Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1165: Cased Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Percussion Revolver

Auction Date: September 11, 2021

Outstanding Presentation Cased Deluxe Factory Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Percussion Revolver Documented/Listed by Serial Number on Master Engraver Gustave Young's Billing List from 1854 with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $100,000 - $180,000

Outstanding Presentation Cased Deluxe Factory Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Percussion Revolver Documented/Listed by Serial Number on Master Engraver Gustave Young's Billing List from 1854 with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1849
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 31
Barrel: 6 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: antique ivory
Item Views: 1074
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 114
Class: Antique

This revolver is one of the most significant revolvers for understanding Colt's most famous and most popular engravers of all time: Gustave Young. It is listed by serial number on the famous "Young lists," specifically in the "6 inch" column of the list of work completed over four weeks ending on September 24, 1854. It is one of the few revolvers from that list known to survive. They are significant pieces as they have been used by arms historians such as R.L. Wilson to identify Young's work. It is one of a very few that can be positively identified to Young and his shop. When collectors of percussion Colt revolvers think of engraved Colts, it is Gustave Young's iconic style that almost always comes to mind. He is, by far, the factory engraver most respected by collectors. Only L.D. Nimschke can be compared for popularity from this period, and Nimschke was an independent engraver rather than the leading fine arms engraver for Samuel Colt. Per research by Herbert Houze in "Colt Factory Engravers of the Nineteenth Century," Young moved to Hartford sometime after his return to the U.S. on June 4, 1853. He had previously first come to the U.S., New York City specifically, in the company of engraver John Marr on September 16, 1852 but stayed only briefly during that visit. It was Marr who encouraged Young to ultimately move to Hartford, and it was in Hartford that Young made a name for himself and executed much of his best work. It is presumed that Young became Colt's primary engraving contractor after that position was created in 1855, and he remained in the position until he made a return visit to Germany with his family from July 1858 to September 1861. After returning to Hartford during the Civil War, he was employed at Colt as a "pistolmaker" and appears to have established his own independent engraving shop in Hartford by late 1863 and remained there until late 1869 when he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, and became the primary engraver for Smith & Wesson. Over his career, he was responsible for many of the best engraved American firearms of the 19th century, including masterpieces presented at the World's Fairs. Wilson has calculated that Young's shop included seven additional employees based on the number of revolvers engraved and the number and length of the working days. We know that Georg H. Sterzing, Herman Bodenstein, Augustus Grunewald, John Marr, and others also engraved for Colt during at least portions of the same period as Young. Exactly how engraving at Colt and in Young's shop was assigned is unclear. Specific tasks may have been assigned to different engravers at least part of the time while the more deluxe examples may have been tasked to specific individuals like Young. The same "Saml Colt" inscriptions on the barrels and similar "COLTS PATENT" inscriptions on the frames are used on many engraved Colts for example, and Colt expert Herbert Houze believes Young was initially tasked with engraving trigger guards and back straps in 1853 while he would have been employed on a trial basis before becoming a full staff member based on revolvers on which he attributes the primary engraving to John Marr. Many of the German-American engravers were recent immigrants who were trained at the Industrial School in Zella, Thuringia, Germany, under Ernst Moritz and Gustav Ernst, so their styles are often very similar. It certainly would have been expedient to have newer engravers to execute the simpler work leaving more time for the head engravers to focus on the more complex designs. By the time this revolver was engraved in 1854, it is clear Young's work had received significant attention at Colt and he had moved on from menial tasks to grander work. In the included January 2, 1968, letter on Colt Industries Inc. letterhead from historical consultant R.L. Wilson states that this revolver was Gustave Young engraved and is featured on pages 86-89 of "Samuel Colt Presents" and "it was this finely engraved pistol which was the key in initially identifying the style and the quality of work of Colt engraver Gustav[e] Young (active c. 1852-1895). In addition to reproducing two detailed photographs of #97516/', SCP also reproduced a unique serial number list which was the original billing of Young and his shop for work covering '4 Weeks ending the 23rd Septr 1854.' #97516/' was one of the serial numbers of Colt Navy and Pocket pistol listed on this important document." The pistol was featured in an article on Gustave Young and his family in an "American Rifleman" in the 1960s as well. Wilson also notes the pistol is also referenced on page xxix of "L.D. Nimschke Firearms Engraver" as part of the discussion of how the wolf hammer design was not exclusive to an engraver named Wolf. The famous "Young lists" have been published in other publications on Colt engraving as well, including "'51 Navies" by Swayze on page 213 and Wilson's "The Book of Colt Engraving" on pages 55 and 56 and "The Colt Engraving Book Volume One" on pages 93 and 96. The revolver has the factory apostrophe marking by the lower serial numbers. This marking was used to designate arms selected for engraving and/or special finishing. All of the serial numbers match. The revolver features highly detailed "German-American" scroll engraving with punched backgrounds on the flat sides of the loading lever arm, the rear 2 1/2 inches of the barrel, all of the frame, the trigger guard bow, and the top and bottom of the back strap. The scrolls have some floral accents, and some sections have intertwining designs. The designs on the sides of the barrel have particularly complex designs. Fan patterns are found on the lower corners of the barrel lug and on the sides and top of the back strap. The five-shot cylinder has the classic stagecoach hold-up scene. The revolver is finished in the standard style for percussion Colts with a high polish blue on the barrel and cylinder, case colors on the frame as well as the loading lever and hammer, niter blue screws and trigger, and silver plating on the brass trigger guard and back strap. It is fitted with a very attractive one-piece grip that contrasts nicely with the darker finishes. The rosewood case has brass corner pieces, a blank brass lid escutcheon, dark purple lining, closely fitted interior, early brass "COLTS/PATENT" double cavity bullet mold without a sprue cutter, L-shaped combination screwdriver and nipple wrench, and two lidded compartments, one holding a cartridge pack and the other holding an Eley Bros. cap tin. Both of the latter two are marked for Colt's Pocket Pistol. Provenance: The Mac McCroskie Collection

Rating Definition:

Excellent overall. The engraving and markings remain exceptionally crisp. The barrel retains 95% plus of the bright high polish original blue finish and has a few small spots of flaking where the exposed steel shows a smooth brown patina. The cylinder retains 85% plus of the original blue finish and also has primarily a smooth brown patina on the balance. It also has a crisp roll-scene, light drag lines, and solid safety pins. The hammer and frame retain 97% plus of the vivid original case colors. The loading lever has 80% original case colors and mostly a smooth gray coloration on the balance. Essentially all of the original silver plating remains on the grip frame, and the silver has taken on an attractive age darkened patina fitting for a revolver that has been scarcely even handled over the last nearly 170 years. The metal overall shows very minimal light handling and storage marks, very slight edge wear, and minimal spotting on the muzzle and face of the cylinder. The grip is also excellent and exhibits highly attractive natural tones and grain, an aged patina, and minor handling and storage wear. Mechanically excellent. The case and accessories are very fine and have only minor storage wear such as some fading of the lining and light scratches on the exterior of the case. This is a truly magnificent and well-documented early factory engraved Colt. It is one of just a very small number known today that are listed by serial number on the "Young lists." As R.L. Wilson wrote in the 1968 dated Colt factory letter, "The outstanding condition, the fine. . . grips, engraving, and finish, and the rich casing would make this cased pocket pistol a very desirable collector's item even without the extensive accompanying documentation. It is a set worthy of the most discriminating collector or museum." A truly extraordinary Colt!

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