Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 8: G. Young Engraved Colt Millikin Dragoon Revolver

Auction Date: May 3, 2019

Incredibly Historic and Well-Documented Iconic Gustave Young Master Engraved Cased Colt Third Model Dragoon Percussion Revolver with Inscribed Grip Strap, Known as "The Millikin Dragoon"

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $1,200,000 - $2,000,000

Incredibly Historic and Well-Documented Iconic Gustave Young Master Engraved Cased Colt Third Model Dragoon Percussion Revolver with Inscribed Grip Strap, Known as "The Millikin Dragoon"

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Dragoon
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44 percussion
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch part octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: antique ivory
Item Views: 21688
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 10
Class: Antique

The Millikin Dragoon is a virtual superstar even amongst an elite category of antique firearms recognized by the collector fraternity by its nickname and, in the words of noted Colt historian R.L. Wilson, is “one of the classics of Colt collecting.” It is a type of revolver with an unprecedented level of historical pedigree, ownership pedigree, artistic merit and condition that collectors usually can only fantasize about owning. A one gun tour de force which transcends fine arms collecting in way that it has the ability to instantaneously reveals itself as fine art, a steel canvas by definition. This historic revolver (serial number 16477) falls into a known serial number range of presentation grade Dragoons. These sister revolvers include serial numbers 16474 and 16476, a matched pair, no presentation, shipped by Colt in April 1864, recipient unknown (Lee Collection); 16480, 16481, and 16482 which were presented by Samuel Colt to Russian Czar Alexander II and his two brothers (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg Russia); 16461 which was presented by Samuel Colt to his chief engineer E.K. Root (Autry Museum of the American West, Studio City California) ; and 16467 which was presented by Colt employees to Secretary of War John B. Floyd (whereabouts unknown, condition is reported "fair"). Manufactured in 1857, this revolver showcases Gustave Young’s abilities on an unrivalled surface and combination of finishes. The profuse engraving consists of Young’s signature tight and immaculate floral scrollwork featured on all major components. Note the engraving extends to the rear of the cylinder, a flourishment reserved for only the most important presentation specimens. Amongst the scrollwork is an eagle head and dog head on the barrel lug, a dog head on the frame and a wolf head on the hammer. The screw heads and barrel wedge are also engraved. Young’s attention to detail is astonishing. The Colt barrel address (“ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW YORK CITY”) and frame marking (“COLT/PATENT”) are hand engraved rather than the standard roll die impression. The inscription, which is flanked by scrollwork at each end, appears on the silver plated back strap. The inscription reads “Colonel P.M. Milliken.” The misspelling of the surname “Millikin” was an engraver’s error. The cylinder has the Ranger and Indian scene, and the left side of the trigger is marked with the letters “V” and “M.” Matching numbers are found on the barrel, frame, trigger guard, back strap, cylinder, loading lever and wedge, and the cylinder pin is unnumbered. The revolver originally belonged to a heroic Union Army officer, Colonel John Minor Millikin, Jr. (1834-1862) of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. The colonel went by his middle name Minor, and before the Civil War, he attended Harvard Law School, worked for his father's former law partner for a short time, married his college sweetheart, and co-owned the Hamilton Intelligencer Newspaper. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Minor assisted in outfitting the Captain Burdsall's Cincinnati Company with horses and saddles and helped to recruit men for the regiment. He started his war service as a sergeant, then lieutenant and was promoted to major in the 1st Ohio Volunteer Cavalry after several months of war. In 1862 he was promoted to the rank of colonel. On December 31,1862, Minor was killed in action while leading a saber charge against Confederate forces at Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Cited for gallantry by General Rosecrans, and noted in the field report of General John A Wharton, CSA- “Colonel Milliken was killed by private John Bowers, Company K, Texas Rangers, in single Combat”. Fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, the Battle of Stones River or the Second Battle of Murfreesboro was a Union victory which deterred the Confederacy from controlling Middle Tennessee. Minor along with a small group of his men became cut off from the rest of the regiment but refused to surrender to the rebel cavalry. The fight evolved into hand to hand combat. Minor was killed by a Texas Rangers private, John Bowers, who, from a distance, shot the colonel in the neck. For his actions and ultimate sacrifice, Minor was cited for gallantry. Minor's college friend and future New York Times editor Whitlaw Reid eulogized the fallen colonel, stating with great pride "I cannot feel that I have done justice to the memory of my dead friend, without adding the conviction that by no single blow during the war did the Country lose, among her younger officers, one braver, more devoted, more unselfish, more cultured, purer in character, or loftier in honorable ambition...he was in some respects of too sensitive and peculiar an organization for the rough ways of common life. But in the fire of our great struggle his true character shone out; and in the halo from Stone River that now surrounds the name, none, even of his enemies, fail to do tender justice to his worth, or to cherish as a sacred possession the memory of Minor Millikin." At the time of his death, Minor’s son, Paul Minor (1858-1934), was four years old. Paul inherited his father’s Dragoon and went on to have a military career. Paul was a colonel during the Spanish-American War, served as chief of the Cincinnati police force from 1903 to 1911, saw additional military service in World War I and was an accomplished insurance businessman until his death in 1934. It is Paul’s name with military rank that is inscribed on the back strap of this revolver. The included partitioned case is lined in blue velvet, has a Blunt & Syms trade card on the interior of the lid and contains lead rounds, rare “COLTS/PATENT” marked high gloss blued steel double cavity bullet mold, double face Colt Dragoon powder flask and Eley Brothers cap tin. Throughout the decades the Dragoon has been pictured in numerous publications which include R.A. Dow and R.L. Wilson’s “The Art of American Arms” in the July/August 1986 issue of "The American West Magazine" on page 41 and in "Outdoor Life Guns and Shooting Yearbook, 1988" on page 137 (copy included) and R.L. Wilson’s Japanese edition of “Colt Handguns” on page 6, “The Book of Colt Engraving” on page 49, “Samuel Colt Presents” on page 56, “The Colt Heritage” on pages 22 and 59, “Colt an American Legend” on page 22 and 59 and “Colt Engraving” on page 50. Wilson confessed that the revolver had “long been a favorite and thus it’s prominence in so many of his published works.” Note the included Outdoor Life publication features a handwritten salutation from R.L Wilson congratulating noted collector Al Cali for owning the Millikin Dragoon. The revolver was also part of the “Samuel Colt Presents” exhibition at Wadsworth Atheneum in 1961. An accompanying letter from R.L. Wilson documents the revolver’s significance as stated above and correspondence from Robert Nelson to Al Cali identifies this dragoon as once being part of Cali’s collection, John S. duMont and Larry Shrerin, all legends in their own right.

Rating Definition:

Excellent. The barrel retains 97% plus original highly polished blue finish and finely engraved cylinder retains 90% plus original polished blue finish with smooth brown patina on the balance. 95% of the original case colors remain on the loading lever, hammer and frame. The grip straps retain 97% original silver plating, consistently thick as what Colt's standard, with loss mostly around and in the period inscription. The engraving is crisp and all of the cylinder scene remains. The excellent grip has typical age stress lines mostly on the bottom, otherwise displaying attractive grain and color. Mechanically excellent. The relined case is very good showing handling/storage evidence on the exterior and high spot wear on the lining. The bullet mold retains 95% plus of the blue finish. The powder flask retains 80% of the brown lacquer. Whether it be in private hands or public museum, this revolver is worthy of the finest firearms collection in the world and represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire a true icon in the discipline of fine arms collecting an offering as significant in our field as Van Gogh "The Starry Night" or Picasso's "Le reve". Provenance: Robert J. Nelson, M.D Collection; John S. duMont Collection; Larry Sheerin, R.E. Hable Collection; Al Cali Collection.

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