Offered here is a first year production (1860) Henry deluxe lever action rifle featuring a factory engraved silver-plated frame. This rifle is identified and pictured in R.L. Wilson's book "Winchester Engraving" on page 15. Wilson links this rifle to Thomas A. McGrath, merchant and prominent citizen of Shelbyville, Kentucky. During the Civil War on August 24, 1864, McGrath and tailor J.H. Masonheimer fought off Confederate guerillas under the direction of local sympathizer Captain David Martin attempting to raid the Shelby County Courthouse for a cache of muskets and ammunition. Martin's failed raid left three of his men dead and McGrath with a slight head wound. McGrath did not live long after the war. He was shot in the back by Private John Lewis, Company E, 13th Heavy Artillery USCT, while attempting to protect his implement shop on May 19, 1865. Private Lewis was found guilty of murder and hung on June 13, 1865. The receiver, upper tang and buttplate heel feature the New Haven Arms factory scroll engraving on a punch dot background and double border. Among the scrollwork on the left side is an arched panel. A similar engraved Henry, which was presented to Major General James G. Blunt, is identified and pictured in “Winchester Engraving” on page 17. The barrel is fitted with a German blade front sight and folding ladder rear sight graduated to 1,000 yards, and is marked "HENRY'S PATENT. OCT, 1860/MANUFACT'D BY THE NEW HAVEN ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN CT." The top of the frame has a dovetail slot for a sight. The rifle is not fitted with a sling swivel and sling hook loop which were optional on early production Henry rifles. The brass receiver and crescent buttplate are silver-plated, the barrel and integral 15-shot magazine are blue, and the hammer and lever are casehardened. The stock is well-figured, select grade walnut with a high polish piano finish. The serial number "17" is stamped on top of the barrel at the breech, on the left side of the lower tang, on the buttstock upper tang cut-out, on the three tang screws, on the two buttplate screws and buttplate. Other early production Henry rifles below serial number 20 are known to have been presented to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (serial number 1), U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (serial number 6), W.T. Moyer (serial number 7), Secretary of Navy Gideon Wells (serial number 9), Samuel J. Hoggson, engraver of many of the early Henry rifles (serial number 14) and General James Blunt (serial number 18) and possibly to editor George D. Prentice (serial number 19). These rifles have been well-documented and are surveyed in such books as R.L. Wilson’s “Winchester Engraving” and “Winchester: An American Legend” and Wiley Sword’s “The Historic Henry Rifle.” During the early days of production, New Haven Arms Co. gifted their Henry rifle as a way to court favors from influential individuals. The company made great headway in the city of Louisville, Kentucky, about 30 miles away from Shelbyville. Company salesman William C. Stanton had close ties with pro-Unionist and “Louisville Journal” editor George D. Prentice who cited the Henry “the most beautiful and efficient rifle we ever saw.” The efficiency of the Henry, continued Prentice, allowed one man armed with a Henry to be “equal to fifteen armed with [an] ordinary gun.” William Stanton’s efforts resulted in strong commercial sales in the Louisville region, and area dealerships like John M. Stokes & Son A.B. Semple & Sons advertised the Henry in the “Louisville Journal.” So impressed by the rifle, Prentice became a New Haven Arms Co. sales agent, locating his sales depot in the “Louisville Journal’s” office. By the fall of 1862, New Haven Arms Co. had sold around 900 Henrys with an estimated 280 rifles being purchased by Prentice. An elated Oliver Winchester could now promote the Henry rifle a success.
Very fine. The barrel and magazine retain 60% plus of original blue finish with the balance a smooth brown patina. The frame and buttplate retain 75% plus original silver plating with the balance an attractive aged patina. The stock is also very fine with a professionally repaired wrist break and chip near the toe and some minor pressure dents and scratches. Mechanically excellent. This is a one-time opportunity to own an early production, factory engraved and silver-plated Henry deluxe rifle that falls into a serial number range of known rifles presented to the most influential members of Civil War era society. Writer is quite familiar with this extraordinary Henry rifle and can attest to its authenticity. Serial number 17 is a must have for the serious American arms collector!
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