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Very interesting rifle with circa 1898 factory (not museum) letter
May 9, 2019
10:53 pm
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Well, there's also a museum letter as well.  This is a very interesting rifle with lots of features.  What interested me the most was the Winchester letter from James Lewis on Winchester letterhead, date December 9, 1898.  I find the reference to Winchester considering marking all of their rifles with their ("there") proof marks quite fascinating.  Also fascinating was his hope the buyer of this rifle, "don't mind" as, "... for we went ahead and proof mark yours."  For me, this was a fascinating historical marker in time.

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/76/78/winchester-deluxe-model-1894-lever-action-takedown-rifle

Anyone else find this interesting?

May 9, 2019
11:32 pm
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Great discovery!  I am very interested to hear what our go to guys have to say about the early proof marking.  RDB

May 10, 2019
12:01 am
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What I  take from the letter is "Winchester is thinking about proof marking all there guns"  It was when Mr. Roosevelt got his gun back and he fired back a letter that Winchester reconsidered.

Bob

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May 10, 2019
1:36 am
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What I take from the letter is that lack of an 8th grade proficiency-level in English grammar was no hindrance to holding an executive position at the company. Brilliant & meticulous writer that he was, TR must have been impressed! 

May 10, 2019
3:03 am
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clarence said
What I take from the letter is that lack of an 8th grade proficiency-level in English grammar was no hindrance to holding an executive position at the company. Brilliant & meticulous writer that he was, TR must have been impressed!   

1898 is a great date as it ties-in with other known information - Thanks for posting!

James K. Lewis spoke in the contemporary vernacular of Arkansas of the time (no shame in that).  8th grade (or less) proficiency was the norm in 1898.  Skills spoke louder than diplomas back then.  Maybe that is why the quality of today's products are less than "the good 'ole days" ?  I truly believe the "internship" process for mechanical and production processes worked.  I am a Mechanical Engineer and learned ZERO real life "mechanical" skills at Ohio State.  Those were all subsequently gleaned under a seasoned ME PE, (coincidentally or not) exactly like an apprenticeship program......

Best Regards,

PS, After working 40+ years I still do not know even a small fraction of "knowing it all".  What I do know is that no one EVER knows it all, we only know what we know (at that particular time) and that is it.  Our "knowledge" is incomplete the day we stop "learning".  None of us knows it "ALL"........  As I get up in years, the more I "know" (aka can say with certainty) is only the more I DON'T know (and less ashamed to admit it).  According to Ralph Emerson. "Knowledge is something you learn new everyday" (forgive the slight misquote).  That applies to this (and many) subjects.

Aside from all that rant (and any perceived wasted college tuition) I am keen to learn of any new documentation regarding the proof-marking (WP) of Winchester firearms as I only have formal (official) documentation on the marking of .22 caliber rifles. - thanks for posting the info!

Further Best Regards, Cordialement deux, Atentamente, Meilleures, freundliche Grüße, etc., etc.

JWA

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May 10, 2019
4:08 am
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JWA said

 

8th grade (or less) proficiency was the norm in 1898.   

I don't disagree; but a reasonably conscientious 8th grade graduate of a reasonably good elementary school in 1898--where "readin', 'ritin', & 'rithmatic, constituted the chief subjects of study--would probably not have committed such fundamental grammatical errors, unless of course he was one of the class dunces or troublemakers, "passed" only to get rid of them.  19th C. "amateur" literature in the form of letters, diaries, memoirs, is FULL of impeccably written English by ordinary folks with no education beyond the 8th grade (if not home-schooled!), so it's dead wrong to imply that the grammatical errors appearing in this letter were the norm for the time among people lacking further education. 

May 10, 2019
4:30 am
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Hmmm.

I think your perspective may be regional, as is mine (Northeast U.S. vs. South-Midwest, where the document originated).  

Not disagreeing either, as I was not present in 1898, but growing up in the Ozarks of southern Missouri (near northern Arkansas) more than a few years ago I did happen to notice that "old time" folks from Arkansas (and my own kinfolk from Southern Missouri) spoke and wrote in exactly the same way with a similar 8th grade education.  My Grandmother from the region was the sharpest and most intelligent woman I knew and spoke (and wrote) in just such a manner.  It was not judged as harshly in the region (or period) of the day.  My Grandmother was one of the first women from the Ozarks to complete the 8th grade.  She passed away many years ago at 96 after seeing some of her great-grandchildren graduate college.  So, I have to think we, as a regional family, are improving over the years but I still speak in the local vernacular and accent although I have attempted to cull it from my writing.

I am sure someone graduating from the College of the Ozarks (founded 1905) is going to speak and write a bit differently than someone attending Harvard, Princeton or Yale.  But, which example is more indicative of the current regional/Midwest population of the US?

Anyway, people 120 years from now (the vintage of the letter) will probably be grading and commenting upon our grammar as well, and to be honest, that is good because that means they progressed beyond you and I (the 'ole Missouri hillbilly).

Now, back to Winchesters.....

Best Regards,

JWA

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May 10, 2019
11:31 am
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Are you guys really buying into this garbage? What we have here is a nicely configured, factory engraved antique model 1894 that was factory refinished and rebarreled at the factory after 1919ish. A decent gun, but when rebarreled and proofed circa 1920's it kills the value and collectability. Even when factory reworked, we as collectors shy away from these to a degree. Sometime (likely in the last 25 years) someone fabricated this Lewis letter to make an excuse for it having proof marks. Never mind the very late barrel. It had an R&R after 1919, that's why there is proof marks. It was not proofed in 1898 when originally made. They also thought while they were at it, they would add Roosevelt and Ulrich to the letter to embellish this rifle even more. This letter is hilarious.

May 10, 2019
12:24 pm
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I tend to agree with Austin.  LOL!  It's not safe for work (or tender ears) but I think this guy has some insight on the matter: 

May 10, 2019
1:36 pm
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Spot on, Austin!  (Post #8, above).

May 10, 2019
2:47 pm
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I post topics here because I am interested in what other's think.  I am rarely disappointed.  I have enjoyed the varying comments and analysis regarding this rifle and associated documentation.  As usual, others offer comments and perspectives that I had not thought of.  That why whenever I receive notification that a response has been posted, I am eager to read it. 

One of my reactions thus far is I am glad I am not the new owner of this rifle. 

Regarding the documentation, specifically, the Mr. Lewis letter, I find a challenging puzzle here.  In pondering whether the letter is a fake, I am mulling over what the motivation would be.  That is, how, "additive" is the letter?  Sometimes we see sellers provided fake provenance because factory documentation is not available.  In this case, what the rifle is, and what has been done to it is outlined in the factory ledger.  The, "proof mark" information doesn't add much to the rifle that I can see.  The Lewis letter specifying Ulrich engraved does provide a significant detail not recorded in the ledger - which is a draw.  And then there is the who the letter is addressed to.  As this rifle changes hands, I can see at some future date a seller making the case this was T.R.'s rifle.  If the letter is fake, it is curious why they chose the Roosevelt name.  For all I know, in the history of this rifle, a past seller did try to make the case it was T.R.'s rifle. 

I had never heard of James Lewis at Winchester.  If he did exist, it would be interesting to see another letter written by him.  The grammar and signature are distinctive.  And of course, was he in a position where it would be logical that he would be the one to write such a letter.

Coming full circle, if somehow we were able to figure out that the Lewis letter is real, Austin's comment  relevant:

Iowa
 
 

 
What we have here is a nicely configured, factory engraved antique model 1894 that was factory refinished and rebarreled at the factory after 1919ish. A decent gun, but when rebarreled and proofed circa 1920's it kills the value and collectability. Even when factory reworked, we as collectors shy away from these to a degree.
May 10, 2019
2:59 pm
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Regarding the proof mark comment in the letter, even RIA's spiel says that would indicate a second, later return date whereas the letter tries to make it sound like it was done at the factory return date in 01.  I might be missing something, but RIA didn't even mention that letter in their spiel, so maybe, while showing a picture of it, they are not all that impressed with it.

I stand to be educated by those who are much more observant than I am.

May 10, 2019
5:27 pm
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I have a factory letter from 2/25/98 and it is embossed over the signature area.  Should this show up when copied?

May 10, 2019
5:28 pm
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Great thread on a number of levels!

I think Austin made the right call.

I really did enjoy the comments made about the grammar in the subject letter! This is an interesting subject in itself...which reminds me of the "contemporary vernacular" of the Clinch Mountain folks of East Tennessee in 1804.  About this time a considerable number of good citizens of Grainger County, Tennessee, wanted to replace a county official who was a man "of few letters" and prone to drinking, fighting, and profanity. They wanted to replace him with ____ _____, "...a man of upright Carractor and possessed of a Tollerable Share of law Knowledge…Wink

James

May 10, 2019
5:52 pm
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Chuck said
I have a factory letter from 2/25/98 and it is embossed over the signature area.  Should this show up when copied?  

The notary stamp usually does show as a water mark but not always.

Bob

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May 11, 2019
2:58 am
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I have serious doubts about the Lewis letter. If a man were to order a Latin motto engraved on his rifle I doubt someone in Lewis’ position would find it necessary to translate it for him. 

 

Mike

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May 11, 2019
5:46 am
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If I were President and/or CEO or any other high up muckity muck in a major corporation doing business with any of *the* Roosevelts, I would probably handle all the comm myself and not let some lower echelon guy be writing letters and whatnot.  But maybe they did things differently back then.

May 11, 2019
12:38 pm
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Provenance should be iron clad if it is used to help establish value.  The paperwork (e.g., "provenance") associated with this rifle is weak, at best.

May 11, 2019
2:10 pm
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The other item I find curious is the letter from Mr. Lewis says he is in  Little Rock AR, I would think it would of been from the factory.

Bob

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May 11, 2019
2:58 pm
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1873man said
The other item I find curious is the letter from Mr. Lewis says he is in  Little Rock AR, I would think it would of been from the factory.

Bob  

Bob - that's a good point.  And from that point, if someone were going to fake a letter, why would they pick Little Rock over the factory location?  I agree with the various points suggesting the letter isn't real.  However, I don't think it's 100% that the letter isn't real.

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