Antique Winchester 1873 Belonging to SAMUEL F CODY
“The Flying Cowboy”: Britain’s First Aviator
Here we present an antique Winchester Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle in .22 Short, once belonging to Samuel Franklin Cody & his Wild West show, made in 1890 in New Haven, Connecticut.
“Samuel Cody, Britain’s first aviator, was a naturalized British citizen (born in the USA) and a cowboy who modelled himself on Buffalo Bill. His story straddles two continents, two eras: the Wild West of America, where he rode the same cattle trails as Buffalo Bill, played the same roulette tables in Dodge City as Wyatt Earp and competed with Annie Oakley at sharp shooting; and later along with the Wright brothers he became a pioneer of early aviation, whose achievements led to the foundation of today’s aviation industry and to Farnborough becoming synonymous with flying.”—The Flying Cowboy by Peter Reese
This man lived a relatively short but active life, one that can certainly be described as ambitious, but “Larger than Life” also comes to mind. Born Samuel Franklin Cowdery in 1867, he would later call himself S.F. Cody for theatrical purposes, using the famous last name Cody to attract a bigger audience to his Wild West shows, first in the United States and then in Great Britain. Cody’s shows included dramatic storylines, feats of trick shooting, horse riding stunts, wrestling matches, and just about anything else that would entertain people. Eventually, Cody would become very interested in flying.
At the turn of the century, Cody began his successful experimentations with man lifting kites, even working with the British government to apply them militarily. Cody also designed gliders, dirigibles, and airships and is credited for piloting the first official flight of a heavier than air machine in Great Britain in 1908. He won the Michelin Cup in 1910 and first prize at the British Military Aeroplane Competition Military Trials in 1912. He was killed at the age of 46 in 1913 as he was flying one of his latest designs. The Daily Sketch wrote at the time that 100,000 were present at his funeral procession. His only child, Franklin Leslie Cody, would go on to fight in the Great War, very fittingly as a pilot. He was shot down to his death by four German planes in early 1917. Much more can be read about S.F. Cody in his biographies.
Sotheby’s Auction in London sold the items in the S.F. Cody Archive in January of 1996, everything from show props to firearms to pieces of aeroplane. This rifle, the rifle shipping crate, target mold and resin for the mold were sold at this time in various lots. The mold is marked in reverse on the interior “C. LANCASTER/CODY” on one side and “151 NEW BOND ST/CODY” so that when one of these spherical targets is molded, these lines appear on the exterior of the target. The exterior is marked “CODY” on each side. This was the work of Charles Lancaster who was indeed located at that address. The crate is a heavy wooden construction and would have been used to convey as many as 5 rifles to and from various Wild West shows. The exterior bears, “SF CODY” in large faded letters on the front, the number “12” on one end and heavy duty iron hardware. The interior is decorated with two very old felt banners from Winchester. This collection also includes two excellent biographies on this man: 1) A Pair of Shootists: The Wild West Story of S.F. Cody & Maud Lee by Jerry Kuntz & 2) The Flying Cowboy: Samuel Cody Britain’s First Airman by Peter Reese. Finally, the Sotheby’s auction catalog from the sale of these items and many more, all belonging to Cody, from January 1996.
This Winchester Model 1873 Rifle is fascinating. The dust cover rail is inscribed “S.F. Cody”. Both sides of the buttstock are stamped “S.F. Cody JR” (his Civil War veteran father was S.F. Cody Senior) just ahead of the butt plate. The butt stock is short so that the length of pull is 10-3/4 inches. This may have been done for several reasons but the most likely is that this was a rifle used for a specific trick shot or it was used by someone of smaller stature like his partner and common law wife, Lela, or one of her children who participated in the shows with them.
The top of the barrel is marked “WINCHESTER—REPEATING—ARMS. NEW HAVEN. CT./KING’S-IMPROVEMENT-PATENTED-MARCH 29. 1866. OCTOBER 16. 1860” and “.22 SHORT” at the breech. The receiver tang is marked “MODEL 1873”. The bottom of the lifter is marked “.22 CAL. SHORT.”
The overall condition of the rifle is very good plus. About 25% of the original finish remains with a dark, even plum patina throughout. The case colors remain vibrant on the hammer. The markings are clear and legible. The stock shows wear but remains smooth and solid. The bore is in good condition with visible rifling. The action is excellent. This is a lovely collection of historical items that would be rare in their own right, but here they are together for your once in a lifetime opportunity to own the effects of “The Flying Cowboy”, Samuel F. Cody, Britain’s first aviator.
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 24 inches.
Caliber: .22 Rimfire Short
Overall condition as seen in photos.
Very Fast. Very Safe. FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE. Delivered directly to your door by express mail!
Guaranteed AUTHENTIC & Includes CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY.