Lot #2153
Lot #2155

Lot 2154: S&W First Model Schofield Revolver Attributed to Cole Younger

Auction Location: Rock Island, IL

Auction Date: December 2, 2017

Lot 2154: S&W First Model Schofield Revolver Attributed to Cole Younger

Auction Location: Rock Island, IL

Auction Date: December 2, 2017

Estimated Price: $35,000 - $65,000
Price Realized:

Historic, Well Documented Smith & Wesson First Model Civilian Schofield Revolver Family Attributed as being Presented by Outlaw Cole Younger of the James-Younger Gang to Minnesota State Senator George P. Wilson with Charles Pate Research Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: Schofield
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 45 Schofield
Barrel: 7 inch solid rib
Finish: blue
Grip: walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 6339
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 112
Class: Antique
Description:

Manufactured in 1875, this S&W First Model Schofield revolver is one of approximately 35 commercially or "civilian" sold specimens that lack U.S. military markings, and it has an extremely early production two digit serial number: “13.” The revolver has an ejector housing marked with the standard two-line address/patent dates on the left side, and the Schofield's patent information on the right side. “13” is stamped on the grip frame under the grip, the rear cylinder face, and the right grip panel. Renowned firearms author and researcher Charles W. Pate, in the included research letter based on his personal examination of the revolver, notes that it is “is in factory original condition” and that it is not the lack of the "US" on the butt that is significant. Instead, “it is the inspection marks that show whether or not a particular revolver is, in fact, a military contract example.” The only component that has any form of visible government contract proof or inspection marking is the barrel which is marked “P.” Cylinders that passed proof testing would have also been marked "P" to the right of the serial number. Pate surmised that the presence of the “P” on the barrel but lack of other usual government contract and proof markings suggests the initial frame of serial number 13 was one of 35 frames rejected by the Army due to material defects, and the cylinder may have also failed. Records indicate “90 cylinders failed inspections (21 for workmanship and another 69 for materials).” Smith & Wesson then most likely re-used the “good” parts of the revolver, including the barrel, to assemble a revolver for the commercial market. The placement of the serial number on the frame is also significant. Pate suspects “that the company marked the serial number on number 13’s replacement frame on the side of the grip strap, rather than the normal position on the butt, as a means to keep it apart from revolvers intended for the Army contract” and notes that serial number 6 “has its frame marked in the same manner.” He adds, “I am quite confident in saying it is a true civilian First Model and as such is a great rarity.” Moreover, this revolver is attributed to Cole Younger of the James-Younger Gang. Thomas Coleman "Cole" Younger (January 15, 1844 - March 21, 1916) was a Confederate guerrilla during the Civil War and after the war joined forces with notable outlaws Jesse and Frank James to form the James-Younger Gang. In early February 1866, Jesse and Frank James met with Cole Younger to plan the first bank robbery, and over the next few years, Cole and his brothers participated in 12 bank robberies, 7 train robberies, 4 stagecoach robberies and various other criminal acts during which at least 11 citizens were killed by the gang. Their crimes included the first train robbery west of the Mississippi River. Cole Younger was captured after the gang's failed attempt to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota, on September 7, 1876. Cole and his two brothers were badly wounded and captured during a shootout with a local posse. The three Younger brothers pleaded guilty to their crimes to avoid being hanged. Cole was released from prison in 1901 and received an official pardon in 1903. He returned to Missouri where he joined a Wild West theme show with Frank James, the brother of Jesse James, for a short period of time and lectured crowds on the evils of crime. Cole died in 1916. As explained in the accompanying February 2016 dated notarized document on William Dykes Antiques letterhead, "Cole Younger presented this revolver and holster to George Potter Wilson in appreciation of Mr. Wilson's gallant efforts as a senator (Judiciary Committee) to get him pardoned from prison, and then assisting Cole in finding gainful employment. Mr. Wilson helped set up speaking engagements for Cole to speak on the topic 'Crime Doesn't Pay' to churches and civic groups." The letter continues with the revolver’s history of provenance that is as follows: Cole Younger presented the revolver to George Potter Wilson; the revolver passed down to Wilson’s grandson George F. Wilson; next the revolver was passed down to George F. Wilson’s brother-in-law, Winton George Wilks; the revolver was later given to Wilks’ three grandchildren, all of whom have signed the notarized letter. At the time of Cole’s capture, George Potter Wilson (1840-1920) was the Minnesota Attorney General (1874-1880). In 1898 Wilson was elected to the Minnesota Senate, and in 1899 introduced a bill known as the “Younger Bill” that provided parole for prisoners with life sentences. Wilson’s bill allowed for the parole of Cole Younger. James-Younger Gang members, including Cole, were known to have used large caliber Smith & Wesson revolvers in their infamous Western exploits. A .45 caliber Schofield makes a perfect gift of appreciation for an outlaw to present to the public servant who got him out of prison. According to the Wilson’s descendants, Cole, while on his nationwide lecture tour, presented this revolver to Senator Wilson at a hotel in Rome, New York. An open top/open toe leather holster that is referenced in the notarized document is included.

Rating Definition:

Fine. The revolver retains 30% original blue finish with the balance a mottled brown patina. Traces of original case colors remain on the hammer and trigger guard. The grips are good with a series of notches on the bottom and a couple areas of numerous scratches. Mechanically excellent. Pate notes, "The blue finish and case colored parts are consistent with the factory finish of the 1870s. The wear and discoloration from exposure are convincingly consistent overall and are appropriate for a well-cared-for pistol from that period that actually saw use. It is well above average in condition, and the markings are quite clear." The holster is fair showing extensive cracking and flaking. This is rarely encountered civilian variation of a First Model Schofield revolver that is missing from even the most advanced S&W collections. This, coupled with the added bonus of being attributed to Western outlaw Cole Younger, will make it a perfect addition to any S&W antique or Western collection. Only for the serious collector!



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