These revolvers were manufactured in 1865-1868. In addition to the standard markings and features, including the matching serial number on the right panel and butt, the revolver is engraved with primarily scroll patterns on the barrel, cylinder, and frame. The back strap is inscribed "WILLIAM W. REYNOLDS./NEW YORK," and the side plate has "WWR" monogram with a balloon in the center over a banner reading "OCT. 7 NUL BIEN SANS PEINE 1870." The motto translates from French to "nothing to be had without trouble." It is finished with gold finish on the barrel and frame, and the cylinder and remaining components have silver plating. The revolver comes in a pipe style case. William W. Reynolds of New York had lived an eventful and ultimately tragic life as a key employee within the famous American military goods dealers Schulyer, Hartley & Graham (just Hartley & Graham after 1876) of New York. They were the largest firearms dealers in the United States and also key stakeholders in the Remington Arms Co. He was in charge of their export sale departments. The date on the revolver is important. October 7, 1870, was the day he nearly lost his life to a Prussian soldier when the winds changed. As documented in newspapers from the period, especially various American papers on October 10, 1870, Reynolds was in France during the Franco-Prussian War engaged in significant arms sales with the French government. He and Charles W. May (another American from New York then living in Paris) left Paris, then besieged by the Prussians, in a hydrogen gas balloon on October 7th, 1870, en route to Tours at the same time as French statesman Leon Gambetta took off in his own balloon to get past the front lines. While flying over the Prussian camps, Reynolds' balloon was becalmed and came under fire from Prussian soldiers who reportedly fired at them with their rifles and cannons. They later safely landed and rejoined Gambetta and went to Tours with him by train. There Gambetta, as minister of the interior and war, raised new armies to defend France from the Prussians. Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, through Reynolds, sold tens of thousands of arms, many surplus arms from the Civil War, to help arm the French armies. Reynolds was also a shareholder, trustee, and secretary of the Remington Arm Co. which was purchased by Marcellus Hartley and Winchester Repeating Arms Co. in 1888, and Hartley later bought out Winchester's shares. In a dark twist, after working for Hartley & Graham for 30 years, Reynolds inexplicably murdered Hartley & Graham's secretary Miles V. Kelly on March 29, 1893, after apparently suffering a mental break down and then turned a revolver on himself.
Very good with bright refinished gold on the side plate, 40% original gold on the balance, 90% original silver on the cylinder with mild aged patina, and crisp engraving and inscriptions. The grips are also very good with mild edge wear, scratches, and marks. Mechanically fine. The case is fine and has mild wear. This is an very attractive Smith & Wesson in its own right, and its connection to a colorful tale from the Franco-Prussian War and 19th century America's most influential arms dealers certainly adds to is historical value. Provenance: Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.
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