DENVER, Penn. – A shotgun built for sharpshooter Annie Oakley in 1888 and used during a significant period of her career achieved $210,000 ($258,000 with buyer’s premium) at Morphy Auctions. Sold to a private collector, it was the highlight of Morphy’s Firearms & Militaria auction on September 5-7 (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).
The 12-bore double-barreled hammerless model with 28-inch barrels was given to Oakley by the London gunmaker Charles Lancaster. The story goes that he observed Oakley at a gun club in England in 1887, struggling with a Parker shotgun that appeared too heavy for her petite 5ft frame. On that occasion, Lancaster offered Oakley advice on wingshooting and later presented her with four bespoke shotguns: two 20-bores and two 12-bores. The 12-bore in Morphy’s sale, with the serial number 05970 for 1888, came with a 2012 letter from Charles Lancaster Gunmakers, documenting its history.
The gun was clearly a favorite weapon as it had been modified and repaired for the woman nicknamed “Little Sure Shot” on a number of occasions. The barrels were shortened in 1889, it was converted to an ejector in 1889 and was returned to the workshop for replacement parts in 1895 and 1896.
Morphy Auctions’ president Dan Morphy commented: “This was a very special Annie Oakley gun. It’s well known that she cared much more about the reliability and quality of her guns than their artistic appearance or factory engraving. It’s evident from the gun’s numerous old repairs that Annie preferred to have it refitted and maintained than to replace it with any of the numerous other guns she had received over the years.”
Given the date of manufacture, it is likely that Oakley used the shotgun at the Exposition Universelle (Paris Exposition) of 1889, where she appeared with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and wowed European spectators with her uncanny shooting expertise.
In 1937, more than a decade after Oakley died, the gun was sold as a curiosity by Charles Lancaster to a W.E. Lockwood Jr. of Exton, Pennsylvania.
Another star of the Morphy’s sale was a gun admired as much for its original condition as its provenance. This textbook swivel breech Kentucky rifle, which sold at $60,000 ($76,800 including buyer’s premium), was of the early Berks County, Pennsylvania type and came with a full history back to Francis Duchouquet (1751-1831). A French trader and interpreter who worked among the Native American tribes of northwest Ohio, he is credited with being the first white man to establish a home and business in the Wapakoneta township. In December of 1831, at the age of 80, he left for Washington, D.C., with a small band of Shawnee chiefs to help renegotiate the unfavorable terms of the final Wapakoneta treaty, which had stripped the Shawnee of their Ohio lands. However, he became ill on the journey and died in Cumberland, Maryland.
The gun was sold in 1840 for $18.88 and again in 1948 for $200. The estimate this time out had been $30,000-$60,000. It was consigned from the collection of renowned historical arms restorer and gunsmith Louis Parker.