Certainly one of the finest Winchester firearms ever produced, this Model 1866 carbine has been an icon in the field of fine arms collecting for over half a century and has been widely photographed and discussed during those many decades. Simply known as the Maximilian Carbine, it is a crown jewel of Winchester collecting; a beautiful work of art that gun collectors usually can only fantasize about owning. We are here to tell you that you can stop dreaming. The crème de la crème has arrived! Over the decades this renowned Winchester classic has been documented in numerous publications. According to firearms author R.L. Wilson, “No. 21921 holds the present record for being published the most of any 19th century Winchester.” One look at this extraordinary work of art and it is easy to understand why so many writers wanted to document the arm in their works. These publications range from seminal reference books to inspiring hobbyist magazines, and those publications known to us include John Parsons’ “The First Winchester” (page 139), Howard Blackmore’s “Guns and Rifles of the World” (plate 693), R.L. Wilson’s “The Book of Winchester Engraving” page 79), “Winchester an American Legend” (pages 28-29), “Steel Canvas” (page 159), “American Arms Collectors Percussion Colts and Their Rivals” (page xxii), "Fine Antique Arms Annual" (page 97) and “The History and Art of the American Gun” (page 159), Frank Sellers’ “The William M. Locke Collection” (page 505), the No. 69 September 1960 issue of “Texas Gun Collectors Magazine,” front cover to the July 1963 issue of “The Gun Report,” and the November/December 1979 and January/February 1981 issues of “Man at Arms.” This is only a short list as there are many other publications featuring this carbine and there will certainly be many more in the future. One of the most famous photographs in print is Fern Solley, wife of John Solley, sitting outdoors on a Queen Anne settee surrounded by arms from her husband’s famous collection. The Emperor Maximilian Model 1866 carbine sits at her feet. The carbine was loaned to Winchester for a display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1946 and was displayed at the Centennial Exhibition at PepsiCo Company in New York City in 1966. The carbine was awarded the coveted NRA Silver Medal No. 5 as issued in 1960, the first year for this NRA competition. The accompanying 20 page letter by R.L. Wilson details much of the history. In the words of Wilson, this carbine is “traditionally attributed as having been created for the Emperor Maximilian and documented from the arms collection of Mexican President Porfirio Diaz.” According to the serial number ranges established by George Madis, this carbine no. 21921 was manufactured in 1869, or 2 years after Maximilian was executed by a firing squad on June 19, 1867. As we and I’m sure many of you have discovered, Madis’ dates are speculative and have been proven incorrect when other source material and documentation are considered. There are no factory records for early Model 1866s to confirm shipment dates, leaving us to speculate if the gun was made to order by Maximilian and delivered prior or after his death. The theory that this carbine was owned by Maximilian is supported by the fact that another Model 1866 no. 46002 with Mexican eagle carved stock in the Museo Nacional de Historia (National Museum of History) in Chapultepec, Mexico, is identified as belonging to General Miguel Miramon, who was a key associate of Maximilian. The general and the Emperor were both executed on June 19, 1867. As Wilson puts it, “With General Miramon having a presentation and relief carved Mexican eagle stocked Winchester Model 1866 begs the question: Why wouldn’t the Emperor Maximilian have been presented a similar Winchester[?] The likelihood is that serial no, 21921 is the Winchester Model 1866 of the Emperor Maximilian as has been the tradition associated with this extraordinary Winchester for decades.” Nevertheless, the carbine is firmly traced to Mexican President Porfirio Diaz. Diaz became president of Mexico in 1877 and for over 30 years he was basically a dictator. He resigned in 1911 and moved to Paris where he died in 1915. He was also a prolific firearms collector and some of his most stunning pieces are documented in “The Book of Winchester Engraving” and “The Colt Heritage.” The carbine could have reasonably been built for Diaz as he was already a powerful figure in Mexico. The Porfirio Diaz collection was acquired by Walter Douglas, who donated most of the collection to the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, but sold a number of pieces that included this carbine to private collector Lieutenant Colonel James Flanagan. The silver plated receiver is profusely engraved with well executed foliate scrolls on a stippled background. Flourishes of scrollwork decorated the top of the barrel and appear behind the front barrel band, ahead and behind rear barrel band and at the breech, a most unusual expression of scrollwork encountered on embellished 19th century Winchesters. The trapdoor buttplate is engraved to match. A cross hatching pattern with floral blossom in the middle along with a fine zig-zag pattern border adorns the cartridge elevator. The engraved pattern is typical of Nimschke’s elongated sweeping scrollwork as well as including his favored border motif just ahead of where the receiver and sideplate meet. Similar patterns are observed in Nimschke’s smoke pulls presented in R.L. Wilson's "L.D. Nimschke Firearms Engraver" on page 14. The left side of the buttstock features a fantastic, finely detailed relief carved Mexican eagle perched on a cactus. The stock material alone ranks high among Winchester rarities. The artistry is phenomenal! A true masterpiece of 19th century firearms art that gives every impression of being embellished by L.D. Nimschke’s New York shop. Nimschke’s shop was more than capable of performing the embellishments including the stock work and included Winchester among their clients. This Model 1866 also has carbine sights with the two position rear sight graduated to 500 yards, the two-line Henry’s patent/King’s paten barrel legend, and a saddle ring mounted on the left side of the receiver. The impeccable provenance of this 19th century masterpiece cannot be overstated. It simply has extraordinary, well established pedigree and is as follows: Mexico President Porfirio Diaz; Lieutenant Colonel James Flanagan (via Walter Douglas); William M. Locke (purchased at the April 21-22, 1944 Parke-Bernet Galleries auction for $425.00, copy of relevant page from the actual catalog used by Locke showing his handwritten notations is included); Richard P. Mellon (via Herb Glass, Sr.); W. Buhl Ford, III (via Herb Glass, Sr.); John B. Solley III; Joseph T. Hajec; Carl Press; and Paul Tudor Jones II, Private Collection (via Michael E. Simens). William Locke included the carbine as part of a trade to acquire the Sultan of Turkey Colt Dragoon which was eventually donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the accompanying type written letter dated February 2, 2016, Joseph Hajec recounts the first time he saw the carbine, how he came to purchase the arm and the provenance up to that date as well as expressing his regrets for selling the carbine. Comes with a handsome leather covered and burgundy velvet lined cased handmade by master bookbinder Arno Werner. The exterior of the lid has an embossed inscription panel that reads, “HIS EXCELLENCY/PORFIRIO DIAZ/PRESIDENT OF MEXICO.”
Exceptionally fine overall. The barrel and magazine tube retain 70% original blue finish with the balance thinning to a brown. 70% original niter blue remains on the loading gate. The receiver and buttplate retain strong amounts of aged darkened original silver plating in and around the protected areas with the exposed brass having a very attractive honey appearance and tight fitting side plates. The engraving is crisp. The right side of the wrist has been repaired years ago, otherwise the forearm and stock are both very fine and show a few typical hairline age cracks, some minor handling marks and a very pleasing mellow appearance. The extraordinary raised relief carving is crisp. Mechanically excellent. An incredible and rare opportunity to own a world class, well-documented, and iconic crown jewel in Winchester collecting. This extraordinary Winchester Model 1866 saddle ring carbine will be the cornerstone to any private or public collection. It does not get much better than this!
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