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Colt 1851 Navy Revolver Catalog 379 (Nov 2011)

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(we are no longer accepting bids on this item)
Minimum Bid: $1,000.00
Sold Price: $95,666.40


Colt 3rd Model 1851 Navy Revolver, .36 cal, serial #89149, 7.5″octagonal barrel, varnished walnut grips, all numbers match, including the wedge. Dark bore with strong rifling should clean to very good. Left side of the frame is marked “Colts Patent,” with brass trigger guard stamped “G,” and barrel marked “Address Saml Colt Hartford CT.” Corresponding numbered cylinder bears engraved naval scene. Backstrap is engraved “Presented by Capt. L. S. Ross to C. R. Gray,” with engraving continued on the butt strap, “First Scalp.” The period engraving appears to be non-professional field grade, as from one individual to another, perhaps even by Ross himself.

Accompanied by its original hand tooled ‘Slim Jim’ leather holster, showing heavy wear and a partially open seam, but displaying lots of character. Also accompanied by a notarized letter of provenance, dated November 3, 1955, from a previous owner, John Knox. The letter reads, in part: “Since reaching the age of majority, my hobby has been gun collecting. During the year 1913, I purchased from Herbert Hester, a teen-age boy of Giddings, Texas, an 1851 Model, Navy Colt Pistol, serial No. 89149, the back strap which bears the inscription, “PRESENTED BY CAPT. L. S. ROSS TO C. R. GRAY,” and the butt strap is inscribed “FIRST SCALP.” The gun was given to Herbert Hester by John C. Parker of Giddings, Texas, who told him he found it in one of his rent houses, after a transient tenant had moved out without paying his rent. I believe without a doubt that the Ross pistol is a genuine relic. On November 3, 1955, I, very reluctantly, traded it to Gaines de Graffenried…Waco, Texas, to satisfy his contention that Waco, Texas, is the proper resting place for this particular item; in as much as Waco was the home of Captain—General—Governor L. S. Ross.” Knox died in 1964, the same year the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco was chartered. De Graffenried was invited to serve as the museum’s curator of exhibits, a post he occupied, without pay, until his death in 1991. This pistol was on display at the Waco museum and first became available for sale ten years ago at Christie’s New York, selling for $95,500.00.

In mechanically very good condition, with dark patina on all surfaces and scattered light pitting; edge wear at muzzle, with 50% of the roll engraved naval engagement cylinder scene remaining; most factory lettering rates very good or better.

No Federal Firearms License or other permits are required to either purchase or receive this gun as the date of manufacture of this revolver was before the cut-off year of 1898. Please note: RR Auction does not warranty the safety of the firearm. Therefore, we recommend that, before you use any firearm, purchased here or anywhere else, you have it examined by a qualified gunsmith to determine whether or not it is safe to use.

Ross awarded this Colt to one of his men after successfully recovering Cynthia Ann Parker during the Battle of Pease River on December 17, 1860. Parker had been taken captive on May 19, 1836 by a large force of perhaps 500 Comanche warriors who attacked Fort Parker in East Central Texas. She would eventually fully assimilate into Comanche society, taking name Naduah and marrying Peta Nocona, chief of the Noconi Comanche with whom she had three children.

Famed Indian fighter Sul Ross, who joined the Texas Rangers in 1859 and was shortly thereafter promoted to captain of the Waco Company and led the December 17, 1860 raid to recover Parker. He led a force consisting of perhaps 20 Rangers and 20 Federal troops in a surprise attack on the small Comanche hunting village of about 15 Indians where Parker and her family were living in nine “grass tents.” During the Pease River battle, Charlie Goodnight, a noted cattle baron, discovered the blue-eyed captive and her daughter Topsannah. They were captured with two other Comanche, while seven Indians were killed and, at least one, scalped. Among the escapees were Parker’s husband Peta and son, Quannah, who would later fight the Rangers as the last chief of the Comanche.

Following the battle, both Cynthia and Topsannah were returned to the Parker family. In 1863, her daughter died. Parker lost the will to live, eventually starving herself to death in 1870. This remarkable story is among the most retold stories in the lore of early Texas history. Several film scholars argue that the 1956 John Wayne movie The Searchers is loosely based on this story.

In a January 4, 1861 report to Gov. Sam Houston, Ross wrote, “I had made a proposition to present the first man who should kill and scalp an Indian with a Colt’s revolver and after the battle it was awarded to C.R. Gray.” This report was published on January 15 in Texas newspapers, helping to spread the the story’s notoriety. Little else is known about Clarence R. Gray apart from the fact that he is listed on Ross' roster of Rangers participating in the raid and that he is mentioned by name in the captain's published report to the governor. A truly remarkable relic! The Robert Davis Collection. RR Auction COA.

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