Manufactured in 1902, this historic factory engraved and gold plated deluxe Model 1897 rifle was presented to famed exhibition shooter Annie Oakley by the Marlin factory. The factory presentation inscription appears on a silver shield on the left side of the buttstock and reads, "PRESENTED TO/Annie Oakley/LITTLE SURE SHOT/-BY-/MARLIN FIREARMS, CO./NEW HAVEN, CONN./3-25-03." Oakley used Marlin rifles in her performances, and one of her favorite rifles was Marlin's Model 1891, a .22 caliber sliding rifle. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of two engraved and gold plated Model 1897s Marlin presented to Oakley. The second Model 1897 (serial number 342637) was presented in 1906, three years after this rifle. The receiver is decorated with a fabulous Marlin Grade No. 10 engraving consisting of a grape leaf and vine motif and game scenes depicting a doe and buck in a forest on the left side and a squirrel in a tree on the right. Engraved flourishes surround the "MARLIN SAFETY" marking on top of the receiver. Light scrollwork appears on the hammer and lever. A fancy band of engraving is featured on the barrel at the breech, and a floral motif is engraved on the forend cap. At the time this rifle was manufactured, Conrad F. Ulrich Jr. was the engraver for Marlin. Ulrich did a majority of the engraving for Marlin from 1881 until 1910 when he left for Winchester, spending a lifetime embellishing some of the finest high art firearms of the period. A German silver blade front sight and elevation adjustable rear sight are on a barrel which has a matted top flat stamped with the two-line Marlin legend. The rifle is fully plated in gold. The deluxe walnut forearm and pistol grip stock feature fancy fleur de lis checkering accented with smooth circles. The buttstock is fitted with a checkered Marlin hard rubber shotgun style buttplate. Born Phoebe Ann Moses, Annie Oakley (1860-1926) created the image of the cowgirl and proved without a doubt that when given the opportunity women are as capable as men. The master markswoman could hit the thin edge of a playing card and shoot distant targets while looking into a mirror. She entertained European royalty such as Queen Victoria and supposedly even shot a cigarette out of Kaiser Wilhelm II's hand. Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler, a master marksman in his own right, joined the famed Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Sitting Bull, after seeing one of her shows, was so amazed by Oakley's marksmanship that he gave her the nickname "Little Miss Sureshot." As fate would have it, she and her husband died within three weeks of each other in November 1926. Thanks to Hollywood and Western pulps, the legend of Annie Oakley endures to this day. In an accompanying letter on Wells-Fargo Antiques & Guns letterhead, Maurice C. Clark states that her grandfather Major William W. Alderson (1831-1906) of Bozeman, Montana, was given this rifle by Annie Oakley during one of her many stays at his home. Oakley would stay at "his home during the times she was appearing in the Wild West shows." Alderson was a prominent resident of Bozeman. In fact, he named the town of Bozeman. Highly active in civic affairs, he was appointed the government agent for the Milk River Indian Reservation 1873, and when he returned to Bozeman in 1877, he became the editor of the Avant Courier newspaper, a position he held for the most of his remaining life. According to the accompanying letter of provenance from previous owner Dr. Marlin Larson, this rifle was given to a Montana ranch owner by Annie Oakley who "frequently visited at his ranch", eventually owned by L.C. Jackson who sold it to M.C. Clark in 1968, then quickly sold to Dr. Marlin Larson who later sold the rifle to Betty Johnson in 1969.
Exceptionally fine, retaining 70% original gold plating with a smooth dark brown patina on the balance. The engraving is crisp. The wood is excellent with scattered minor handling marks and crisp checkering overall. Mechanically excellent. A true work of Marlin high firearms art presented to famed exhibition shooter Annie Oakley that will make for a great addition to any lever action or Western collection. It is not often that we catalog historic firearms owned by the great Western legends!
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