Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1118: Adams Double Action Revolver & Case Inscribed to William Cameron

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

Extraordinary Historic Civil War Engraved and Gilded Robert Adams Beaumont-Adams Double Action Percussion Revolver with Horn Grip and Case Inscribed as Presented to Virginia Tobacco Tycoon William Cameron in 1865 by Captain F.W. Fuller of the Blockade Runner City of Petersburg

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $15,000 - $25,000

Extraordinary Historic Civil War Engraved and Gilded Robert Adams Beaumont-Adams Double Action Percussion Revolver with Horn Grip and Case Inscribed as Presented to Virginia Tobacco Tycoon William Cameron in 1865 by Captain F.W. Fuller of the Blockade Runner City of Petersburg

Manufacturer: Adams
Model: Percussion
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44
Barrel: 6 inch octagon
Finish: gold
Grip: horn
Item Views: 691
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 93
Class: Antique

This incredibly ornate revolver is the Beaumont-Adams pattern based on Robert Adam's 1851 design improved by Lt. Frederick E.B. Beaumont in 1855. Beaumont's contributions allowed the revolver to be used in single or double action instead of just double action like the original Adams design. Robert Adams operated from the address on the case and topstrap in the 1858-1865 after leaving Deane, Adams & Deane and the London Armoury Company. His advertisements in the 1860s prominently included an ornately engraved Beaumont-Adams pattern revolver, and an extremely similarly decorated revolver with a more elaborate case is shown in plates 318 and 319 of "British Gunmakers: Their Trade Cards, Cases, and Equipment, 1760-1860" by Neal and Back. These revolvers were among the few double action revolvers available during the American Civil War. The revolver features nearly full-coverage engraving and gold plating. The engraving patterns are varied and complex but mainly consist of classic scroll patterns. The smaller parts are finish in blue or polished bright. The top strap is signed "ROBERT ADAMS. No. 76 KING WILLIAM STREET. LONDON." The right side of the frame has "ADAMS' PATENT No. 41,346," in a banner, and "No. 41,346" is also marked on a banner on the cylinder. It has London proofs. The horn grip has a gilt and scroll engraved pommel with six small malachite bosses and an oval malachite cap. The revolve comes in the original brass-bound rosewood case with fitted purple velvet lined interior. The interior of the lid has the gilt "R. ADAMS/MANUFACTURER OF FIRE ARMS,/PATENTEE OF THE REVOLVER./76 KING WILLIAM ST." marking. The accessories include: a scroll engraved and gilt Hawksley powder-flask, a gilt-brass mounted ebony cleaning rod with worm, a scroll engraved and gilded brass double-cavity bullet mold, a scroll engraved Hawksley oil bottle, a turned container with spare nipples, an ebony handled nipple wrench, and a key. The central escutcheon on the case lid reads: "Present to/WILLIAM CAMERON ESQ./OF PETERSBURGH VIRGINIA/by/F.W. FULLER/as a mark of respect/AND IN ACKNOWLEDGMENT/OF HIS UNIFORM KINDNESS/AND CONSIDERATION./Liverpool/MAY 24: M DCCCLXV." The presentation inscription is date May 24, 1865, was the same time as the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D.C. at the end of the war celebrating the Union victory. It was presented to Virginia tobacco tycoon William Cameron from the captain of the steamer City of Petersburg, a blockade runner during the Civil War owned by Petersburg businessmen. William Cameron (1829-1902) was born in Grantown, Iverness-shire, Scotland. The family later moved to Petersburg, Virginia, in the 1840s, and he became a leading tobacco manufacturer in Virginia. He partnered with his brothers Alexander Cameron (1832-1915) and George Cameron (1835-1916), and operated a very successful group of interconnected tobacco businesses such as William Cameron & Bro., Cameron & Cameron, Cameron Bros. & Co., Alexander Cameron & Co., and others throughout the mid to late 19th century. He patented a hydraulic press for manufacturing plug/chewing tobacco on November 9, 1858. His businesses continued operations during the Civil War. While the elder Cameron brother is said to have played no active part in the war itself, Alexander Cameron was "supercargo" of the City of Petersburg and ran the Union blockades between Wilmington, North Carolina, and Nassau and Bermuda with Captain Fuller and deposited the brothers' wealth in English banks, and George Cameron served as a private in "Wolfe's company of Archer's battalion" and was captured at Petersburg on June 9, 1864. Captain Fuller is discussed in a January 28, 1865, vice-admiralty court records in Halifax in relation to the City of Petersburg, and F.W. Fuller in ads from May 1865 in the Daily Post of Liverpool, England, is listed as the commander of the steamer City of Petersburg (700 tons, 300 horse-power) under the heading "Dublin Exhibition" (referencing the 1865 World's Fair titled the International Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures in Dublin May 9 to November 10, 1865). The City of Petersburg and Old Dominion commanded by J.J. Aitkin are noted as sailing from Prince's Landing Stage in Liverpool every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to Kingstown. The steamer was built by James Caird Co. of Greenock and launched in 1863 per "British Blockade Runners in the American Civil War" by McKenna. The City of Petersburg is identified as partially owned by Alexander Cameron during the Civil War in documents from the Civil War. The Caledonian Mercury of Edinburgh, Scotland, under the heading "Arrival of Another Blockade-Runner at Greenock" on March 25, 1865, indicates the City of Petersburg arrived on March 22, 1865, and indicates the two blockade runners returned to the United Kingdom due to the Union victories and impending defeat of the Confederacy. An article titled "The Perils of Blockade Running" in the April 3, 1865, issue of the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent indicates these two sister ships were blockade runners based in Bermuda and indicates that the City of Petersburg "although fired upon by the blockading squadron each time she attempted to run in or out of a blockaded part, was never once hit by a shot. She was repeatedly chased, but not one of the much-talked-of Yankee steamers could ever come near her under ordinary circumstances. The City of Petersburg made sixteen trips." While the ships ran munitions and other supplies through the blockade to support the Confederate war effort, they also ran tobacco, cotton, and other valuables to England on their return voyages. The revenue helped fund the Confederate war effort and keep southern businesses afloat. It and the Old Dominion are reported to have been carrying an estimated 1,800 bales of cotton "said to be in payment of the interest for the Rebel loan" per the Army & Navy Journal on September 17, 1864, when they arrived in Halifax a week prior. McKenna indicates the steamer headed to Halifax again in January 1865 "with a number of prominent Confederates, including Joseph E. Hunt, who carried $20,000 in British gold with him." With the end of hostilities, William Cameron also traveled to Europe in May of 1865 and then to Australia on an 18 month trip to expand their business operations abroad, eventually opening factories in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney in Australia with his brothers. They also had factories in Virginia, Kentucky, and England, and Cameron had a contract with the Royal Navy after the Civil War. Cameron tobacco products were sold around the globe and are listed as supplying 75% of the manufactured tobacco consumed in India and Australia at one point in the 19th century. William Cameron applied for a presidential pardon in 1867. He was on the Petersburg Common Council in 1888-1892 and served as the chair for the Committee on Gas and Light. He moved to Washington, D.C., in October of 1892. The revolver was previously accompanied by now absent letters and documents discussing the recovery of the revolver by George Cameron and a receipt for it and their involvement in the tobacco trade and blockade running.

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 85% original gold plating on the frame and barrel, traces of original gilding on the cylinder and loading lever, crisp engraving and markings throughout, strong niter blue on the small parts, mostly bright hammer, gray and brown patina on the balance, some light spotting, and mild age and storage related wear. The grip is also very fine and has attractive natural grain, a couple of small spots of insect damage, and light handling wear. Mechanically excellent. The case and accessories are very also fine with aged patina on the brass fittings, some split divider corners, bright gold on the mold, and generally minor age and storage related wear. This is an incredible presentation cased Adams revolver presented to a leading Virginian businessman just after the conclusion of the Civil War by the captain of a blockade runner.

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