The birth of the Kentucky Rifle Association was the culmination
of the friendship and common interest of a number of early collectors
and students of the Kentucky rifle and pistol.
In 1924 Captain John G. W. Dillon wrote his famous book The
Kentucky Rifle, the first comprehensive and authoritative work
on the subject. In compiling material for his book, Captain
Dillon developed close friendships with many early members of
the Kentucky rifle collecting fraternity.
Among this group was George N. Hyatt of Wilmington, Delaware,
a man who was to further Dillon's early initiative by creating
a permanent organization dedicated to the study and preservation
of the Kentucky rifle as "A True American Heritage."
For it was George Hyatt who conceived the idea of the Kentucky
Rifle Association, and provided the inspiration that brought
it into being.
In the Spring of 1961, Hyatt invited a number of collectors
of the Kentucky rifles and pistol to participate in an exhibit
and discussion at the Valley Forge Hotel in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
The meeting was so well attended and generated so much enthusiasm
that those present decided to meet again.
On April 14 - 15, 1962, a second meeting was held at the Mountain
View Inn, Greensburg, Pennsylvania. A proposal to create a permanent
organization was enthusiastically received, and the birth of
the Kentucky Rifle Association was formally celebrated! A slate
of officers and a Board of Directors were duly installed. LaDow
Johnston was elected President, R. Harley Mackintosh, Vice-President,
and Albert M. Sullivan, Sr., Secretary-Treasurer. George Hyatt
was honored by being elected Honorary President.
The first officers and directors piloted the new organization
through its early, formative years with great success, building
a firm foundation, creating a constitution and by-laws, holding
annual meetings and exhibits, and gaining increasing attention
and respect from the gun collection fraternity at large.
In 1964, at the Annual Meeting held in Bedford, Pennsylvania,
Samuel E. Dyke was elected President, Albert M. Sullivan, Sr.,
Vice President, and Philip F. Cowan, Secretary - Treasurer.
This group of officers was reelected for a second tour of duty,
and served the Association with distinction through the Annual
Meeting of 1967.
In 1965 the first of what was to become a continuing series
of KRA Research bulletins was published and circulated to the
membership. It was also during this period that the Association
initiated one of it major creative undertakings - the compilation
and publication of the KRA book, The Kentucky Rifle...a True
American Heritage in Pictures.
The Kentucky Rifle Association is justifiably proud of those
officers, directors, and members whose unselfish support, cooperation,
and dedication made this project a most successful and rewarding
venture. This widely distributed and highly regarded publication
has brought significant recognition to the Association.
At the Annual Meeting held in Bedford in 1967, Albert M. Sullivan,
Sr., was elected President, Howard L. Murray, Jr., Vice President,
and Albert M. Sullivan, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer. The reputation
and prestige of the Kentucky Rifle Association grew and was
enhanced by the leadership provided by the initiative, experience,
and continuity of effort of these officers.
The Annual Meeting of 1969, held in York, Pennsylvania, saw
the election of Madison Grant as President, William H. Reisner,
Jr., Vice President, and Ronald G. Gabel, Secretary-Treasurer.
Under the effective leadership of Presidents Sullivan and Grant
the Kentucky Rifle Association continued its rapid development.
Annual meetings featured displays of high quality Kentucky rifles,
pistols, and accoutrements. An awards program evolved that encouraged
the showing of outstanding examples of the art of the gunsmith,
the creation of unique educational displays. The Association
also attracted attention and favorable reaction through its
educational displays at the annual meetings of the National
During this period it was recognized that the Association had
reached that point in time where formal incorporation of the
organization was desirable. With the approval of the membership,
the officers, and directors initiated action that culminated
in the recognition of the Kentucky Rifle Association as a legally-constituted
non-profit corporation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on
August 26, 1970. A milestone!
In May of 1971 the Historical Society of York County (Pennsylvania),
with the cooperation and assistance of the Kentucky Rifle Association,
organized and conducted an Exhibit and Seminar on the Kentucky
rifle and pistol. Outstanding arms loaned by KRA members and
handsomely showcased in its museum by the Historical Society
produced an outstanding historical exhibit that in all probability
cannot ever be duplicated again. More than 20,000 visitors viewed
The Kentucky Rifle Association made a further major contribution
to the preservation of the record of the Exhibit and Seminar
by contracting for high-quality photographs, suitable for reproduction,
of the Exhibit pieces. The negatives have been added to the
archives of KRA, joining other photographs of record to form
an impressive pictorial reference of the history of the Kentucky
rifles and pistol.
The Exhibit and Seminar project began under the administration
of KRA President Madison Grant, and was continued under the
direction of William H. Reisner, Jr. who was elected President
of the Association at the Annual Meeting, 1971, held in York,
Pennsylvania. Other officers elected at that time were Ronald
G. Gabel, Vice President, and Merle E. Campbell, Secretary-Treasurer.
The 1972 Annual Meeting of the Association, scheduled to be
held at the birthplace of the Kentucky Rifle Association, the
Mountain View Inn, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, had to be cancelled
because of torrential rains and subsequent flooding brought
on by the new infamous Hurricane Agnes. It should be noted that
because notice of cancellation did not reach all of the members
in time, a few KRA stalwards did manage to reach Greensburg
and with ingenuity typical of our members, proceeded to stage
a very satisfying mini-meeting.
The 1972 Meeting was subsequently rescheduled and a fine meeting
was held at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in early November of that
year. Three important innovations added much interest to the
meeting: having an "official" banquet and banquet
speaker; initiation of the annual awards which, among other
improvements, was designed to encourage interest in educational
In June of 1973 the Association returned to Carlisle for its
Annual Meeting. A fine turnout of well over two hundred members
and their guests from twenty-two different states characterized
this most successful and enjoyable meeting.
New officers elected for '73-'75 were: Ronald G. Gabel, President;
Merle E. Campbell, Vice President; and Alfred Clegg, Secretary-Treasurer.
The 1974 Annual Meeting, held once again at Carlisle, was distinguished
by a record turnout and highlighted by the very active participation
of the members in all of the scheduled events. The presence
and involvement of many of our new members was a welcome sight,
and a good omen for the future of the Association. "New
Member" identification badges made their first appearance.
A 1974 program innovation featuring a seminar-panel discussion
on the Kentucky rifle and repairs and restorations drew much
The 1975 Annual Meeting was held in Carlisle once again, with
a record turnout of members and their families. Stimulated,
perhaps, by picture-taking activities for the new KRA book,
members brought out a particularly impressive array of arms
and accoutrements for "show-and-tell" displays, and
A fine presentation on "Powder Horns" was made by
member John du Mont during the KRA seminar at the Annual Meeting.
Despite Watergate, fuel shortages, high prices, and economic
slump, to mention a few national miseries, the KRA's vigorous
growth and development continued in 1975 under President Ronald
Gabel's able leadership. Organizational growth brought about
a constitutional amendment providing for an expansion of the
Board of Directors to meet the increasing responsibilities of
the Board and to provide for a broader geographical representation
of its membership.
The new and attractive newsletters, new in format and content,
was developed by President Gabel, who doubled as newsletter
editor and continues now in that assignment.
The new KRA book, Kentucky Rifles and Pistols, 1750 - 1850,
was put into production as a joint endeavor by the Association
and member/publisher James R. Johnston.
At the annual business meeting of the Association, new officers
for 1975-77 were elected as follows: President, Merle E. Campbell;
Vice President, Vincent W. Nolt; and Secretary-Treasurer, Joseph
R. Flemish, Jr.
During President Campbell's tenure in office many issues of
long range import were examined and discussed. After a considerable
debate it was determined not to numerically limit KRA membership,
notwithstanding the increased difficulties of administration
and securing of a suitable meeting site. It was further decided
to streamline the membership petition.
Two constitutional amendments were adopted by the membership.
One amendment (Article XII) clarified the organization and function
of the Membership Committee. Another (Article X) allowed for
reconstituting the number of directors needed to establish a
quorum for conducting association business during board meetings.
Officers of the Association elected during the 1977 annual
business meeting were: President, Vincent W. Nolt; Vice President,
Joseph R. Flemish, Jr.; Secretary-Treasurer, George H. Carroll.
The new streamlined membership procedures conceived during
President Campbell's term were completed and implemented with
success. The new procedures eliminate the previously required
letters of recommendation while still protecting the integrity
of our membership requirements.
A standard KRA reference library was established and incorporated
as a welcome addition to our annual meetings. Another popular
addition to our annual meetings had its beginning at the 1978
meeting when Mrs. Joanne Holman conducted our first Saturday
afternoon seminar for the ladies. Her presentation on "Antique
Dolls" was followed in 1979 by Mrs. Mary Dyke who presented
equality excellent program on "Antique Fans."
The 1979 Annual Meeting marked the 5th anniversary of our KRA
Newsletter. Bound copies of the first five years were presented
to the Association and the Association's Library by its editor,
Past President, Ronald G. Gabel.
New officers elected at the 1979 Annual Meeting were: President,
Joseph R. Flemish, Jr.; Vice President, George H. Carroll; Secretary-Treasurer,
The 1980 Annual Meeting marked another milestone in KRA history.
The gunroom show space was expanded by opening up an adjoining
room. The extra space was soon filled with excellent displays
It was decided that the KRA research bulletins previously circulated
to members beginning in 1965 be reprinted as a feature in future
In 1981 our KRA book, Kentucky Rifles and Pistols 1750 - 1850,
was reprinted by member published, James R. Johnston. Groundwork
was laid toward the redistribution of the ever expanding duties
and responsibilities of our Secretary-Treasurer. Also, a careful
study of our insurance and legal situation resulted in the expansion
of coverage and the bonding of our Treasurer.
In 1981 annual business meetings saw the election of George
H. Carroll as President; Gerald P. DiCesare, Vice President;
and Rudolph W. Gleichman, Secretary-Treasurer for the 1981-83
term. The initial issue which the new administration addressed
was the need for more clerical capability. Since the organization
was quickly approaching the 400 membership mark, a continued
volunteer and "quill pen" approach was deemed to no
longer answer organizational needs. Accordingly the paid position
(as independent contractor) of Administrative Assistant was
created. Duties include the management of fiscal accounts under
direction of the Secretary-Treasurer, coordination of the annual
meeting and publication of the directory. Also the Newsletter
Editor is now a paid independent contractor.
Major issues addressed were as follows: Article IV of the By-Laws
was revised to make membership qualifications more explicit;
a survey of the membership reviewed the awards program; dues
were raised to meet future increases in teh annual show costs
and to anticipate the eventual sponsoring of research and publishing;
and adoption of a more explicit policy regarding exhibits at
the annual meeting.
At the 1983 annual meeting, Gerald P. DiCesare was elected
President; Rudolph W. Gleichman, Vice President; David S. Hansen,
Secretary-Treasurer. In November 1983, Rudolph W. Gleichman
resigned his office due to personal reasons. By action of the
Board, David S. Hansen became Vice President. The office of
Secretary-Treasurer was filled by Joseph R. Flemish for the
The theme of the new administration was to refocus attention
in once of our main objectives - education. It was felt that
an effort should be made to provide members and the public with
new material. As a means towards that objective textbooks, bulletins
and video tapes were discussed. A program was initiated to photograph
rifles and pistols belonging to members in order to establish
a permanent photographic record of our collections for future
reference and possible publication. A direct questionnaire to
prospective members was instituted to further insure that quality
of and "collector" status of new KRA members.
At the 1985 Annual Meeting David S. Hansen was elected president;
William Myers, Vice President; and Joseph R. Flemish, Jr. Secretary-Treasurer.
Several policy changes and programs were initiated which will
have long range positive effects on the KRA Organization. The
newsletter editor and administrative assistant services were
secured with legal contracts, widow's benefits were established,
the Board of Directors was streamlined from 13 directors to
10, seminars were videotaped for the first time and a new style
"best of show" award was introduced.
Serious researchers were given permission to photograph member's
guns at the annual show, permitted exhibit guidelines were further
improved and stage exhibits of regional gun makers were reinstated
with photos taken with the intention of publishing a monograph
on the selected riflesmith.
A second edition of the Redbook was published and, best of
all, the KRA had a gala affair in celebration of its 25th anniversary
with the ladies receiving a rose and exhibitors receiving a
special bronze medallion from the club. Vince and Helen Nolt
presented a bolo or medallion to each member.
At the 1987 Annual Meeting William Guthman was elected President;
Rudolph Gleichman, Vice President and Joseph Flemish, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer.
The KRA continued along the successful path pioneered by Bill
Guthman's predecessors. An attempt was made to bring in professional
curators to the seminars in order to lift the academic and interest
levels of the topics offered.
The Kindig seminar was published and distributed to the membership
and other such projects are in progress. Encouraging authors
working on unpublished papers was a priority with the Board,
as well as encouraging more displays at the annual meeting.
At the end of 1989 Annual Meeting, Rudy Gleichman was elected
President; Frank Nocilla, Vice President; and Robert Kealey,
In 1990 George Shumway's fine book on George Schroyer Sr. and
Jr. series. to guide future efforts a uniform "Criteria
for KRA Publications" was adopted. Two additional publications
were given tentative approval.
Members of the KRA for 25 years were presented a special pin
and were recognized by the membership. This policy will continue.
Article VI of the By-Laws was amended absolving officers and
directors from damages while acting on club business. Membership
rose to 479 representing most geographic areas of the country.
Starting 1992 club dues were raised to $45.00.
At the 1991 Annual Meeting, Frank Nocilla was elected President;
Charles Kauffman, Vice President; and Robert Kealey, Secretary-Treasurer.
In August our Secretary-Treasurer, Bob Kealey died suddenly;
David Hansen was appointed Secretary-Treasurer.
The continuing efforts of the Board of Directors made available
to the membership the fifth book in the KRA series - "Drums
A Beating - Trumpets A Sounding" by William Guthman.
During the 1992 and 1993 annual shows a number of changes were
initiated. A Friday bus excursion was added for the ladies.
The Saturday evening banquet was replaced by an informal bar-b-que.
The annual awards presentations also took place at this highly
A resolution regarding the proper use and distribution of the
KRA roster was passed by acclamation and added to the corporation's
by-laws and front of roster.
At the 1993 Annual Meeting, Charles Kaufman was elected President,
Richard Ulbrich, Vice President, and Timothy Hodges, Secretary-Treasurer.
During the next two years some important policy changes were
initiated. Guidelines were established to limit financial exposure
of the KRA when taking on or supporting new publishing projects.
A committee was also established to review and, if necessary,
revise the criteria for KRA sponsored publications.
Membership requirements were also addressed by a committee
which wrote a new set of guidelines that gives the board more
flexibility in members with a broader array of talents. It is
hoped that this increased diversity will be beneficial tot he
organization in the long term.
The election of the new board of directors also marked the
beginning of a period of self evaluation for the organization.
This included seeking opinions from the membership, first by
open letter in the KRA bulletin, and later by questionnaire.
The results of these efforts indicated that the members at large
generally supported the policies and direction set by the board
for the organization.
At the 1995 Annual Meeting, Richard Ulbrich was elected President,
Tim Hodges, Vice President, and Gordon Barlow, Secretary-Treasurer.
Richard Ulbrich's tenure was marked with an increased emphasis
on the educational aspect of the Kentucky Rifle. The additional
seminar and workshop hopefully establishes a new standard. Several
items were rotational award categories. Dick's wife, Diane,
(member) introduced a collectible "show and tell"
event for the wives in place of the ladies' seminar.
At the 1997 meeting, Timothy Hodges was elected President,
Gordon Barlow, Vice President and Wayne Heckert, Secretary-Treasurer.
The focus on education was continued with the Friday workshops.
In addition the speakers & participants in the program were
rewarded with presentation of gifts made by KRA members. Gun
room security at the annual show was simplified by using a camcorder
to record removals. Membership broke the 500 number! Sadly we
did lose several charter members & other senior members.
Most importantly, the establishment of the Kentucky Rifle Foundation
was initiated. Board members were appointed from our previous
At the 1999, meeting, Gordon Barlow was elected President,
Wayne Heckert as Vice President and Gerald Gutchess as Secretary-Treasurer.
Sadly on March 11, 2000 Jerry passed on suddenly, Frank Kobilis
was elected in his place.
The KRA ventured into the 21st Century with a renewed focus
on education. The program of different rotating awards categories
was continued with a special display award newly designed by
Jerry Gutchess. A "handle with permission only" policy
prompted members to participate in the awards program. Quality
with fine rifles & accoutrements again serve as an educational
tool for our membership.
A special memorial table at our annual meeting, with a beautifully
designed plaque created by Siro Toffolon, provides the membership
with a tangible connection to our deceased members.
The Kentucky Rifle foundation formed four working committees
with policies to support the mission of the KRA. A logo for
the Foundation is under development.
Dues were increased to $50.00 in 2000. Beginning in 2001 the
KRA offered a Life Membership at a fee of $1,500.00. Mac Spencer
designed the permanent silver Life Member card and a special
Life Member pin. Living Distinguished Service Medal recipients
each was awarded a permanent gold Life Member card and pin in
keeping with their designated life member status. Membership
now exceeds 500. Sadly we again lost several charter members
and other members who are missed greatly.
At the 2001 meeting Wayne Heckert was elected President, Frank
Kobilis as Vice President, and R. Mac Spencer, Secretary-Treasurer.
The recent emphasis on education was continued as the primary
trust of this administration. In addition to presentations given
by KRA members, the membership had the opportunity to hear speakers
from both the Smithsonian and the Pennsylvania Historical and
Museum Commission. Also at this time the entire contents of
the KRA Bulletin was digitalized to facilitate publication of
historically useful portions.
To promote the mission of the KRA both within and beyond our
membership, the Association, through its foundation, lent support
to the Pennsylvania Museum of the Longrifle at Jacobsburg, near
Easton, Pa. The KRA Foundation made possible one of the key
exhibits within the museum.
Also, the KRA established its own website on the Internet with
the anticipation that site will be further developed as a informational
tool. We continue to exceed 500 members, gained some new great
friends, and sadly lost others who were close to us.
At the 2003 meeting Frank Kobilis was elected President, R.
Mac Spenser as Vice President, and Lorentz Kafka, Secretary-Treasurer.
At that meeting, President Kobilis set several goals for his
term. With education being his primary focus, several projects
needed to be completed and new ones initated.
The newly created website required construction and development.
He wanted the KRA-supported Jacobsburg Museum display ready
for viewing by the public and the proposed book on the Kentucky
Rifle Association, "Selected Articles from the KRA Bulletin,"
to be published, all by the end of his term.
President Kobilis also wanted to have a presentation initiated
for a proposed Speakers' Bureau that would provide a unified
presentation that individual members could use in their communities.
Through the hard work and efforts of the Board of Directors
and the Kentucky Rifle Foundation, all of the goals were accomplished
by the end of the 2005 term. This included the addition of over
700 gunsmiths' names to the website, the delivery of the new
publication to the membership at the 2005 annual meeting and
the development of a CD that is available to the general public
that showcases the Kentucky Rifle Association's archived photographs
of Kentucky Rifles.
At the 2005 meeting R. Mac Spencer was elected president, Lorentz
Kafka, vice president, Tim Lubenesky, secretary/treasurer.
The 2006-2007 administration’s challenge was to continue
the great work started by its predecessor’s; education
remaining the KRA’s main focus along with a strong emphasis
on membership growth. These goals were advanced with membership
growth of 8-10%, educational displays by our membership, and
the Kentucky Rifle Foundation sponsored KRA Presidents Displays.
In 2006 the “Four Centuries of the Long rifle” display
was a new venture for KRA featuring the great Contemporary rifle
makers of today along side the great gunbuilders of the past.
In 2007 the competing individual arms program was suspended
due in part to lack of participation. This action opened up
floor space for the outstanding KRF/KRA display “Early
Moravian Gunsmiths”. The display featured 10 long guns,
one pistol, and a number of great associated pictures and accouterments.
As a direct result of Bob Lienemann’s seminar on “Gun
Building in the Moravian Communities” and the once in
a lifetime display, the KRF will be publishing a book in 2008
that will include all the information presented.
Our members continued tradition by stepping forward with great
seminars: Jeff Spotts “gunmakers of Huntingdon County”,
Frank Tait’s “Captain Lewis Rifle-the case for George
Fainot as Maker”, Brian LaMaster’s “Kentucky
Rifle Restoration-where and what to look for”, and Bob
Lienemann’s “Gun Building in the Moravian Communities”.
Thanks to Kevin McDonald, the KRA/KRF’s web master, a
new web site was launched that is even more informational and
includes more photographs. The web site will always be a work
A fund raising campaign was started in 2006 in an effort to
raise money for our 50th anniversary celebration, a campaign
which continued to be successful through 2007.
Our silent auction, run by the Kentucky Rifle Foundation, raised
a record amount of funds in 2007 for the “Vince &
Helen Nolt Publication fund” thanks to many members willing
to contribute items.
Henry Bishop was honored with the associations “Distinguished
Service Award” at the 2007 banquet in recognition of his
work to further the growth and visibility of the KRA/KRF (thank
The KRA/KRF continued to promote the Kentucky Rifle’s
history and its status as a true American art form in various
venues i.e. CLA, NRA, Jacobsburg Historical Society Long rifle
museum, Allentown Forks of the Delaware gun show, Dixon’s
gun-makers fair, the PAGCA Hamburg show and many more locations.
With continued hard work by our members our organization will
continue to grow and prosper.
The president personally thanks all the KRA members for their
support over these last two years, and especially thanks Ruth
Collis for her valuable assistance.
At the 2007 Annual Meeting, Lorentz Kafka was elected President,
Tim Lubenesky, Vice President and Brian LaMaster Secretary/