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The factory letter lists this revolver in ".38 Rifle cartridge" (.38-40 W.C.F.) with a 7 1/2 inch barrel, blue finish, and rubber grips when it was shipped to Evans and Spencer in Salt Lake City, Territory of Utah, on September 17, 1888. Evans & Spencer were sporting goods dealers at 34 W 2nd St. as shown in included directories from the period. The revolver now features gold plating on the cylinder, ejector, and hammer and a silver plated finish on the barrel, frame, and grip frame as well as a pair of stag grips. The barrel has a blade front sight and the one-line address. The ejector has the smaller "scooped" button. The "black powder" frame has the three-line patent marking on the left. The left side of the trigger guard has "38 CAL." The serial numbers on the frame, trigger guard, and butt match. Assembly number "170" is marked on the loading gate. "WM TILGHMAN DEPT. U.S.M." is inscribed on the back strap. Deputy U.S. Marshal William Matthew Tilghman Jr. (1854-1924), better known as Bill Tilghman, was a legendary western lawman in the late 19th century and early 20th century. His friend and fellow lawman Bat Masterson referred to him as "the best of all of us." He was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, but grew up in Kansas and was hunting buffalo for hides by the time he was 16. He also worked as a hunter and scout for the U.S. Army based out of Fort Dodge before being appointed deputy sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, in 1877 and purchased a ranch near the famous frontier town Dodge City, the county seat located near the fort. He also ran two saloons in the town and became the city marshal in 1884. He became involved in the Gray County War that ended with Cimarron becoming the county seat. He killed Ed Prather on the 4th of July in a saloon in 1888. On September 17, 1893, he killed Crescent Sam while working as a peace officer in Perry, Oklahoma. During the 1890s, he became a deputy U.S. marshal and became one of Oklahoma's "Three Guardsmen" along with Heck Thomas and Chris Madsen. Thomas and Tilghman captured "Little Dick Raidler" in 1895, and the next year Tilghman alone brought in Bill Doolin of the Doolin-Dalton Gang aka The Wild Bunch. After Doolin escaped, Thomas led a posse that put him down for good. At the turn of the century, Tilghman became the sheriff of Lincoln County and was re-elected in 1902. He became involved in the early western films starting in 1908 and briefly served in the state senate before resigning to serve as Oklahoma City's police chief in 1911. In 1915, he directed "The Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws" and also played himself in the film. Other people involved in the real events also came on board, including Roy Daugherty, the only surviving member of the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Daugherty, aka Arkansas Tom Jones, was a convicted killer but got out in 1910 and later returned to a life of crime and was killed by police in Joplin, Missouri, in 1924. The film is particularly important for the provenance of this revolver. Tilghman toured with a crate of decorated revolvers to show to the crowds. In an article in the Los Angeles Herald on November 18, 1920, promoting "The Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws," the paper states, "Bill lifted the lid of his low, flat-topped trunk and waved a hand for me to look within. There lay 15 revolvers with barrels all the way from 5 inches to 9 inches in length. He had them polished and heavily plated with gold and silver. Some were gold throughout. Some had gold barrels and silver ornaments. Some had gold cylinders and silver barrels. There were pearl handles and ivory handles, wood handles in light color and wood handles in dark color." Tilghman indicated one had shot his hat off. One had been captured from Bill Doolin, one was Henry Starr's, and another was carried by Frank James. This revolver may have been carried by him in the movie. He can be seen with a Colt Single Action Army that appears to be silver plated and have white grips. In 1924, he returned to working as a lawman despite being 70 years old and served as the city marshal of Cromwell, Oklahoma. The town was booming and dangerous and full of brothels and saloons despite prohibition. He was killed on November 1, 1924, by drunken prohibition agent Wilely Lynn. Lynn was associated with the criminal elements in the town and fired one of his pistols into the ground outside of the cafe Tilghman was dining in. When he and Deputy Marshal Hugh Sawyer responded and disarmed him, he pulled out another hidden pistol and shot Tilghman twice. The town burned to the ground a month later, and Lynn somehow managed to get acquitted of killing the famous lawman by claiming self defense only to find himself shot and killed in 1932 in a gunfight with Tilghman's friend Crockett Long, a Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Agent, who was also killed in the exchange of gunfire. The revolver is accompanied by a copy of "Outlaw Days" by Zoe A. Tilghman, Bill Tilghman's second wife, and a signed document from Tilghman as Deputy U.S. Marshal on May 17, 1896, indicating he had provided provisions for Mary Miller, Viola Miller, A.D. Miller, and James Vaughn while they were in his custody.
Fine as period plated with 90% of the silver plating remaining, 70% of the gold plating remaining, aged patina forming on the silver plating, some brighter areas, and general mild overall wear. The inscription and markings remain distinct. The undersized grips are fine and have minor age and handling related wear. Mechanically fine. This is a very fascinating revolver connected to one of the most iconic lawmen of the American West: Bill Tilghman, one of Oklahoma's "Three Guardsmen."
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