Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1050: Top Loading Whitney-Burgess-Morse Carbine

Auction Date: June 6, 2020

Incredibly Scarce Top Loading Whitney-Burgess-Morse First Model Lever Action Carbine

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $5,500 - $8,500

Incredibly Scarce Top Loading Whitney-Burgess-Morse First Model Lever Action Carbine

Manufacturer: Whitney Arms Company
Model: Burgess Morse-Carbine
Type: Carbine
Gauge: 45-70
Barrel: 23 inch round
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1502
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 48
Class: Antique

Top loading Burgess rifles and carbines with no loading gate are very rare. Military carbines without a loading gate are not even noted in "Lever Action Magazine Rifles Derived from the Patents of Andrew Burgess" by Maxwell, and the author notes, "There are a VERY few early First Models in collections WITHOUT a loading gate." Maxwell also noted that there are period discussions of thirty top loading carbines and indications they were not popular with consumers out West in correspondence with well-known western dealer J.P. Lower of Denver. He further states, "There are in fact, First Model Burgess top loaders WITHOUT loading gates in private collections today but the author suspects most were converted by addition of the new side loading gate; an easy conversion...A pure top loader would be VERY RARE and most likely a 1st Model carbine." The Whitney-Burgess was very significant as the first successful lever action rifle in .45-70 and certainly posed a serious threat to Winchester, but ammunition and mechanically issues caused the launch of the innovative new rifle to be rough. This carbine has a blade front sight, notch and folding leaf rear sight, long forend with steel cap and single "U" marked barrel band, serpentine lever, saddle ring on the left, "G. W. MORSE/PATENTED OCT. 28TH 1856" on top ahead of the rear sight, "45 CAL 70 GR. C.F." on top at the breech, "246" stamped inside the action and on the left side of the upper and lower tangs and hand-written inside the upper tang mortise of the stock, "Burgess Arm" over an another line that starts with an unclear portion that may be "by" and then "Sp Ex" (Burgess Arm by Special Express) lightly hand carved in the left side of the buttstock, and a steel buttplate with brass door (cleaning rod absent).

Rating Definition:

Very good with strong traces of original blue finish remaining in the protected areas and otherwise mostly dark brown patina, mild pitting, and general mild wear. The wood is also very good and has numerous light scratches and dings, a pair of cuts on the right side of the forearm, a very discreetly repaired crack along the upper right edge of the forearm, some small chips at the edges, and the noted light markings on the left side of the butt. Mechanically fine. This is an exceptionally rare carbine. Very few of these are known today.

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