Without a doubt a signed John Ulrich factory engraved masterpiece is a crown jewel in Winchester collecting, especially when the “steel canvas” is the iconic Model 1866. The late firearms historian R.L. Wilson has noted, “In the period c. 1869 to c. 1920, the majority of signed, engraved Winchesters will bear the stamp J.ULRICH.” His earliest work, however, bears his “JU” signature in large script letters on the left side of the upper tang and mark the earliest work John Ulrich did for Winchester. The three earliest signed John Ulrich Winchester Model 1886s known to Wilson were nos. 36480, 36482 and 36484 (see “Winchester Engraving,” pages 142-143). In 2014, Rock Island Auction Co. rewrote the history books as we were fortunate to catalog the second earliest known John Ulrich signed Model 1866, no. 36481. (Note: The earliest J. Ulrich signed Model 1866 identified in “Winchester Engraving” is no. 36480 on page 142 but Wilson incorrectly names No. 36482 as the earliest known signed example on page 132.) And now we bring to you no. 38056. Comparable to the other early known J. Ulrich signed Model 1886s, no. 38056 has the “JU” signature and similar decorative treatment with open panels, detailed geometric motifs and intricate scrollwork typical of John Ulrich’s early work. While this rifle does not hold the title as the "first", it can be distinguished as the only, a one of one, for its combination deluxe silver and gold gilt treatment on the frame. The frame is silver plated with the exception of the panel scene on the left hand side which at first appears as "unfinished" or exposed brass but then quickly reveals its original gilt, glistening in the sheltered areas of the engraving as well as proudly visible on the forend cap and swivels. This is the only Winchester rifle known to feature this remarkable and delicate deluxe "parcel-gilt" treatment. Furthermore the engraving on No. 38056 also marks a departure from John Ulrich's other early signed work as the embellishment is more lavishly executed by the inclusion of the game themed panel scene on the left side plate. Game scenes eventually became John Ulrich’s most specular trademark embellishment. See, for example, nos. 104463, 112271 and 79863 as game scene engraved Model 1886s showcasing some of his most elaborate work (“Winchester Engraving,” page 146-147). This Model 1866 was manufactured in 1870 and has a Third Model receiver with visible serial number ("38056") located in an engraved banner on the lower tang behind the trigger. The upper stock inlet and inside of the buttplate are also stamped with the serial number "38056". The left interior side of the upper tang is signed with the "J.U." initials of master engraver John Ulrich. The grade of the fancy grain walnut stock and forearm, "O X X X", is stamped on the left side of the upper tang behind the initials. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped with the two-line legend: "WINCHESTER'S-REPEATING ARMS. NEW HAVEN. CT./KING'S-IMPROVEMENT-PATENTED -MARCH 29. 1866. OCTOBER 16. 1860." ahead of the rear sight. The barrel has a "Rocky Mountain" style front sight with nickel-silver blade and Henry style folding leaf rear sight. An early Sharps style folding peep sight with 3 1/2-inch stem is mounted on the upper receiver tang. The Henry style buttplate has a sharply pointed heel and hinged trap door. Gold plated Winchester sling swivels are mounted on the forearm cap and stock. The forearm cap, sides, top and bottom of the receiver, cartridge elevator and buttplate heel are engraved with intertwined foliate and arabesque scrollwork on a fine punch-dot background with scalloped single and double line borders. The left side plate features a highly detailed game scene of a hound chasing a leaping stag. The right side plate has an open inscription panel surrounded by scrollwork.
Excellent. The rifle retains 90% plus of the strong original blue and silver-plated finish with distinct vibrant flashed of original gold visible on the sling swivels and protected areas of the forearm cap and receiver. The barrel legend is crisp. The loading gate retains 90% of the original fire blue finish. Hammer and lever retain nearly all of their original casehardened finish muted on exposed points and vibrant in flashes. The sliver-plated forearm cap, receiver and buttplate show light to moderate wear on contact points. The intricate and flawlessly executed engraving is crisp. The highly figured, fancy grade, walnut stock and forearm remain in very fine condition with a few scattered handling and storage marks. This is a truly magnificent example of a one of one deluxe, factory engraved, John Ulrich signed Winchester Model 1866 rifle.
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