This cased set contains one of the earliest known pairs of engraved Colt revolvers. Only a very limited number of Colt revolvers were engraved as pairs overall, fewer still were embellished as pairs in the early 1850s, and most engraved pairs were not consecutive. Thus, this likely both the first matching cased pair of factory engraved Model 1851 Navy revolvers and the first consecutive cased pair of factory engraved '51 Navies. Most of the known early Colt percussion revolver pairs were the larger dragoon revolvers which is logical given dragoons and other mounted troops routinely carried a pair of handguns. These include a pair of Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoons in 1847 inscribed by Moore & Baker for presentation to Colonel George Washington Morgan discussed on page 20 of "Colt Engraving" by R.L. Wilson, the James Janeway Van Syckel presentation Second Model Dragoons from 1850 on page 30, and the Third Model Dragoons on page 35 from 1851. The presentation inscription for this pair is on a silver plaque on the case lid and reads: "To/Dr. Wm. Geo. Thomas/from his friends in/Edgecombe, N.C./1852." Dr. William George Thomas (1818-1890) of Louisburg, North Carolina, was a medical doctor, completing his medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1840. He married in Tarborough (now spelled Tarboro), Edgecombe County, North Carolina, in 1843. He appears to have been given a second degree from the university in 1852 as well based on newspaper articles listing him as one of 161 men receiving the degree of doctor of medicine from the University of Pennsylvania that year, and the University of Pennsylvania's list for Medical Department matriculants from 1806-1852 lists him as attending in 1839 and 1840 and from Franklin, North Carolina, and then again in 1852 and from Louisburg, North Carolina. "Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the Nineteenth Century" from 1892 and "American Medical Biographies" by Dr. Kelly and Dr. Burrage in 1920 note that Dr. Thomas was born in Louisburg, North Carolina, and went to the local schools before studying medicine under Dr. Wiley Perry and then the University of Pennsylvania. They list him as graduating in 1840 and then working in Tarborough until 1850 when he moved to Wilmington and also note that he was one of the founders, vice-presidents, and presidents of the State Medical Society and studied climactic diseases and was a leading physician in obstetrics and diseases of women. He is noted as using quinine to treat malarial fever. He published a lengthy paper on the 1862 yellow fever epidemic which is also discussed in an included copy of a letter from his grandson Dr. Pride Jones Thomas in 1905. He remained in the service of his patients after another local doctor died from the disease and continued on until he too fell too ill to help, something reminiscent of many doctors and medical staff today. Even while still weakened by the disease, he went recruiting for help back in Tarborough. He grew weak from the disease while there again, and it is said to have afflicted him for years before regaining his health. His son Dr. George Gillett Thomas became a surgeon, and the noted grandson from the letter was also a doctor. The engraving on this pair from 1851 is more refined than the "donut scroll" patterns on some of the early Hartford Colts attributed to Thomas J. Barlow. Instead, this revolver's engraving is the style attributed to Joseph Delany in Herbert Houze in "Colt Factory Engravers of the Nineteenth Century." Note for example the '51 Navy revolvers on page 37 and 38 of Houze's book which are clearly by the same engraver and are attributed to Delany, an Irish born and trained engraver who was active in Hartford c. 1849-1851 and then again in 1857 and 1858 based on the directories. The engraving consists of a floral pattern border at the muzzles, rope border design on the breech end of the barrels and bottom and rear of the frames, some simple lined borders elsewhere, flowing scroll engraving without background shading, a characteristic bestial design on the hammers with "bat-wing" style ears, and banner designs around the lower serial numbers. The revolvers have brass cone front sights, "-ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY-" on top of the barrels, the classic Naval Battle of Campeche cylinder roll-scenes, small "COLTS/PATENT" marks on the frames, matching serial numbers aside from the wedges ("825" and "242"), the factory dot marking by the main serial numbers designating the pair for special finishing, "B" on the left side of the early squareback trigger guards, "W" on the right side of the trigger guards, and varnished walnut grips. The "A" grip has some nice figure. The unusual double case has attractive figured panels, silver straps and the noted silver inscription plaque on the exterior, red velvet interior lining , two Eley Bros. cap tins, a Colt's patent navy flask with sloped charger, an L-shaped combination tool, spare mainspring, spare nipples, and a brass Colt patent ball and bullet mold with iron sprue cutter.
Fine with distinct engraving, 95% plus original silver plating on the grip straps and exhibiting attractive aged patina on the silver and small spots of exposed brass, mottled gray and brown patina throughout the steel components along with mild pitting, legible cylinder roll scene, and general mild overall wear. The grip is also fine and has strong original varnish, some nice figure, mild edge wear including small chips at the toe, a few hammering dents on the butt, and moderate scratches on the sides. Mechanically fine. The case is fine and has aged patina on the silver fittings, a crack running from the left of the inscription panel, some small replacement pieces, relined interior, and mild overall age and storage related wear. The accessories are very good with mild wear.
Fine with distinct engraving throughout, essentially all of the age darkened original silver plating on the grip straps, smooth gray patina on most of the iron, some isolated minor oxidation and pitting, light cylinder scene, mostly solid cylinder pins, and very minimal signs of use. The grip is very fine and has nearly all of the original varnish, some light dings and scratches, and light lower edge wear. Mechanically fine. It would seem the first of these revolvers saw some use while this one remained largely unused. This is a very rare and early pair of consecutive engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolvers with interesting silver mounted case inscribed to a pioneering medical doctor from the South in the antebellum era.
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