A historian by trade, Mel Hankla has been active in "Living History" of the frontier era since the early 80's. Coinciding with this interest, in 1984 he received a National Endowment of the Arts - Folk Arts Apprenticeship grant to work with Hershel House. This experience left him with a strong personal commitment to "pass on" what he learned from House. “It was a life-changing experience, and I have to give Hershel credit for encouraging my interest as an artist, student and collector," Hankla said. As a member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association - artisans who study and re-create the rifles and accouterments of the 18th century - he continues to build longrifles carrying on the craft he was taught by Hershel House. While with Indiana State University he had the opportunity to teach a class, four years running, entitled "Recreating an American Longrifle" that received much publicity. This historic craft has become a semi-profession for him with the production of several traditional longrifles each year.
Hunting with and shooting traditional flintlock rifles has been a large part of his outdoors life. Hankla is co-founder of the Sgt. Alvin C. York Memorial Shooting Match. The 1920s re-enactment held each March in Pall Mall, Tenn., draws over 200 shooters each year from the United States and Canada. It has been written that it is the largest one-day shooting match in the world.
He is currently doing genealogical research on early Kentucky gunsmith, Conrad Humble who died on Jan. 5, 1791, in what is now Bourbon County. A brother, Michael Humble, who was with George Rogers Clark on the Illinois campaign, had a gun shop at the Falls of the Ohio (now Louisville) and has been given credit as the earliest gunsmith in the region. Hankla contends, that Kentucky has sort of been forgotten to those who study American gunmaking and states that there is a new push to better document the gunsmiths that lived and worked in the Kentucky region. Photos of the Conrad Humble rifle and basic information about him are posted in the Kentucky Longrifle section of this web sight.
Recently, using experience achieved through lifelong endeavors and involving a network of professional colleagues, he has formed the company American Historic Services. The services are geared to educate and entertain both young and old, hopefully giving some insight of our glorious past to the "un-knowing" and jogging the memory of those who have just forgotten. The major goal of this corporation is to nurture greater appreciation for the principles of democracy and the concept of “Liberty and Freedom” and how they were achieved during our fight for independence 225 years ago. The mission of this LLC is to offer education through somewhat entertaining methods, using bits and pieces from our glorious past to try and jog our nations memory of what it took for us to become “America" ! “I want to make this message available from many different angles and from many credible individuals”, Hankla said, “ preaching long, hard, and loud to try our best to be part of saving us from this cluttered mess that we have gotten ourselves into.”