John (Johannes) Rupp was born in 1762 (approximately; there are some discrepancies via the published records) in “Macunji” township, Northampton County near Chapman’s Village. He was one of nine children on a farm of approximately 100 acres, the region in time coming to be known as Ruppsville/Ruppville due to the large number of Rupp (Rup, Roop) surnames in a relatively concentrated area. His older brother by @ six years Adam Harman (Herman) Rupp was also a gunsmith. Both men apparently worked all their lives in what is now lower Macungie township, the area later becoming part of Lehigh County and bordered on the Southwest by Berks County. It is not known with whom John may have apprenticed or otherwise learned gunmaking, however he apparently spent at least a year in military service during the Revolutionary War period. I use the term “apparently” as Northampton, Berks, York and Lancaster County records abound with the name John Rupp and it is extremely difficult to distinguish between them. The only military service record which appears to be this particular John Rupp is actually found in the records of the Berks County militia, noting that he missed two muster days in 1782. At approx. 20 years of age, this seems to fit the (admittedly meager) recorded timeline of his life however one must then wonder why he was in neighboring Berks County. Perhaps an apprenticeship? He was taxed in Macungie township between 1789 and 1807 and listed as merely a “smith” or “blacksmith,” his better-known brother Herman likewise (until 1807, at which point Herman became tax assessor and suddenly was taxed as a gunsmith). What he was doing prior to 1789 and likewise after 1807 is somewhat of a mystery, but it's possible that he moved in the early 19th century to Bern Township in Berks County, where one John Rupp died in 1823: it is believed that this man fell into the Susquehanna River and drowned. Conversely, another John Rupp living in Lehigh County died in 1836 however this may have been one of the gunsmith’s brothers John George Rupp (who was reputed to also use the name John rather than George). Or vice-versa? The name John Rupp was in extremely common usage throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries.
To my knowledge, there is only one signed rifle attributed to this particular John Rupp.” Additionally, there are two or three unsigned rifles which bear strong enough similarity for purposes of attribution. The signed rifle appears to be to be the earliest such piece extant of this grouping (see Kindig, rifle number 62). The curious features of this particular rifle are the strong possibility of secondary usage in lock, sideplate and triggerguard: the lock is a much earlier German/German-styled lock of large size and fairly obvious curvature, while likewise the guard and sideplate seem to be from a larger, earlier gun of Berks County styling. This odd confluence of typical Lehigh County stocking, patchbox and decoration with the aforementioned Berks components make for a strikingly unique rifle which probably was made during the early portion of John Rupp’s working career (1780s-1790s?). Adding to the interesting quirks present in John Rupp’s work is a side-opening brass box found upon an attributed rifle, this feature being much more characteristic of Bucks County rifles of the Federal Period. Lower Macungie township is in close proximity to both Eastern Berks County and upper Bucks County, and it would seem possible that not only was John Rupp aware of differences in riflemaking styles outside of his fairly conservative region but was also willing to depart slightly from the more typical building practices dominating the area.