Mexican Eagle Winchesters Summer 2013 $10.00

Page 38 If you are anything like me, your taste in the Winchesters you collect is constantly evolving. About 30 years ago, when I first became a serious Winchester collector, I could care less about engraved guns; they just didn’t have any appeal to me. When I was growing-up as a kid, I wanted Winchesters just like the ones I saw on my favorite TV shows like Bonanza, Gun Smoke and The Rifleman. Since none of those Winchesters on my TV shows were engraved, I had absolutely no interest in engraved guns. Times have sure changed since then. I guess it all started when I met my friend and mentor, the late George Madis. As a skilled engraver himself, George loved engraved guns. As we spent time at gun shows, he’d go out of his way to point-out various styles of engraving we would see along the way. I then began studying engraving both in books and on the guns themselves. As with any aspect of collecting, the more I learned, the more I would come to appreciate quality engraved Winchesters. Engraved guns with American eagles became my favorite; yet for the longest time, I didn’t pay much attention to Mexican eagle guns. After all, Mexican eagles weren’t, well, American. That all changed about a year ago when I was fortunate to acquire an engraved ’66 carbine with a great Mexican eagle. When the package arrived here at the house and I opened the box, my girlfriend said: “That’s a dirty old gun….why on earth did you buy that?!” I did my best trying to explain to her how great the engraving was on the eagle compared to any other Mexican eagles I have seen. She just looked at me and shook her head. Now don’t get me wrong; Lauren was right. This is a beat-up, old, Mexican Eagle Winchesters by Rob Kassab #4144LB

Summer 2013 Page 39 dirty-looking gun; but I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. That old cliché “if this gun could only talk” applies here! I know you understand, so we’ll continue... The gun came with a letter from the previous owner dated in 2011: “Winchester Model 1866 carbine, serial #36033, factory engraved, with the name ‘Pedro G. Blanco’engraved in the banner on the right side of frame, and the stamp of ‘W. Y D.G.’of legendary Mexico City gun dealer Wexel & DeGress

Page 40 on the right side of the rear of the frame next to the engraving. This gun turned up on a ranch outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2007, and it has never been in any collection other than my own. There are no factory records on the gun, and I have thus far not done any historical research on it. It was brought to me by a long-time friend from Guadalajara, and is in original untouched condition. (s) Lee Silva”. Anyone who has ever read Guns & Ammo or Wild West magazines has seen Lee’s name as an author (see Lee’s Wyatt Earp books on page 15). In addition to having been owned by a notedwestern author, what’s really cool about this gun, besides the outstanding quality of the engraving and traces of silver plating, are the following things. First, it’s marked “W.Y.DEG” (photo, right). Wexel & DeGress was a legendary import-export arms distributor with locations in New York, Texas, Mexico, Chile and Peru. Specializing in Winchesters, Colts, Smith & Wesson, Sharps & Hankins, to name a few, the company primarily sold American-made arms to Mexico and other Central and South American nations (look for an in-depth article on W&D in an upcoming issue of the Collector). Second, located on the loading gate side of the frame, the name “Pedro G. Blanco” is inscribed along with what appears to be a wear pattern of a cover plate (no longer there, but with two small screw or rivet holes which look like they were there to secure the plate at one time). Perhaps this was the name of the original owner and then the gun was either sold or stolen and a plate was affixed to obscure the name. Then over the years, the plate fell off, and we once again see old Pedro’s name inscription....? One of the mysteries we’ll probably never solve. Throughout the years, many a collector would (incorrectly in my opinion) attribute the engraving on these Mexican eagle guns to the master engraver Louis D. Nimschke. So shortly after I acquired this gun, I began a study on this style of engraving. I looked through my files for every Mexican eagle gun I could find; from photos collectors had sent me in the past, to photos I had taken, and in books. After comparing the engraving on the Mexican eagle guns to other known Nimschke work, I have come to the conclusion that this work, however masterful, is not Nimschke work. In fact, the style of engraving does not match any Winchester factory engraver’s style. So where were all these guns engraved and who engraved them? Enter Wexel & DeGress. We know that W&D had engravers on staff and that they were one of the few, if the only organization in Mexico capable of quality engraving at that time. Take a look at the engraving style of the guns on the next page. They all appear to have been engraved by the same engraver or at least the same group of them and most likely within the same shop. My hunch is that they were engraved in Mexico at W&D. I’d love to know what you think.... So feast your eyes on some great Mexican Eagle ‘66s, and let me know if you have one or any other information on them. If you do own one, please send me some good sharp digital photos and we may post it in a follow-up article.

Summer 2013 Page 41 Serial Number 44157 Serial Number 36130 Serial Number 44266 Serial Number 44267 First Model 1866 SRC Serial Number 13157 Serial Number 36033