Rock Island Auction Company
A
B

Lot 1158: Presentation Pair of Engraved Remington New Model Army Revolvers

Auction Date: May 15, 2021

Extraordinary Finest Known Presentation Cased Pair of National Treasure L. D. Nimschke Signed, "Mirror Image" Master Engraved Remington New Model Army Percussion Revolvers with American and Russian Theme Raised Relief Carved Grips Presented to "The Great Liberator": Czar Alexander II of Russia during the American Civil War

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $350,000 - $550,000

A) Remington New Model Army Revolver

Manufacturer: E. Remington & Sons
Model: New Model Army
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44
Barrel: 8 inch octagon
Finish: blue/silver
Grip: antique ivory
Stock:
Item Views: 1592
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 122
Class: Antique
Description:

These incredible and historic pistols are photographed on the cover of "The Guns of Remington: Historic Firearms Spanning Two Centuries" compiled by Howard M. Madaus and described as believed to have been specially engraved by New York Master Engraver Louis D. Nimschke "after the departure of the" Russian Imperial Atlantic Fleet in April 1864 "as a gift to the Czar of Russia to express American appreciation for the fleet's visit." The book notes that the pair was split up sometime after the Russian Revolution. One turned up in Montana in 1929, and the other revolver and case were offered for sale in Europe and purchased by F. "Slim" Kohler of the Remington Society of America and reunited in 1991. He owned the revolvers until they were sold in 2012. The Remington Society's website notes: "Slim was instrumental in coordinating the acquisition and installation of the first major Remington exhibition of more than 800 firearms at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center back in 1997. Many special pieces make up his collection, including a pair of Remington percussion revolvers made in 1864 for Czar Alexander II on the occasion of a visit of the Russian Imperial Fleet to the United States during the Civil War. The pair of revolvers is shown in a satellite display in the Embellished Arms Gallery of the Cody Firearms Museum." The engraving on these revolvers is captured in Nimschke's pull-book and photographed on page 19 of "L. D. Nimschke: Firearms Engraver" by R.L. Wilson. The pulls from the top straps, lower sides of the frames, top of the back straps, the loading levers, and cylinders are all shown. Nimschke's "N" signature is among the engraving above the triggers on the side of the frames. The mirror image fouled anchor design on the right (A) and left (B) sides of the respective frames combined with the Columbian shield on the top of the back straps, the patriotic American eagle motif carved in raised relief on the right grips, and the extraordinary raised relief carved Russian Imperial Coat of Arms on the left grips clearly points to friendship between the Union government and the Imperial Russian Navy and court. President Abraham Lincoln and Czar Alexander II are known to have formed a personal friendship, and the Russian leader wrote to Lincoln at least 21 times and followed the events of the American Civil War closely. Alexander II's refusal to recognize the Confederacy and intervene on its behalf is credited with helping keep Britain and France from openly recognizing and supporting the Confederacy themselves despite their hostility to the Union and their economic interests in the South. There were times where intervention and even open war with European powers appeared imminent, but with the Russians potentially allied with the Americans against the British and French, their governments took a much more cautious approach. President Lincoln also presented a pair of gold inlaid Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers, serial numbers 31906 and 31905 to Charles XV King of Sweden (stolen in from the Royal Armories in the late 1960s and never recovered) and a nearly identical pair to Frederick VII King of Denmark numbers 31904 and 31905. The exact dates of the presentations are unclear, but both were believed to be presented in 1863. The Russians sent vessels across both the Pacific and the Atlantic to visit the Union ports in 1863-1864 in what many at the time in the U.S. and abroad saw as a clear show of support for the Union. The first of the Russian Baltic Fleet arrived in New York Harbor on September 24, 1863, and the Russian Far East Fleet arrived on October 12, 1863, in San Francisco. The Baltic Fleet was under Rear-Admiral Lessoffsky (Lisovksy). While the visits did in part represent friendly relations between the two countries, the Russian fleets were also in American waters for strategic reasons: to keep them safe and able to launch attacks against their adversaries if war broke out in Europe over tensions relating to the uprising of the Poles against the Russian Empire which broker out in 1863 and was supported by the British and French. The British shipbuilder Laird in Liverpool was constructing ironclad rams that could penetrate the Union blockade of the Confederacy raising tensions with the United States as well. By sending their fleets to American waters, the Russians were preventing their fleets from being cornered by the superior British Royal Navy in the event of war, and their friendly reception also suggested to the British that a war with either the United States or the Russian Empire might turn into a costly world war. Regardless of the Russians' intentions, Northerners rejoiced and celebrated their arrival, and their presence boosted Union morale. In turn, Russian government officials were pleased to see their navy had received such a warm welcome in the U.S. Coincidentally, the September 25, 1863, issue of the New York Times includes a Remington revolver advertisement below the list of the newly arrived vessels, including the Russian warships. In New York, there were lavish dinners and celebrations arranged to host the Russians, Russian flags were flown around the city, the officers had their portraits taken by Matthew Brady, and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (who was sent by President Lincoln) and American officials dined with the Russian officers, and many Americans went aboard some of the Russian vessels, including the First Lady who boarded the flagship Alexander Nevsky and toasted to the health of Alexander II. By tradition, it has long been believed that it was at that celebration onboard the Russian flagship that Mary Todd Lincoln made the presentation of these pistols. The previously mentioned presentations of pairs of fabulous revolvers to important allies by President Lincoln himself certainly supports this idea particularly as the presentations were made at the same time, 1863. This idea is further cemented by the gorgeous eagle and shield rendition of the Seal of the Untied States, the Royal Seal of the Russian coat of arms and house Romanov (crown over seal) and the naval theme of the revolvers. The New York Times reported: "The presence of a Russian fleet in the harbor of New York is welcomed by all persons with the greatest pleasure." On December 23, 1863, Secretary Seward wrote to Bayard Taylor saying, “In regard to Russia, the case is a plain one. She has our friendship, in every case, in preference to any other European power, simply because she always wishes us well, and leaves us to conduct our affairs as we think best.” The Russian fleet was invited by the city government of Boston to visit that city and stayed from May 28 to June 15 of 1864. While there, they were again very warmly welcomed and treated to the city's finest, including a banquet at the Revere House on June 7, 1864. Lessoffsky and some of the other Russian officers also toured the Sharps rifle factory. In the West, things got off to a bit of a rockier start when the first Russian vessel ran aground and had to be rescued by the Americans, but they too were received with cheers and warm hospitality in San Francisco, including a grand ball at the Union Hall, and Admiral Popov (Popoff), the commander of the fleet, hosted American officials for dinner on his ship and even gave orders to defend San Francisco in the event of a Confederate attack on the city itself or if they were fired upon themselves by the Confederate cruisers in the area. When the fleets returned to Russia, they were welcomed by Alexander II and many of the men were promoted. While Lincoln is remembered favorably as the "Great Emancipator" for freeing millions of slaves via the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, Alexander II is remembered as "Alexander the Liberator" and the "Great Liberator" for officially emancipating over 20 million Russian serfs two years earlier on February 19, 1861, through his "Emancipation Edict." Comparisons between the two liberators were made during the visit of the Russian fleet, including in toasts to the Russian leader. After Lincoln's assassination, Alexander II wrote to Mary Todd Lincoln saying: “He was the noblest and greatest Christian of our generation. He was a beacon to the whole world-nothing but courage, steadfastness and the desire to do good." Like Lincoln, the Russian "Liberator" was also assassinated in March 13, 1881, after having survived several other assassination attempts dating back to the mid-1860s. Like Lincoln's death, the Czar's assassination helped secure him as one of the most recognized Russian rulers. In the Russian Empire, the assassination also lead to severe government crackdowns, including anti-Jewish pogroms. The comparisons between the two men have not gone unnoticed, and exhibitions in Russia and the United States of objects related to both men have been put on display together in the 21st century. In other demonstrations of positive relations between the two countries, the U.S. Navy visited Russia after the Civil War as a sign of support for Alexander II after he survived an assassination attempt on April 16, 1866, a year and one day after Lincoln's assassination, and the Russian Empire sold Alaska to the United States in 1867. In addition to friendship with the United States, the Russian government also sought to prevent it from being taken by their British adversaries. The Romanov dynasty and Russian government retained positive relations with the United States until their fall in the Russian Revolution. The exact origin and history of these revolvers remains unclear, but the work was clearly commissioned through, if not directly by, E. Remington & Sons given the revolvers have special order department serial numbers, and the overall theme is clearly in commemoration of the Russian Navy's visit in 1863-1864 and the friendship between the Americans and Russians. The factory may have had the revolvers embellished for presentation in the hopes of winning the Russian government's favor and thus valuable military contracts. Samuel Colt had previously commissioned elaborate presentation revolvers for Alexander II's father, Nicholas I, and Colt's revolvers were subsequently adopted and copied by the Russian military. The leadership of Remington may have seen the tensions between Russia and other European powers as creating a potentially lucrative market for their firearms, especially knowing that once the American Civil War ended domestic arms sales would slow tremendously. Remington failed to succeed in capturing significant Russian contracts, and instead, the Smith & Wesson No. 3 Russian revolvers were adopted. Like the Colt revolver before them, the Smith & Wesson revolvers were copied in Russia leading to the near destruction of Smith & Wesson. Remington Arms Co. famously suffered a similar fate decades later when they supplied the Russian Empire with Mosin-Nagant rifles during World War I, and the lack of payment following the Russian Revolution nearly caused the company to collapse. Despite having once been separated for the better part of a century, the revolvers remain in the same exceptional condition and have "pinched" blade front sights, the standard New Model Army barrel markings, and the standard top strap groove rear sights. The barrels have arrows, scroll, and floral engraving on the top and side flats; intertwining lines on the upper and lower side flats, and borders at the muzzles and breeches. The loading levers have scroll and crosshatch patterns. The frames feature primarily scroll engraving along with floral motifs, the fouled anchors on the right side of the first revolver and the left side of the second revolver, chains along the top straps, the Columbian or Union shield on the back straps behind the hammers, and border designs. The bottom of the frames have an interesting slight deviation in designs that may have had specific meaning to Nimschke. Each has a twisted rope design with a star in the front loop and dots outside the rope. The first revolver has four dots while the second revolver has eight dots. It is possible these dots represent the amount of time spent engraving the revolvers given Nimschke's counterpart Gustave Young's use of dots representing work days on the hammers of Colt revolvers. The shape of the twisted ropes is also slightly different. On the first revolver, the three loops are of roughly equal size, but on the second revolver, the central loop is nearly closed, and the rear loop is smaller than the front loop. There are also some very slight differences in some of the scrolls and floral elements. A tiny "N" is marked among the engraving on the left side of each frame above the trigger. The scroll and floral engraving on the silver-plated trigger guards is seamless with the engraving on the frames and is horizontally inversed when comparing the two revolvers. The cylinders have borders at the front edges and feature floral scroll designs with slightly different blooms on the respective cylinders. They come in a hardwood presentation case with an exceptionally high condition powder flask as well as balls and bullets, two cartridge packs, a bright dual cavity bullet mold, an oiler, an Eley Bros. cap tin, some spare springs and nipples, and a cleaning rod.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine. L.D. Nimschke's incredible engraving as well as the markings remain crisp throughout. 80% plus of the lightly fading original blue finish remains with fading to smooth gray and brown patina. The trigger guard retains 95% plus of the original silver plating and displays aged patina on the sides and brighter silver on the bottom of the bow. The carving on the grips remains exceptionally crisp, and the grips exhibit minimal handling and storage wear, some material pulling up and some glue around the nut on the inside of the left grip, minor hairline age cracks in the butt, and attractive natural grain and aged coloration. Mechanically excellent. The case is fine and shows moderate age and storage related wear. The upper revolver compartment retains more of the red on the lining than the lower section suggesting that is where the revolver that remained with the case rested. There is some contact wear on the lining and dividers. The accessories are very fine and have minimal wear, especially the flask which retains 90% plus of the dark lacquered finish and has a couple slight dents.



B) Remington New Model Army Revolver

Manufacturer: E. Remington & Sons
Model: New Model Army
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44
Barrel: 8 inch octagon
Finish: blue/silver
Grip: antique ivory
Stock:
Item Views: 1592
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 122
Class: Antique
Description:

See "A."

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine. The highly detailed engraving by Master Engraver L.D. Nimschke and the markings remain crisp throughout. 85% plus of the lightly fading original blue finish remains with fading to smooth gray and brown patina. The trigger guard retains 95% plus of the original silver plating and displays aged patina on the sides and brighter silver on the bottom of the bow. The hammer retains 75% plus of the slightly subdued original case colors. The grips retain exceptionally crisp carving and display attractive natural coloration and grain, minimal handling, and several minor hairline age cracks in the butt. Mechanically excellent. These extraordinary revolvers were chosen for the cover of "The Guns of Remington: Historic Firearms Spanning Two Centuries" for multiple clear reasons: they are without doubt the finest Remington New Model Armys known, they are very historically significant, and they represent the best of of L. D. Nimschke's finest engraving. This is quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a true National Treasure!



Customer Product Questions

There are currently no customer product questions on this lot