Purchase Story

To Arms! To Arms! The Greenbacks Are Coming!

James D. Julia, Inc., Fairfield, Maine

James D. Julia’s three-day firearms blowout in Fairfield, Maine, October 31-November 2, 2017, featured selections from about ten major estates and collections from across the country and brought in about $15.1 million from weaponry aficionados. A healthy 82% sell-through rate contributed to the success. But as often happens, a few headliner items didn’t make the cut.

A .45-caliber Army Colt revolver, serial number 7087, had a tenuous but verified connection to the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The catalog stated that it came from a shipment of 1000 revolvers, 166 of which were issued to the Seventh Cavalry. A previous owner concluded that it could have been issued only to Regimental Color Sergeant Robert M. Hughes of Company K, who had died in the battle. Copies of two early 20th-century interviews with Runs-the-Enemy, a Two Kettle Lakota war chief who had commanded about 132 Sioux warriors, came with the gun. In one of them, Runs-the-Enemy said, “All thought horse soldier all die. Then one horse soldier raise up, all thought he returned to life from spirit land. Many frighten. He raise up arm to shoot six-shooter pistol. I grab six-shooter pistol from horse soldier. I shoot horse soldier in head with his six-shooter pistol. He strong man. He have bad wound in belly before I kill him…. He die close together with one called Yellow Hair….” Toward the end of the conversation he related, “I follow Kicking-Bear, mark on weapon with my possession. I wear ghost shirt. I dance the ghost dance. I give now to you my much thought. Coup, marked with sign, my possession, guard six-shooter pistol. To wash on red holy God, six-shooter pistol name 7-Zero-8-7,” very likely referring to the serial number of the revolver. The “wash on red holy God” appears to refer to an ocher wash still visible on the grip. With that story behind it, the gun brought $31,625 (including buyer’s premium).


One of the centerpieces of the three-day sale was this Winchester 1873 “One of One Thousand” rifle, serial number 6594. It is in extremely fine, unfired condition, with virtually all the original factory finish intact, plus extensive ownership documentation going back to 1935, which helped jack it up to the top of the estimate pile at $250,000/400,000. It is also one of the first 20 to be identified in the Universal Studios 1950 publicity campaign for the Winchester ’73 movie, and the owner at the time was awarded a Winchester ’94 carbine (not shown) that was included in the lot. But for all that, bidding stopped just a notch shy of the reserve, and it went unsold. Julia photo.


Somebody liked this framed six-shot Apache knuckle duster, serial number 4817, enough to chase it to $20,125 (est. $2500/3500). It was said to be a popular fighting weapon in the mid-19th-century French underworld. The brass knuckle portion unfolded to form a pistol grip, and a serpentine blade could be extended and locked in place to form a menacing dagger. Julia photo.


This Colt #1 Baby Paterson cased revolver, serial number 458, with a German silver front sight and engraved in script along the top of the barrel “Patent Arms Mg Co. Paterson N.J.-Colt’s Pt.,” estimated at $25,000/35,000, sold for $40,250.

Not everything connected with Custer came away a winner. John Martin (1851/52-1922) was born Giovanni Crisostimo Martino in Sala Consilina, Italy, and served in Italy under Giuseppe Garibaldi and in the U.S. Seventh Cavalry as a bugler under George Armstrong Custer. He is best remembered as the only member of Custer’s company to have survived the famous massacre. Martin was the soldier to whom Custer’s note to Frederick Benteen was given. After the battle, Martin recalled that Custer had personally given him a directive saying, “Orderly, I want you to take a message to Benteen. Ride as fast as you can and tell him to hurry. Tell him it’s a big village, and I want him to be quick and bring the ammunition packs.” Lieutenant William W. Cooke penciled a note to Benteen that read “Benteen / Come on. Big village / Be quick, Bring packs. / W.W. Cooke / P.S. Bring Pacs.” Custer then further instructed Martin, “Trumpeter, go back on our trail and see if you can discover Benteen and give him the message. If you see no danger, come back to us, but if you find Indians in your way, stay with Benteen and return to him and when you get back to us, report.” But Martin did encounter Indians along the way back to Benteen, reporting that his horse was hit twice by rifle fire before he reached Benteen. Thus Martin survived the battle and went on to fight in the Nez Perce War and in the Spanish-American War. According to the catalog, a single spent brass casing discovered near Custer Hill, or Last Stand Hill as it became known, was forensically matched to this rifle, leaving open to speculation how the shot could have been fired there when Martin is known to have been on his way back to Captain Benteen. The most plausible explanation seems to be that Martin’s rifle somehow wound up in the hands of the Indians, who used it to administer another shot to a soldier in Custer’s ill-fated company. Apparently, Martin never explained what happened to his rifle, a standard 1873 carbine, serial number 19573, with “J. MArTiN” crudely carved in the forestock. The end result was no sale, with an unmet reserve and a ponderous $175,000/250,000 estimate.


This A.H. Fox .20-gauge shotgun, serial number 202194, identified with “CHROMOX FLUID STEEL” and “MADE BY A. H. FOX GUN CO. PHILA. PA U.S.A.” marks, has scrolling acanthus leaves with gold-inlaid lightning bolts, geometric engravings around the muzzles, and panels of gold-inlaid stars and hunting hounds, with the engraver’s signature “W.H.G. Eng.” appearing in front of the triggers. All that helped it sell for $166,750. Julia photo.


Here are two Remington model 1875 single-action revolvers, consecutive serial numbers 719 and 718, that were delivered to the U. S. Department of the Interior at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Dakota Territory in June of 1883, as part of a 50-gun shipment to the Pine Ridge Indian police. Correspondence accompanying the lots speculates that the weapons may have been used on December 15, 1890, when Sioux chief and medicine man Sitting Bull was shot and killed at the Standing Rock Agency. One sold for $17,250; the other for $13,800.


This Cyrus Alger Civil War 12-pound mountain howitzer, serial number 109, blew a hole in the $45,000/60,000 estimate, selling for $69,000. Weapons like this one were designed to be disassembled and carried on pack animals. The inspector for this was Louis A. De Barth Walbach, who died in 1853. Such ordnance found use in the Mexican War, Civil War, and in later encounters in the American West. Alger (1781-1856) was an iron founder, arms manufacturer, and inventor who began supplying the government with cannonballs during the War of 1812. Among his other inventions were time fuse grenades and bombshells.

George W. Atchison was an army private who fought in the Black Hawk War (1832). Following his military service, he established himself as a steamboat captain and boat builder on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. He commanded various steamships in the river trade, including at least half a dozen that were his own, and a few of which came to sad ends on a river bottom, probably due to his habit of overloading them. For a trip to New Orleans on May 1, 1843, he loaded his ship Amaranth with 455 tons of pig lead, plus passengers, even though she was built to carry only 200 tons. Somehow he made it to New Orleans and turned a substantial profit on the trip. His adventurous habits earned him enough to buy “the most magnificent Jacob & Samuel Hawken rifle of its day,” according to his obituary partially quoted in the catalog. The .52-caliber rifle, all original and complete with a full octagonal barrel, had three gold bands at the breech and muzzle, a silver inlaid plaque on the cheek piece engraved “G. W. ATCHISON / ST LOUIS / 1836,” and a host of other silver, mother-of-pearl, and horn mountings and came in at $109,250 (est. $80,000/100,000).

For more information, visit the website (www.jamesdjulia.com) or call (207) 453-7125.


This cased pair of Boss sidelock ejector double-trigger light game shotguns, serial number 7529, with all the original accessories, was made for Mrs. Isabel Dodge Sloane of Locust Valley, Long Island, New York, socialite heiress and owner of a major horse-racing stable. It nearly tripled the estimate, selling for $155,250. Julia photo.


Crime doesn’t pay, but a good connection to a criminal just might work out OK at auction. This .45-caliber Colt Thompson machine gun, serial number 2265, produced in 1921, was shipped to the adjutant general’s office in Indianapolis, Indiana, and then to the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana, where it just so happened that John Dillinger was incarcerated from 1924 to 1933. The machine gun likely used to guard John Dillinger sold for $45,425. Julia photo.


The repoussé silver holster originally contained the silver-plated Shawk & McLanahan revolver, but the two became separated when a thief stole the gun and failed to snatch the holster. The owner filed an insurance claim for the loss and collected the money. Later the crook offered the gun for sale at another auction, where the insurance company rediscovered it and claimed it. Both items were reunited and sold separately here, the gun consigned by the insurance company, and holster consigned by the collector from whom the gun had been stolen. The inscribed silver holster, with floral swirls and a raised cache of arms, bears the South Carolina state seal and the wording “FROM FELLOW OFFICERS / OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA / RESERVE FORCE / JAN 3RD 1865 / TO A FINE MAN AND OFFICER / BRIGADIER GENERAL / JAMES CHESTNUT C.S.A.” James Chestnut Jr. (1815-1885) was a signatory of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, an aide-de-camp to P.G.T. Beauregard, and the commander who ordered the firing upon Fort Sumter from Fort Johnson in the opening engagement of the Civil War. The holster fetched $12,650 (est. $8000/12,000). The gun is a .36-caliber Navy revolver, serial number 1, and it sold for $34,500 (est. $20,000/30,000). Both went to the same buyer.


According to the catalog, this is the only known example of a Civil War New Orleans light cavalry officer’s saber made by Thomas, Griswold & Co. Script etched on the blade reads “RIGHT MAKES MIGHT” and “O.L.H.,” the initials for the Orleans Light Horse cavalry. It is uncertain who first carried the sword, but with a wood-lined iron scabbard, a polished leather grip, and twisted wire wrappings, it sold for $17,250.


This brass-framed Confederate .36-caliber percussion revolver, serial number 11, was made in Portsmouth, Virginia, by Thomas W. Cofer. According to the catalog, there are only 13 such revolvers known, plus three more that were made for percussion caps. Eighty-two were contracted by the Fifth Virginia Cavalry and delivered early in 1862. Having been in only two collections since leaving the family that owned it from the Civil War, it was a $103,500 winner. Julia photo.


Hawken rifle, first owned by riverboat captain and ship builder George W. Atchison, closed for $109,250. Julia photos.


This medium-frame Colt Lightning rifle once belonged to Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915), president of Mexico from 1877 to 1880 and again from 1884 to 1911. Decorated by master engraver Cuno Helfricht with nearly full coverage scenes of a Buffalo Bill-like character taking down a charging buffalo and a standing bull elk, both surrounded by foliate arabesques, with similar swirls along the tangs and trigger guard, it sold above the $25,000/45,000 estimate for $51,750. Colt made about 90,000 such rifles between 1884 and 1902, but only a handful were plated and elaborately engraved.


Here’s a Confederate sharpshooter’s rifle by the Whitworth Rifle Company, Manchester, England, serial number C544, with the maker’s name stamped forward of the hammer. With a hexagonal bore and an original but restored brass tube Davidson scope, it shot through the $40,000/60,000 estimate and struck gold at $161,000. The Whitworth Rifle Company was formed in 1860, but the name lasted only about two years before being changed to the Manchester Ordnance & Rifle Company. Julia photo.


Originally published in the January 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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