Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1185: J. Edgar Hoover Presentation Colt Single Action Army Revolver

Auction Date: May 14, 2022

Documented, Exceptional, Historic FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover Factory Presentation Colt Pre-War/Post-War Single Action Army Revolver with Pearl Grips, Original Box and Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $45,000 - $65,000

Documented, Exceptional, Historic FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover Factory Presentation Colt Pre-War/Post-War Single Action Army Revolver with Pearl Grips, Original Box and Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Single Action Army
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 357 magnum
Barrel: 5 1/2 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grip: pearl
Item Views: 1917
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 151
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun

Offered here is arguably the most historic and most important presentation Colt Pre-War/Post-War Single Action Army Revolvers in existence. Having its serial number applied in 1940, this is an excellent example of a scarce pre-World War II Colt Single Action Army revolver that was later assembled and finished after the war and kept at the factory until 1948 when it was presented to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972). As verified in the accompanying factory letter, this blued, 5 ½ inch SAA chambered in .357 Magnum and wearing factory plain pearl stocks was shipped to Colt President G.H. Anthony, Hartford, Connecticut, on April 30, 1948 as part of a 3 unit shipment and “given to J. Edgar Hoover, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C.” The revolver was charged to “Arms Selling Expense.” The revolver was displayed at the Frazier Arms Museum and was pictured on page 10 of the Museum’s brochure. The revolver was cited in Don Wilkerson’s “Colt’s Single Action Army Revolver: Pre-War Post-War Model” on page 41. J. Edgar Hoover led the FBI for nearly a half-century, from 1924 until his death in 1972, and is responsible for almost single-handedly shaping America's criminal justice system in the 20th century. He emphasized modern investigational techniques, built the FBI into an effective large crime fighting federal agency and gained tremendous fame for his unwavering stance against organized crime. His aggressive and intrusive surveillance methods targeting organizations and individuals he deemed subversive made him one of the most powerful men in Washington while also making him one of the most controversial figures in American law enforcement history, especially after his death. His fame and political clout were so powerful that U.S. Presidents from either political party dared not remove him from office. Hoover’s rise to fame was against the backdrop of Prohibition when organized crime thrived in the very profitable market of bootleg liquor. The violent exploits of gangsters received worldwide publicity and notorious outlaws like John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, “Baby Face” Nelson and George “Machine Gun” Kelly became, in the eyes of Hollywood and everyday Americans struggling through the Great Depression, romanticized heroes and heroines in their defiance of authority, celebrated for living short, raucous lives ending in a hail of bullets. This was after all the era of the Thompson, the “gun that made the twenties roar.” Hoover and his FBI agents known as G-Men for Government Men were the antithesis to the violent criminal underworld they swore to fight. Taking great advantage of the publicized achievements in the FBI’s hunt to track down and capture a slew of public enemy number ones, Hoover projected the image of the G-Men as the straight laced public servant standing for law, order and morality. They were the symbol of “fidelity, bravery, integrity” as proclaimed by the FBI motto. By the time the United States entered World War II the size and responsibilities of the FBI had greatly grown under Hoover’s supervision. He had built the FBI Into one of the world’s most effective government investigate agencies, a legacy that continues on to this day. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Bureau captured front page headlines rooting out fascist and Communist activities. By broadening domestic surveillance programs and authorities, Hoover transformed the Bureau into the nation’s leader in domestic counterintelligence and counterespionage investigations. In the same year this SAA was presented to Hoover, a New York grand jury indicted former U.S. State Department employee Alger Hiss for perjury, a charge that resulted from a congressional investigation into communist espionage in the U.S. government. An extensive FBI investigation assisted in confirming evidence revealing Hiss’ cover ups to Congress. Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1950. In the 1960s the FBI was in the center of the political upheaval that defined the decade. Through sweeping domestic surveillance programs the FBI spied on anti-war and civil rights groups and leaders deemed by Hoover to be linked with communism. The ‘60s marred the FBI in some of its biggest controversies as the Bureau’s surveillance programs were heavily criticized as being unconstitutional, especially after Freedom of Information Requests spurred the release of voluminous documents pertaining to the FBI’s activities. Hoover died at the age of 77 in his sleep on May 2, 1972, ending his 48 years as director of the FBI. In the aftermath of his death, steps were taken to rein in the FBI, including limiting the director to a 10 year term. This post-war revolver was numbered in the pre-war serial range. The original Colt black box is numbered to the gun, has “PEARL” factory marked in white grease pencil under the serial number, has “Mr Hoover” hand marked on the underside, and contains a “Special Instructions” pamphlet. Included with the revolver is a January 26, 1949 dated and signed J. Edgar Hoover memo on FBI letterhead. Provenance: FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover; Clyde Tulson; Dr. Muhr; Frazier Arms Museum; Brad Witherell; Don Litman; Dick Burdick

Rating Definition:

Near mint. 99% original finish with only the most delicate collector type handling marks overall. The original box is good, the corners have been reinforced for preservation purposes. Mechanically excellent. Possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire the finest, most historic presentation Colt Pre-war/Post-War SAA to exist. This is a must have for the serious SAA or law enforcement collector.

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