Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3023: General McCook's Engraved Henry Lever Action Rifle

Auction Date: August 28, 2022

Historic Civil War Cavalry Commander and U.S. Minister to Hawaii General Edward M. McCook's Factory Inscribed and Engraved New Haven Arms Company Henry Lever Action Rifle with Documentation Also Showing it was Owned by David Kalakaua, the Last King of Hawaii

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Estimated Price: $65,000 - $125,000

Historic Civil War Cavalry Commander and U.S. Minister to Hawaii General Edward M. McCook's Factory Inscribed and Engraved New Haven Arms Company Henry Lever Action Rifle with Documentation Also Showing it was Owned by David Kalakaua, the Last King of Hawaii

Manufacturer: New Haven Arms Co.
Model: Henry Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 Henry RF
Barrel: 24 3/8 inch octagon
Finish: blue/silver
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 393
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 23
Class: Antique

This rifle was manufactured in 1865 and features classic Samuel Hoggson engraving with a mix of floral and scroll engraving, a doe jumping a fence on the left side plate, and decorative borders. The scroll engraving extends to the tang of the buttplate. The top of the receiver is inscribed "GEN'L McCOOK" surrounded by accent lines. The absolutely authentic inscription matches the style on the J.B. Stuart Henry sold by Rock Island Auction Co. in December 2020 and other factory inscribed Henry rifles from 1865. The barrel has a nickel-silver blade front sight faint Henry patent and New Haven Arms Co. marking, notch rear sight, "8850" marked at the breech, and a sling bar secured by two screws on the left. The corresponding sling swivel is fitted on the left side of the buttstock. The lower tang has the "W" inspection mark. Henry rifles were highly sought after by Union soldiers during the war and are especially known to have been owned by soldiers from the Midwest. Edward Moody McCook (1833-1909) was one of the extended line of the famous and historic, "Fighting McCooks." His father, four brothers, an uncle, and ten cousins fought in the Civil War for the Union, with two serving as Major Generals, four as Brigadier Generals and many others serving as high ranking officers. McCook's uncle Daniel McCook is also known to have owned a Henry during the Civil War and had his portrait taken with it prior to being killed during Morgan's Raid. At the time, a Henry was the most advanced firearm available, and many soldiers spent their reenlistment bonuses to get one. Prior to the war McCook was a volunteer secret agent of the United States government, and in recognition of this service he was appointed 2nd lieutenant in the 4th U. S. cavalry, May 1, 1861. He was promoted 1st lieutenant in July, 1862. In the volunteer service he served successively as major, lieutenant-colonel, and colonel of the 2nd Ind. cavalry, was promoted brigadier-general of volunteers, April 27, 1864 brevetted major-general of volunteers March 13, 1865, for gallant and meritorious services during the war, and he was mustered out of the volunteer service Jan. 15, 1866. He was brevetted in the regular army 1st lieutenant for gallantry at Shiloh, captain for services at Perryville, major for conduct in the battle of Chickamauga, lieutenant colonel for gallant and meritorious services during the cavalry operations of east Tennessee, colonel, March 13, 1865, for gallant and meritorious services in the capture of Selma, Ala., and brigadier-general at the same time in recognition of gallant and meritorious services in the field during the war. Gen. McCook resigned his commission in the regular army in May, 1866, and was appointed as minister to Hawaii by President Andrew Johnson 1866-69, he concluded the peace that led to annexation. He was appointed territorial governor of Colorado by President Grant and served from 1869 to 1875. McCook was appointed U.S. Minister Resident at the Hawaiian Islands in mid-1866 and served until December 1868 and was presented to King Kamehameha V and his staff. The king's staff included future king David Kalakaua. He worked to establish reciprocity between the islands and the U.S. While in Hawaii, McCook also tried to negotiate the sale of one of the islands to the U.S. but was rebuffed. McCook was funded in part by wealthy businessmen in the islands mainly connected to the sugar industry who wished to see the islands annexed by the U.S., and he wrote in favor of U.S. annexation. He also objected to the coolie trade that essentially amounted to a trade in enslaved Chinese laborers. McCook was later controversially appointed as governor of the Colorado Territory by President Grant in 1869, removed by petition in 1873, reinstated in 1874, and left office in 1875 and was one of the wealthiest men in Colorado thanks to his various business interests. McCook was made a Knights Commander of the Order of Kamehameha I in 1875 by King David Kalakaua. He was in Chicago when he died in 1909. The included provenance and research file identifies this rifle as being first owned by General Edward McCook and later owned by King David Kalakaua of Hawaii (obviously by gift from McCook), the islands' last reigning king. It was documented with the notation "Gen'l McCook #8850" in Prince Kuhio Kalaniana'ole's arms collection when he died in 1922, and his widow, Elizabeth K. Woods, donated it to the Bishop Museum. The Bishop sold the rifle at auction c. 1932 to Lieutenant Colonel Gerald C. Brant, and Brant gave the rifle back to the Hawaiian royal family via presentation to Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, widow of Prince Kuhio Kalaniana'ole's older brother Prince David Kawananakoa. At that time, a plaque (still retained) was fitted to the stock reading "KING KALAKAUA'S/FAVORITE RIFLE/TO/PRINCESS KAWANANAKOA/FROM/COL. JERRY BRANT." She left the rifle to her son David Kalakaua Kawananakoa, and at some point the rifle returned to the Bishop Museum and was again subsequently sold, this time to collector John A. Bell. King David Kalakaua (1836-1891) was the king of Hawaii from 1874 until his death. The rifle was likely given while McCook was serving in Hawaii before Kalakaua became king or presented it to him after he became king during Kalakaua's visit to the U.S. in November 1874 to February 1875. As king, he tried to keep the United States at bay and secure traditional Hawaiian social and political orders, but he was ultimately forced to allow the United States the exclusive right to enter Pearl Harbor and instituted a new constitution in 1887 (nicknamed the Bayonet Constitution) that gave considerably more political control to the wealthy elites and businessmen. He was under threat from armed Americans and Europeans allied with the Hawaiian League who wanted the islands to be annexed by the United States and worked to end the authority of the Hawaiian monarchy. This constitution was never properly ratified and was resisted by native Hawaiians from the start, but it did undermine the King and led to increased control by non-Hawaiians. After Kalakaua's death, his wife, Queen Liliuokalani (1838 - 1917), ruled until she was overthrown in 1893 by the Hawaiian League with aid from the U.S. military. A U.S. flag was flown over the royal palace, but the U.S. government under President Grover Cleveland ruled that the coup was illegal and attempted to restore the Queen. However, the Hawaiian League ignored Cleveland and moved forward with their seizure of control of the island. Hawaii became the Republic of Hawaii. Attempts to rebel and reinstate the Queen led to her imprisonment in 1895, and she was forced to sign a formal abdication in order to prevent the execution of her supporters. She was tried, imprisoned, and finally pardoned in 1896. Resistance continued, but before the end of the century, a U.S. flag flew over the Hawaiian palace when the islands were annexed as a U.S. territory in 1898. In 1900, the U.S. government took control of the royal lands in Hawaii over the protest of the former queen. McCook assured Liliuokalani that he believed that President McKinley would negotiate with her and reach favorable terms, but nothing came of it. It is important to note that we are not aware of any Hawaiian associated firearms that approach this historic and important piece of American History.

Rating Definition:

Very good. The barrel and magazine tube retain 10-15% refinished blue finish in the muzzle extension section and traces at the breech. The balance shows a mottled gray-brown patina. The frame has crisp engraving and retains a nice patch of original silver on the deer scene on the left and traces of original silver in the protected areas. The balance displays an attractive aged patina. The lever, hammer, and some smaller components such as the stock swivel have an applied, refinished dark blue finish. The lever and hammer also have dark patina and mild oxidation. The buttplate retains 70% of the original silver plating and has aged patina on the balance. The stock is fine with what appears to be a thin, period preservative finish (possibly linseed oil) added to its surface and has attractive figure, a repaired chip on the left side of the wrist, small flake on the left at the toe, general mild dings and scratches, and attractive appearance overall. Mechanically excellent. This is a very historic Henry rifle linked both to the American Civil War and U.S. imperialism in the Pacific in the late 19th century. It will add interest and value to any antique arms collections and is certainly one of the most interesting and historic Henry rifles in private hands.

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