Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 92: Brigham Young C. Sharps & Co. Pistol-Rifle

Auction Date: December 3, 2021

Historic Factory Engraved C. Sharps & Co. Breech Loading Percussion Pistol-Rifle Documented to Brigham Young with a Notarized Affidavit from a Direct Descendant of Brigham Young

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $75,000 - $150,000

Historic Factory Engraved C. Sharps & Co. Breech Loading Percussion Pistol-Rifle Documented to Brigham Young with a Notarized Affidavit from a Direct Descendant of Brigham Young

Manufacturer: Sharps C & Company
Model: Pistol Rifle
Type: Carbine
Gauge: 36
Barrel: 25 1/8 inch round
Finish: brown/blue/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1944
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 60
Class: Antique

In 2016, Rock Island Auction Company was graced with the task of bringing to auction Brigham Young’s presentation Colt Pocket Revolver presented by H. E. Dimick and Company while Young was Governor of Utah. That spring, it sold for $632,500. We are now pleased to add to that legacy with the presentation of Young’s exquisitely engraved Sharps Pistol Rifle. Brigham Young, often referred to as “The American Moses,” was the second leader and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and served in that capacity from 1844 until his death in 1877. Young made the decision to lead the church members on a mass exodus through the Mexican-controlled southwest wilderness that eventually ended in the forming of a permanent Latter Day Saint community in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. On July 24, 1847, the first contingent arrived at their “Promised Land” when Young and 147 Mormon pilgrims arrived at the Salt Lake Valley. In 1851, the colonizer and founder of “Great Salt Lake City” was appointed the territory's first governor by President Millard Fillmore. In his lifetime, Young supervised the trek of nearly 80,000 pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley; founded 400 settlements, towns and cities; established a system of land distribution later ratified by Congress; and served as the first territorial governor of Utah for two terms, as first superintendent of Indian Affairs of Utah Territory, and as Church President for 30 years. With scarce provisions and resources, Brigham organized cooperative efforts to dig canals; construct roads; build telegraph lines, gristmills and tanneries; and established new industries including: cotton and woolen mills, iron foundries, a sugar beet factory and railroads. All of this took place under his meticulous personal direction. In a short period of time, he built a country within a country. Young was a human dynamo as a planner and builder of community but also encouraged advancements in human nature, encouraging not only hard work but dance, singing, reading “and anything else that will expand our frames, add fire to spirit, improve minds and make all citizens feel free and untrammeled in body and mind”. Young and his followers exercised their rights as provided in our Constitution and were obviously strong believers in the First and Second Amendments (particularly the Second Amendment to defend the First). The included 2002 notarized letter identifying this historic firearm from George M. Young, Jr. indicates he is a direct descendant of Mormon leader Brigham Young and was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 11, 1946. His father was George M. Young, and his grandfather was Percival Young. He states: "The Sharps Pistol Carbine, #79 with Beehive engraved on the patchbox was by family tradition, the property of Brigham Young." Included additional genealogical research shows that his great grandfather was Elder Alfales Young, only son of Brigham Young and Eliza Burgess Young, and that Alfales Young was close to Brigham and regularly corresponded with him. It is documented in Sharps records that Alfales placed a $150 order with the Sharps Rifle Company for a deluxe engraved Sharps-Borchardt Model 1878 Long-Range Rifle with a leather trunk case, reloading tools and cartridge cases on July 20, 1878. Alfales, who worked as a newspaperman, used the rifle for long-range hunting and shooting and kept it until his death on March 30, 1920. Only 550 Pistol-Rifles (aka Pistol-Carbines) are estimated to have been manufactured in 1857-1860, so even without the immense historical interest, this rifle would be very scarce, not to mention that only a handful of those are engraved such as this exquisite example. This pistol-rifle is a 1st Model, 2nd Type chambered for the .36 caliber Sharps "Extractor Arm" cartridge. It has a knurled band at the muzzle, blade front sight, "tube" rear sight with notch sight inside and groove on top, "C. SHARPS & CO'S/RIFLE WORKS/PHILA, PA." marked on the left side of the frame, " C. SHARPS/PATENT/1848-52" marked on the right side of the frame below the hammer, "79" marked lever and breechblock, "27" marked forend cap, scroll and border engraving on the frame, a burst pattern engraved on the receiver ring, light border engraving on the patch box and beehive and checkerboard pattern on the lid, varnished forearm and stock, and attractive figure on the latter. The configuration and engraving, aside from the beehive, is very similar to the consecutive pistol-rifle pictured and discussed on page 146 of "Sharps Firearms- The Percussion Era: 1848-1865" by Marcot, Paxton, and Marron. The wonderful beehive motif engraved on the patch box lid is impressive, and unquestionably a special order feature direct from the factory. Bees and beehives have long held symbolic significance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith's grave had a beehive placed over it. Stained glass windows, doorknobs, sculptures and other objects throughout the Mormon world exhibit the beehive motif. It was meant to be a symbol of the life work and enjoyment of their finished endeavors. An October 11, 1881, article in "The Deseret News" explained the symbolism: “The hive and honey bees form our communal coat of arms…It is a significant representation of the industry, harmony, order and frugality of the people, and of the sweet results of their toil, union and intelligent cooperation.” The beehive became one of the most prominent symbols in Utah. Brigham Young's primary home was called the Beehive House at 67 East South Temple Street in Sat Lake City which was named after the traditional bee hive sculpture on the roof, which is similar to the hive engraved on the patch box (images included). The Beehive House was the executive mansion of the Utah Territory in 1852 to 1855.

Rating Definition:

Fine with 90% original plum brown finish on the barrel, 75% bright blue finish on the frame, 75% original case colors on the furniture, smooth gray and brown patina on the balance, repaired/reattached upper tang, and minor overall wear. The wood is very fine and has attractive figure, most of the partially refinished varnish, small chip at the upper right corner of the repaired/refinished wrist, and some minor scratches. Mechanically excellent. A sensational and well-documented piece of American history.

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