Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3188: Robert Dale Owen Cased Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver

Auction Date: September 12, 2021

Fine Factory Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Percussion Revolver with Case Inscribed for Robert Dale Owen

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $8,500 - $13,000

Fine Factory Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Percussion Revolver with Case Inscribed for Robert Dale Owen

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1849
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 31
Barrel: 6 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: antique ivory
Item Views: 560
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 114
Class: Antique

The case has a silver lid escutcheon inscribed "Robert Dale Owen/Naples" in ornate script. Robert Dale Owen (1801-1877) was born in Scotland. His father was Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, an early Utopian co-operative leader whose ideas led to the establishment of multiple Owenite socialist communities. The Owens immigrated to the United States in 1825 and settled in Robert Owen's new Utopian community at New Harmony, Indiana. The younger Owen became a spiritualist, writer, reformer, and leading political figure in Indiana in the antebellum era. He moved to New York and worked with Frances Wright and the Free Enquirer in 1828-1832. While in New York, he was a leader in the short lived New York Working Men's Party. He served as a Democratic representative in the Indiana House of Representatives in 1835-1839, as an Indiana representative in the U.S. House in 1843-1847 during which he introduced the bill that established the Smithsonian Institution, and again in the state House of Representatives in 1851 to 1853 before being appointed by President Franklin Pierce as the United States charge d'affaires in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies based in Naples where he served from May 24, 1853 - September 20, 1858. He retired from politics and returned to writing. He served on the Ordnance Commission and Freedman's Inquiry Commission during the Civil War. He was a leading proponent of emancipation and pressured Lincoln and his administration to act. The revolver was manufactured in 1853, the same year Owen was sent to Naples, and features very fine factory engraving. It has five dots on the hammer spur suggesting the engraver spent five days engraving this beautiful revolver with complex scroll patterns. The right side above the wedge and left side of the recoil shield have animal faces, features known to be popular with the predominantly German-American engravers employed by Colt starting in the early 1850s. It may be the work of Herman Bodenstein. His work, Herbert Houze has written, has all too often been attributed to Young. Houze's research presented in "Colt Factory Engravers of the Nineteenth Century" indicates Bodenstein engraved for Colt 1852-1865, so his career overlapped with Young. The overall style of the scrolls and the minute size of the animal heads is certainly a bit different than what is often attributed to Young and similar to attributes seen on guns now attributed to Bodenstein. Regardless of the engraver, the work is exceptional and consists of fine scroll patterns, some interlaced sections such as on the sides of the barrel, floral accents, beaded backgrounds, some fine borders, a wolf or dog head motif on the hammer, fan patterns, small "COLTS/PATENT" marking hand inscribed on the left side of the frame, wavy line borders, and "Saml Colt" inscribed on the top of the barrel in script in place of the standard roll-stamped barrel address. There is a small "3" on the left side of the barrel lug and side of the cylinder, dot marking by some of the serial numbers denoting the revolver was selected for engraving, and matching serial numbers. The case has a closely fitted interior and also contains an oak leaf pattern powder flask, Goldmark cap container, key, Colt brass bullet mold without sprue cutter, and L-shaped combination tool.

Rating Definition:

Fine with crisp factory engraving throughout, most of the original silver plating showing attractive aged patina, 60% plus original blue finish, most of the lightly aged original case colors, minor spotting, and general mild overall wear. The grip is very fine and has very attractive natural grain, natural creamy tones, small discolored spot at the front edge on the left, and minor age and handling wear. Mechanically excellent. The case and accessories are very good with minor age and storage related wear in the somewhat deteriorating lining, a bit of a gap around the upper right corner piece on the case lid, and very attractive natural aged patina on the silver lid escutcheon which has a crisp inscription. This is a beautiful early Colt revolver with a case inscribed to a rather radical U.S. diplomat in the 1850s.

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