Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1009: Henry Rifle New Haven Arms 44 Henry RF Caliber

Auction Date: May 2, 2014

Extraordinary Historic Early Production Henry Rifle from the Samuel Colt Collection

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $175,000 - $250,000

Extraordinary Historic Early Production Henry Rifle from the Samuel Colt Collection

Manufacturer: New Haven Arms Co.
Model: Henry Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 Henry RF
Barrel: 24 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 4963
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 8
Class: Antique

This is an exceptional early production Henry lever action rifle that was manufactured by the New Haven Arms Co., circa 1861. This rifle was acquired by the original Colt's Patent Firearms Mfg., Co., Museum shortly after production of Henry rifles commenced in late 1861. Samuel Colt personally started the Colt Museum in 1847 with the intention of forming a collection of firearms that showed the evolution of repeating arms. Many of the pieces in the original Colt Firearms Museum were personally acquired by Samuel Colt. The original Samuel Colt Museum along with firearms subsequently acquired by Colt Patent Firearms Mfg., Co. after Colt's death in 1862 were presented to the Museum of the Connecticut State Library in 1957. This rifle passed from the original Samuel Colt Firearms Museum collection to the Connecticut State Library and was deaccessed from the library as a duplicate firearm circa 1978 (the museum retained Iron-Frame Henry serial number 250). The rifle is accompanied by an extensive group of documents from R.L. Wilson who in 1978 served as Historical Consultant to Colt Firearms. A 1978 dated letter from Wilson contains a detailed description of this rifle and the history of the Colt museum. The letter states that this rifle, serial number 205, "joined the Colt Museum Collection circa 1860-61. It shows no signs of ever having been fired". The Wilson letter further states "Note that Colonel Colt died early in 1862, and there can be no question but that he examined #'s 205 and 250 personally.". Included with the documentation is the original inventory card from the Connecticut State Museum that identifies this rifle by serial number and inventory number. This rifle has the early production features with a blue octagon barrel and integral 15-shot magazine, distinctive brass (gun-metal) receiver and buttplate and piano-finished straight grain American walnut stock The hammer, trigger and loading lever are color casehardened. The bolt and screws are niter blue. Early features on this rifle include rear sight dove tail on the barrel and receiver, loading lever without lever latch spur, no provision for a lever latch on the lower receiver tang, buttplate with round profile heel, folding leaf rear sight with "1000" marking below the center notch, half-moon shaped, nickel silver front sight, small diameter brass follower, straight cut follower slot in the receiver and hand fitted buttplate and tang screws. The buttplate has a hinged trap door and the butt trap contains the original four-piece jointed hickory cleaning rod. The rifle is not fitted with the sling swivel and sling hook loop which were special order features on early production Henry rifles. The top of the barrel flat is roll-stamped with the first style legend: "HENRY'S PATENT. OCT. 16. 1860/MANUFACT'D BY THE NEW HAVEN ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN. CT.". This first style legend is smaller and uses Roman (serif) letters with the exception of the second "NEW HAVEN" in the second line which is stamped in Gothic (block) letters. The serial number "205" is stamped on the top barrel flat between the rear sight dovetail and the receiver. Due to the pristine condition, the rifle was not disassembled to examine the serial numbers located on the stock, lower tang, buttplate and screws shanks.

Rating Definition:

Excellent. As the Wilson description states, the rifle appears to be unfired and shows only the wear associated from 117 years of storage and occasional handling as part of a museum collection. The barrel has at least 85% of the original blue finish. The blue has faded slightly on the top of the barrel and contact points but retains the bright finish on protected areas of the barrel/magazine. The brass receiver and buttplate are exceptional with pristine patina. The side plate joints are perfect. The receiver screws are excellent. Traces of fire blue finish are visible on the screw heads, trigger spring and bolt. The rear sight has crisp markings and a functioning spring. The hand fitted tang and buttplate screws are excellent and retain nearly all of the fire blue finish. The hammer, lever, and trigger retain more than 95% of the subdued case colors. The stock remains excellent and has at least 95% of the piano finish. With limited scattered and very minor storage marks. The barrel legend and serial number are crisp. This is a stunning example of a very early production Henry rifle in unfired condition. Even more importantly, it is one of the two Henry rifles acquired by Samuel Colt for his collection and is undoubtedly a firearm personally examined by Samuel Colt himself. This is a unique opportunity to acquire one of the best condition Henry rifles extant with impeccable documentation to the original Colt Firearms Museum and Samuel Colt.

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