Target Rifle
John Henry Happoldt
Charleston
1855

Made for Charleston’s annual Schutzenfest (or “marksman’s festival), this took place in the late spring in the northern part of town near the Washington Race Course. Cancelled during the Civil War years, it was later revived by the German Rifle Club in 1868. This particularly heavy rifle (23.5 pounds) is elegantly made to reflect the fanfare and style associated with the German-founded festival. Scrolled brass work, a tube foresight and an unusual ivory handled bullet starter (for muzzle loading a tight-fitting ball down the bore) were all luxurious furnishings to target pieces. Furthermore, the massive octagonal barrel is three times heavier than an average sporting rifle barrel. The thick, dense steel would reduce vibration upon discharge and keep its bullet on a truer flight path. 

John Michael Happoldt founded what would become a prolific Charleston gunsmithing business in the early 1820s. First located at the corner of Cumberland and Meeting Streets, he later trained and employed his two sons, John Henry and Benjamin George Happoldt in the trade. Eventually, John Michael’s oldest son, John Henry, took over the family business. John Henry moved the business to 153 Meeting Street and then over to State Street, advertising all manner of personal and sporting firearms from derringers to shotguns being available at his shop. In the 1850s, the Happoldts further advertised they were capable of making breechloaders. Just before the Civil War, John Henry partnered with another Charleston gunsmith named J.P. Murray. These two renamed the business “Happoldt and Murray” and operated in Charleston for only a short time before moving to Columbus, GA.

See other items from Charleston’s annual Schutzenfest

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes