Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 24: One of One Hundred Winchester Model 1876 Lever Action Rifle

Auction Date: September 10, 2021

Incredibly Rare and Historically Significant Documented First Shipped and Silver Banded One of One Hundred Winchester Model 1876 "Centennial" Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $250,000 - $375,000

Incredibly Rare and Historically Significant Documented First Shipped and Silver Banded One of One Hundred Winchester Model 1876 "Centennial" Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1876
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 45-75
Barrel: 28 inch octagon
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 8759
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 29
Class: Antique

As Edmund E. Lewis wrote in "The Story of the Winchester 1 of 1000 and 1 of 100 Rifles," "Although far less famous than the 1 of 1000, the 1 of 100 is significantly more rare in either the Model 1873 or Model 1876." Lewis in his book identified eight 1 of 100 1876s manufactured, and R.L. Wilson in "The Winchester 1 of 1000" identified seven. Given this, they very rarely come available, making these 1 of 100 rifles incredibly difficult to find despite being a must have for any advanced collection of antique Winchester lever actions. On page 119 of the first book, this rifle is pictured and discussed. Lewis notes that five of the eight rifles are known, and illiterates four in his book, though one appears potentially spurious. Its also important to note that this rifle, 470, appears to be the only silver banded example of known 1876 1 of 100's. We could only find four examples published including the aforementioned unconfirmed example. It is the very first 1 of 100 Model 1876 shipped, and Lewis states that the factory ledgers list it with an octagon barrel, plain trigger, "BH & Oat" sights, and shipped on September 20, 1877, in order 9979. The same information is confirmed in the included factory letter which clarifies the "BH" is a buckhorn sight. Lewis indicates this rifle was reported during the "Winchester '73" motion picture search for Model 1873 1 of 1,000 rifles by T.H. Baker of Alma, Nebraska, and the rifle was originally owned by Robert Axtell Welts who was born on November 7, 1855, near Detroit, Michigan. He left home in 1876 after a family dispute over land and went to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He later returned to Michigan and worked in logging and operated a sawmill. The rifle was kept by his daughter after his death in 1941 and it passed down to his grandson Lowell Hawkinson, and his great grandson Ronald Hawkinson in 1987. It was later in the Warren Anderson collection. The fact that Welts went to the Centennial Exposition as a young man is an important piece of information. Winchester debuted the famous Model 1876 at the World's Fair in Philadelphia as the "Centennial Rifle." It was the company's first large frame rifle but was relatively quickly made obsolete by the introduction of the stronger Model 1886 just a decade later and discontinued in 1898 at the end of a run of just 63,871 guns. Though limited in production, these rifles are known to have been used and well-loved by those who owned them. The barrel has the distinctive "One of One Hundred" inscription in script surrounded by factory scroll engraving on the breech section along with a silver band at the breech, a silver blade front sight with dovetailed base, the two-line "WINCHESTER'S-REPEATING ARMS. NEW HAVEN. CT./KING'S-IMPROVEMENT-PATENTED-MARCH 29. 1866. October 16. 1860" marking, and a dovetailed U-notch rear sight. The rifle lacks caliber markings which is correct given the early Model 1876s were all in .45-75 W.C.F., and all of the 1 of 100 Model 1876s were in this caliber. It has the First Model open top frame with "Model. 1876." on the upper tang and script "470" on the lower tang. It has a plain trigger as noted in the ledger and a standard grade walnut straight grip stock and forearm with iron forend cap and buttplate with brass sliding compartment lid (compartment empty).

Rating Definition:

Very good with traces of original blue finish in the protected areas such as the underside of the barrel where it is protected by the magazine tube and around the side plates, and otherwise gray and brown patina, some light pitting, and general mild overall wear. The wood is also very good and has moderate age and handling related wear, some small flakes at the edges, and moderate scratches and dings. Mechanically fine. This is a possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to own the very first One of One Hundred Winchester Model 1876 Rifle known.

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