Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 417: Pretty Boy Floyd's Colt Government Model Pistol

Auction Date: June 5, 2020

Historic Colt Government Model Semi-Automatic Pistol Attributed to Notorious Public Enemy Number One Era Outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $10,000 - $20,000

Historic Colt Government Model Semi-Automatic Pistol Attributed to Notorious Public Enemy Number One Era Outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Government
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inch round
Finish: blue
Grip: walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 6025
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 239
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun
Description:

Manufactured in 1917. The slide has the two-line, two-block patent dates and Hartford address marking along with a Rampant Colt behind the serrations on the left side and "COLT AUTOMATIC/CALIBRE 45" on the right side. The right side of the frame is marked "GOVERNMENT MODEL/C 97206." The left side of the trigger guard has a Colt triangle proof and the letter "T." Fitted with diamond checkered walnut grips. Comes with an unmarked two-tone magazine. This pistol is linked to notorious Public Enemy No. 1 era outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd. Charles Arthur Floyd, aka "Pretty Boy" Floyd, was a bank robber and murderer in the mid-1920s-early 1930s. Much like fellow gangster Lester Gillis, aka George "Baby Face" Nelson, Floyd got his moniker for his youthful looks, and also like Nelson, he hated the handle every step of the way. He was born in Adairsville, Georgia, but grew up around Oklahoma Hills. He was a loner most of the time but didn't hesitate to team up with the likes of John Dillinger and other notorious killers to commit numerous bank robberies and murder numerous law enforcement officers in the Midwest and West South Central States of the United States. His criminal career started in Missouri in 1925, where he robbed a bank, was caught and eventually sent to prison in Jefferson City, Missouri. He was later paroled in 1929 and vowed "never to be taken alive". He continued to rob banks in Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Indiana. He was later declared "Public Enemy No. 1" after the death of John Dillinger and the events of the "Kansas City Massacre" in June of 1933; a group of law enforcers escorting a prisoner were machine gunned by a party of criminals in what was either a badly botched jailbreak attempt or a highly successful syndicate hit, resulting in the deaths of the prisoner and four lawmen. While Floyd swore until his last day that he wasn't involved, the FBI was convinced that he was one of the gunmen. Staying on the move for over a year, Floyd slipped through a number of ambushes until his luck ran out near East Liverpool, Ohio, in October of 1934. On the road with Adam Richetti, another man accused of being at the massacre, Floyd's party crashed their car in a dense fog disabling the vehicle. Attempting to hide out while their female companions arranged a tow, the gangsters were spotted, resulting in a shootout with local law, Richetti was captured, the local police chief took a bullet through his foot, and Floyd was on the run in the woods. From here, multiple sources confirm that a detachment of FBI men led by Melvin Purvis, himself famous for taking out Dillinger, arrived on the scene, the FBI men requisitioned two Thompson submachine guns from the East Liverpool Police Department, and Pretty Boy Floyd caught a fatal case of lead poisoning from Purvis' team on October 22nd, 1934. From here, things get fuzzy. The FBI and local law enforcement have their own version of events, as do some of the participants. As the locals told it, one of their own, a retired lawman and decorated WWI marksman Chester Smith non-lethally dropped Floyd with 2 well aimed shots with a Winchester rifle, and when he got back up again the FBI opened up, putting the gangster down permanently. In later years, Smith gave his own, highly controversial, version of events, in which Floyd didn't get back up; after his two shots, Purvis and his men closed distance on the incapacitated gangster, asked Floyd for a confession about Kansas, and when they were rebuffed, cut him down with one of their Thompsons on Purvis' direct order. The FBI version of events was that Purvis' team found Floyd without any local assistance, and proceeded to shoot him down when he tried to come at them with a .45 caliber pistol. This Colt .45 pistol is identified to Floyd in an accompanying 1989 dated notarized letter from gun collector and president of the Wisconsin based Strommen Trickel Industries Neal E. Trickel. Trickel interviewed Chester Smith in 1982 and during the interview Smith showed Trickel this Colt .45 pistol as well as a .45 bullet said to have been recovered from Floyd’s body. According to Smith, this Colt “was one of two that Floyd was carrying when shot. He said that the bullet was a souvenir, and the gun was an added prize ‘to not say anything about how Floyd was actually killed.’” Smith gave Trickel both the bullet and this pistol. The October 23, 1934 issue of The Pittsburgh Press, a newspaper from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, published a photo of two Colt .45 pistols said to be “the two guns found on the body of Floyd as he went to his death under fire.” Smith claimed that this Colt was one of the two pistols in the photo published by The Pittsburgh Press. In “Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd,” author Michael Wallis confirms that Floyd was carrying two Colts at the time of his death: “The officers picked up the Colt pistol Floyd had drooped [after being first shot by Smith]. Another .45 automatic was tucked in the top of his trousers” (page 338). Wallis continued, “It had been determined that [Floyd] had fled without firing a single shot from either of his two fully loaded pistols” (page 340). Two photos of the Trickel/Smith interview are included as well as photos documenting the Conkle farm as it appeared in 1982 where Floyd took his last stand, the famous photo of Floyd being fingerprinted in the morgue with Smith doing the printing, a photo of Floyd at his funeral, and copies of Merle Clayton’s “Union Station Massacre,” Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana’s “Pretty Boy Floyd” and Michael Wallis’s “Pretty Boy.” The FBI’s gun collection includes a Floyd owned Colt .45 pistol, which was once displayed on Director J. Edgar Hoover’s “wall of shame,” a collection of weapons belonging to criminals sought by the Bureau (www.fbi.gov/image-repository/floyd640.jpg/view). In December 2018, Rock Island Auction Company sold one of the two documented Thompson Submachine guns used in the killing of Pretty Boy Floyd. This Thompson is mentioned by serial number (14033) in Trickel’s notarized letter that provides the provenance to this pistol. The Thompson was also once owned by Trickel.

Rating Definition:

Fine, retaining 60% original blue finish with the balance between smooth brown and gray patinas. The grips are also fine with some minor handling marks and some wear along the tops of the checkering. Mechanically excellent. A Colt Government Model .45 semi-automatic pistol linked to one of the notable incidents of the Public Enemy era of American history and to one of the most notorious gangsters from the Great Depression!



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