Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 311: Game Scene Lefaucheux Pinfire Underlever Double Barrel Shotgun

Auction Date: September 10, 2021

Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt's Incredible Documented, Relief Chiseled Game Panel Scene Engraved, Gold Inlaid, and Exhibition Quality Lefaucheux Pinfire Underlever Double Barrel Shotgun with Tooled Leather Case and Documentation

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $40,000 - $60,000

Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt's Incredible Documented, Relief Chiseled Game Panel Scene Engraved, Gold Inlaid, and Exhibition Quality Lefaucheux Pinfire Underlever Double Barrel Shotgun with Tooled Leather Case and Documentation

Manufacturer: Lefauchaux Casimer & Eugene
Model: SXS Pinfire
Type: Shotgun
Gauge: 12
Barrel: 28 inch solid rib
Finish: brown/casehardened/gold
Stock: highly figured walnut
Item Views: 1710
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 233
Class: Antique

This historic shotgun is pictured and discussed at the beginning of "Theodore Roosevelt Hunter-Conservationist" by R.L. Wilson on pages 8 and 9 and listed as "custom made for Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt (1794-1871). . .The fact that C.V.S. owned this gun, and that TR's uncle Robert had highly recommended the type, would have impacted Roosevelt's father's choice of a gun for his precocious and outdoor-loving son." The included letters from the 1970s indicate the shotgun belonged to Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt Jr. (1827-1887), the future president's uncle. Most important is the December 21, 1976, letter from John Alsop (1915-2000), grandnephew of President Theodore Roosevelt and first cousin once removed of Eleanor Roosevelt, where he states that this beautiful shotgun from 1866 had originally belonged to his grandmother's uncle Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt who was also President Theodore Roosevelt's uncle. Alsop indicates he left the gun to Alsop's grandmother, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (1861-1933), who in turn passed it down to his mother, Corinne Alsop Cole (1886-1971), and the gun resided in the attic of their home in Avon, Connecticut, for many years. It was sold in 1973 by Alsop and his siblings following their mother's death. Also included is a copy of "The Strenuous Life: The 'Oyster Bay' Roosevelts in Business and Finance" by William T. Cobb which provides biographical information on the family. Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt Sr., Theodore Roosevelt's grandfather, is the subject of the fourth chapter of that book "'C.V.S.' and the Roaring Forties" which describes his role in the family, including the building of their wealth and influence. He was the last member of the famous Roosevelt family to have full-Dutch ancestry and was one of the richest men in New York City and the country in the mid-19th century. He left considerable wealth to his family from their hardware and glass importing business, real estate holdings in New York, and his prominent position at the Chemical Bank of New York. As a young boy, Theodore Roosevelt watched Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession in New York from his grandfather's window. Among C.V.S. Roosevelt's children was Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt Jr. He was wealthy philanthropist and a known friend of the working man. At the time of his death, his estate was worth an estimated $1-2 million (around $28-56 million adjusted for inflation). Since he had no children of his own, he left much of his wealth to his several of his nieces and nephews. While the family indicated this beautiful shotgun ended up in the hands of the future president's sister, Theodore Roosevelt received an estimate $100,000-$150,000 ($2.8-4.2 million adjusted for inflation). This added to the wealth left behind by the death of young Roosevelt's father. The president's son Theodore Roosevelt III later named one of his son's Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt III honoring his great grandfather and great uncle. Though the future president did not receive this shotgun, it likely played an important role in his father's choice of his first gun as a youth as alluded to in Wilson's caption for this shotgun noted above as well as in his earlier book "Theodore Roosevelt Outdoorsman." Robert Barnhill Roosevelt (1829-1906), another of the Roosevelt's uncles, was a sportsman and wrote about the Lefaucheux shotguns with praise saying "The best and most generally adopted of the various kinds [of breechloaders] is the Lefaucheux…" in his book "Game Birds of the North" which was published in 1866, the same year this shotgun was made. Given this, Cornelius Sr. or Jr. may have ordered the gun based on Robert's suggestion or he may have even ordered it for them himself. Perhaps multiple of the Roosevelt men ordered shotguns from France at that time. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.'s own first gun was also a Lefaucheux 12 gauge pinfire double gun made in 1872 and purchased for him by his father. It is pictured on pages 18 and 19 of "Theodore Roosevelt Hunter-Conservationist" and page 13 of "Theodore Roosevelt Outdoorsman" and is in the collection of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. It is also shown in period photographs in young Roosevelt's hands in the books. The exact details of the order for this incredible shotgun in 1866 have been lost to time, but regardless of whether President Theodore Roosevelt's grandfather or uncle originally owned the gun, it clearly came down directly through the Roosevelt family. Such a fine gun would have caught the young Roosevelt's eye given his well-known fondness for fine guns throughout his life, and this gun plus his uncle's preference for them likely heavily influenced the purchase of Roosevelt's own first gun. The shotgun was built based on Casimir Lefaucheux's 1834 patent in 1866. The engraving on the action components really sets this shotgun apart from the vast majority of early double guns and consists of very finely detailed game scenes with a variety of animals and delicate foliage along with scroll and geometric accents and the "CVSR" gold monogram in a escutcheon with gold border on the under lever. The right side of the frame has a scene of two dogs pursuing a boar down a hill bordered by darker foliage and a group of three snipe towards the front. The left side has three grouse at the front and two hounds pursuing a large stag over a downed tree at the rear. The lever has an eagle with a fish in its talons and mountains in the background on the bottom and busts of dogs on the tip. The trigger guard has waterfowl on the front, a pronghorn buck and doe on the bow, and what appears to be a peacock in a tree with two females below in the grass on the tang. The locks have different highly detailed scenes with hunting dogs and game and are signed "LEFAUCHEUX" below the hammers. The hammer rests on the standing breech are shaped similar to hunting horns, and a fox is engraved on the upper tang. The buttplate has a fleeing rabbit on the heel. The dramatically patterned Damascus barrels have a bead front sight and "Lefaucheux a Paris" signed on the concave rib, "19526.1866" on the bottom of the rib, the "gun/LF" Lefaucheux maker's mark and "6256" on the lug, and "LEOPOLD BERNARD" and "CANONNIER A PARIS" on the respective barrels flanked by sunken "crown/iron cross" and "crown/LB" marks. The bore diameters 9 inches from the breech are .738/.737 (12 gauge). The water table has "LEFAUCHEUX 1866" on the left and "LEFAUCHEUX 770" on the right. The stock is nicely figured and has smooth oiled finish and a 14 1/8 inch length of pull. The leather takedown case also has a "CVSR" monogram on the brass central escutcheon and is marked "DEPOSE/S.L" on the ends and has old luggage labels from travels in Europe, including one for "HOTEL DEBELLE VUE/LA HAYE." The Roosevelt family is known to have traveled to Europe frequently and to have had many business connections there. The inside has "LEFAUCHEUX/INVENTEUR/37. RUE/VIVIERNE/PARIS." and has compartments with reloading tools. Provenance: The Richard P. Mellon Collection

Rating Definition:

Very fine with exceptional and crisp engraving. The barrels have 85% plus of the original brown finish and distinct Damascus patterns and have isolated slight patches of pitting/staining at the breech and some spots of scratches and minor marks. The gold remains bright, and the remaining surfaces have light case colors and silver-gray patina, and there is some staining on the buttplate. The stock is also very fine and has light scratches and marks and most of the original oiled finish. The case is very good with mild overall wear mainly on the exterior.

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