The box shown above is not water-proofed in any way. It shows no signs of coating with shellac, varnish, etc.
Here is a Winchester contract box that we believe dates from 1898. Note that the primer call-out is also 2 1-2 W. We believe the W signifies a Winchester primer, regardless of whether or not the primer is actually marked with a W. The cartridges within are headstamped W.R.A.Co. .30 U.S.G.; the primers are oval brass with no W. Another box in the collection is identical with the exception of the powder being DuPont. Unlike Frankford Arsenal boxes of this vintage, none of the Winchester boxes are date stamped. Note that the labeling on this box is somewhat different from the box pictured above. We believe the box pictured above dates from a bit later than 1898.
The cartridges contained within the first-posted box are brass cased (not tinned), with oval copper primer, made by Frankford Arsenal, headstamp F 8 00. All show the same characteristics of aging and all are PERFECTLY coated with some sort of sealant over the entire cartridge, no runs, drips, etc.
Here is the theory: We believe as does John S.; the cartridges were water-proofed to be sent to a tropical, salt water in close proximity environment. We believe Winchester contract boxes not used up in 1898 were stored at Frankford Arsenal. We believe that at some point a bit later, say, 1900, F.A. was ordered to water-proof some cartridges on-hand. Frankford opened Winchester boxes, like the one in this post, removed the cartridges for water-proofing. Not wanting to re-pack Winchester cartridges in F.A. boxes and labels for quality control reasons, F.A. contacts Winchester to request new Winchester boxes and labels with which Winchester cartridges were re-packed. Hence, the slightly different labeling. And the top label nomenclature then applied.
As to the cartridges now contained within the box at the start of this thread………were the original Winchester cartridges removed by a long-ago collector and F.A. cartridges substituted ??..Maybe. Or, did F.A. put the cartridges in the box by mistake ??..Maybe.
I have queries out to a couple of folks who might add to this and will post the findings…