Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1250: Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson 44 DA Revolver

Auction Date: September 12, 2020

Exceptionally Rare, Iconic, Historic Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model Revolver Exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $55,000 - $85,000

Exceptionally Rare, Iconic, Historic Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model Revolver Exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: 44 Double Action
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44 S&W Russian
Barrel: 6 inch solid rib
Finish: blue
Grip: sterling silver
Item Views: 2557
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 205
Class: Antique

From the late 1880s to the early 1900s self-described “American multinational luxury jewelry and specialty retailer” Tiffany & Co. of New York created a highly embellished series of deluxe handguns and rifles from some of the period’s leading firearms manufacturers including Colt, Winchester and most notably Smith & Wesson. These high art firearms are the epitome of the Art Nouveau movement. While Tiffany did some work for S&W in the 1870s, no work of this magnitude was executed until the 1890s, and they were intended to be showpieces for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Exposition Universelle in Paris of 1900 and the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY in 1901. This fantastic example was manufactured specifically for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The front of the grip is stamped with a special exhibition cartouche: a globe over a capital "T," which identifies items as Tiffany Columbian Exposition pieces. S&W’s exhibit was entitled "Tiffany at The World's Columbian Exposition". An advertisement taken out by S&W in the Youth's Companion dated May 4, 1893 described the exhibit as "Beauty of Design and Finish". This same ad was, interestingly enough, S&W's only published attempt in the 19th century to promote decorated handguns of any kind (including factory engraved samples). The number of surviving Tiffany S&Ws remains unknown. In R.L. Wilson's "Winchester: The Golden Age of American Gunmaking and the Winchester 1 of 1000," a Tiffany S&W is pictured and identified as one of those displayed in the S&W exhibit in the Department of Liberal Arts at the World's Fair, and additional information and examples are documented in Wilson's "Steel Canvas" and Neal and Jinks' "Smith & Wesson 1857-1945." The largest public display of Tiffany embellished 19th century arms can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Gallery 372. The lion’s share of the display was donated and/or sold by Dr. Gerald Klaz. This revolver's sterling silver Tiffany grip covers the frame and recoil shield, is attached to the revolver so masterfully the only visible place where it is secured is at the barrel hinge by original Tiffany silver plated screws, and features an etched comical cowboy scene of men trying to bust a bronco with little success, Art Nouveau borders and a bird’s head style butt. Like most major firearm manufacturers of the time, engravers were not allowed to sign their own work. Amazingly, Tiffany was allowed to mark the piece made on special order as well as those made for private customers. The grip is signed "TIFFANY & CO./STERLING" above the Tiffany Columbian Exposition cartouche as previously mentioned. Our most astute buyers and S&W collectors will recognize the etched western scene as nearly identical to a motif found on another Tiffany Columbian Exposition Smith & Wesson revolver, a .38 Safety Hammerless serial number 54680, we previously sold. The shared western motif is listed in Tiffany’s official Columbian Exposition catalog (“Catalogue of Tiffany & Co.'s Exhibit: Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893”) on revolver number 301 (model not listed) on page 50: “SILVER MOUNTING, etched cowboys, steel cylinder and barrel.” As cataloged in a period Tiffany publication, coupled with the Tiffany exposition cartouche, leaves no doubt that both revolvers were showcased at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The accompanying factory letter lists this revolver with a 6 inch barrel, blue finish, and checkered black hard rubber grips when shipped on May 5, 1893 and delivered to Tiffany & Co. of New York City. Note the revolver left the S&W factory on May 5, 1893, four days after opening day at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, which ran from May 1-Oct 30, 1893. The barrel, cylinder, and trigger guard are blued, the hammer and trigger are casehardened, and the grip is sterling silver. The frame lacks a visible serial number. The serial number “28865” is stamped on the cylinder, barrel latch and barrel.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine as highly embellished by the renowned Tiffany & Co. The barrel, cylinder and trigger guard retain 60% original blue finish with a smooth brown patina on the balance. Generous traces of original case colors remain on the hammer and trigger. The grip has a highly attractive untouched aged silver appearance, a couple dents and a series of tiny dings near the butt. The phenomenal Tiffany signed etched scene is crisp. Mechanically excellent. Tiffany & Co. S&Ws are some the rarest high art firearms in existence with some on display at the prestigious MET. This is a masterful work of late 19th century art displayed at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Don't let this one slip away as it is a must have for the serious S&W or firearms art collector! Provenance: Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.

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