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This rifle is a rare example of a very early Sharps rifle: the Model 1849 Rifle (a.k.a. 1st Model Sharps). These rifles are covered in detail in pages 28-41 of "Sharps Firearms: The Percussion Era" by Marcot, Paxton, and Marron. Christian Sharps received the patent for his innovative breechloading design on September 12, 1848. He contracted with Albert S. Nippes of Mill Creek just to the northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just off the Schuylkill River to manufacture 100-200 rifles of his design on March 14, 1849. Nippes was but 24, but he came from a line of German-American gunsmiths, and his grandfather and father were U.S. military arms contractors. Under his father Daniel's direction, the mill had produced around 5,100 Model 1840 muskets in 1842-1848, and the family previously manufactured earlier models. Under the contract with Sharps, Nippes provided the machining and tooling to manufacture the rifles while Sharps would sell them and split the profit. The barrels are identified as purchased from Edwin Wesson. By April 20 1849, Nippes had the first rifle manufactured. The only example shown in the book that is earlier than this rifle is number 2 which was a special early variation. The next closest is number 35. They note that only 16 were known to them when the book was published in 2019. The highest known serial number is 166, and no more than 175 are believed to have been manufactured before production shifted in late November 1849 to the similar Model 1850 which used the Maynard primer system. These two early models are much closer to the original Sharps patent than later models which were significantly modified to the "classic" Sharps pattern most of us think of and contain the majority of the approximately 160,000 Sharps rifles made between 1849 and 1881. Though production ended before 1850, they were advertised for sale in 1850 and were sold by M. Magee & Co., Wm. H. Horstmann & Sons, John Krider, E.K. Tryon, E. Lewis, and Spang & Wallace in Philadelphia and also by Magee & Kneass in New Orleans, Baden & Bro. in Washington, D.C., J.H. Taylor in Charleston, and Burtis & Brother in St. Louis. The latter specifically advertised them for emigrants headed to the West, later the key market for Sharps rifles. The advertisements noted the rifles could be fired eight to twelve times in a minute. Nippes ended his relationship with Sharps in June of 1851. While not a major commercial success, the Model 1849 was historically significant in the evolution of the Sharps rifle design, and Albert Nippes was a key figure in the early manufacture and promotion of the Sharps design. These early "First Model" rifles feature the distinctive brass circular disk automatic capping device similar to "cappers" for Colt Paterson revolvers on the right side of the breech that was designed by Christian Sharps but apparently never patented and was only used on this model. Lowering the lever lowers the nipple along with the breech allowing the device to feed a cap onto the nipple for the next shot. The barrel has 12-groove rifling, and the top flat is roll-stamped: "MANUFACTURED/BY/A.S. NIPPES/PHILADA PA" in four lines behind the rear sight along with the serial number "25." The barrel also has dovetail mounted blade front and notch rear sights, and the lower flat has a single iron cleaning rod ferrule and is grooved to fit the wiping rod. "C.SHARPS/PATENT/1848" is stamped in three lines on the top of the frame at the breech. "L" is marked on some of the flat head screws. The breech lever curves over the brass trigger guard. The elongated back action lock has a curved profile. The stock is fitted with a large brass "patchbox" on the right side designed to carry a second primer wheel. The forend cap and buttplate are also brass.
Very good with mostly dark brown mix of faded brown finish and case colors and dark patina on the iron throughout, some mild pitting, very attractive aged patina on the brass, distinct markings, and fairly minimal overall wear including some mild pitting. The front screw for the lock is stripped. The wood is fine and has smooth oiled finish, a crack in the butt, light scratches and dings, and minor edge wear. Mechanically fine. Very few of these early Sharps rifles remain today, and this is a fleeting opportunity to get your hands on a very early one! Significantly, this is the 25th production rifle of approximately 160,000 Sharps rifles manufactured from 1849 through 1881!
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