Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3198: Cased Engraved Colt 1855 Pocket Revolver with Charter Oak Grip

Auction Date: September 12, 2021

Extraordinary Documented Cased Factory Engraved Colt Model 1855 "Root" Sidehammer Percussion Pocket Revolver with Incredibly Rare and Historic Charter Oak Grip

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $90,000 - $140,000

Extraordinary Documented Cased Factory Engraved Colt Model 1855 "Root" Sidehammer Percussion Pocket Revolver with Incredibly Rare and Historic Charter Oak Grip

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1855 Root Pocket
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 28
Barrel: 3 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue
Grip: Charter Oak
Item Views: 558
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 121
Class: Antique

Among Colt collectors, the Charter Oak gripped revolvers are among the rarest and most desirable of all Colt firearms. Less than ten Colt Model 1855 revolvers and one Model 1849 Pocket Revolver are known to have been fitted with these historic grips, mostly for presentation by Samuel Colt to his friends and business allies. The Charter Oak was a massive, ancient looking oak tree that grew on Wyllys Hyll in Hartford, Connecticut, and has remained an enduring symbol of Connecticut. It was a landmark for Native Americans even prior to European settlement. It earned its name due to local lore that said Connecticut's Royal Charter of 1662 was hidden in the famous tree in 1687 to prevent it from being taken by Governor General Edmund Andros. The tree was blown over in a severe storm on August 21, 1856. Due to its importance to the local community, a large funeral service was held at which Samuel Colt’s band played dirges in its honor. American author Isaac W. Stuart, the owner of the property, had several items prepared from the wood, including furniture for the state capitol. The wood was also used to create other special items, including grips on revolvers presented by Samuel Colt, furniture for Colt's mansion, walking sticks (including one presented to President Andrew Johnson), and other historical artifacts. The included letter from April 23, 1981, by R.L. Wilson to influential collector Jonathan Peck reads: "I certainly agree with you that there is only one conclusion that can be drawn on this piece: That the grips are indeed of the famous Charter Oak. Its serial number, 4439, is so close to the J.P. Moore presentation inscribed revolver, #4460, and to the others in the inscribed group: 4520 (Smith), 5661 (Grubb, 5886 (J.I. Spies), and 5887 (A.W. Spies), that evidence is quite powerful." Wilson also notes that this revolver could be considered more rare since it does not have a presentation inscription unlike the other Charter Oak revolvers. He also notes that it was in the Redfield Collection around the 1950s-1960s and notes the revolver had likely never been out of the Hartford area. This early "Root" revolver was manufactured in 1855 and is the Model 2 version. It features high coverage and finely executed scroll engraving with beaded backgrounds. The engraving may be the work of Herman Bodenstein. The Model 1855 pictured on pages 22 and 23 of "Colt Engravers of the Nineteenth Century" by Herbert G. Houze is attributed to Bodenstein. This revolver features very similar engraving, a Charter Oak grip, and is identified as the one presented to influential New York dealer A.W. Spies. Note the essentially identical engraving on the hammer, hammer screw, and edge of the frame along the sides of the breech end of the barrel in addition to the overall style and many of the patterns of the scrollwork. Others might attribute the engraving to Gustave Young. The hammer has seven dots in the chevron below the knurling as well as additional dots on the sides. Dots on the hammers of engraved Colts are often said to each represent a full day of engraving work. Regardless of the specific engraver, the work is exceptional and remains crisp more than 160 years later. The revolver is not inscribed on the back strap, but there is a blank space in this location that could have been inscribed. Many factory engraved Colts have a blank section on the back strap so that an inscription could readily be added if desired. Given the other Charter Oak Model 1855s were generally presented by Samuel Colt himself, it is possible this revolver was held for a later presentation, or it may have been presented without an inscription for a variety of reasons such as discretion. Samuel Colt is certainly well-known for his early use of marketing and promotional stunts, including presenting weapons to influential individuals both close to home and far abroad for the purposes of furthering his business interests and prestige. No matter what this revolver's purpose was, it was certain to have been significant, or Samuel Colt and his factory would not have used wood from the historic Charter Oak for the grip. The barrel has a brass cone front sight and has the standard manicule, "+COLT'S PT/1855+," and "ADDRESS COL. COLT/HARTFORD, CT. U.S.A.+" markings on top and the matching serial number on the bottom. The cylinder has the cabin and Indian roll-scene and matching serial number. The serial number is repeated on the butt. The oak case has a contrasting lid panel and contains a "COLTS/PATENT" and "E PLURIBUS UNUM" marked pocket model powder flask, "COLTS/PATENT" marked double cavity bullet mold, small L-shaped screwdriver, and an elongated oval lacquered cap tin. Provenance: The Mac McCroskie Collection

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine with crisp engraving and markings, 70% plus of the original blue finish remaining, 75% of the original case colors on the otherwise silver-gray loading lever arm, 90% of the fiery original case colors remaining on the hammer, some fading to a smooth brown patina on the cylinder, and generally only light age and storage related wear. The extraordinary Charter Oak grip is also very fine and retains the vast majority of the original finish and has some dings and scratches, a slight flake at the edge above the heal on the right, and minor overall wear. It mechanically needs work as the trigger is not resetting causing the hammer to not hold, and the cylinder does not consistently rotate when the hammer is cocked. The case and accessories are very fine overall and have minor storage wear. This is an exceedingly rare and significant first year production Colt Model 1855 "Root" Pocket Revolver with a Charter Oak grip. Less than 10 of these revolvers are known, and they were primarily presented by Samuel Colt. This revolver may have been retained by the factory for a later presentation or simply not have been inscribed before being presented. Regardless, it is an incredible artifact and immensely important piece of Colt and Connecticut history.

Customer Product Questions

There are currently no customer product questions on this lot