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137-year-old Winchester rifle found in Nevada has new home

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 2019-05-26 The Associated Press
a person sitting in a tree: This image provided by the Great Basin National Park shows a Winchester Model 1873 rifle found in Nevada. The gun made in 1882 was found propped against a juniper tree in Great Basin National Park in November during an archaeological survey. Park spokeswoman Nichole Andler says officials may never know how long the rifle had been standing there, but it's possible it had been left there in the 1880s. © AP, File This image provided by the Great Basin National Park shows a Winchester Model 1873 rifle found in Nevada. The gun made in 1882 was found propped against a juniper tree in Great Basin National Park in November during an archaeological survey. Park spokeswoman Nichole Andler says officials may never know how long the rifle had been standing there, but it's possible it had been left there in the 1880s. a tree in a forest: This image provided by the Great Basin National Park shows a Winchester Model 1873 rifle found in Nevada. The gun made in 1882 was found propped against a juniper tree in Great Basin National Park in November during an archaeological survey. rifle discovered five years ago leaning against a juniper tree at Great Basin National Park has a new home in an exhibit dedicated to the "Forgotten Winchester" at the park visitor center near the Nevada-Utah line. © AP, File This image provided by the Great Basin National Park shows a Winchester Model 1873 rifle found in Nevada. The gun made in 1882 was found propped against a juniper tree in Great Basin National Park in November during an archaeological survey. rifle discovered five years ago leaning against a juniper tree at Great Basin National Park has a new home in an exhibit dedicated to the "Forgotten Winchester" at the park visitor center near the Nevada-Utah line.

BAKER, Nev. - A 137-year-old rifle found five years ago leaning against a juniper tree in Great Basin National Park in Nevada is now part of an exhibit dedicated to the “Forgotten Winchester” at the park visitor centre near the Utah border.

The weathered Winchester Model 1873 is in a case designed to capture the way it looked when park archaeologist Eva Jensen stumbled across it on a rocky outcrop above Strawberry Creek during an archaeological survey.

Based on its condition, experts believe the weapon might have been abandoned in the forest more than a century ago.

But nearly five years after its discovery, park officials still don’t know who it belonged to or why it was left against the tree. No sales or ownership records have been found

The serial number was visible, allowing experts at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, to determine it was made in 1882.

The exhibit also highlights the role the Model 1873 — one of the most popular guns on the Western frontier — played in the history of the West.

“The exhibit is a showcase for visitors to discover the rifle’s mysterious story and become inspired to imagine, investigate and care about a piece of their American history,” said Nichole Andler, the park’s chief of interpretation.

Herbert Houze, former curator of a firearms museum at the Buffalo Bill centre, has said Model 1873 rifles were so valuable that whoever owned the one on display might have rested it against the tree and been unable to find it later.

“You just don’t leave a gun like that there,” he said.

The rifles sold for $35 to $50 in the 1880s and can now fetch up to $15,000 depending on their condition.

The rifle on display has been exhibited at gun shows and at the Buffalo Bill centre for a summer. There, officials did an X-ray, found a bullet in the stock and removed it.

The bullet is included in the new exhibit case.

“It has been a fun and inspiring project to work on with our park staff and our partners to complete this exhibit and give the Forgotten Winchester a permanent home,” Andler said.

The exhibit was designed and funded by the National Park Service, Great Basin National Park Foundation and Fund for People in Parks, a San Francisco Bay Area-based non-profit that sponsors improvements at some of the West’s smaller, less famous parks.

In this April 2019 photo workers for the design company DiVittorio and Associations help install the new exhibit at the visitor center at Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nev. for the "Forgotten Winchester," an 1882 rifle that was discovered leaning against a tree in 2014.

In this April 2019 photo workers for the design company DiVittorio and Associations help install the new exhibit at the visitor center at Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nev. for the "Forgotten Winchester," an 1882 rifle that was discovered leaning against a tree in 2014.
© AP
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