Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1022: Henry Morton Stanley Attributed Winchester Model 1876 Rifle

Auction Date: December 4, 2021

Internationally Historic and Iconic Winchester Model 1876 "Centennial" Lever Action Rifle, Watson of London Retailer Marked, Owned and Used by British-American Adventurer Sir Henry Morton Stanley per the Stanley Estate Sale at Christie’s in London in 2002

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Estimated Price: $40,000 - $65,000

Internationally Historic and Iconic Winchester Model 1876 "Centennial" Lever Action Rifle, Watson of London Retailer Marked, Owned and Used by British-American Adventurer Sir Henry Morton Stanley per the Stanley Estate Sale at Christie’s in London in 2002

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1876
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 45-75
Barrel: 28 inch round
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 475
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 23
Class: Antique

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” the famous Stanley quote, has been made familiar to hundreds of millions as taught in schools and recorded in books and newspaper articles for over a century. Stanley’s heroic and true exploits of grand and dangerous safaris and stories of big game hunting and adventure through deepest, darkest Africa spurred the imaginations of all and resulted in the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series and other books, as well as countless movies. This historic Model 1876 Winchester Second Model was manufactured in 1879 and was sold in lot 55 at Christie's as part of "The Africa Sale Including the Henry Morton Stanley Collection" and identified as "Supplied to Stanley by Watson's as part of the equipping of his Congo Free State venture." A copy of the catalog is included. In 1879, Stanley purchased from Watson Bros of 4 Pall Mall, London, a weapon that he was to use for the next ten years. It was an 1876 Model Winchester lever-action repeating rifle. The caliber of this, his most famous Winchester was .45-75, firing a 350 grain bullet from a 28” barrel and Stanley claimed it was; ‘for a fighting weapon the best yet invented’. In 1886, Stanley was in the Congo, fighting his way towards modern Uganda to relieve the governor of Sudan’s Equatorial Province, Emin Bey. ‘Emin Pasha’ as he was known, was on the run from the Mahdi, who had over-run Khartoum and killed General Gordon. Stanley set out to relieve him from a besieged position on Lake Albert. To get there he had to travel up the unexplored Aruwimi River. Stanley’s account makes it appear to have been a fight with disease and terrain and local tribes, all equally hostile and dangerous. He recalls a shot with his Winchester, taken at 150 yards to fell the vocally-aggressive leader of a tribal war party, rallying his troops to attack Stanley’s weakened column. ‘The rifle did its work’, he wrote: and saved the day. The newer twelve-shot Model 1876 firing the more powerful .45-75 W.C.F. cartridge certainly added to his expedition's firepower and no doubt provided him additional security, especially considering he was at risk from large and dangerous African wildlife during his adventures that a man wouldn't want to face with a .44-40. Sir Henry Morton Stanley was born in 1841 as John Rowlands in Wales and abandoned by his mother and father and was raised by other family members and spent a decade in a workhouse before emigrating from the U.K. to the U.S. in 1859. From these humble beginnings, he rose to become a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and Member of Parliament. He adopted the name of a merchant friend in New Orleans, Henry Hope Stanley, and served in the Civil War first as a Confederate soldier and then as a "galvanized Yankee" after being captured at the Battle of Shiloh. He became a journalist and adventurer after the war for the New York Herald in the Middle East and Africa. This is the most famous and relevant period of his life, and his several publications of his adventures in Africa note that he was armed with Winchester rifles in addition to a British double barrel elephant rifle. He famously rescued Dr. David Livingstone in the fall of 1871 and reportedly greeted him with "Dr. Livingston, I presume?" His account, published as "How I Found Livingstone: Travels, Adventures and Discoveries in Central Africa: Including an Account of Four Months' Residence with Dr. Livingstone" in 1872 is one of the classic adventure tales from the age of European exploration and imperialism in Africa. After Livingstone's death, Stanley continued exploring Africa and sought the sources of the Nile and the Congo. He published "Through the Dark Continent; Or, The Sources of the Nile: Around the Great Lakes of Equatorial Africa and Down the Livingstone River to the Atlantic Ocean" in 1878. In August 1879 to June 1884, Stanley returned to the Congo and oversaw the construction of a road between the Congo and the Stanley Pool (now Malebo Pool) and also saw the launch of steamboats on the upper portion of the river. His work led to the creation of the Congo Free State under the personal sovereignty of Leopold. Stanley's subsequent adventures are recounted in "In Darkest Africa; Or, The Quest, Rescue, and Retreat of Emin, Governor of Equatoria" published in 1890 and "The Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley" completed and published in 1909 after his death. Like "The Congo and the Founding of Its Free State," both of these books include references to his use of Winchester rifles in conflict with various groups in Africa. Notably, page 38 of the former notes "Messrs Watson & Co., of 4 Pall Mall, packed up 50 Winchester repeaters and 50,000 Winchester cartridges." "In Darkest Africa" records his last major African adventure when he was sent as the leader of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition in 1886 to Equatoria in the southern Sudan. He was given the Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold for his service to the Belgian king. After returning to England, he married and adopted a young boy. He was a Liberal Unionist in Parliament in 1895 to 1900 and was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1899. He died in 1904. His contemporary British historian Sidney Low wrote, "The map of Africa is a monument to Stanley." He was a classic Victorian man of action and would have seemed right at place in an Arthur Conan Doyle adventure tale like "The Lost World." To hold such an artifact spurs the imagination of the true story and legend of one of the last great explorers, cutting his way through an unforgiving and unknown environment, with the full knowledge that death was behind every corner by beast or by man, and this very rifle his only hope for survival. The rifle has a nickel silver blade front sight, "1876" marked notch and folding ladder rear sight graduated out to 1,000 yards, the two-line Winchester and King's patent marking ahead of the rear sight, "WATSON/4. PALL MALL/LONDON" inscribed on the top of the barrel at the breech, London proof marks on the left side of the barrel and the frame at the breech, dust cover with knurled "thumb print" and smooth edges, "041" marked and screw affixed dust cover rail, "MODEL 1876." on the upper tang, "8512" on the lower tang, smooth stock and forearm, and a five-piece cleaning rod in the stock compartment. The .45-75 W.C.F. was the original chambering for this model and the only chambering offered until the .45-60 and .50 Express were introduced to the line in 1879, so caliber markings were not necessary.

Rating Definition:

Fine. The rifle shows genuine signs of use and retains 40% original blue finish. The finish is concentrated most strongly on the frame and rear third of the barrel and has faded to a smooth gray and brown patina on the balance. There are some patches of minor pitting and oxidation that you would expect to see on a rifle that spent years of service in Africa. Light original case colors remain on the hammer and lever, and the loading gate retains an impressive 80% plus of the original niter blue finish. The retailer and factory markings remain legible. The wood is also fine and has a dark oiled finish, a large number of mild dings and scratches throughout, and some slight flakes mainly at the toe. It remains mechanically excellent. The British explorers of Africa are famous for their double barrel elephant guns, but it was Winchesters that Henry Morton Stanley's men depended on to defend their lives against native warriors. While a powerful express rifle was useful if facing a charging elephant, a Winchester 1876 provided Stanley with a considerable advantage in firepower when outnumbered, so it is no wonder that he trusted Winchester 1876s with his life.

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