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    Firearms company fueled first motorcyle age

    This 1909 Marsh-Metz Winchester motorcycle, one of only two known survivors of a test run of 200 motorcycles commissioned by the Winchester company, is expected to bring $350,000-$600,000 at James D. Julia’s March 15-16 Firearms Auction in Fairfield, Maine.
    This 1909 Marsh-Metz Winchester motorcycle, one of only two known survivors of a test run of 200 motorcycles commissioned by the Winchester company, is expected to bring $350,000-$600,000 at James D. Julia’s March 15-16 Firearms Auction in Fairfield, Maine.

    Two early-20th-century motorcycles, each with a $350,000-$600,000 estimate, lead off James D. Julia’s Firearms Auction March 15 and 16 at 10 a.m. at its gallery in Fairfield, Maine.

    One might wonder why motorcycles are the expected top sellers at a 2,004-lot auction of 11 renowned collections of important and historical firearms.

    The answer is the exceedingly rare 1909 and 1910 motorcycles bear the name of the Winchester Firearms Co., one of the world’s most recognizable and iconic brands.


    Each is one of only two known survivors of a test run of 200 motorized bicycles that Winchester, which by the early 1900s had expanded into numerous enterprises, commissioned a California company to manufacture “utilizing the finest parts available.” The engine was the single-cylinder, 6 hp Marsh-Metz, named for David Marsh and Charles Metz, founders of the American Motorcycle Co. of Brockton, producer of the most reliable engines of the time.

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    The expected top-selling firearm is an extremely rare Confederate Napoleon cannon cast from church bells that were sent from Southern states to Leeds & Co., the New Orleans foundry making the cannon, when the needed bronze gun metal was not available. The estimate for the cannon with its original carriage is $200,000-$250,000. That is followed by the $175,000-$225,000 estimate for a factory-engraved gold and silver Colt single-action revolver that was part of the Colt exhibition at the 1876 Philadelphia World’s Fair.

    Other important firearms include the circa 1909 cased W. J. Jeffery boxlock ejector double rifle ($75,000-$150,000) used by the legendary hunter-conservationist Jim Corbett (1875-1955) to kill man-eating tigers in India, and the 1873 Winchester rifle engraved “Presented to Major Frank North U.S.A. from Buffalo Bill” ($75,000-$125,000). North and William F. Cody (who became known as Buffalo Bill) were fellow scouts and longtime friends.

    A pair of E. J. Churchill premier pinless sidelock XXV game guns made for the prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII and then the duke of Windsor, has a $40,000-$60,000 estimate, which also is the estimate for a pair of 2-inch 12 bore lightweight James Purdey sidelock ejector game guns made for the maharaja of Nawanagar in 1935, the year he was knighted.

    A historic offering is the large group of items relating to the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn and to Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, commander of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment.


    The group, which includes guns, Indian arrows, medals, photographs, autographs, and letters is topped by Custer’s gold and enamel medal of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), an organization of officers and former officers formed after the assassination of President Lincoln. The estimate is $50,000-$70,000.

    A Remington Army revolver, holster, and farrier’s knife taken by Indians from the body of Lieutenant William W. Cooke, Custer’s Canadian-born adjutant, whose body was found near his commander’s, has a $30,000-$40,000 estimate. The gun, holster and knife were later taken from an Indian by the Canadian Mounted Police and returned to the Cooke family.

    Other guns recovered from the Montana battlefield include a Remington revolver found loaded with four rounds and four percussion caps and a Colt single-action revolver, each with a $20,000-$30,000 estimate.

    Two medals taken from the body of Captain Myles Keogh that had been presented to the Irish-born soldier by Pope Pius IX for having served with gallantry in the Papal War of 1860, have a $30,000-$50,000 estimate. They are the “Pro Petri Sede” (“For the Seat of Peter” — meaning the Vatican) medal and the “Ordine di San Gregorio” (St. Gregory) medal.

    Among other items in the group are an early hand-drawn map of the battlefield ($30,000-$40,000) and two Indian arrows retrieved from the battlefield ($20,000-$50,000) that are illustrated in the 1939 book “A Custer Tragedy” by Fred Dustin.


    One relic of the Civil War is the Confederate cedarwood canteen captured by a black soldier from the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the attack on Fort Wagner on Morris Island, S.C. It has a $6,000-$8,000 estimate.

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    A 25-inch carved wood figure of a Kongo power figure on a stand, formerly in the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, is expected to be the top seller at Skinner’s American Indian and Ethnographic Auction March 14 at 10 a.m. at its Boston gallery. The figure, which dates from the second half of the 19th century, has a $40,000-$60,000 estimate.

    Another ethnographic offering is the late-18th-/early 19th-century nearly 5-foot-long Marquesas Islands carved wood war club in the form of a stylized head. The estimate is $20,000-$30,000, which also is the estimate for two circa 1850 silver pendants owned by the famed Lakota chiefs Red Cloud and Spotted Tail.

    The 6-inch and 7½-inch cloud-shaped pendants, which have hide suspensions, are engraved with a petal and arrow design on the front of Red Cloud’s pendant and with a spider web design on the front of Spotted Tail’s. The backs of the pendants are inscribed “Ornament Red Cloud” and “Ornament of Spotted Tail Sioux Chief.” The estimate is $20,000-$30,000.

    A Lakota beaded hide child’s dress and a Kiowa beaded hide young girl’s dress are both from around the last quarter of the 19th-century and each has a $20,000-$25,000 estimate. A circa 1890 European-cut Lakota hide coat beaded with multicolored figures of horses and riders has a $25,00-$35,000 estimate.

    Estimates for the six beaded hide cradles in the sale have estimates ranging from $800-$1,200 to $10,000-$15,000, and the 21 pairs of moccasins from $200-$250 for a pair of early-20th-century Arapaho partially beaded hide moccasins to $5,000-$7,000 for a pair of late-19th-century Kiowa beaded hide men’s moccasins.

    Topping the tomahawks is a circa 1870 Central Plains 22½-inch long pipe tomahawk with a heart cutout in the blade. The estimate is $6,000-$8,000, the same estimate for a circa 1870s Northern Plains 14-inch dag knife with an elk horn handle.

    The pottery and basketry offerings are highlighted by a 9¼-inch Cochiti polychrome pottery figure of a seated storyteller surrounded by 12 grandchildren in various positions signed “Helen Cordero Cochiti N. Mex.” ($3,000-$5,000 estimate), and an Apache 8-inch-diameter pictorial basketry bowl ($5,000-$7,000).

    Virginia Bohlin can be reached at