Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3467: Gen. Pershing Presentation Colt Government Model Pistol

Auction Date: December 6, 2020

Historic, Rare Factory Engraved and Inscribed Colt Government Model Semi-Automatic Pistol Presented by U.S. General of the Armies John "Blackjack" Pershing to the President of Venezuela with Factory Letter

Estimated Price: $80,000 - $150,000

Historic, Rare Factory Engraved and Inscribed Colt Government Model Semi-Automatic Pistol Presented by U.S. General of the Armies John "Blackjack" Pershing to the President of Venezuela with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Government
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inch round
Finish: blue
Grip: original
Item Views: 1616
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 272
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun

Offered here is not only a rare factory engraved and inscribed Colt Government Model pistol but a tangible piece of American-Latin American diplomatic relations in the mid-1920s. The historical significance rests with the inscription that marks the pistol as a gift presented by famed American World War I General John J. Pershing (1860-1948) to President of Venezuela General Juan Vicente Gomez (1857-1935). In American military affairs, General Pershing needs little introduction. As the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I, Pershing is one of America’s most celebrated soldiers of the early 20th century. In 1921, Pershing became Chief of Staff of the United States Army, serving for three years at which time he retired from active military service in 1924 at the age of 64. When this pistol was sold to Pershing and shipped in 1925 Pershing was overseeing a U.S. commission to settle a boundary dispute between Chile and Peru that had occurred after the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). Based on newspaper reports, Pershing along with his staff traveled to Venezuela in February 1925 and greeted with a military review ordered by the president of Venezuela, General Juan Vicente Gomez. Then in early July, around the time that this pistol was shipped, Gomez, through the Venezuelan minister at Washington, presented Pershing with a sword once belonging to General Jose Antonio Paez, a national hero who fought during the Venezuelan War of Independence. The sword presentation occurred on the eve of Pershing’s sailing trip to South America to participate in a U.S. led delegation attempting to settle the territorial disputes of Tacna and Arica provinces between Peru and Chile, which would persist until 1929 when the Treaty of Lima was signed. In all likelihood this pistol was a reciprocating gift for the sword Gomez presented to Pershing. Eventually, the Venezuelan government requested the return of the sword which was deemed “one of Venezuela’s most sacred trophies.” The accompanying factory letter confirms the 5 inch barrel in .45 caliber, blue finish, and grip material with the monogram “JVG” on the left stock as well as “engraved” notation in the Colt production book. The revolver was sold to famed American World War I General John J. Pershing and shipped to Major Herbert O’Leary (address unavailable) on July 9, 1925. The pistol features a profuse factory floral scroll pattern on a shaded background. The Colt slide markings have been reconfigured to accommodate the presentation inscription on the left side, a sure sign that the engraving and inscription are factory. This inscription reads, “Presented to/GENERAL JUAN V. GOMEZ/BY/GENERAL JOHN J. PERSHING.” The right side of the slide is stamped “COLT” followed by “AUTOMATIC CALIBRE .45” and a Rampant Colt ahead of the ejection port and above the two-line Hartford address/patent dates marking amongst the scrollwork. The right side of the frame is stamped “GOVERNMENT MODEL” above the serial number. The left panel has Juan V. Gomez’s scrimshaw script initials highlighted in black ink. The two-tone magazine is unmarked. In "The Book of Colt Firearms" author R.L. Wilson states that approximately 140 pre-WWII Model 1911 and Model 1911A1 pistols were factory engraved prior to World War II and 160 pistols were inscribed or monogrammed (page 435).

Rating Definition:

Extremely fine. The frame retains 70% original blue finish and the slide retains 40% original blue finish with the balance a smooth brown patina and some scattered patches of pitting. The engraving is crisp overall. The inscription is crisp. The grips are very fine with a couple tiny chips, number of minor handling marks and crisp scrimshaw monogram. Mechanically excellent. An extraordinary piece of Colt artistry infused with the history of American foreign relations prior to World War II.

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