The Elder (1741-1825) was the patriarch of the Sell gunmaking family and almost certainly the father of Jacob Sell the younger (1780-1855) and Frederick Sell (1781-1869). The family is noted as among the best gunmakers of the early national period. Sell was active as a gunmaker from the era of the American Revolution through approximately 1820. Of the eight examples pictured in "Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in Its Golden Age," only two are signed like the example here.
In the above work, Joe Kindig, Jr. states: "The earlier gunsmiths tried never to repeat themselves; they tried to make each gun different and finer than the one before. I like to see this because to me it exemplifies the spirit of a real artist. I think Jacob Sell the elder represents this type of workman. . . Jacob Sell the elder was a great artist. He was an extremely versatile gunsmith of the early period. Although his engraving and carving are not as fine as some of a slightly later period, they should not be belittled, because he probably was one of the first men to use these details so extensively on Kentucky rifles."
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