This Day in History: Savage 99 is Patented

The Savage Model 99 was available in a variety of different calibers and configurations. (Rock Island Auction Co)

U.S.A. –-( On October 3, 1899, Arthur Savage received US patent number 63,4034 for a firearm that would become known as the Savage Model 99. I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Savage was relieved when the patent was finally approved, since he had originally filed it almost a year and a half earlier on April 21, 1897.

With the Model 99, Savage had improved on his previous hammerless, lever-action rifle – the Model 1895, which was equipped with a rotary magazine that allowed it to fire pointed Spitzer-type rounds without the worry of accidental ignition in a traditional lever-action tubular magazine. The early variants of this new model still utilized the same rotary magazine as his Model 1895, but the Model 99 would eventually see the greatest improvement to date: a detachable box magazine. The models with this kind of magazine were designated the Model 99C.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Arthur Savage was an exceptionally interesting fellow. When he was in his 30s, which was during the late 1880s, Savage moved his family to Australia as homesteaders. While it certainly wasn’t an easy move or lifestyle change, it paid off handsomely when he eventually laid claim to owning the largest cattle ranch in Australia at that time.

Not content, Arthur Savage sold the ranch and moved his family again. This time, they went back to Jamaica where he had purchased a coffee plantation. By 1892, Arthur and his family had moved from Jamaica to Utica, New York, where he took a job with a small railroad and another part-time job at the Utica Hammer Magazine Company, which was a gun factory.

Within two years, he had opened his own gun company, Savage Arms, and began travelling down the road that would eventually make his last name a household word in the gun community.

There was no guarantee of success, however, when he first started out. His Model 1895 was part of a new military trial, but was eventually beaten out by the Krag–Jørgensen. In 1896, he won a contract with the New York National Guard, but it was cancelled due to political controversy.

Savage 99 with gold inlay, engraving, and wood carving. (Rock Island Auction Co)

Without the security provided by a military contract, Savage quickly pivoted from that angle and shifted his attention to the hunting community. Here, the Model 99 truly thrived. It would eventually be available with a wide variety of options, such as special length barrels (up to 30 in.), pistol grip stocks, checkering, woods, plating, grades of engraving, sights, etc. By 1905, not only were there a bunch of special options, but now there were a wide variety of model designations. These included the 1899A2, CD, BC, AB, Excelsior, Leader, Crescent, Victor, Rival, Premier, and Monarch, which was considered to be the top-of-the-line model. Prices ranged from $21 to $250, which was quite a range!

Eventually, it was chambered for a wide variety of cartridges including .303 Savage, .32-40 Winchester, .300 Savage, .30-30 Winchester, .25-35 Winchester, .250 Savage, .22 Savage Hi-Power, .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .358 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, .284 Winchester, .38-55 Winchester, .375 Winchester, and even the .410 shotgun shell.

Horace Dodge’s Savage 99.(Rock Island Auction Co)

The gun would be in production for (fittingly) 99 years, with production halting in 1998. Today, the guns are prized by shooters, hunters, and collectors alike, and they can fetch hefty sums depending on the right variation and special features. For example, an elaborately engraved, inlaid, and carved Monarch variant sold in 2016 for $540,500. Another exquisite model – engraved, inlaid, carved, and cased – that belonged to automaker Horace Dodge also sold in 2016 for $195,500.

Even though Arthur Savage had to wait quite a long time before his patent for the Model 1899 was finally approved, it certainly proved to be worth it in the long run.

About Logan MeteshLogan Metesh

Logan Metesh is a historian with a focus on firearms history and development. He runs High Caliber History LLC and has more than a decade of experience working for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the NRA Museums. His ability to present history and research in an engaging manner has made him a sought after consultant, writer, and museum professional. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry.