Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3020: Inscribed Straight Grip Deluxe Winchester Model 1873 Rifle

Auction Date: August 28, 2022

Historic First Model Winchester Deluxe Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle Inscribed to Major E.R. Hopkins in 1878 with Factory Letter, George Madis Letter, and Research

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $8,500 - $13,000

Historic First Model Winchester Deluxe Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle Inscribed to Major E.R. Hopkins in 1878 with Factory Letter, George Madis Letter, and Research

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1873
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44-40 WCF
Barrel: 24 3/8 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: deluxe walnut
Item Views: 739
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 19
Class: Antique

This rare, deluxe, special order Winchester First Model 1873 rifle has a nickel-silver blade front sight, the two-line address and King's improvement patent marking, an adjustable sporting rear sight, first model dust cover with thumb print and integral guide rails, "Model. 1873." on the upper tang, an adjustable single set trigger, script serial number on lower tang, beautiful deluxe stock and forearm with checkering, and "Maj. E.R. Hopkins/from/H.C. CORPS/1878" inscribed on the cartridge elevator. The factory letter lists this rifle with an octagon barrel, set trigger, checkered stock, and casehardened finish and as received in the warehouse on March 5, 1877, but not shipped until June 10, 1878, in work order 12043. However, an included copy of a Cody Firearms Museum Serial Number Research Request form and the George Madis letter confirms the same ledger details but list the shipping year as 1877 and indicate "1878" was marked next to the shipping date. Madis notes that the "1878" notation corresponds to the inscription on the cartridge elevator. The scan of the ledger shows "1878" next to multiple rifles on that page of the ledger suggesting they did in fact not ship until 1878, and the bottom of the page states "all dates on this page are 1877 except where noted 1878." Madis indicates this rifle is "an original First Model 1873 rifle as made by Winchester in 1877." He also notes that the lower tang is marked for XX fancy walnut and the stock and forend are "Winchester's finest quality and workmanship." The lower tang, stock upper tang mortise, and toe of the buttplate on the inside are also notes as having the assembly number "352." He indicates the side plate has "138." Madis also notes all of the metal and wood are original but the gun was refinished. He notes that the family that owned this rifle was once on display at a museum and theorizes that the museum had it refinished. "Many rare features are found on number 27138; only one of each 600 rifle had special barrels longer than standard: one of each 700 guns were engraved or inscribed and of every 600 guns made only one had special wood. Set triggers were provided on one of each 26 rifles, and checkering of stock and forend are found on only one of each 700 guns in the 1873 model. First models, such as this, are very rarely found with special and deluxe features, and most First models have seen much use and abuse." In addition to these documents, the included document file includes copies of primary source documents from the National Archives and copies of other secondary source materials relating to Edward R. Hopkins. The included binder of research as well as our own investigation indicates Edward Robie Hopkins (1836-1921) of Brooklyn, New York, graduated 15th in his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1860, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. He was made a brevet second lieutenant of infantry and assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry at Fort Ringgold on the border with Mexico in Texas and then on December 23, 1860, was stationed at Camp Wetherell at the mouth of the Rio Grande River. Cholera and other illness were prevalent at both of these locations, and the Mexican bandits raided in the region and then retreated to safety in Mexico where the U.S. Army could not follow them. Camp Wetherell was captured by Confederate Colonel John "Rip" Ford in April of 1861. The Union troops were ordered to Indianola, Texas, at the outbreak of the war. Cholera and disease was also prevalent at Indianola leading most of the soldiers to fall ill. On April 25, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn gave the soldiers the option to swear loyalty to the Confederacy and retain their ranks or be seized as prisoners of war. Hopkins led his remaining healthy men towards San Antonio hoping the Union still controlled it, but they were captured on April 26. While a prisoner, Hopkins was promoted to first lieutenant on May 14, 1861, "for meritorious service." He was further promoted to captain on June 7, 1862, and was exchanged on August 27, 1861. He then became an assistant instructor of infantry tactics at West Point until September of 1862. He vacated his commission on March 14, 1863, to accept a commission as captain and inspector commissariat in the Commissary of Subsistence in the Department of the Tennessee from February 9, 1863 to April 30, 1864. He was then depot commissary at Hilton Head, South Carolina, from January 1 to February 14, 1865, then assistant commissary in the Division of the Mississippi from March 1, to April 16, 1865. He received a brevet promotion to major on March 13, 1865. He tendered his resignation as captain of subsistence on May 13, 1865. His obituary and other sources note that he served on the staff of U.S. Grant and Sherman. After the war, he was the principal of the Newark Academy in New Jersey from 1867 to 1874 and then a mathematics instructor at the military schools in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Atlanta, Georgia, from 1874 to 1885. He received an Honorary Master of Arts degree from Princeton in 1870. He was the superintendent of a mining company in Southwestern Colorado in 1885 to 1887. He attended the 38th Annual Reunion of the Association of Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on June 13th, 1907. He was also a mining engineer in Brooklyn and prepared candidates for West Point at Cornwall-on-Hudson in 1890-1891 and the Highland Falls Academy in 1891-1896. He lived at 50 Monroe Street in Brooklyn and was active in Republican politics and in his son Clarence E. Hopkins's business that manufactured and sold photography equipment. The "H.C. CORPS" from the inscription is not documented. This may be an individual, an military organization perhaps related to the Commissary Department, or be related to a cadet corps from one of the military schools where he taught.

Rating Definition:

Fine as professionally restored with 95% plus of the blue, casehardened, and niter blue finishes, minimal light handling and storage marks, light fading mainly at the sharp edges of the barrel and front of the magazine tube, and distinct markings and historical inscription. The replacement wood is very fine and has crisp checkering, some minor edge wear, and a few minor dings and scratches. Mechanically excellent. As George Madis wrote, "This is an outstanding collector's Winchester, and with its historical importance, rare and special features, condition, inscription and age of well over a century, it will be an outstanding gun in any collection or museum."

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