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This revolver’s enticing history begins immediately when it was originally shipped from the factory to Austin, Texas, retailer W.B. Walker & Co. There are few firearms that exude the character, grit, and style of the American frontier like the Colt Single Action Army revolver, and perhaps no other state personifies the Wild West more than Texas. The SAA found itself almost immediately popular as a sidearm upon its release in the mid-late 1800s, and that popularity continued well into the 20th century among those with a desire for unwaveringly reliable firepower. This example was manufactured in 1893, and certainly shows a certain flair that is often associated with the "Wild West", having the look of a gun that is not hard to imagine in the hand of a flamboyant Texas gunslinger. The accompanying factory letter states that this SAA was shipped to W.B. Walker & Co. (address unavailable) on February 10, 1894, with a 5 ½ inch barrel in the highly desirable .44-40 WCF caliber, nickel finish, pearl grips, and factory engraving. This was a single gun shipment. (The letter also noted a second listing for this serial number for a SAA in .44-40 caliber with a 4 ¾ inch barrel and blue finish shipped to J.F. Schmelzer & Sons Arms Co. in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 11, 1893. This second entry obviously does not reflect this revolver.) After the Civil War, Jackson, Mississippi, native William Bailey Walker moved to Austin, Texas, circa 1871 and became one of the proprietors of P. Thompson & Co. By 1877, the partnership dissolved and Walker along with his brother James opened W.B. Walker & Co. The name of the business was later changed to W.B. Walker & Sons to include his three sons. As a factory engraved example, this Frontier Six Shooter is certainly one of the rarer and more highly sought after SAAs. In the chapter devoted to engraved SAAs in the seminal work “A Study of the Colt Single Action Army Revolver” the authors laid out statistics that without a doubt make this SAA a true rarity in Colt collecting. Out of the engraved 1st Generations surveyed approximately 15% were chambered in .44 WCF (the vast majority, 65%, where in .45 caliber). The embellishment displays the characteristics of patterns associated with Colt Master Engraver Cuno Helfricht and his shop. Helfricht spent his nearly 50 year career exclusively with the Colt firm (1871-1921). During his tenure with Colt, Helfricht saw the transition from percussion to cartridge firearms and a rapidly growing market for engraved firearms. At the height of the firearm engraving fad, Helfricht oversaw a shop of six engravers. By the turn of the century, experts believe that Helfricht did most of the work himself with the help from one to two assistants. Helfricht's successor's included famed Colt engravers Wilbur Glahn and William Gough. The revolver’s historical significance goes beyond its rare factory engraving and highly sought after Texas shipment as revealed to the world in 1986, some 90 years after the revolver left the Colt factory, when the Raymond Brown collection was sold at auction in Texas. As described in the provided Tom Keilman & Son Auctioneers catalog: “Born of pioneer, Texas hill country stock, Raymond Brown’s forebears fought with General Sam Houston and other Texas heroes in the Texas Revolution. Raymond Brown is a 5th generation Texan and very proud of Texas History and his heritage. Love for that history and heritage courses strong in his veins and quickens his pulse as he collects fine historical items from earlier times of Texas heroes and other famous personages of the west. This ever present emotion is vividly expressed in Raymond’s select collection of rare, unique and historically important pieces.” Brown’s collection was filled with pieces owned by legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (1884-1955), who is best remembered for leading the posse that tracked down and killed notorious public enemy number one era outlaw couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934. Brown’s collection included “Old Lucky, a .45 caliber SAA no. 314012 that Hamer carried on the day Bonnie and Clyde were killed. Brown’s collection also included this SAA no. 153189, and it too sold at the 1986 auction. The auction receipt for the gun is included. It was lot 870 (price realized $6,100) and was described as “carried by Texas Ranger Frank Hammer in the early days of his law enforcement career.” Confirmation of Hamer’s ownership is provided in a February 9, 1981 affidavit from Hammer’s son, Frank Jr. Frank Hammer, Jr. wrote, “Over a period in the past several years I have sold to my friend, Raymond Brown, a few guns and other personal items which belonged to my father, Captain Ranger Frank Hamer. The items that were sold include such guns as ‘Old Lucky’, the Colt 45 pistol which is well known and Texas Ranger badges including the gold shield Captains badge, etc. In addition to this I have given Raymond a considerable number of items which I believe will enhance the collection that he has of my father’s guns. To my personal knowledge, Raymond had the major part of my father’s collection. Today, I am adding three (3) more guns as a fit to this collection.” The first of these three gun listed by serial number in the letter is this SAA with the caliber incorrectly described as .45 caliber. Frank Jr. provided some background on the gun: “This pistol has been modified to fire rapidly by fanning. This action is called slip hammer and was used by many of the old gunfighters for rapid fire. This gun was used by my father around 1903 to 1911 during his service in the Big Ben country with the Texas Rangers. He tried and discarded this method of shooting even though he found it to be successful but not as accurate. His theory being- Make the first shot the only one needed. He finally wore this gun out by use. On this particular weapon, the well-worn black factory grips are broken. I remember my father relating how this happened. One night in a street fight across from the Del Norte Hotel when there were only two participants left standing both with empty pistols. My father being one and a large Mexican national from across the border with quite a reputation for being rough and tumble and my father weighing 230lb. decided to settle this matter hand to hand when a Mexican knife flashed in the night. My father ended the fight with the butt of this pistol on the Mexican national’s head.” The hard rubber grips mentioned in the letter are included and were the grips worn on the gun when it sold in 1986. This set of checkered Colt hard rubber grips are well worn and two sizeable chips are absent from the right panel. The grips are unnumbered. The revolver currently wears a set of pearl grips with a fantastic relief carved steer head on the right panel. The Texas Rangers occupy a special position of respect within law enforcement circles throughout the U.S. and the world and are known by the general population as having historically stood for law and order and bravery. The fact that the revolver was carried by Hamer and later resided in a famed private collection gives it an additional level of unmatched historic provenance. Frank Hamer is arguable the most famous Texas Ranger of the first half of the 20th century. In 1905, Hamer had is first experience in capturing a “bad guy.” Working as a cowboy on the Carr Ranch, Hamer assisted local authorities in the capture of a horse thief. The local sheriff was impressed with Hamer’s skills and recommended him to the Texas Rangers. He joined the Rangers in 1906, served under Captain J.H. Roger’s Company C. patrolling the U.S./Mexico border, and resigned in 1908 to take the position of City Marshal of Navasota, Texas. In 1911, he went on to become a special officer in Harris County and then rejoined the Rangers in 1915 to once again patrol the southern Texas border from the Big Bend to Brownsville. Based on Frank Jr.’s assessment provided in his aforementioned affidavit, his father carried his SAA early in his law enforcement career that began with the Texas Rangers and “finally wore this gun out by use” around the time he became a special officer with Harris County. Political corruption, labor unrest, gambling and the unintended consequences of prohibition all converged to create the perfect storm for a rise in violent crime in Texas at the dawning of the 1920s, and Hamer was in the middle of it. Texas Governor Pat Neff recalled, “Texas was being swept by the greatest crime wave in her history. Cold, cruel, calculating crime was organized…one of the established industries of the State.” In 1920, for instance, Texas reported more lynchings than any other state (see Mike Cox’s “Time of the Rangers: Texas Rangers From 1900 to the Present,” page 106). Hamer did his part by assisting in bringing law and order to the oil boom towns of Mexia and Borger. In the late 1920s, Hammer exposed the heinous consequences of the $5,000 reward the Texas Bankers’ Association offered “for dead bank robbers—noy one cent for live ones.” The result was the killing of framed innocent individuals, so that their “capturers” could collect the reward money. Hamer’s relentless investigations and public exposure put an end to the practice. Hammer retired in 1932 with nearly 27 years with the Rangers. In 1934, he was appointed special investigator for the Texas prison system in the hunt for notorious public enemy number one era gangster couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The Texas prison system was involved in the chase because the gang broke into a state prison, freed a fellow gang member, and killed a prison officer. Following a three month search, Hamer’s posse ambushed Bonnie and Clyde on a rural road near Gibsland, Louisiana. The Texas and Louisiana law enforcement officers showered the couple’s V-8 Ford with 150 rounds of bullets, resulting in a thunderous sound that caused locals to believe loggers had used dynamite to bring down a tree. The killing of Bonnie and Clyde made national headlines and instantly made Hamer a celebrity of the gangland era. Hamer received a U.S. congressional special citation. He shied away from the publicity, even refusing to be interview about the hunt for the gangster couple. Instead, he went on to prevent and breaking up strikes for various oil and shipping companies before retiring to Austin in 1949. He died in 1955 at the age of 71. Hamer’s Frontier Six Shooter comes in a display case French fitted for both the revolver and the hard rubber grips which were worn on the gun when Hamer used it as a club (see Frank Hamer, Jr.’s affidavit). Includes a three page letter on Miller Hotel, Brownsville, Texas, stationery Hamer wrote to is family on October 10, 1918. The letter along with the original envelope and artifact description label is in a double sided picture frame measuring approximately 17 x 21 inches. Additional information pertaining to the life and myth of Frank Hamer is found in the accompanying books: John Boessenecker’s “Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man who Killed Bonnie and Clyde, Gene Shelton’s “Manhunt: A Novel based on the Life and Times of Frank Hamer, Texas Ranger,” and Jenkins and Frost’s “I’m Frank Hamer: The Life of a Texas Peace Officer.” Provenance: Frank Hamer; Frank Hamer, Jr.; The Raymond Brown Collection; Property of a Gentleman
Good as the factory engraved Colt Frontier Six Shooter Single Action Army Revolver carried early in famed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer’s law enforcement career at the Texas-Mexico border. The revolver has all the appearance of spending a lifetime of service in a challenging environment with scattered areas of period applied age darkened silver plating remaining in and around the sheltered areas. The later replacement grips are very fine with crisp relief carved steer head and attractive colors. The action, which was modified by Hamer himself for rapid fire, is well worn from years of law enforcement service. This is a remarkable historical piece as it is the SAA that served Frank Hamer at the beginning of his long distinguished career in law enforcement and will be a welcome addition to any museum, Colt SAA, American Western, Texas Ranger, or law enforcement collection. A true documented piece of Texas Ranger history!
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