Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1135: J.M. Browning Percussion Rifle 50

Auction Date: September 11, 2015

Documented Historic Jonathan M. Browning 1853 Percussion Harmonica Rifle From the Collection of Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient/Gun Designer George E. Albee

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $50,000 - $100,000

Documented Historic Jonathan M. Browning 1853 Percussion Harmonica Rifle From the Collection of Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient/Gun Designer George E. Albee

Manufacturer: J.M. Browning
Model: Percussion Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 50
Barrel: 31 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: bright
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 6708
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 66
Class: Antique

This Jonathan Browning harmonica rifle features a five round chamber bar, heavy octagon barrel, and brass receiver. According to renowned firearms expert and author Norm Flayderman, very few of these unusual rifles are known to exist and are "rarely seen or traded on the open market place." Jonathan Browning was the father of the famed American inventor John Moses Browning. This early repeating percussion firearm was advertised as the Slide Repeater in the 1850s. It has a long back action with matching iron side plate. German silver blade front sight, and fixed buckhorn style rear sight are mounted on a barrel that is marked "J.M. BROWNING 1853" on the top flat. The wooden ram rod is secured by two iron pipes, and the rifle is mounted with a one piece half stock with a pewter forend cap and brass crescent buttplate and trigger guard. According to the accompanying letter written by Norm Flayderman on his on personal stationary, the "[rifle's] pedigree is well established as being part of the collection personally assembled and owned by Lieut. George E. Albee, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism during the Indian Wars (1869) and later a professional shooter and gun designer for Winchester Firearms Company." As Flayderman explains, "I personally acquired the entire Albee collection in mid-1979 (sic) which included the Browning slide action rifle. The collection was quite extensive, being general in nature, but also included a number of Winchester Hotchkiss rifles that had been personally owned and used by Albee during his Winchester days. He was instrumental in the development and sales of that model for Winchester." Issued 18 January 1894 for actions that took place on 28 October 1869 as a 1st Lt., 41st US Infantry, at Brazos River, Texas, Albee's Medal of Honor citation read, "Attacked with 2 men a force of 11 Indians, drove them from the hills, and reconnoitered the country beyond." During the Civil War, he fought with Berdan's Sharpshooters, and two months after being discharged for being wounded at the August 1862 Battle of Second Bull Run, he reenlisted and served with the Wisconsin light artillery. He was later captured by the Confederates and after the war remained in the U.S. Army to serve with the U.S. Colored Infantry assigned to occupation duty. In 1867, Albee enlisted in the U.S. Regular Army serving as a 1st Lieutenant in the 41st United States Regular Infantry. He retired in 1878. Other documents are included with the rifle and are the following: A photocopy of a page from Flayderman's No. 103 Catalog (1979) that provided background to the acquisition of the Albee collection and the catalog page describing the rifle that appeared in catalog No. 115 issued the fall 1989; a photocopy of an original 1890s newspaper article discussing Albee's firearm collection, with specific mention of the Browning harmonica rifle; a letter (photocopy) from an Albee descendent (Rose M. Selby) that provides background information on the collection, and specifically mentions the Browning rifle; Circuit Court for Kent County, Maryland, order dated July 14, 1977, directing Washington College to return the collection to Albee's descendent, Rose M. Selby; regimental history of the 36th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and service records (all photocopies) that cite Albee's war record during the Civil War, citations for heroism and receiving the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars; two letters (one dated Dec. 1913, the other April 1918) by the Brownings to Albee and his wife, which, as Flayderman explains, "establish the fact that the Brownings were very close friends of George Albee. It should be recalled that it was John Moses Browning that personally gave this rifle, his father's, to Albee personally for his collection"; a letter from Winchester Arms Co. President T.G. Bennett to Albee, a broadside showing Albee on the Creedmoor team shooting a Hotchkiss rifle in 1882, a letter from the famed artist Frederic Remington to Albee, and a letter from Wild West Show owner G.W. Lillie to Albee (all are photocopies); and finally, an original hand printed card which is believed to be in Albee's own hand, that described this rifle is included.

Rating Definition:

Very good. The rifle has a smooth gray patina. The brass has an attractive aged patina. A screw on the top tang is missing. The stock is also very good with a couple of minor cracks and some missing wood from the forearm and some minor handling marks overall. Mechanically excellent.

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