The elaborate, exhibition quality engraving pattern on this Evans musket was done by the 19th century's best known master engraver: L.D. Nimschke. Nimschke's masterful signature floral scrollwork on a fine punch dot background covers nearly all of the receiver, extending down the sides of the magazine tube to terminate in an arrow motif. Amongst the scrollwork on the left side of the receiver is a fantastic, highly detailed mythical winged beast grasping a target. Six tiny engraved five-pointed stars, possibly indicating around 60 hours were required by Nimschke to complete this masterpiece, surround the trigger. Smoke pulls of the exact engraving including the panel scene are found in R.L. Wilson's "L.D. Nimschke Firearms Engraver" on page 66. The collection of smoke pulls featured on page 66 are from two different Evans guns engraved by Nimschke with both guns featuring a similar beast panel scene, inferring that this musket was once part of an ornate pair. Nimschke’s own handwritten notations date the pulls to 1876 and “engraved for Merwin, Hulbert.” Besides manufacturing and selling their own arms, the New York based Merwin, Hulbert & Co. handled sales and distribution for a number of notable national and foreign firearms makers of the era and employed Louis Nimschke to decorate arms on the behalf of various firearms manufacturers. In fact, Evans Rifle Co. was a subsidiary of Merwin, Hulbert. Like most other American firearms companies of the era, Evans was in the habit of creating special one-of-a-kind masterpieces reflecting the highest degree of craftsmanship and artistry for promotional purposes. As 19th century arms makers found out, the best kind of advertising a company could employ to promote a product was the product itself. Manufacturers often handed out finely engraved guns to anyone thought to be a worthy recipient. A gun placed in the hands of an influential person would go a long way in winning support and acceptance of the product. And of course there were international exhibitions that dominated the latter half of the 19th century. These exhibitions enabled a manufacturer to promote their products on a world stage. These guns too were generally highly embellished and were the epitome of the engraver’s art of the era. This musket certainly makes the perfect example of exemplary artistry Evans would have wanted to showcase to important dignitaries or at international exhibitions. Elaborately embellished Evans rifles are rarely encountered and are highly sought after, but remain elusive on today's market, only captured in books and other publications. Adding to its rarity is that this musket is one of only 150 Transition Model Muskets Evans manufactured in 1876/77. Transition Model series of rifles, muskets and carbines fall into the approximate 500 to 2185 serial number range and feature a flat top frame, exposed loading port (without cover) on the right side of the frame, and two piece buttstock that exposes the magazine tube in the center. The near full length musket type forearm is attached to the barrel by three barrel bands. A crown is stamped on each barrel band (right side of front band and left side of middle and rear bands). The front sight also acts as a lug for a socket bayonet (not included). The top of the barrel is stamped “EVANS REPEATING RIFLE MECHANIC FALLS ME/PAT. DEC. 8, 1868 & SEPT. 16, 1871”and the serial number “834” stamped on the left side under the two leaf rear sight. Sling swivels are attached to the underside of the middle barrel band and buttstock. The buttstock and forearm are nicely figured walnut. This musket is pictured in R.L. Wilson's "L.D. Nimschke Firearms Engraver” on page xxxviii and Dwight Demeritt’s “Maine Made Guns and Their Makers” on page 148 and is identified as formerly of the famed Archer L. Jackson collection. Also see Wilson’s “Steel Canvas” on page 230 for the already mentioned smoke pulls along with another known Nimschke elaborately engraved Evans rifle.
Excellent, retaining 90% plus untouched original nickel plating with some scattered flaking heavier at the high points and general loss on the buttplate. The engraving is crisp. Traces of original niter blue remain on the trigger and loading aperture. The wood is very fine with a hairline stress crack on the forearm at the receiver (left side) and minor dings and scratches. Mechanically excellent. Just a remarkable Nimschke identified exhibition quality panel scene engraved Evans musket! A true work of 19th century firearms art that would be difficult to improve upon! Provenance: The Robert M. Lee Collection.
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