London were fit & finished to the highest degree of ability by a team of craftsmen. Jack simply decided to re-create these masterpieces. For one man to build the lock, make the masters and cast the silver mounts, is a tremendous undertaking. Then to also, fit, finish and engrave, literally fashioning the entire piece is almost unbelievable!”
When interviewed in 1979 by Robert Weil for his landmark book, “Contemporary Makers of Muzzle Loading Firearms”, Jack stated, “I once was a documentarion, but that is uncreative and a repetition of the same mistakes…” Remaining true to this statement throughout the years, Jack Haugh’s work has indeed shown much individualism. It has ultimately become the epitome of European styled contemporary firearms. He spearheaded the study and recreation of this style of work in today’s contemporary gunbuilding fraternity. His creations have provided the benchmark that all other work has been compared to, one often hearing the phrase, “Jack Haugh Quality” when in conversation about fine contemporary firearms. Many of today’s better known and esteemed makers consider Jack a mentor and give him credit for influencing their careers. The Contemporary Longrifle Association provides an annual venue for gunmakers to present their latest creations. There we see many interpretations of American gunmaking styles, but few artists have the talent, intuition and ability to improve upon original designs from the guilds of fine European gunmakers. Jack Haugh is such an individual.
The Gunsmith Trade
Haugh is well known and respected through the full spectrum of the gunsmith trade. For the last 15 years or so, he has focused on modern cartridge guns and the restoration of fine English sporting arms and is considered top in his field. When ask why he evolved away from muzzleloaders, he replied that the market was rather slim for the high art firearms that he wanted to build saying, “they just took too much time, and cost too much for most folks to afford.” Unlike many of today’s builders, Jack always felt that to be fair to the patron, to keep a log and charge by the hour was the only realistic method of putting an honest price on a particular piece of work. With exception of the barrel, he usually makes each and every part with the lock alone often taking as much as a 150 hours of bench time; thus at the hourly wage of $20 per hour back in the 1990’s a finished firearm could easily reach $6,000 to $8,000 dollars. These days his wage is $30 an hour.
During the fall and winter of 2006 Jack built his first muzzleloader in 11 years. The commission was for a pistol that would be an icon of his work, a comprehensive yet concise artistic statement of the gunsmiths’ art and craft. When closely perusing this elegant pistol, (featured on the cover) one detects influence from the noted English gunmaker John Twigg, but also readily notices that it is not a copy. The distinctive flintlock of this silver mounted pistol closely resembles one by lock maker, Thwaits of Bath, plate #104, in Neal & Black’s, “Great British Gunmakers, 1740 -1790” and is designed with a unique anti-friction link attached to the tail of the frizzen pan-cover with its base acting upon the dip in the feather-spring. Jack commented with his friendly chuckle, “I’d always wanted to see if I could make one of those…” All the silver mountings: guard, butt-cap, thimbles, thumb escutcheon, sculpted sideplate, were fashioned from sheet, hand chiseled and engraved by Jack. This grand pistol far and above exceeded the highest expectations of the client and will indeed serve as a definitive representation of the work of Jack Haugh thru the ages. It has become an integral component of a collection of pistols that is being assembled to stand as record of the many fine artisans working in the field today.
A New Era
At the 2007 annual meeting of the Contemporary Longrifle Association held in Lexington, Kentucky, Jack was recognized as one of the forerunners of the contemporary movement and was bestowed with the coveted CLA Distinguished Service Award.
He was also honored with the presentation of an educational exhibit of his life’s work, telling his story with graphics and examples of work from the 1960’s to his most recent piece completed during the winter of 2006/2007. This experience obviously made a great impact on this humble gunsmith as he was so impressed by the overall excitement and enthusiasm of the artists and collectors of the CLA, he approached the Board of Directors of the Contemporary Longrifle Foundation, the fund raising faction of the CLA, about a very generous donation. He wanted to build and donate a rifle, complete with hand-made lock and triggers, to be auctioned for the benefit of the organization. Stating, “I want to do something, something to help this great organization continue in its diligent support of this muzzle-loading discipline; something that will hopefully add fuel to this movement, this phenomenon in the world of the Contemporary Rifle.” He spent more than a month of bench time on the flintlock alone, and also hand made the double set triggers, one piece nose cap, thimbles, sideplate and patchbox, with a total of 550 hours invested overall in the entire project. The lines of the piece are readily recognized to be that of a rifle from the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania, and it feels much like the work of Isaac Haines. However, it is neither a copy of any one gun nor the work of any particular maker. It’s a “Jack Haugh”, a product from his heart and his hands and will forever stand as testament to his life, his talent, and his passion. Jack told me, “I felt my age on this one”, however all who have had the opportunity to fondle this extraordinary example of contemporary art wish that that even at our prime we would have had the talent and ability to produce such a fine rifle.
Speaking for the association and the whole of the longrifle culture, Jack, we want to say thank you, so very much for this exceedingly generous contribution of your life’s work and we truly honor you for all you’ve done to teach and influence us throughout the years. We look forward to the opportunity of enjoying the creativity of your passion yet to come.
Jack turned 78 years old in February of 2009 and still has the work ethic of a seasoned European workman. He works along side his wife Barbara; known for her barrel finishes, in a wonderful shop in Milan, Indiana.
ABOUT MEL HANKLA
Mel Hankla is a charter member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association and a noted collector of House brothers rifles, tomahawks and knives. Hankla has worked with the Kentucky Humanities Council as a Chautauqua-Living History Character portraying Simon Kenton and George Rogers Clark since 1995. He also portrays Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby and Benjamin Franklin in other venues. A noted writer, he has contributed articles to many publications. Visit his website www.americanhistoricservices.com to learn more.
Reprinted by permission of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association/ Muzzle Blasts magazine.
For information on the NMLRA please visit the website at www.nmlra.org.
Much has been written in the past about Shawn Webster, but in recent years there have been some changes although much remains the same in the life of this talented artist and enthusiast of early American lifestyle. Shawn still lives in the mountains of Utah, near Cedar City, still hunts with a muzzleloader, fishes and traps in the 18th and19th century manner following in the shadows of Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith and Joe Meek. He still tans all of his own hides for use in his work using both the bark and brain tanning methods. But there have been some exciting new developments for Shawn. Among other things, he has authored a chapter on 19th century beaver trapping in the Book of Buckskinning VIII, but even more ambitiously, he has published a book titled In The Image of A. J. Miller, a full color volume uniquely showcasing the art of Alfred Jacob Miller and Shawn’s recreations of the clothing shown in those paintings.
In 1837 Baltimore artist Alfred Jacob Miller went west with an expedition headed up by the famed Scotsman, Sir William Drummond Stewart. Miller was to chronicle the trip in sketches for Stewart in order to later work his sketches into finished paintings. Miller attended the ’37 rendezvous in the Rocky Mountains and was the only artist to ever depict one of these events. During this journey Miller did a large number of drawings and paintings of the mountain men, Indians, and geographic locales he encountered. Shawn has taken a selection of Miller’s art, had well known artist frontier artist Lee Teter duplicate these works, and then faithfully recreated the clothing and accessories shown in the paintings. He has placed Miller’s subject on one page and a photo of his reproductions duplicating the painting on the facing page for comparison. It is a very interesting concept, and most useful to anyone depicting this period of frontier history.
Notably, Shawn’ quillwork was included in a successful major museum exhibit, The Art of the American Frontier at the Owensboro Museum of Art (Owensboro, Kentucky), curated by Russell Young. This unique and cutting edge exhibit featured both antique art and outstanding works by 41 of today’s leading contemporary makers.
The quality of his work steadily improves as he faithfully reproduces the techniques passed down by generations of quillworkers. But also as a creative artist, he develops new styles which express his own ideas, all the while being cognizant to preserve the traditions of the past. Shawn is well known for his exquisite quillwork and beautifully brain tanned hides, though he is interested in all forms of early American art. He is constantly seeking out new formats through which to express his art.
One of the most demanding of these new works of art was inspired by renowned frontier artist H. David Wright. David commissioned Shawn to make a quilled coat in the style of 19th century Metis coats. Says Wright, “We wanted this to be an exceptional work of art, so Shawn and I researched Metis coats in collections throughout North America and Europe. I photographed many coats for construction techniques and quill designs and we then selected what we felt was the best of the best. Shawn beautifully incorporated all our research into a fine, beautiful work of art.”
This coat was featured in the Owensboro Museum exhibit catalog with a full page color photo. It is also shown in this article. Beautifully quilled and made from six brain tanned hides smoked in two colors, the coat is truly a work of art. David has been seen wearing this fabulous coat at his gallery shows and events throughout the country. As a result, Shawn’s reputation continues to grow in many areas of the art world. According to Shawn, he is in the process of finishing another of these coats, the first one to be offered on the open market.
Several years ago, Wright also commissioned him to make a copy of an 18th century Huron pouch that is in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Canada. Wright had photographed the pouch in 1987 in preparation for article he wrote on American Indian quilled art. He made detailed photographs and obtained information about the construction techniques used in the bag by examining the original during a trip to the museum (then known as the Museum of Man). Much to Wright’s chagrin, after he commissioned Shawn to duplicate the pouch, he later learned that the pouch contained moosehair embroidery, which he had misinterpreted as quillwork. However, because Shawn’s quilling techniques are so finite, the quilled bag looks to be an exact duplicate of the original.
Wright reflected that… “Shawn took the information I furnished him and faithfully reproduced it in quillwork. Because moosehair embroidery is sometimes difficult to identify from fine quillwork, I’m the one who misinterpreted the original art. Shawn did a fine job with his work and it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.” The pouch is featured in this article.
Since pouches are one of the most practical canvases on which Native Americans placed their designs, it follows that when writing an article on an artist working in this medium, those would be one of the most common forms to illustrate. As such, we have chosen three to be illustrated here: the Huron pouch previously mentioned; a copy of an 18th century Ottawa pouch; and one with a Shawnee design. The Ottawa pouch features the “underwater panther” design. This motif holds great spiritual meaning for Native Americans and thus many contemporary quillworkers are reluctant to recreate it. This pouch is a prime example of the work Shawn does in that it is true to its heritage, and is beautifully aged to give it that eye appeal so liked by re-enactors as well as collectors. Additionally, it is constructed and quilled in such a way as to be completely compatible with hard use. The strap is backed and the bag is lined with hand-woven linen. It is, in all ways, serviceable while maintaining that authentic, period look – a must for those living history buffs who use these works in the field.
The third pouch we have chosen is what is generally accepted as a Shawnee design. Again, while faithfully and painstakingly maintaining authentic design our artist has recreated a product that will provide service for those who wish to use it as part of their persona in re-enacting or present a focal point for any collection of Native American art. The original which influenced this design is in a museum in Germany.
Of equal importance in items of decoration to early Native Americans was the knife sheath. Whether it be made for the larger belt knife or what is termed a “neck knife”, these sheaths provided an ideal platform on which to display their art. The neck knife sheath pictured next to the Shawnee bag is of the classic Central Great Lakes design.
The larger belt knife sheath is of Huron influence but is freely designed by Shawn. It is a belt size, 9” sheath with a stiff bark tanned liner covered with brain tan deerskin. All of the quills Shawn uses in his work are dyed with natural dyes. The knife is an English style trade knife hand-made by well known Crossville, Tennessee knife maker Tim Ridge. (More about Tim in a later article.)
Shawn is active in support of organizations that share his interests: The National Muzzleloading Rifle Association, The Contemporary Longrifle Association, the American Mountain Men and the National Rifle Association.
Shawn Webster’s art continues to improve as he researches his subjects and applies his knowledge to his art form. He is always excited about taking on new challenges and is willing to talk about any project if you will call him at (435) 586-2326 or contact him at:
172 Wind Song Way
Adolphus, KY 42120
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Jones began his interest in living history in 1960 with Ralph Marcum and Randy Cochran, he was a charter member of the Kentucky Corps of Longrifles and began attending Friendship in 1959. His interest in contemporary makers started in the 1970’s when Dr. Glen Marsh introduced him to the work of Gary Birch and Jud Brennan. In conjunction with David Wright he wrote the “From the Hands of Master Craftsman” articles for Muzzleloader magazine and has been writing for Muzzle Blasts.