Assembled on 28 December 1911, this U.S. Contract Colt Model 1911 pistol, serial number 14, is one of the earliest we have ever had the pleasure of offering here at Rock Island Auction Company. Only the first 51 of these iconic pistols were produced in the year for which they are named, making this example a "true" Model of 1911. This pistol was also included in the very first shipment of 50 pistols sent to Springfield Armory on 4 January 1912. The pistol was then subsequently shipped on 12 July 1912 to Captain William A. Mitchell of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is not entirely clear what role Mitchell played within the army early in his career, but he rose through the ranks fairly quickly, graduating from a military academy in Georgia in 1898 and graduating first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1902. He was then commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the engineers in 1902, promoted to first lieutenant in 1904, graduated engineer school in 1907, and promoted to captain in 1909. In 1914, the First World War broke out, with the nature of the war and the infrastructure surrounding it proving to necessitate vast amounts of lumber. In 1917, with the entry of the United States into the war, it was these needs which led the war weary allied powers to urge the "yanks" to bring over as many experienced foresters and lumbermen as they could to supplement the vital industry. The United States answered the call, quickly forming the 10th Engineers under the command of Colonel James A. Woodruff and shortly after, the 20th Engineers under the command of, a promoted, Colonel William A. Mitchell. These two regiments were quickly trained to be soldiers as well as woodsmen, and upon arriving in France were immediately put to work acquiring raw wood from French forests and processing it into usable lumber through the operation of mills throughout the country. This lumber was used in almost all aspects of the war including trench building, telephone poles, barracks building, hospital building, roads, and railroads. In October 1918, near the conclusion of the war, the 10th and 20th Engineers were combined into the 20th Engineers, nicknamed the "Fighting Foresters", and became the largest regiment to have ever served in the United States Army, operating 81 mills with a strength of 360 officers and 18,183 enlisted men. During the course of the war, Col. Mitchell was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Croix De Guerre, and the Legion of Honor, as well as going on to become a professor of engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. By the time of his death in 1941, William Augustus Mitchell had been promoted to brigadier general and was buried at the West Point post cemetery. The pistol itself bears all the extremely early features one would expect to see on an example with a serial number this low. The left side of the slide has the two-line, two-block patent dates and address, with the address in a slightly larger font as seen on pistols only below serial number 83. The left side of the frame has the large size "UNITED STATES PROPERTY" marking, which was switched to a smaller font at serial number 100. Walter G. Penfield's "WGP" monogram inspector's mark is also on the left of the frame in its early 90 degree clockwise rotated format, which was seen on only the first 100 Model 1911's produced. The serial number is in the early "No.14" format and forward location on the right of the frame which were changed at serial numbers 4501 and 7501 respectively. The right side of the slide is marked with the iconic "MODEL OF 1911. U.S. ARMY". The pistol shows the early lustrous, high polish, mirror-like blue finish and fiery nitre blue small parts. The barrel is a fully blued later production replacement with conjoined "HP" on the chamber. It is fitted with fixed blade and round top notch rear sights, the early hand-checkered slide stop and thumb safety which were only seen on the first 150 pistols, the "dimpled" magazine catch which was seen on pistols up to serial number 3189, wide checkered hammer, short grip safety, smooth flat mainspring housing with a lanyard loop, a pair of double-diamond pattern checkered walnut grips, and a correct early two-tone "exposed baseplate" magazine with a lanyard loop, as issued with only the first 4,500 pistols. The included factory letter confirms the current configuration (grips not listed) when shipped to the Commanding Officer at Springfield Armory on 4 January 1912 in a 50 gun shipment. The second shipment to Captain W.A. Mitchell is listed on p. 235 of "The Government Models: The Development of the Colt Model of 1911" by William Goddard. Also included is a copy of the Register of the Army of the United States for 1912, which lists Mitchell's promotions up to captain. Provenance: The Dr. Robert Azar Collection
Exceptionally fine, retains 75% plus of the bright original high polish blue finish and 60% plus of the original nitre blue on the small parts with the balance having thinned through years in the service of the United States to mostly a smooth grey patina, primarily on edges and the grip straps, and crisp markings overall. The later production replacement grips are very fine with a few scattered light handling marks, a small chip absent near the lower right screw, and crisp checkering overall. Mechanically excellent. This is a rare opportunity to own one of the earliest U.S. Colt Model 1911 semi-automatic pistols we have ever catalogued. Do not miss this opportunity to own this iconic piece of U.S. military history!
There are currently no customer product questions on this lot