Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1110: Samuel Colt Presentation Model 1855 Revolving Rifle

Auction Date: May 14, 2022

Incredibly Historic and Well Documented Samuel Colt Presentation Inscribed Colt New Model 1855 Revolving Percussion Full-Stock Military Pattern Rifle with Bayonet, Medallion, and Research

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $75,000 - $125,000

Incredibly Historic and Well Documented Samuel Colt Presentation Inscribed Colt New Model 1855 Revolving Percussion Full-Stock Military Pattern Rifle with Bayonet, Medallion, and Research

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Revolving Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 56
Barrel: 24 inch part octagon
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1043
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 98
Class: Antique

This historic Samuel Colt presentation revolving rifle is pictured on page 196 of "The Book of Colt Firearms" by R.L. Wilson where the inscription on the upper tang is noted as reading "MURAGAKI AWAJI-no-KAMI NORIMASA/With Compliments of Col. Colt" and as presented to Muragaki Norimasa (1813-1880) during the First Japanese Embassy to the U.S. in 1860. Wilson indicates he "was deputy commissioner of an 81 person mission which visited Honolulu, San Francisco, Hartford (early in May), New York, Washington, D.C., and other points in America. The party left the United States on June 10th and arrived in Yokohama in November. The visit exchanged ratifications of the Treaty of Kanagawa, July 1858." Muragaki was the "vice ambassador" or "second ambassador" of the delegation, and the treaty ratification that was exchanged was actually the Harris Treaty which gave the U.S. commercial and diplomatic privileges including opening five ports to American trade in addition to those previously opened under the Treaty of Kanagawa from 1854. The ambassadors were transported to the U.S. on the USS Powhatan to Honolulu then on to San Francisco and then to Panama. After crossing Panama by railway, they traveled aboard the USS Roanoke to New York where they arrived on May 10, 1860. They then traveled aboard the USS Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. The included sources say they visited Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City before leaving on their return voyage on June 30, 1860. Despite Wilson's note that they were in Hartford in early May, members of the delegation did not travel to Hartford, but that may have been hoped for and planned by the Americans. Muragaki kept a detailed diary which was subsequently published and translated noting the details of their travels to America, their time in the U.S., and their return trip. It provides tremendous insight into how the Japanese saw their American counterparts, our cities, and our technology during this historic cultural exchange. In it, he notes that President James Buchanan and other Americans invited them to visit various cities and urged them to do so but that the Japanese declined. While they did not travel to Hartford, they were definitely shown various American firearms and other technologies and also presented with many firearms that were significantly more advanced than the matchlocks the Japanese had been using for hundreds of years prior to the reopening after Admiral Perry's voyage to Japan. This carbine may have been presented through Colt's New York office or one of the navy yards the Japanese delegation visited. For example, Muragaki mentioned that on March 30, the commandant of the Navy Yard showed them various American firearms and "demonstrated in the making of a six-chambered gun or pistol" which "greatly impressed us." In the list of presents brought back by the delegation recorded on October 24 after their return to Japan, he notes many firearms, including two Colt carbines and two Colt revolvers as well as 100 sets of revolver spare parts and 59 sets of carbine spare parts. Most of these items would have been transferred to the shogun and government. By 1860, the Japanese had already begun to manufacture their own copies of the Colt Model 1851 Navy. This was the first Japanese delegation outside of Asia, and their trip to the U.S. crossing the Pacific and then their return trip across the Atlantic down and around the Indian Ocean and then up to Japan made them among the first Japanese to make a trip around the globe. By visiting the United States before other western countries, the Japanese conferred on our country a great honor and gave the U.S. international prestige. While government relations with the Japanese Tokugawa Shogunate remained friendly for several years, there was significant internal resistance to the opening of Japan to the American and other western governments and commercial interests. In fact, while the ambassadors were still in route to Washington, D.C., Chief Mister Ii Naosuke of the Tokugawa Shogunate was assassinated on March 24, 1860, by Ronin samurai who opposed western influence and shot the chief minister with a Japanese copy of a Colt Model 1851 Navy outside the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle. Additional attacks followed in the 1860s on westerners in Japan leading to international conflicts, including the Shimonoseki campaign in 1863 and 1864 which involved the U.S. along with the U.K., France, and the Netherlands attacking and taking control of the Shimonoseki Straits after Emperor Komei ordered the expulsion of western "barbarians" contrary to the agreements made by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Eventually the internal conflict stemming from the opening of Japan to western influence led to the Boshin War (Japanese Civil War) in the late 1860s and the Meiji Restoration which gave the emperor control over Japan again in 1872. The latter relates to the Japanese characters on the right side of the buttstock which have been translated in an included document from the Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo in 1963 as meaning "Jin-Shin [Meiji year 5]/Ni-Sen-Hyaku-Ku-Ju-Ku [series No. 2199]/Myo-To-Ken." The markings indicate the gun was in the possession of the Myoto Ken prefecture in Eastern Shikoku in 1872. In 1860, the revolving rifle would have been among the few repeating rifles in production and certainly among the best for military service. In addition to the inscription on the tang and the noted markings on the right side of the buttstock, the rifle features a rounded brass blade front sight, lug for a saber bayonet on the right side, two barrel bands, sling swivels on the middle band and lower tang, a three-leaf rear sight, "COL. COLT HARTFORD. CT. U.S.A." on the top strap, the patent markings in one of the cylinder flutes and the left side of the frame, a brass forend cap, blued steel buttplate, a cleaning rod and loading lever fitted below the barrel, and smooth walnut stock and forearm. Matching serial numbers are visible on the bottom the frame, lower tang, and buttplate. The latter has a "B" instead of "3" and then a correct "3" below the "B," and the compartment contains the second cleaning rod section. A replacement "1861" dated Collins & Co. sword bayonet with leather scabbard is included. Also included is a bronze medallion with the likeness of President Buchanan on the obverse and "IN/COMMEMORATION/OF THE/FIRST EMBASSY FROM/JAPAN/TO THE/UNITED STATES/1860." on the reverse along with multiple books and prints related to the 1st Embassy from Japan. Copper/bronze medals are noted to have been given to the Japanese delegation's servants/retainers, and silver and gold medals were given to the delegation members. A copy of a letter from 1st Lieutenant Stuart M. Beard III of Sheffield, Massachusetts, to Colt is included in which he indicates he brought the rifle back to the U.S. from Japan in May of 1946. The included document binders indicate this rifle was sold to Gerald Fox in 1951 and subsequently sold to Charles R. Nichols the same year.

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 75% plus of the original blue finish with areas of plum toned patina mainly on the cylinder, hammer, and tangs; some minor pitting and oxidation, crisp markings, and minor overall wear. The forend is fine showing a minor repaired crack visible on the right rear side and mild scrapes and dings on the balance. The buttstock is excellent, crisp Japanese markings, and some minor dings and scattered scratches. Mechanically fine. The bayonet and scabbard are fine with mild age and storage related wear. This is an incredible Samuel Colt presentation piece inscribed for presentation to Second Ambassador Muragaki Norimasa during the historic First Japanese Embassy visit to the U.S. in 1860 on the eve of the American Civil War.

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