Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 21: John Ulrich Engraved Winchester Model 1873 Rifle

Auction Date: December 1, 2017

Historic John Ulrich Signed Factory Engraved Winchester Deluxe Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle Inscribed to Captain O.E. Michaelis with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $25,000 - $50,000

Historic John Ulrich Signed Factory Engraved Winchester Deluxe Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle Inscribed to Captain O.E. Michaelis with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1873
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 WCF
Barrel: 24 inch part octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 2741
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 24
Class: Antique

Offered here is a John Ulrich signed, engraved, and inscribed Winchester deluxe Model 1873 rifle that was manufactured in 1879. Ulrich signed his work "J. ULRICH" in small letters on the lower tang. The sides of the receiver feature beautifully executed floral scrollwork on a punch dot background. Scrollwork extends to the dust cover, chamber, cartridge elevator and buttplate tang. The right side plate has a circular vignette of a leaping stag. A similar motif is pictured in Winchester "Highly Finished Arms" as reproduced in R.L. Wilson's "The Book of Winchester Engraving" on page 219. Also see page 156 where an image of another Ulrich engraved Model 1876 is shown with this type of vignette. The left side plate has the engraved inscription "CAPTAIN O.E. MICHAELIS." Although the research is not documented, the mostly likely owner is Capt. Otho E. Michaelis, Ph.D. (1843-1890), who was with the U.S. Ordnance Corps, circa 1860s-1880s. Born in Germany, Michaelis emigrated to the United States early in his youth and earned the highest honors from the New York Free Academy. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the 23rd New York National Guard and is reported to have participated in campaigns from Harrisburg to Gettysburg. By September 1863, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps. Later, he transferred to the U.S. Ordnance Corps were he quickly distinguished himself. He received a promotion to 1st lieutenant in 1864, the brevet of captain in 1865, promotion to captain in 1874 and major in 1889. He wrote and translated several technical papers and labored to equip soldiers with the best equipment late 19th century technology could produce. In the late 1870s, for instance, he was involved in field testing the Model 1876 Prairie Belt while commanding the Ordnance Depot at Fort Abraham Lincoln. The Prairie Belt was the first official U.S. Army cartridge belt and saw wide use with troops during the Indian Wars and Spanish-American War. In late 1886, Michaelis along with Lt. Col. James Whittemore designed a one-piece buckle for a cartridge belt. At the time of his death in 1890 at Kennebec Arsenal, it was reported that Michaelis' diverse talents in several branches of science afforded him many lucrative offers from the private sector to which he declined in order to continue serving his adopted country. Reflecting on Michaelis' life, a period publication wrote, "It is doubtful if there was another officer in the Army more thoroughly equipped with a mind to take advantage of, and a diligence to secure a complete record of all that is transpiring around him in the field of research." Michaelis was also the ordnance officer for the 7th Cavalry at the time of Custer's Last Stand. On that faithful day, he remained with Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry’s column and was one of the first to arrive at the site of Custer's Last Stand to assist in identifying the dead. This is a Second Model 1873 with dust cover guide rail screwed to the receiver. The barrel is fitted with dovetailed blade and elevation adjustable sights and is marked with the two-line address/patent dates marking. It has a half magazine and highly figure and checkered forearm and straight grip stock. The buttstock is fitted with a crescent trapdoor buttplate. The factory letter lists this rifel with a half octagon barrel, plain trigger, checkered stock, globe and peep sights, half magazine, casehardened receiver and $5.00 engraving when it was received in the warehouse on October 2, 1879 and shipped on October 20.

Rating Definition:

Fine. The rifle retains 30% original blue finish with the balance a smooth brown-gray patina. There is some minor pitting on the barrel. The wood is also fine showing a tiny missing chip from the forearm, a gap between the forend cap and forearm, some minor dings and scratches and a few blemishes in the overall crisp checkering. Mechanically excellent. A John Ulrich singed engraved Model 1873 rifle linked to a well accomplished U.S. Ordnance officer who is associated greatly with Gen. Custer's 1876 expedition to the Little BigHorn that will be a great addition to any Winchester or Western collection.

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