October 30 - November 2, 2018 Firearms, Militaria, & Sporting
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 10/30/2018
Winchester Model 1873 .44-40 Lever Action Rifle, Serial Number #487, photograph attributed to the Lakota - Sioux Chief Rain-In-The-Face. Manufactured in 1874 with Winchester letter. Showing his worth as a warrior early on in life, the Indian known as Ito-na-gaju earned his Hunkpapa name of Rain-in-the-Face after several fights where the blood and war paint looked like rain on his face. While he did lead several inter-Indian raids, Chief Rain-in-the-Face first fought against the whites in the summer of 1866 when he participated in a raid against Fort Totten in what is now North Dakota. In December 1866, he participated in the Fetterman Massacre near Fort Phil Kearny in present-day Wyoming. In 1873, he took part in the Battle of Honsinger Bluff where he first encountered George Custer. Rain-in-the-Face led five warriors on an ambush and killed Dr. John Honsinger, an army veterinarian, and a sutler named Augustus Baliran who were accompanying Custer's cavalry near the Tongue River, Montana. He then returned to the Standing Rock Reservation where he lived for a period of time. Late in 1873, a scout named Charley Reynolds visited the Standing Rock Agency when he heard Rain-in-the-Face boasting about his participation in the ambush. When Reynolds reported what he had learned, General George Custer ordered Rain-in-the-Face arrested and dispatched his younger brother, Captain Thomas Custer, to perform the deed. Thomas Custer took Rain-in-the-Face to Fort Abraham Lincoln and incarcerated him. However, Rain-in-the-Face escaped and returned to the reservation, then fled to the Powder River country. In the spring of 1876, he joined Sitting Bull's band and traveled with him to the Little Big Horn River in early June. During the subsequent fighting at the Battle of Little Big Horn on Custer Hill on June 25, 1876, Rain-in- the-Face is alleged to have cut the heart out of Thomas Custer, a feat that was popularized by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in "The Revenge of Rain-in-the-Face." According to legend, Rain-in-the-Face was fulfilling a vow of vengeance because he felt Captain Thomas Custer had unjustly imprisoned him in 1874. Some contemporary accounts also claimed that the war chief had personally dispatched George Custer as well, but in the confused fighting, a number of similar claims have been attributed to other warriors. Late in his life, in a conversation with writer Charles Eastman, Rain-in-the-Face denied both the killing of George Custer and the mutilation of Tom Custer. After the Battle of Little Big Horn, Rain-in-the-Face joined other Hunkpapa as they fled north into Canada, spending the next several years in exile. He finally led his band to surrender in 1880 at Fort Keogh, Montana, and the following year was transferred to the Standing Rock Agency, Dakota Territory, where he later became a reservation police officer and lived the rest of his life. Rain-in-the-Face died in 1905 in his home at the Bullhead Station on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota after a lengthy illness. On his deathbed he reputedly confessed to Mary Collins, a famous Indian missionary, that he thought that he might have killed Custer, shooting him from so close as to leave powder marks upon his face. Between 1878 and 1883, David Frances Barry, referred to by Indians as “The Little Shadow Catcher,” traveled to Fort Buford, Fort Yates, and other forts in the Dakota Territory. He went as far north as Fort Assiniboine in Montana. For these trips he used a portable photographic studio in which he took most of his portraits. He photographed famous Native American chiefs, warriors, scouts, and women including Sitting Bull, Rain-in-the-Face, Gall, Red Cloud, and Shooting Star. You can look at dozens of photographs of Indian Chiefs and warriors photographed by Barry online, but few, if any, have Barry in the photograph. However, two of the photos Barry took of Chief Rain-in-the-Face feature Barry standing with his friend. These two photos accompany this lot, along with a piece written by Barry about his friend, Chief Rain- in-the-Face. All of the writing on the photos matches Barry’s hand. The first photo has “Chief Rain In the Face and DF Barry” with his photography stamp on the back. The second, in the album, has “D.F. Barry and his friend, Rain In The Face, the Noted Sioux Chief.” It also possesses his photography sticker. Both measure approximately 6 – ¼" by 8 – ¼", have their original mounts and include a small 2 x 3 image of Barry later in life. This gives positive credence to the bond that Barry and Rain-in-the-Face had formed. This introduction and friendship formed after the outlaw Indian band fled to Canada and returned to Standing Rock. Both of these photographs picture this Winchester 1873 with several distinguishing features in each photo that uniquely identify this rifle to the one in Chief Rain-in-the-Face’s hand. There is a small rectangular metal plate at the butt which is easily seen. There is also an easily seen oval measuring 1 – 3/8” wrist repair where the bolt was ground down, leaving an image that looks rather like a crooked letter “C”. On the right side of the wooden stock there is a mar in the wood similar to an upside down fishhook that is easily seen in the photograph. Another distinguishing feature is the reverse rear sight in which the slot is 1 – 1/8th on center from breech with the rear sight extending towards to muzzle, rather than the breech. Finally, a small set trigger lever is set behind the trigger bow and is clearly visible in the photo. This rifle is also the only weapon that can be photographically matched out of all the images that we can find of any Indian by photographer D. F. Barry. What can we prove? Fact: Rifle was made prior to the Battle of Little Big Horn, manufactured in 1874. Fact: Rifle is pictured in the hands of Chief Rain-in-the-Face, taken after his return from Canada. Fact: David Barry thought very highly of Chief Rain-in-the-Face and, as a result, was photographed with the chief, which is not the case with the majority of other Barry images. Legend: Chief Rain-in-the-Face, through the collective memory of the Battle of Little Big Horn, is tied in with the deaths of both George and Tom Custer. Legend: Depending on whose story you listen to and the purported confession to Mary Collins, Rain-in-the-Face believed that he killed both Custers. Burial details do confirm that Thomas Custer’s heart was missing. Fact: The gun shows use and even has some pommel wear on fore end near frame, which is typical of Indians riding with their rifles behind the saddle horn. Legend: He had a personal grievance with Tom Custer and had encountered George Custer during the Battle of Honsinger Bluff. Condition of Rifle: Receiver and protected areas show traces of factory blue turning to brown. Metal is basically a smooth, homogeneous brown patina. Stocks are very good; fore end has a slight chip on the rear right of forearm. There are numerous dings on the stock. There looks to be two tiny hairline cracks at wrist but appears to just be grain separation. Action is fine and has a well-defined rifle bore, as well as the pommel wear already mentioned. Rifle is missing dust cover; a modification Indians were known to perform to prevent the dust cover from rattling and making too much noise. Patina shows no sign of dust cover wear, indicating that it has been off for most of its lifetime. Barrel legends are sharp. This is a once in a lifetime chance to own a rifle that is photographed in the hands of the most legendary Indian Chief that has been attributed with the killing of both Custers. This lot has history, condition, and solid proof that it was in his hands at one time, although the photographs were taken post Little Big Horn. Special Note: This rifle has been in the hands of the consignor for thirty-five years and was purchased directly from a descendant of a Standing Rock administrator. However, there are no records of this event. Comes with two photos, both signed by D. F. Barry, and factory letter.
Barrel Length
FFL Status
Serial Number
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $100,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $132,000.00
Estimate: $200,000 - $250,000
Number Bids: 5
Auction closed on Friday, November 2, 2018.
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