Colt firearms have long been a symbol of quality and excellence in the field of weaponry. Before the Colt revolver was universally accepted as the most desirable weapon, Samuel Colt presented gifts of inscribed and cased Colt revolvers to high ranking government officials, important military officers and heads of state. These gifts gave Colt promotional "mileage" in building his empire. Colt dispatched agents around the country and abroad to sell and promote Colt firearms. He also contracted dealers to market his products for him. This particular Samuel Colt presentation revolver is inscribed to Waldemar de Bodisco, circa 1853. The left barrel flat is inscribed "Presented to Waldemar de Bodisco, Attache a la Legation Imperiale de Russie/by the Inventor." Russian born Waldemar de Bodisco arrived in the United States at an early age along with his uncle Baron Alexander de Bodisco, the Russian minister to the U.S. stationed in Washington, D.C. from 1837-1853. Waldemar was a graduate of Georgetown College who for nearly 20 years served as secretary of the Russian Legation and was later appointed Russian consul-general at New York, a position he held from 1871 until his death in 1878. Samuel Colt is known to have presented a special set of three lavishly embellished revolvers to the czar. By the 1850s, Colt revolvers had gained popularity in Russia to the point where Tula gunmakers were manufacturing their own copies. Colt revolvers and their Russian copies enjoyed wide use in Russia until the 1870s. In "Samuel Colt: Arms, Art, and Invention," it is noted: "Colt's first contacts with the Russian court took place in 1840 or 1841, at which time he was not able to fully exploit those opportunities. By the early 1850s, however, he was in a position to be of use to the Russian government. Shortly after the Crimean War began, in 1853, Colt evidently approached the Russian legation to the United States in Washington regarding the purchase of his revolvers. This resulted in an invitation to Colt to visit the country in 1854" (page 191). Further details are gathered from the footnotes which directly link this revolver to Waldemar de Bodisco and Samuel Colt: "It is likely that the diplomat involved in these early discussions was Waldemar Bodisco, the [nephew] of the Russian ambassador and an attache in his own right, was the recipient of a presentation Belt Pistol." Samuel Colt's experience with the Russian government was retold in an early biography of the inventor: "In the spring of 1854, Colonel Colt was for the first time in Russia. His fame as an inventor had preceded him, and he was received with greatest kindness by the Imperial Family and returned home not only happy in the prospect of contracts for his production, but honored by those jewelled compliments which convey the friendly admiration of royalty." Besides the aforementioned presentation inscription, the revolver features the one-line New York barrel address, "COLTS/PATENT" stamped on the left side of the frame, the standard naval scene on the cylinder, smooth select walnut grip, and matching full or partial serial numbers on the frame, trigger guard, back strap, barrel, cylinder, loading lever, wedge, and arbor pin. There is a "dot" or punch-mark stamped above or below the serial number on the loading lever, barrel lug, frame, trigger guard and back strap as well to the right of the cylinder number. The punch-mark was utilized by Colt to denote components that would be engraved or specially finished. The select walnut grip and inscription certainly meet the criteria of a punch-mark. This historic revolver which is a tangible link to Samuel Colt's business aspirations to the Imperial Russia market is featured in R.L. Wilson's "Samuel Colt Presents" on page 115 and John Hamilton's "Colt's History and Heroes" on pages 49 and 50. Both of which credit the owner as Mr. John S. duMont Provenance: The John S. duMont Collection; Property of a Gentleman
Very good plus, displaying immense character with all the hallmarks of authentic use. This presentation Samuel Colt piece certainly did not spend its life in a drawer! The barrel retains 40% bright original polish blue finish and the inscription is legible. Flashes of original case colors remain on the loading lever, hammer and frame. The cylinder retains most of the scene and slight traces of original blue in the protected areas. Otherwise the surfaces have a mix of brown and gray patinas with pitting mostly on the barrel. The grip straps retain 40% original silver plating with an attractive mellow brass appearance on the balance. There is a repair on the lower left panel, otherwise the refinished grips are fine with some scattered handling marks and most of the varnish remaining. Mechanically excellent. Samuel Colt presentation pieces are difficult to find and this Model 1851 revolver linked to Colt's Russia venture is without a doubt a historic piece of Colt heritage worthy of the most advanced collections.