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Auction Date: May 5, 2017

Lot 82: Rare New Haven Arms Co. Henry Rifle Rifle 44 Henry RF

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Extremely Rare Two Digit Iron Frame Henry Rifle with Confederate Provenance
Estimated Price: $85,000 - $110,000
Item Views 291 Bid Activity Average
Serial #Rare New Haven Arms Co. Henry Rifle Rifle 44 Henry RF ManufacturerNew Haven Arms Co. ModelHenry Rifle
TypeRifle Gauge44 Henry RF Catalog Page48
Barrel24 Inch Octagon FinishBlue Grip
Stockwalnut ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionThis iron frame Henry rifle serial number "64" was manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company in early 1862. This rifle is one of the very early production Henry rifles manufactured with iron frames and buttplates. Experts estimate the total production of Iron Frame Henry rifles at between 200 and 275 rifles. The serial numbers of known Iron Frame Henry rifles run from "2" to "355" and duplicate serial numbers of some Henry rifles with brass frames. "THE HENRY RIFLE" by Les Quick lists the serial numbers of 90 identified Iron Frame Henry rifles including this rifle, serial number "64". This rifle was owned by the decedents of Lorenzo D. Rasdall (1843-1922) of Smith's Grove, Kentucky. A family history included with the rifle states that it was passed directly from L.D. Rasdall through his son, grandson to his great granddaughter. In 1862 Rasdall, age 19, enlisted in a Confederate cavalry unit raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, known as Buckner's Guides. The history states that the Rasdall family "were affluent horse breeders and businessmen owning some several hundred acres of good farm land in the area of Smith's Gove" in the 1860s and the family did not know if this rifle was carried by L.D. Rasdall in the Civil War. However, many of the first Henry rifles manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company were sold by dealers in Louisville, Kentucky. George D. Prentice, editor of the pro-union "LOUISVILLE JOURNAL" promoted the Henry rifle as "the simplest, surest and most effective weapon we know of". Prentice eventually became the Louisville sales agent for the New Haven Arms Company. Kentucky's location as a border state and invasion by Confederate forces in August 1862 resulted in large sales of Henry rifles by Louisville dealers. In September 1862, George Prentice alone sold 280 Henry rifles. Some Confederate soldiers apparently obtained Henry rifles from Louisville dealers. Confederate soldiers in the 1st Kentucky Cavalry and 5th Tennessee Cavalry were reportedly armed with Henry rifles in August 1862. Henry Rifle serial number 287 inscribed to "Wm. S. Skelton", a lieutenant in the 1st Arkansas Cavalry was recovered on the battlefield at Corinth, Mississippi, in October 1862. The proximity of L.D. Rasdall's place of enlistment in Bowling Green, Kentucky to Louisville availability of early production Henry rifles in Louisville in the summer and fall of 1862 and the fact that the rifle was retained in the Rasdall family for three generations makes it likely that L.D. Rasdall obtained this rifle around the time of his enlistment in Buckner's Guides and carried it during the Civil War. This rifle has the distinctive first style iron frame with rear sight dovetail and early style iron buttplate with round heel. The loading lever has a latch spur but the lower tang has no provision for the lever latch utilized on Henry rifles after about serial number 400. The rifle has the distinctive Henry 24 inch octagon barrel with integral 15-shot magazine. The barrel has a nickel silver squareback front sight and first style folding leaf rear sight with "1000" yard marking below the center notch. The magazine has the early small diameter brass follower and the receiver has the rectangular follower cut used with the small followers. The straight grain American walnut stock has the nearly 90 degree comb found on early production rifles and a piano finish. This rifle lacks the extra cost sling swivel and loop for a sling hook found on the left side of many Henry rifles. The sling swivel and loop were special order features on Henry rifles until early 1864. The butt trap contains the late four-piece jointed steel cleaning rod. The top barrel flat is roll stamped with the first style legend "HENRY'S PATENT. OCT. 16. 1860/MANUFACT'D BY THE NEWHAVEN ARMS. CO. NEWHAVEN. CT" in two lines ahead of the rear sight dovetail. The legend is approximately 2 17/32 inches long and utilizes Roman (serif) letters with the exception of the second "NEWHAVEN" marking which has Gothic (block) letters. The serial number "64" is stamped on the top barrel flat between the rear sight dovetail and the receiver. The serial number "64" is also stamped on the inside of the buttplate heel, on the shanks of both hand fitted buttplate screws and on the shanks of the three tang screws. The stock was not removed to examine the serial numbers on the stock and lower receiver. The rifle appeared on the television series the Antique Roadshow in St. Louis in the summer of 2000.

ConditionFine, totally original. The rifle is above average condition for an early production two-digit serial number iron frame Henry rifle. The barrel/magazine and receiver have a mottled gray-brown patina with dark brown patina in the protected areas. The barrel/magazine have some scattered pitting. There are several small spots of pitting on the receiver and side plates. The hammer and lever screws are battered. The late style lever appears to be a period replacement. The lever has the same gray-brown patina as the barrel and receiver and with light-moderate pitting on contact points. The receiver tang and buttplate have a dark untouched patina. The barrel markings and serial numbers are sharp. The stock is very good and retains most of the original piano finish. Wear is limited to two hairline age cracks that run parallel to the butt trap and some scattered and relatively minor handling marks. This is a fine example of an extremely rare iron frame Henry rifle. Although the rifle cannot definitely be identified as a Confederate Henry rifle, the combination of the early production date of the rifle, ownership by a Confederate veteran who lived and was a member of a Kentucky unit that was organized near Louisville where Henry rifles were readily available makes it very possible that this rifle is one of the very small number of Henry rifles used by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Any Henry rifle associated with the Civil War is a scarce and historic weapon. An iron frame Henry rifle with strong Confederate associations is a one-of-a-kind piece. This is a one-time opportunity to own an extremely rare iron frame Henry rifle with well-documented Confederate provenance.
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