Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3087: World's Fair Marlin Deluxe Model 1889 Lever Action Rifle

Auction Date: December 5, 2021

Historic Documented One of Three Officially Noted Factory World's Fair Exhibited Engraved Gold Plated Marlin Deluxe Model 1889 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $25,000 - $40,000

Historic Documented One of Three Officially Noted Factory World's Fair Exhibited Engraved Gold Plated Marlin Deluxe Model 1889 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Marlin Firearms Co
Model: 1889
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 38 WCF
Barrel: 26 inch octagon
Finish: blue/gold
Stock: fancy walnut
Item Views: 807
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 78
Class: Antique

Rock Island Auction Co. is pleased to present one of only three rifles noted in the official Marlin factory records as a World's Fair exhibited arm. The accompanying factory letter confirms the .38 caliber chambering, the rifle was shipped on August 17, 1894 and the rifle was noted for "Worlds Fair." Included with the factory letter is research information from the Marlin factory records listing each of the known rifles "designated as made for the World's Fair per the Marlin Factory Records." This rifle, no. 87993, is listed first as it has the earliest date, August 17, 1894. The next two rifles, nos. 88121 and 88122, have the dates December 5, 1894. The fourth listing repeats the serial number 88122 with the date May 5, 1895. Besides the two differing dates, the two listings for no. 88122 also have differing barrel configurations, suggesting that no. 88122 left the factory with a 24 inch 1/2 octagon barrel in .32 caliber on December 5, 1894, was returned to the factory and shipped out again from the factory on May 21, 1895 with a 24 inch octagon barrel in .32 caliber. This leaves a total count of only 3 "World's Fair" noted Marlin rifles in the official factory records. Based on a strict reading of the dates, it has been theorized that the rifles were displayed at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition held in Atlanta from September 18, 1895 to December 31, 1895. While one or more of the rifles may have indeed been in Atlanta, there is also a strong possibility that all 3 rifles were exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago from May 1, 1893 to October 30, 1893. Per Marlin historian Brophy's serial number range all 3 rifles were manufactured in 1893, leading us to believe that the dates presented in the official records are the shipping dates for when the rifles left the factory after being exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair. Nevertheless, it is not often that we catalog firearms identified by serial number as being exhibited at a World’s Fair. In this case, the Marlin factory records make it clear that this prestigious and historically significant Model 1889 is one of only 3 Marlin rifles marked for "World's Fair" in the official records. Brophy also notes that out of the grand total of 55,119 Model 1889 rifles and carbines only 3,729 had 26 inch barrels and only 2,296 had pistol grip stocks. Although there is no official number of how many Model 1889s were engraved, this is certainly a rare rifle with a number of special features and finishes. The receiver features attractive factory floral scrollwork on a punch dot background, borders and game scenes on each side. These game panels depict a single stag in a woodland scene. The motif is very similar to Marlin's No. 2 pattern as illustrated in Brophy's "Marlin Firearms" on page 531. At the time this rifle was manufactured famed Master Engraver Conrad Ulrich, who spent a lifetime embellishing some of the finest high art firearms of the late 19th century to early 20th century, did most of the engraving for Marlin. The receiver, lever and forend cap are plated in gold. The barrel and full length magazine are blued. The top barrel flat is stamped with the two-line address/patent dates marking ahead of the rear sight and "38-W" at the breech. The barrel is fitted with a dovetail Lyman blade front sight and an elevation adjustable buckhorn rear sight. The top of the receiver is stamped "MARLIN SAFETY." The highly figured deluxe walnut forearm and pistol grip stock feature multi-point checkering. The buttstock is fitted with a Marlin hard rubber buttplate. Provenance: The Milan J. Turk Collection

Rating Definition:

Very fine. The barrel and magazine retains 50% original blue finish. The receiver retains 50% original gold plating with much of the silver showing through. The lever retains 20% original gold. Strong traces of original gold remain on the forend cap. 20% original nitre blue remains on the loading gate. Patterns of original case colors remain on the hammer. The wood is fine with minor dings and scratches and some blemishes in the overall crisp checkering. Mechanically excellent. Truly an extremely rare factory engraved "World's Fair" exhibited Marlin Model 1889 Rifle.

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