Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1142: Factory Engraved Serial No. 1 Colt London Model 1849 Revolver

Auction Date: May 15, 2021

Rare and Beautiful London Bird's Eye Maple Cased Factory Engraved Historic Serial Number 1 Colt London Model 1849 Percussion Revolver

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $50,000 - $80,000

Rare and Beautiful London Bird's Eye Maple Cased Factory Engraved Historic Serial Number 1 Colt London Model 1849 Percussion Revolver

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1849 London
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 31
Barrel: 5 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: walnut
Item Views: 1542
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 102
Class: Antique

While the Model 1849 Pocket was the most popular of all of Colt's revolvers in the United States in the 19th century, this model was produced and sold in more limited numbers from Colt's London factory; only around 11,000 were manufactured in London compared to around 42,000 of the London Navy revolvers. The London Model 1849 Pockets are thus considerably rarer than the Hartford manufactured Pocket revolvers. These London Model 1849s are serialized in their own range (1-11000) and were manufactured from 1853 to 1857. The parts of the first 300 pistols were fabricated in Hartford with the parts unnumbered and unstamped and then assembled at the London factory. Offered here is the first, serial number 1, of the London Model 1849 series of revolvers. Like this example, several of the first 100 Colt London Model 1849s were factory engraved. See, for example, nos. 2, 7, 52, 93 and 95 as identified in R.L. Wilson’s “The Colt Engraving Book, Vol. One” on page 238. Considering the factory engraving and serial number 1, this Model 1849 is a prime candidate for being a factory display piece to promote Colt’s then newly established manufacturing venture in England. Colt received a great amount of success in the 1850s. The arms company was the first to widely use completely interchangeable parts in its products and to put together those parts on massive assembly lines that utilized affordable unskilled labor. Colt’s production methods stood in great contrast to English gunmaking which was still based on the highly expensive art of making individual parts and fitting by hand. So impressed after a tour of the London facility renowned British writer Charles Dickens wrote favorable comments about Colt’s revolvers when compared to British counterparts. The highly modernized Colt factory on the River Thames was clearly a sign to the world that America was becoming a leader in industrial manufacturing. There are no British proof marks on the barrel or cylinder, which means the pistol was not shipped to the London factory and instead remained in the United States. The pistol was therefore available for the remarkable Colt display of arms arranged in the shape of a giant shield at a famed New York exhibition held in 1853. Spectators flocked to see Colt’s large arrangement of arms at the Exhibition of Industry of All Nations, more commonly known as the New York Crystal Palace Exhibition, held in 1853 to 1854 in an iron and glass domed building patterned after the London Crystal Palace, which housed the Great Exhibition of 1851 and where Colt debuted the Model 1851. Colt would go on to become the master of arms presentation and showmanship. Consider the Centennial Exhibition, the first official World's Fair in the U.S., where Colt debuted its famous "wheel" display. The display was built in Hartford specifically for the exposition and received a lot of attention both at the World's Fair itself and into the 21st century as collectors eagerly seek out the historic Colts that made up Colt's famous display. The display is considered to be the factory’s most spectacular in its history. The 1853 New York Crystal Palace foreshadowed the grand promotional displays synonymous with the name Colt. The embellishment on the revolver is executed in a minimalist classic scroll style. A fan pattern decorates the top of the back strap. The top of the barrel has the hand engraved two-line London address inside brackets: “ADDRESS COL: COLT/LONDON.” This two-line address legend is unusual as the approximately first 300 pistols are hand engraved with the single line London address. Only a limited number of the Hartford made Model 1849s bear the two-line London address. As pointed out by R.L. Wilson, “These pistols are quite rare.” The left side of the frame has the hand engraved “COLTS PATENT” in a banner, a feature generally reserved for factory engraved specimens. The cylinder has the roll-engraved stagecoach holdup scene and marked “COLTS PATENT/No. 1”. Wearing a nicely figured and varnished walnut grip. The matching serial number “1” appears on the barrel, frame, trigger guard, back strap, cylinder, loading gate, wedge, and arbor pin. It comes in a very scarce factory bird's eye maple case with directions for loading and cleaning label inside the lid, “L” shaped combination tool, silver plated iron bullet mold marked “COLT’S/PATENT” on the sprue cutter, James Dixon & Sons powder flask, and Eley cap tin. The two included case keys are tied to a period paper tag hand marked “Pistol/Case” and stamped “PATENT JUNE 3, 1863.” Provenance: The Mac McCroskie Collection

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine. The barrel retains 70% bright original high polished blue finish, and the cylinder retains 97% original high polished blue finish with the balance a smooth brown-gray patina. Nearly all of the crisp cylinder scene remains. The hammer, frame and loading lever retain 60% original case colors. 99% plus original silver plating remains. The grip is excellent with minimal minor handling marks and nearly all original varnish remaining. Mechanically excellent. The rare bird’s eye maple case is very fine with minor handing/storage marks and some typical high spot wear on the lining. Nearly all of the paper label remains. 95% original niter blue remains on the combination tool. 98% plus original silver plating remains on the bullet mold. 98% plus original lacquer and gilt remain on the powder flask. This is a rare opportunity to acquire factory engraved Colt London Model 1849 revolver, serial number 1.

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