Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 18: Factory Engraved Winchester Model 1866 Carbine

Auction Date: May 14, 2021

Stunning and Important Gustave Young Factory Engraved, Nickel Plated Winchester Model 1866 Lever Action Saddle Ring Carbine with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $40,000 - $60,000

Stunning and Important Gustave Young Factory Engraved, Nickel Plated Winchester Model 1866 Lever Action Saddle Ring Carbine with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1866
Type: Carbine
Gauge: 44 RF
Barrel: 20 inch round
Finish: nickel
Stock: fancy walnut
Item Views: 2480
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 31
Class: Antique

Likely exhibited as part of Winchester's "200 gun" display at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 Rock Island Auction Company proudly offers this previously unpublished work of 19th century engraving and die cutting virtuoso Gustave Young. Gustave Young joined Colt in the early 1850's and and spent nearly two decades with the firm in Hartford when in 1868/69 he would depart Hartford for Springfield and join the firm of Smith & Wesson as head of their engraving shop. While Young's work is most typically associated with Colt and Smith & Wesson the demand for his skill combined with the capability of his shop allowed for additional contracts and jobs with other firearms makers. As R.L. Wilson writes in "The Book of Colt Engraving Vol. I" referencing the additional work performed by Young "accounting records show that other clients (under contract with Young), include the Sharps Rifle Co. (Hartford), Smith & Wesson, Charles Parker, the Connecticut Arms and Manufacturing Company, the Wesson Arms Company, and the Meriden Arms Company…Young is also known to have handled a small amount of work for Winchester, in the 1860's and 1870's." One of Young's greatest masterpieces is not a Colt nor a Smith & Wesson but a Winchester 1873 serial number 16139, which actually states in the Cody firearms record "Engraved by Young". This rifle was the centerpiece of Winchester's display at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. Unfortunately, unlike the famous photograph of Colt's "Pin-Wheel display" from their exhibit, no known published photos exist of Winchester's display. The production of this carbine by serial number and verified by the factory letter place it at the exact time Young would have been working Winchester 1873 serial number 16139 as well as another Winchester 1873 done by Young's own hand serial number 15828, which we now believe was also part of Winchester's Centennial display and sold by our firm September 8th 2018, and photographed on pg. 90 of "Winchester Engraving" by Wilson. The most important aspect of properly identifying Young's hand is not shipping records or the Centennial display thesis but rather the engraving itself, which is unmistakable to the trained eye. Young's use of scrolls and punch dot is entirely unique. His scroll on this carbine, just like you see on Smith & Wessons of the 1870s and beyond, are finished with an element of punctuation. But the big tell is in the panel scenes themselves. The repetition of dogs and hounds (full body or just busts) is synonymous with Young; it is virtually his signature. Hounds heads and dogs are seen over and over again on percussion Colts and Smith & Wessons with variations in body contours, body shapes and nuance in the shading that are identical to this carbine. Reference the famous gold inlaid Colt 1849 serial number 38843 on page 66 of "Firearms Engraving as a Decorative Art" by Harris. Reference the barrel lug, recoil shield and frame of Colt 1851 Navy "The Comstock Navy" photographed on page 116 of "The Colt Book of Engraving Vol. I" pg 116 and later sold by our firm september 7th 2012 as lot 1201 for $276,000. This is the only known Winchester 1866 carbine done by Young and one of two panel scene Winchester's done by Young, the other 1866 Rifle serial number 26283 photographed on page 101 of "The Winchester Book of Engraving" by Wilson. The accompanying factory letter confirms the carbine configuration with factory nickel plating and factory engraving. The carbine was received in the warehouse on May 18, 1876, and shipped the same day. On this carbine the receiver is adorned with broad scrollwork on a stippled background. Each side plate features a circular panel dog scene surrounded by the scrollwork pattern. Flourishes of scrollwork extend to the buttplate and cartridge elevator. The barrel is fitted with a blade front sight integral to the front barrel band and a two leaf rear sight and is stamped with the two-line address/patent date marking ahead of the rear sight. A saddle ring is mounted on the left side of the receiver. The trapdoor carbine buttplate contains a three piece cleaning rod. The forearm and buttstock are both highly figured deluxe walnut. The underside of the buttstock features a filler plate in the sling swivel base cut out. The serial number is repeated on the stock inlet along with “11/11/11/11” with the last “11” stamped over “4”.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine, retaining 90% plus original nickel plating with general loss on the lever and breech of the barrel. The engraving is crisp. The wood is very fine with a number of minor dings and scratches and most of the original varnish remaining. Mechanically excellent. A grand work of embellishment rarely encountered on a Model 1866 carbine. A stunning, important and exciting previously undocumented work by Gustave Young!

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