Offered here is a well-documented Gustave Young factory engraved Smith & Wesson No. 3 American 2nd Model Revolver with an exciting history of being used by S&W at various exhibitions. In the accompanying factory letter S&W historian Roy Jinks identifies the gun as a "Special Engraved Exhibition Revolver" that was displayed "in 3 major world exhibitions before it was sold." No other details concerning the exhibitions are given. However, the letter furnishes the factory record, indicating the revolver was sold on May 15, 1878 and delivered to M.W. Robinson of New York City with an 8 inch barrel, gold finish, Gustave Young factory engraving and ivory grips. The revolver was billed to Robinson at $25.00. Additional information is found in John Parsons' "Smith & Wesson Revolvers" where this work of art on steel canvas is listed by serial among six Americans specifically decorated to be exhibited at the San Francisco Fair of 1877 (page 130). This fair was likely the 1877 San Francisco Industrial Exhibition. It is known that other Gustave Young engraved Americans displayed in San Francisco were also exhibited at world's fairs in Vienna in 1873 and Philadelphia in 1876, and after the San Francisco fair these exhibition Model 3s veterans were delivered in 1878 to M.W. Robinson, S&W's largest distributor, where they were sold (see "Artistry in Arms: The Guns of Smith & Wesson" on page 67). This American was among those few Gustave Young exhibition engraved pieces displayed in Vienna, Philadelphia, and San Francisco and then sold by M.W. Robinson in 1878. The near full coverage engraving features a scrollwork pattern most often used by Gustave Young in his career. This exhibition veteran No. 3 is unusual in that it is chambered in .44 S&W Russian. Standard chambering for the No. 3 American was in .44 American with around 200 manufactured in .44 Rimfire Henry. This example, however, is chambered in .44 Russian, a cartridge designed by S&W for their No. 3 Russian revolvers originally intended for the Imperial Russian Army circa 1871. The .44 Russian cartridge was more popular than .44 American, and the revolver was likely re-chambered during its period of use. Other period modifications include shortening the barrel from its original 8 inches to a more manageable and more popular length of 5 inches and changing the grips out to plain pearl. As author Charles Pate pointed out, "Another of the exhibition revolvers, serial number 15688, probably has at least an equally interesting story but it is, unfortunately, partially lost to history." The revolver was found by our consignor at a Tulsa gun show. This exhibition veteran has enjoyed coverage in prominent S&W related publications: Charles Pate's "Smith & Wesson American Model" on page 317, Michael Kennelly's "Smith & Wesson Engraving" on page 63, and the 4th edition of Supica and Nahas' "Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson" on page 61. Provenance: The Supica Collection
Good as a high art firearm showing all of the character of a trusty sidearm used during the period. It certainly did not spend a lifetime locked in a vault! From its classic "as found" patina to barrel modification to worn grips, this revolver has all the honest hallmarks of a working gun from the period and proves that all art does not reside behind glass. As Charles Pate put it, "[T]he piece shows considerable use. But the high art and skill of engraver Gustave Youngs' hand still is apparent, and the revolver retains great appeal."
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