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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gustave Young: Iconic Engraver

While we were attending The Colorado Gun Collector's 48th Annual Gun Show in Denver this past May, we took in quite a few consignments.  One of the items was not a gun, but was such a direct link to history and collector firearms that it immediately stole our attention.  At first glance, it appeared to be little more than a humble book with a simple, engraved silver shield adorning its front cover.  The gilted text on the spine read "ALBUM" and we were intrigued.
Historic Leather Bound and Silver Furnished Photo Album from the Household of Historic Master Engraver Gustave Young, as Documented by Noted Arms Historian R.L. Wilson, From His Personal Collection

This album would turn out to be none other than a family photo album of legendary engraver Gustave Young, the German-born artisan whose signature crisp scrollwork and beautiful designs would set a high standard for all future gun engravers.  The "MY" engraved on the silver shield stands for Marie Young, his wife, and the "dot and line" border on the shield is in the style of the master himself.  Inside are 63 photos of men, women, children and included with the photo album is a letter from renowned author and historian R.L. Wilson, telling the story how he found this historic album and came to possess it.

Gustave Young can be seen as a young, bearded man in the lower right photo.

Young immigrated to the United States in 1846, and would engrave for Colt from 1852 into the mid 1860's, mentor the then-apprentice Conrad Ulrich, leave Colt, and return to run his own shop full-time.  He would be commissioned by Smith & Wesson in 1865 and officially enter their employ from 1869 into the 1890's.  His stature then was almost equal to what it has become today.  He was once known to have thrown D.B. Wesson out of this work area yelling, "Get out of my shop!  You talk so much I can't work!"  One characteristic of a Gustave Young piece that has changed over the years: the price.  He once wrote a letter to Wesson stating that his work would take 5-6 days to complete and that his charge would be $50.00.  His works now command hundreds of thousands of dollars or more!  Oddly, these masterpiece creations were the engravers secondary job while employed at their respective factories.  Their primary task was to create the dies required to produce firearms.  Firearms historian Roy Jinks says, "The engraver was busy cutting letter and number stamping dies, hammer and trigger checkering cutters, and wheels for rolling the company name on top of the barrel.  Engraving and gold inlaying were secondary assignments, designed to increase revenue and help reduce the overhead of this expensive service."  Gustave would pass away on January 3, 1895, but had had two sons, Oscar and Eugene, that would continue his engraving legacy at Smith & Wesson until 1913.

Examine the following items.  Most of them were engraved and/or inlaid by Gustave himself, two were likely created by an engraver in his shop, but all are exceptional examples of American firearms craftsmanship.

Factory Engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver

One of two Colt 1851 Navy revolvers available in this auction, this is the earlier of the two having been manufactured in 1859.  This is a classic example of Gustave's style, showing off his European training in his trademark Germanic scrollwork on a punch-dot background.  He also included his signature Wolf's head design on the hammer as well as another animal head on the left side of the barrel lug - another well-known European design that has existed for centuries.  The contrast of the two toned metals is striking and the pistol finishes nicely with a handsome, one-piece, walnut grip.

Magnificent Sharps Panel Scene Gustave Young Engraved Model 1853 Percussion Sporting Rifle

This rifle was manufactured sometime between 1854 and 1856 and has the honor to be featured on page 103 of R.L. Wilson's book, "Steel Canvas."  He states in his book that the engraving, while performed in Young's shop, was probably executed by a worker other than Young himself.  It features engraving on the patchbox, hammer, breech end of the barrel, receiver, and the edge of the muzzle.  A trademark of Young's style, it also has nine dots stamped on it to indicate the level of embellishment.  Our consignor notes that only four model 1853 Model 1853 Sporting Rifles were made with "Extra Engraving."  Combine that with the fact that this gun is not a Colt nor Smith & Wesson and this gun becomes an especially rare example of an engraving connected to Young.  Also auctioned off with the rifle are the accessories and the original shipping box, still stamped on its lid with the owner's name and address!

Extraordinary Documented Gustave Young's 1893 Chicago World's Fair Exposition Engraved and Gold Inlaid Smith & Wesson 44 Double Action Frontier Model Revolver with Nevada Gold Mining Lawman History

Remember this Gustave Young engraved beauty?  We did a comprehensive write-up of its rich and amazing history earlier this month!  If you missed it the first time, consider this a great second chance to learn all about it.  You'll be glad you did.  Click here to open the article in a new window.

Factory Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver

Here the dots which Gustave and his shop used to indicate varying levels of ornamentation
can be seen on the hammer.
This Colt Pocket Revolver is a smaller firearm than the other featured pieces seen here, but it also manages to be saturated with textbook Gustave Young style.  The scrollwork, the wolf's head hammer, and punch dots on the hammer are all in-line with his work.  This revolver, while maintaining those characteristics as well as the stately, polished walnut handle, also has some features that the other guns in this article would be proud to possess.  The scroll scene is the Stagecoach Holdup scene and all visible screws are engraved on their heads, a feature absent on even the previous gun that was featured in the Columbian Exposition.  This revolver's brass trigger guard and backstrap, in addition to being engraved, are also silver plated.  It's another classic example of Young's style that any collector would be privileged to have in their collection.

Fine Cased Gustave Young Factory Engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver with Factory Letter

The later of the two Colt 1851 Navy revolvers in our September 2013 Premiere Auction, this particular specimen still enjoys the comforts of its case and the company of its accessories.  A subtle difference between the two is the factory marking indicating that the firearm was to be engraved.  On the earlier model, a simple square shaped punch is placed in several locations, but on this model the punch has since been replaced by the letter "E" for "engraved" or other special finishes.  The amount of finish on the gun is impressive as are the touches of casehardening that grace the receiver, trigger, and screws.  The walnut grip shines with polish and its wood grains were well-chosen to finish out this becoming firearm.

One of the many animal heads that Young would incorporate in his scrollwork, a technique
European engravers have used for centuries.

Rare Early Production Colt Model 1 1855 Sidehammer Pocket Revolver with Hand Engraved Cylinder, Hammer and Barrel Address

This small looking Colt will bring a high level of rarity to the lucky collector who adds it to their collection.  For starters, it's a Model 1 Revolver.  Model 1s are one of the rarest Colt percussion revolvers, fewer produced than any Paterson, and their appearances at auction are far between.  This particular model is one of only 175 Model 1 Colt sidehammers made in 1855!  The address is also unique, being found only on early 1855 sidehammer revolvers with octagon barrels and of course, this gun wouldn't be featured in this article if it wasn't graced by the hand of Gustave Young.  The 5-shot  cylinder is wrapped with the hand engraved 'Cabin and Indian' scene, a depiction of a young homesteader man interrupted from chopping down a tree, stands firm to defend his cabin from Indians while his wife escapes with a swaddled child in her arms.  The remaining Indians, with three of their own dispatched and lying on the ground, seem to have lost their courage and are in various stages of surrender or retreat.

Young's telltale punch dots are present on the hammer below the spur and the revolver sports an attractive, polished, one piece rosewood grip.  It is a rare day indeed when a Model 1 comes up for auction, let alone one with the Colt commercial blue finish on the barrel and frame, the casehardened pieces (loading lever, cylinder pin, and hammer), the low serial number of 76, as well as being embellished by one of America's greatest firearms engravers.  All this for an estimated price that is a fraction of that of a Paterson?  Colt collectors should be lining up for this one!

This auction's representation of Gustave Young works is truly impressive.  What's more, there are firearms in this auction decorated by other master engravers in Young's beloved style.  Names such as Dennis Kies, Conrad Ulrich, and Andrew Bourbon have all engraved firearms in the Young style that appear in our September 2013 Premiere Auction.  This auction is truly a potent and diverse offering of some of the most significant and spectacular firearms.  Featuring the collections of noted collectors such as William H.D. Goddard, Mac McCroskie, Michael Ginn, C.D. Terry, Chuck & Sharron Lindley, Jerry Bowe, James Rankin, and John Olin, we are truly excited as our September auction date grows closer and closer.  We hope you are too.  Keep reading each week for more articles about the marvelous firearms here at Rock Island Auction Company!

A prime example of Young's signature "Wolf's Head."

-Written by Joel R. Kolander


Bleile, C. Roger. American Engravers. North Hollywood, CA: Beinfeld Pub., 1980. Print.

Jinks, Roy G., and Joseph Carvalho. Artistry in Arms: The Guns of Smith & Wesson. Springfield, MA: Smith & Wesson, 1992. Print.

Wilson, R. L. Colt: An American Legend (Sesquicentennial Edition). New York: Artabras, 1992. Print.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rare & Unparalleled Colt 1860s

Colt has long led the way in collectable firearms.  Whether it's Walkers, Patersons, Peacemakers, or Londons, people want to collect Colt firearms.  To those collectors I excitedly say, "You're in luck!"  Rock Island Auction Company's September 2013 Premiere Auction has a remarkable number of gorgeous Colts just waiting to find a new collection to call home.  To give you an idea of just how many exceptional Colts there are, this article will cover a selection of our Colt 1860 Army revolvers.  If this is a small sample of just one model, imagine what the entire auction will look like!

The Colt 1860 Army built off of the wild success of previous Colt models and was the most used pistol in the U.S. Civil War.  It was originally known as the "New Model Holster Pistol" and more than 200,000 of the iconic revolvers were produced with 129,730 being purchased by the U.S. Government for issue to troops.  This was no large surprise as Colt was already the largest private seller of arms to the U.S. Government.  These would replace the Third Model Dragoons that had been manufactured since 1851 and would cut the weight of the soldier's sidearm almost in half.  The new, easier to wield revolvers would prove to be prized by both sides of the Civil War.  In fact, "Quantrell's force is supposed to have been armed with four revolvers to the man, two in belt holsters and two on the saddle."

Documented Cased British Proofed Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver with Rare Matching Canteen Shoulder Stock Photographed in The Book of Colt Firearms

The 1800's were a time of invention.  Some call it a time of gadgets.  The Industrial Revolution had gotten its second wind and America was manufacturing like mad!  We had new forms of power, higher efficiency, machine-based production, new materials, new chemicals, and machine tools.  America was inventing more in the 1850's, 60's, & 70's than it had in its entire existence.  It gave rise to such life-altering inventions as the sewing machine, the typewriter, the telephone, and the lightbulb.

However, not all inventions would have such profound consequences.  Camera pocket watches, canes with any number of varied purposes (swords, guns, telescopes, etc), ring guns, new kitchen utensils, farm implements, and many more were simply the fad devices of their day and their longevity was limited.  One of those inventions with a limited lifespan was that of the Colt Model 1860 Army that came with a "canteen stock."  Intended to lessen the amount of gear a soldier would have to haul by combining two pieces of equipment into one, the canteen stock became available as early as the Second Model Dragoon.  Colt credited then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis with the concept of the attachable breech shoulder stock, though Colt kept the 1859 patent (number 22,627) in his name and fails to mention Davis in the patent application.

Rare and Extraordinary London Cased Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver

Our next Model 1860 has a rarity driven by the fact that it is both British cased and proofed.  The case is oak with brass hardware and all seven baize-lined compartments have their accessory in place.  The gun itself is in such excellent condition that several books on the subject do not have a finer specimen shown in their pages.  The amount of bluing that remains on the barrel of this gun is phenomenal and remains in a crisp, black, shine.  It seems to flow into the vivid case hardening, which itself only ceases when reaching the highly-polished, one-piece, walnut grip.

The screws softly glow their nitre blue hue.

Look at the case hardening and high volume of blue!

Extremely Rare Initial Production Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver Serial Number 35 with Navy Size Grip

What makes this Colt so rare?  We believe that noted Colt authority R. L. Wilson says it best when he states, "Several rare variations exist within the Army series, and these are: 1. Approximately 55 of the first 100 revolvers have round, rebated cylinders, three screw frames NOT cut for shoulder stocks, Hartford barrel addresses, silver plated brass backstraps and trigger guards, 7 1/2" barrels and Navy size grips... The first 100 revolvers do not have capping channels in the recoil shield cutouts."  He writes this of an identical revolver (serial number 5) on p.158 of The Book of Colt Firearms.  The revolver pictured below is serial number 35.  Extremely limited production, low serial number, iconic firearm, legendary Colt name...  Need we say more?

Outstanding Cased Early Production Colt Model 1860 Fluted Cylinder Army Revolver
This pistol is an example of the scarce, early production Colt Model 1860s that featured a 7 1/2" barrel and a fluted cylinder.  They are known in the original shipping ledgers as the "cavalry" model and approximately only 4,000 were manufactured.  This revolver is serial number 1504, well within the serial number range for  the early production variations.  Many of these fluted 1860s were shipped to dealers in the South before the beginning of the Civil War.  Because of their release prior to such a large conflict, even fewer remain that one might expect and rarely will one encounter an example with any amount of original finish.

These rare, beautiful Colt 1860s are only the tip of the iceberg.  Not only do we have 21 in total, but the selection of all our Colt antique handguns is this auction is over 120 items!  Also, if some of the original Colts are a bit too pricey, we have an excellent selection of Commemorative Colts many of which are rare or specialized in their own right.  With over 120 originals and almost 190 commemoratives, that's almost 300 ways to get your hands on a piece of Colt history!  And those are just the old-style Colt handguns!  In the very near future we'll have all the items in our September Premiere Auction available for viewing in our Online Catalog.  We'll also have some pre-made categories available so that you can find the guns that interest you most with a simple mouse click.  Follow us on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter to be one of the first to receive these updates!  In the meantime, you'll want to view our recently released 16-page mailer that gives a sneak peek at some of our Premiere Auction's featured items.


Adler, Dennis. Colt Single Action: From Patersons to Peacemakers. Edison, NJ: Chartwell, 2007. Print.

Haven, Charles T., and Frank A. Belden. A History of the Colt Revolver, and the Other Arms Made by Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company from 1836 to 1940,. New York: W. Morrow &, 1940. Print.

Hogg, Ian V. Weapons of the Civil War. New York: Military, 1987. Print.

Wilson, R. L. Colt: An American Legend. New York: Morrow &, 1985. Print.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Package A Rifle

While this isn't a true instructional video, it does show how much care RIAC takes in packaging the items you win at our auctions.  We want them to arrive in the exact same condition in which we send them!  This happy customer, who happens to run, takes time to show his readers and followers just how secure his firearms were when they arrived.

Do you have a testimonial you'd like to share?  We happily accept them all!  Simply send them to and put "Testamonial" in the subject line.  We'll do our best to get as many as we can posted to our social media accounts.  Thank you in advance!

Friday, July 19, 2013

From the Barrett Firearms Archive

Rock Island Auction Company is fortunate enough to enjoy a friendly relationship with Barrett Firearms.  In fact, last year a handful of RIAC executives headed down to Murfreesboro, TN to Barrett Headquarters and were given more than just the 25 cent tour.  A tour of the factory was involved, but so were some "behind the scenes" glimpses.  This included several memorable experiences such as being shown around certain R&D areas, and some fun range time which included handling and firing the (then) brand new MRAD.  It would later be named Shooting Illustrated Magazine's 2012 Rifle of the Year as well as receive the NRA's prestigious Golden Bullseye Award.  They truly extended their hospitality to us that day.  We were even more honored when Barrett contacted us earlier this year to sell some of the items residing in the Barrett Firearms Archive!

This week's article highlights a pair of Barrett rifles.  Both are the famous M82A1 that has enjoyed immense success with numerous law enforcement agencies, tactical groups, and over 73 different governments!  That success didn't come easy.  Founder and President Ronnie Barrett, then a professional photographer with no engineering education, personally hand-sketched the designs of every single part of the weapon at his dining room table.  What parts didn't yet exist, he would work with a local tool and die maker to create.  He then marketed and mass-produced it out of this own pocket.  Some of the production work would take place in a gravel-floored garage with the finished products resting on gun racks made in his father's cabinet shop.  All the hard work would, of course, pay off.  It would be a gun that no one thought possible: a shoulder-fired, .50 caliber rifle.  It could be used to disable and immobilize vehicles, as a sniper/counter-sniper rifle at extended ranges, as an explosive ordinance disposal tool, and potentially to fire through/breach barriers.  With standard .50 BMG ammunition, the M82A1 can engage man-sized targets over a mile away (as we will soon discuss), armored objectives from 2,000 meters, and can penetrate up to 30mm of of steel plate.  It is a behemoth of a gun, weighing in at around 30 pounds and firing cartridges with an overall length of 5.45".  Lest you think this gun will dislocate your shoulder upon firing, the semi-automatic action, double chambered muzzle brake, dual barrel springs, heavy weight, and long mainspring design keep the recoil quite manageable despite its awesome power.

These two rifles aren't your typical, wildly-acclaimed Barretts.  Each one has a feature or story all its own, which is bound to drive collectors' interest as our September 2013 Premiere Auction nears.

Desirable Barrett Firearms M82A1 Semi-Automatic Anti-Material Rifle with Experimental NP3 Nickel-Teflon Finish

The lot description above is far from saying it all.  First of all, the nickel-teflon finish is applied in an unexpected manner.  The NP3 method uses an electroless nickel coating with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, a.k.a. Teflon) co-deposited.  In simpler terms, instead of impregnated Teflon which is applied afterwards as a protective overcoat, co-deposited Teflon is mixed throughout the entire depth of the nickel, providing greater wear resistance, easy cleaning, and an attractive, deep silver color.  The finish is applied inside and out and thus, the rifle is self-lubricated.  This same finish was applied to the Barrett 30th Anniversary "One of One" tribute rifle, a one-of-a-kind rifle patterned after their M107A1.  Any Barrett is bound to get you attention when you bring it out, but this one is guaranteed to earn some envious looks even among fellow Barrett owners!

Barrett Firearms M82A1 Semi-Automatic 50 BMG Anti-Material Rifle Factory Used By Steve Reichert, U.S.M.C., Bronze Star with V Device Winner and One-Mile Sniper

While our first gun is special for what happened to it at the factory, our next gun earns its collectability for what happened once it left the factory grounds in Tennessee.  Upon its return to Barrett it was adorned with its current mixed green and brown camouflage, with the initials "SR" applied to the right side of the upper receiver and magazine, and the magazine also marked with an arrow passing through a stylized "S."  Information from the Barrett Firearms Archives attribute these markings and paint job to Staff Sergeant Steve Reichert U.S.M.C. (Ret.).  Steve received the Bronze Star with V Device for his actions in Lutafiya, Iraq on April 9, 2004, while serving overwatch for a Marine patrol.  The events that happened that day are well documented and have even been featured in a segment entitled "One Mile Kill Shot" on History Channel's sniper special "Sniper: Inside the Crosshairs."

Date: 2009-04-09
Location: Lutafiya, Iraq

Fourteen Fox Company Marines are patrolling the roads outside of Lutafiya (loot-ah-FEE-yah) for IEDs and insurgents.  25 year-old, S Sgt Reichert is providing overwatch with a Barrett M82A3 from an observation post set up on top of an oil tank roughly 1,000 yards away.  The A3 is different from the A1 by having a detatchable bipod and carry handle, long Picatinny rail atop the receiver, slightly lighter barrel and mechanism, and a slightly redesigned muzzle brake.  His spotter, Cpl Tucker, noticed a dead animal in the road that had not been there the night before.  The carcass appeared to be "glinting" in a spot and so the Marines cordoned off the area around the potential IED.  30 seconds later, in the midst of setting up a perimeter, in Reichert's words, "Everything erupted."  Insurgents attacked the Marine Company with a volley of RPGs, followed immediately with AK fire.  Dirt and dust clouds exploded with machine gun fire as the sniper team watched the action unfold.  With not a second to spare, Reichert begins "doping the scope" and looking for targets of opportunity.  He sets his scope to 1,000 yards +2 MOA (minutes of angle).  In this brief amount of time the Marines have fought their way into the town and have hunkered down in an abandoned school house.  As the gunfire continues more and more insurgents, hearing the chatter of automatic weapons, come running to join the action.  The situation is rapidly escalating out of control and insurgents already outnumber the Marines.

Reichert sights up a target.

At this time in the battle Reichert spots his first targets, men on rooftops firing down on the Marines, about 1,350 yards away.  In his words, "That's when we went to work."  His first shot is a miss, the fighting having moved several hundred yards away since he last adjusted his scope, but after a quick readjustment, the second shot slams its way home and all the sniper team sees remaining is a, quote, "pink mist."  Remember, this is a weapon known more familiarly as the Special Application Scoped Rifle or SASR (pronounced: "sasser").  The SASR was intended by the Army for use as an explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) tool and anti-material targets.  In other words: shoot it into explosives, engine blocks, armored vehicles, parked planes, and various other large, heavy, METAL targets.  When this weapon engages personnel, the results are catastrophic.

With the Marines pinned down, the sniper team notices 3 insurgents duck behind a wall with a belt-fed RPK machine gun.  An RPK fires the same 7.62x39 round as the AK-47, but utilizes a stronger barrel designed for continuous firing.  This is bad news for the Marines fighting for their lives inside the schoolhouse.  Reichert immediately switches targets and swings the crosshairs to a point on the wall where he feels the group will be, over 1,600 meters away.  The insurgents are preparing their weapon for use on the Marines, but Reichert has already prepared his.  In his M82A3 are Raufoss M211 .50 caliber rounds.

After adjusting his scope a third time, Reichert takes his shot.  The Raufoss round hits the brick wall at over 2,500 feet per second and makes a .50 caliber-sized hole.  The RDX inside the bullet then explodes, sending a tungsten-steel core punching through the wall, while Zirconium sparks and deadly brick shrapnel shower its opposite side.  Reichert calls it "basically a shotgun blast of shrapnel and a penetrating dart flying through."  The shot lands true and the ensuing explosion instantly destroys the insurgents taking cover there, painting an opposite wall red.  No insurgents were seen leaving the area.  Despite the powerful Raufoss round, only one of the attackers was killed and both other men were severely injured.  All were out of the fight.

Shrapnel pattern of a Raufoss MK211 round.

Reichert provides sniper support for the next 12 hours and saves Marines' lives.  He even continued to fight after a communications failure put him and his spotter under friendly fire from another unit also attempting to assist Fox Company.  For his actions and performance, Reichert received the Bronze Star with V Device (for Valor).

After taking medical retirement from the Marines, Reichert entered the private sector as a military consultant and trainer, and in that capacity received this M82A1 from Barrett Firearms (circa 2011-2012) for use in his training courses.  When the rifle was returned to Barrett, it sported quite a different look than when it had left.  It was wearing warpaint.

Once again, Rock Island Auction Company is selling the tools of a legend!  Not only is this model of firearm revered by firearms users world wide, but each of these guns has its own unique details that truly set it apart from the pack.  You can see all the unique firearms that RIAC has to offer, by ordering a catalog or by viewing our Online Catalog; each one is full of gorgeous photos that are sure to please collectors of all levels.  Enjoy!


"One Mile Kill Shot." Sniper: Inside the Crosshairs. History Channel. Dec. 20, 2009.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From the 1893 Columbia Exhibition to the Gold Mines of Nevada

The most exciting part of collecting firearms is the histories.  That's right, plural.  Multiple histories.  The first being the history of a particular model of firearm and the role it played (e.g. the M1 Garand), and the second being the history and ownership chain of a specific firearm (i.e. a gun owned by a famous person, was in a notable collection or book).  This week's blog features a gun so rich in history, so rife with notable names that I almost entitled this article, "A Plethora of Provenance."

Extraordinary Documented Gustave Young's 1893 Chicago World's Fair Exposition Engraved and Gold Inlaid Smith & Wesson 44 Double Action Frontier Model Revolver with Nevada Gold Mining Lawmen History

It has led more than a charmed life and has enjoyed fame in multiple unique spotlights over its life.  This gun becomes truly special because it has all the documents to back its claims of grandeur.  To show just how much documentation is coming with this beautiful revolver, here is a picture of MOST of it spread over my desk before I began research.

It all begins with the factory letter signed by renowned Smith & Wesson Historian, collector, and author Roy G. Jinks.  His letter offers more than just the standard "birth certificate" fare of date of manufacture, serial number, etc.  Instead, Jinks states that this particular revolver was engraved and gold inlaid by none other than famed Master Engraver Gustave Young.  Young was Colt’s primary engraver in the 1850s to 1870s, but later went to work for the firm of Smith & Wesson during the 1870s through the 1890s.  It is not unheard of for his pieces to sell for six figures and beyond.  Mr. Jinks' letter also states that this particular firearm is a "display show gun sample."  One would scarcely have time to wonder where it was being displayed before that curiosity is dispelled in the letter: "the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1893."  In other words, The World's Fair.

Chicago went all out!
Smith & Wesson had chosen this gun as one of precious few to be seen by millions of people as they attended the exposition.  For an exhibitor, and a city, it was truly their time to shine.  Host cities would frequently exhibit new sculpture, feats of manufacture, architectural design, music, culture, inventions, and culinary feats.  For example, at the 1893 World's Fair alone the following inventions debuted: Cracker Jack, phosphorescent lamps, the Ferris Wheel, Cream of Wheat, US Mint commemorative coins, Juicy Fruit gum, the electric chair, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Quaker Oats, and Shredded Wheat.  To this powerhouse event of invention and spectacle, Smith & Wesson elected to send this and several other firearms.  They had to put their best foot forward and they did by sending their finest.

Tex Rickard

After its year long debut in Chicago, this revolver came into the hands on one Mr. Tex Rickard.  Tex was a wealthy man thanks to his gold mines.  Tex had traveled several times to Alaska after various discoveries of gold in Klondike and Nome.  After selling his holdings, he opened the Northern Saloon in Klondike, but would soon lose everything to gambling.  After working some odd jobs, he began promoting boxing matches and would eventually become one of the world's most well-known promoters.  He was the Don King of his day.  His excellence in promoting would lead him to start a life-long friendship with Wyatt Earp, promote for Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey, and bring boxing to its peak of popularity in the 1920's.  Before all of that, in 1906 Tex had chased the gold rush in a town recently renamed Goldfield.  There he started a bar named the Great Northern Saloon, a tribute to the bar he once lost, began his boxing promoter career, threw celebrations, and met a man named Claude C. Inman, to whom he would later give this pistol as a gift.  As his promoting career took off Tex would eventually obtain the rights to promote fights in Madison Square Garden, start the NHL New York Rangers hockey team, and build the third reincarnation of Madison Square Garden.

Claude C. Inman was a true pioneer.  He arrived in a mining camp named "Grandpa" with a load of lumber and the hunch that this area would soon strike a boom.  A tall, soft-spoken man he built the town's first frame building and drove its first nail with a bullet from his six shooter at thirty paces.  He would later call his demonstration "peace insurance."  Soon he would open for business as a carpenter and builder for the miners and their families, who were still living in tents at that time and paying him with everything but money.  Offered five times the sum required, he refused to build a saloon and instead focused on the town's first civic job: a water tank.  It wasn't too long before Inman brought back his family and started a life for himself in a town he had built with his own two hands.    Soon the town struck "high-grade" veins of gold, earning $200,000/ton, and the town boomed.  It changed its name to Goldfield and by 1904 it had produced about 800 tons of the lustrous ore.  Claude Inman held many hats in his town.  He was the first to organize labor in the area ($6/day and only 8 hours/day), he joined the school board in 1904, became the town's fire chief in 1905, battled several of the towns terrible fires in 1906, but shortly after was asked to take on a new job.

Goldfield, NV.  Notice the "Claude C. Inman for constable" banner over the street.

The town was booming and life in the Old West was tough.  20,000 people, twenty bars, access to gambling twenty-four hours a day, and a "red light district" with hundreds of prostitutes were all to be found in Goldfield.  It also had no shortage of opium dens, hoodlums, and miners stealing gold ore from the mines known as "highgraders."  Inman recalls that he "saw men on the way back from the mines with the handles on their lunch boxes bent like strings - they were that heavy with gold ore."  It didn't take long for the 350 mine owners to hold a meeting to discuss the problem, start cussing up a storm, and finally nominate Inman to clean up the town.  He wanted to talk to his wife, but the next morning the headlines already read 'INMAN ACCEPTS' even though Inman states, "Hell, I hadn't said a word."  January 1, 1906 Inman became the law for "a town that had more crooks and killers per capita than any other in American history; a town so fabulously rich that criminals from all over the world came to get a slice of its golden pie."  They persuaded Inman with an offer of pay that was a $10,000 per month guarantee or 40% of all the gold he recovered though Inman says, "There was never any more talk about the guarantee.  The percentage was always higher than $10,000."  After several "Untouchables" style raids and discoveries of secret trap doors, hidey holes, and other devices used to smuggle the gold (including travel trunks with secret compartments), the highgraders decided to hire a hitman to take out Inman.  It would not be the only time.  Inman describes it best.

"A little while after I took over the highgraders hired a man to get me.  I saw him when he came into town - sort of a dudish cuss.  I didn't let him see me and ducked into a saloon. Had a bar about 40, 50 feet long.  I remember the gaming tables.  A very nice place for that day and age.  Anyway, I had got down quite a ways behind the bar and was sitting there talking when somebody yelled 'Look out!'  I turned and this fellow started shooting.  There was something very peculiar and just that quick I realized that the fellow could not hit me.  I stepped behind the bar, waiting for the smoke to clear so I could do a little business.  He got two shots in - couldn't hit the side of a house...I commenced to get sore about this.  I stepped right out in full view and I walked right up to him and he stood there with the gun down at his side, smoking.  I told him not to raise his gun again, or I would kill him.  He didn't.
     He will never be more like a corpse than he was then.  The gun was down in his hand.  I walked up to him and took the gun out of his hand and laid it on the bar.  I said to the bartender, "Give us a drink.  'What are you doing there anyhow?'  He had been down in the metal tank under the bar.  The metal tanks had been built there, so that barkeepers could duck down.  He crawled out and was very peeved.  'You had better give us a drink.  This man's nerves are bad.  Put his gun out of the way.  He will never need it again."

After their drink, Inman took the man back to his office and "told him if he'd promise to get a decent job, I'd let him go.  He disappeared a few weeks later like a million others... He said 'I am going to remember this."  That was in 1906.  Two years later, in 1908, when I went to Boise to see this aviation meet, I was at the hotel and walked out, when I met a man face to face and he was spellbound.
     He said, "Aren't you Mr. Inman?"
     I said, "Yes."  He turned a liver color for a second.
     He said, "Do you know me?"
     I said, "I don't know you.  Your face is familiar, but I don't know you."
     He said, Have you got a minute to spare?  Come take a walk with me."  We went into the street and walked up the block and a half and there was a little store, nicely fixed up (electrical fixtures and plumbing).  We went in (his name was on the door) and it was a nice, clean, up-to-date store and full of goods and we took a glance around and walked on through and he opened another door in the back end of the store.
     He said, "My dear, come here.  I want to show you something."  There was a woman of small stature and with a curly-haired baby in her arms, with another girl about two years old by her side.
     He said, "Chief, this is my wife.  My dear, do you remember I told you about the policeman?"  She looked at me a minute and tears came streaming down her face.  I said, "You should not feel that way about it."
     She said, "I cannot help it.  You will never know what you have done for us."  This was the man that had come to Goldfield to kill me.  He had gone straight and was one of the highly respected men of the town and had a good business."

Inman even had Wyatt Earp himself offer his service for hire to clean up the town after he had so famously cleaned up Tombstone and Dodge City.  Earp nicknamed Goldfield "Hell's Flats" and urged Inman to allow him and a dozen men to root out the bad apples.  However, Inman knew they would be hopelessly outgunned and that the town couldn't be swept clean with the barrel of a gun.  Instead, he famously opted for capturing criminals instead of killing them, stings to catch them unaware, and using a conversational and pleasant demeanor.  Tex Rickard claimed once that Inman "could do more with friendly persuasion than most sheriffs could with a posse and make more friends than a politician at a banquet."  Maybe it was the way that Inman cleaned up the town, maybe it was the way he selflessly fought its disastrous fires, maybe it was the way he dealt with the Union mobs, or maybe it was the gentle way he spoke, but in February 1907 Goldfield paid tribute to the man that had done so much more them in a little over one year.  Inman was presented with the Smith & Wesson, Gustave Young engraved and gold inlaid, double action .44 Frontier revolver, that had been on display at Chicago's Columbian Exposition in 1893. However, to better show their appreciation, the townsfolk had luxurious Tiffany snakeskin grips put on the revolver by Tiffany & Co. in New York City.  Inman patrolled the town until January 1, 1909 when he retired a wealthy man.

The stories listed above are a mere drop in the bucket. The documentation that comes with this firearm truly give a glimpse into the life of this amazing man and his captivating, numerous stories.

After Inman
Claude Inman owned that revolver the rest of his life until he passed in July of 1962 and it passed to his son.  Since then it has passed through a few collections and appeared in several notable publications.  Perhaps most notably is is R.L. Wilson's The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West.  From the 1893 Columbia Exhibition to the Gold Mines of Nevada, it now finds it path going through Rock Island Auction Company, the #1 firearms house in the world.  Whose collection will be fortunate enough to welcome this collectable with infinite tales to tell?  Will the new owner be able to add stories just as exciting?  Perhaps one day we'll find out or better yet, perhaps we'll go out and make some stories of our own.