Winchester Model 1866: Beauty and Power
The name Winchester has always been associated with the development of the American West. This historic Winchester Model 1866 was specifically manufactured for the Philadelphia Trade Exposition of 1876. Currently displayed in the Robert W. Woodruff Gallery of Embellished Arms of the Cody Firearms Museum, it’s frequently overlooked by visitors in spite of being featured in several publications. In addition, many leading firearms authorities consider this particular rifle the most valuable Model 1866 in existence.
It is hard to believe any 134-year-old object could possibly be in such wonderful, virtually new condition. This firearm certainly is—from its beautifully grained walnut stocks to the engraved finish of its metal frame.
The famous engraver Conrad Ulrich embellished this rifle in the Germanic style with classical hunting scenes. Diana, the mythical goddess of the hunt, is depicted on the right side of the receiver pursuing a deer. The left side features elk, a bison, and a grizzly bear.
More than 170,000 rifles of this model were produced between 1867 and 1898. Owners used the Model 1866 to hunt wild game for food and for the defense of self and family against hostile animal and human attacks.
The Model 1866 was popularly known by the Plains Indians as the “Yellow Boy” because of the reflection of the rays of the sun from its brass frame. It was also sometimes called “Many Shots” since its magazine held 17 cartridges, giving it astonishing firepower for its time. It was a true treasure, especially in time of need, for the pioneers of the western frontier.
Winchester Model 1866 Lever Action Deluxe Sporting Rifle, ca. 1873, Winchester Repeating Arms Co., New Haven, CT. Gift of Olin Corporation, Winchester Arms Collection. 1988.8.3283