Manufactured in 1914, this exquisite factory engraved Savage Model 1899 lever action rifle is presentation inscribed to Colonel William Hayward (1877-1944), commander of the famed Harlem Hellfighters during World War I and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Colonel Hayward graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1894, enrolled in graduate coursework in Munich, Germany, in 1896-97 and began practicing law in Nebraska City, Nebraska, in 1897. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, he served as an officer with the Second Nebraska Volunteer Infantry and eventually was promoted to colonel of the regiment. He served two years as the county judge of Otoe County and turned down President William Howard Taft's offer to appoint him assistant postmaster general because he wanted to continue practicing law. He settled in New York City after a failed bid as the Republican candidate for Nebraska's 1st congressional district in the 1910 election. Prior to America's entry into World War I, Hayward held several public service positions including assistant New York County District Attorney and counsel to a New York State legislature committee investigating the New York Public Service Commission. He resigned as public service commissioner for the first district when America entered World War I and was transferred into active duty as a colonel with a National Guard infantry regiment. Governor Whitman appointed Hayward to organize, recruit, and train the 15th New York National Guard Regiment (later reorganized as the 369th Infantry Regiment), an all African-American unit later nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters with mostly white officers including their commander, Colonel Hayward. Hayward's political connections were instrumental in gaining support for the regiment which endured significant racism from local communities and from their own military. Before arriving in France commander of the American Expeditionary Forces General John Pershing issued a warning to the French military in the pamphlet "Secret Information Concerning the Black American Troops." The pamphlet warned the French that working too closely with black American troops would trigger white American troops outrage and resentment directed against the French. The French, who were accustom to fighting along side colonists of other ethic groups on the battlefield ignored General Pershing's warning. and happily accepted the American black troops. Scholars have argued that Pershing, who insisted upon American military autonomy, was willing to loan the 369th to the French due to white American troops rejecting the idea of fighting side by side with black soldiers. The Harlem Hellfighters arrived in Europe in the spring of 1917 and went into the trenches as part of the 16th French Division in May 1918. The troops were issued French helmets, belts, pouches and weapons. They wore their American uniforms but wore the French uniform when participating in a raid. They quickly established themselves as a fearsome fighting force. A captured German soldier called the men of the 369th "devils" and said, "They smile while they kill and they won't be taken alive." It is no wonder the Germans referred to the 369th as "Hellfighters." They spent 191 days at the front, the longest of any other American regiment. They suffered 1,500 causalities, the highest of any U.S. regiment. They were deployed in the Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. They never lost a foot of ground to the enemy. They never had a man taken prisoner. Only once did they fail to meet an objective, and this failure has largely been blamed on inadequate French artillery support. During heavy fighting in Belleau Wood, the troops came under a German counterattack, and the French general ordered a retreat. Colonel Hayward disregarded the order, purportedly telling the French general that his men do not retreat; "They move forward or they die." Colonel Hayward led by example: “I’ve always told these boys I’d never send them anywhere I would not go myself, so I went first to the trenches, prowled around, saw it all and came back to the regiment to take in the battalion which was to go in first.” The 369th was among the most highly decorated American units. After the war, the French awarded the Croix de Guerre to 170 members of the 369th, including Colonel Hayward, and a unit citation was awarded to the entire regiment. The Hellfighters were the first New York unit to return to the United States as well as the first unit to march up Fifth Avenue with Hayward leading the way. In 1921, President Harding appointed Hayward U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position he held until 1925. He left office to return to practicing law. Along with his stepson, he went big game hunting in Africa in 1926 and 1927 and presented several trophies to the Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1929, he traveled to the Arctic and brought back several living polar bears which were given to the Bronx Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo. As for Hayward's presentation Model 1899, the inscription appears on the underside of the receiver: "PRESENTED TO/COL. WM HAYWARD/BY/UTICA LODGE No. 33 B.P.O. ELKS/JUNE 14, 1924." The circumstances surrounding the presentation remain unknown as well as Hayward's connection to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a fraternal order created in New York City in 1868 and to this day continues to operate on "the principles of Charity, Justice, Human love and Fidelity" while serving the local community. In the summer of 1924 Hayward was seeking the New York Republican gubernatorial nomination. The Republican state convention met in September; however, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was nominated. The election was held that November, and the Democratic candidate, Al Smith, won the gubernatorial race. Hayward remained the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position he held from 1921 to 1925. The Southern District has been known for being highly independent and nonpartisan and has a reputation of aggressively pursing criminals. The officer in charge of the SDNY earned the nickname "Sheriff of Wall Street" since the officer presides over Manhattan, the financial epicenter in the United States. This masterwork of Savage artistry may well have been Utica Lodge's gift of appreciation to one of New York's finest public servants and war veterans or as a political endorsement for his party's gubernatorial nomination. The receiver is decorated with near full coverage Grade D factory scroll and oval panel game scene engraving. The left side of the receiver features an American bison, and the right side of the receiver features a tiger. Along with the inscription, the underside of the receiver carries an engraved elk's head. The sides of the takedown collar are also engraved. The engraving was likely carried out by noted engraver Enoch Tue. Tue apprenticed with London gunmakers and was Savage's master engraver in the early 20th century. The upper tang is factory drilled and tapped for a sight. The rifle is fitted with a pinned beaded blade front sight and an elevation adjustable rear sight. The barrel has the two-line Savage legend ahead of the rear sight and "SAVAGE HI-PRESSURE STEEL/303" at the breech. The forearm and pistol grip stock are select grade walnut and feature factory "B" carved checkering. The buttstock has a checkered hard rubber grip cap and a serrated steel Savage buttplate.
Exceptionally fine retaining 85% plus original blue finish with high edge wear. The buttplate has a smooth gray patina. The engraving is crisp. 75% original case colors remain on the lever. The wood is very fine with some minor dings and scratches and overall crisp checkering. Mechanically excellent. A wonderful example of a factory panel scene engraved Savage Model 1899 Rifle presented to the heroic World War I commander of the famed 369th "Harlem Hellfighters" Infantry Regiment Colonel William Hayward. Whether in a lever action or World War I or sporting or firearms art collection, this is a standout piece of firearms artistry that works well in a number of collector genres.
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