This beautiful, engraved Winchester Model 1866 lever action rifle was manufactured in 1874 and is accompanied by a letter from Winchester factory engraver, author, and historian Pauline Muerrle stating that this rifle was engraved by John Ulrich and "is an excellent example of his work, both scrolls and deer scene, with inscription." John Ulrich was one of the three Ulrich brothers that engraved for Winchester in the late 19th century and was certainly one of the finest firearms engravers of the period as the beautifully laid out and executed scrollwork on this rifle demonstrates. The rifle features beautiful scroll engraving with beaded backgrounds on the nickel plated action, forend cap, and buttplate along with a beautiful scene of a running buck on the left side with the inscription "T.A. Mellon/P.A./Pittsburgh" inscribed above. The rifle features an extra long 28 inch barrel with a dovetailed front sight with German silver blade, a notch and folding ladder rear sight graduated out to 900 yards, and the two-line address and King's improvement patent marking ahead of the rear sight. The serial number is marked within an engraved banner on the lower tang, and the rifle also features a smooth straight wrist stock and forearm, sling swivels mounted on the forend cap and bottom of the butt, and an empty compartment in the stock. The rifle is also featured on page 285 of "Winchester's New Model of 1873: A Tribute" by Gordon where he notes that this rifle has a 28 inch barrel "with the retaining band back in the same position" as a normal length rifle. Scots-Irish born, wealthy and influential 19th century American lawyer, judge, and businessman Thomas A. Mellon's (1813-1908) life was a classic American "rags to riches" tale. He was born on a small potato farm in Ireland but came to the United States as a boy and grew up on his family's farm. He was inspired by "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" to make himself a successful businessman and later wrote his own autobiography for his family as Franklin had done. He was the founder of T. Mellon & Sons Bank in 1870. The bank was one of only two private banks in Pittsburgh to survive the Panic of 1873 and held significant interests in real estate and helped finance the creation and expansion of many of the United States' most powerful companies in the late 19th century and into the 20th century, including the powerful oil and chemical companies Standard Oil, Gulf Oil, and Kopper; and manufacturing companies like U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, General Motors, and the H.J. Heinz Company. The family's business reach spanned far off into the country and included holdings of valuable lands and resources. He was friends and business associates with Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and other leading industrialists and financiers of the "Gilded Age" and became a millionaire and also set his sons up for future success by raising them to be proper businessmen and setting them up in suitable businesses. His third son, Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937), took over the banking firm and later became U.S. Treasurer in the Harding administration and was noted as one of the most powerful and wealthy bankers in the country. His first son, Thomas Alexander Mellon Jr. (1844-1899), was most likely the original owner of this rifle. His nephew William L. Mellon wrote in "Judge Mellon's Sons" that "Uncle Tom's devotion to hunting was a passion. His prowess was based on such a knowledge of wild creatures and ther habits as entitled him to be called a naturalist...Uncle Tom likewise has an interest in guns that carried over when the hunting seasons were finished. How that interest began I don't know; of course his wife, like my mother, had grown up in the West, in Leavenworth, and his devotion to her and her western background may have sharpened his interest in shooting irons. At any rate, he was a great fellow for guns and collected all kinds. They were kept behind glass in a large case, and in time the collection became quite impressive in size." The rifle may have been exhibited at or presented in relation to the Tradesmen's Industrial Institute's first exposition that ran from October 7 to November 6, 1875. He was known in the family as "Tom" and professionally as "T.A. Mellon." His brothers were also known by their initials per books written by the family, and this was fairly common for gentlemen in the period. The influential family patriarch, meanwhile, was primarily referred to as Thomas Mellon or "Hon. Thomas Mellon" reflecting his time as a judge. For example, in 1887, "T.A. Mellon" was listed as the general manager of the Ligonier Valley Railroad Company while his father was listed as "Hon. Thomas Mellon" as the president, "A.W. Mellon" was the secretary and treasurer, and those three as well as additional sons "J.R. Melon" (James Ross Mellon b. 1846) and "R.B. Mellon" (Richard Beatty Mellon b. 1858) accounted for five of the seven directors. T.A. was heavily involved in the railroad project and surveyed the right of way for the project. He had a home adjoining his father in Pittsburgh at Negley Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue in Pittsburgh's East End. He married Mary C. Caldwell (1841-1902). During the Civil War, he enlisted and served on the Maryland border after Antietam. He was not destined to take over his father's bank and opened his own nursery and landscape business when he was 18 and then ran a successful lumber, coal, building supplies, and in real estate business with his brother James named Mellon Bros. in East Liberty. They developed new neighborhoods, selling the land and construction supplies. His second child and eldest son was Thomas Alexander Mellon III, born in 1873. T.A. Mellon died in 1899 after being ill for two years with cancer from smoking cigars and was noted as "one of Pittsburgh's foremost businessmen." Provenance: The James D. Gordon Collection, The Peter Via Collection; Property of a Gentleman
Exceptionally fine with crisp engraving, markings and inscription; 75% plus original nickel plating on the frame and furniture, strong original nickel plating in the protected areas of the barrel and magazine tube, mottled gray patina on the barrel and magazine tube, aged patina on the exposed brass, and generally minor overall wear. The wood is also very fine with a faint repaired crack barely visible in the wrist, most of the original high gloss piano varnish remaining, some fading visible on the forend, and scattered light marks and scratches. The follower/follower spring assembly is incomplete, but the rifle is otherwise mechanically excellent. This is an absolutely stunning John Ulrich factory master engraved Winchester Model 1866 with attractive nickel finish and historical inscription to one of Gilded Age Pittsburgh's most influential businessmen.
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