Wednesday, November 13, 2013

$400K Opening Bid: The Most Thoroughly Documented Jesse James Gun Ever to Appear at Auction: Colt Single Action .45 Caliber Revolver

Handguns:Single Action Revolver, The Most Thoroughly Documented Jesse James Gun Ever to Appear atAuction: Colt Single Action .45 Caliber Revolver, Identified ... 

"Outlaw guns" are immediately objects of suspicion because so many fakes or examples with undocumented histories appear on the market. Only rarely does a gun with this sort of full and most interesting provenance come up for sale.

This gun, serial number 70579, is the subject of a letter of authentication by recognized Colt authority R. L. Wilson (shown in full on our website). It first surfaced in the early 1920s as part of a display of guns and other objects belonging to his father, put together by Jesse James, Jr. The gun offered here is clearly recognizable in the upper left-hand corner of a famous and much published photograph of the display, pictured by Wilson in his important reference book The Peacemakers (p. 171). The photo was first published in a rare 1936 volume, The Crittenden Memoirs, by H.H. Crittenden, son of the Missouri governor who conspired with Bob Ford to have Jesse James killed (p. 192). 

The photo was inscribed in the margin below: "May 4th, 1923 to H.H. Crittenden. This is an authentic picture with my compliments Jesse James, Jr." In an ironic twist of fate, the son of Jesse James and the son of the governor who arranged his assassination actually had become friends! As Crittenden tells it, his brother Tom Crittenden had opened a real estate office in Kansas City and advertised for an office boy. Apparently unaware of the connection, young Jesse Jr. applied for the job. Tom Crittenden of course knew immediately who the boy was, but nonetheless offered him the job if his mother and grandmother (Zee James and Zerelda Samuel) gave their okay. The boy returned the next day with the family's permission and was given the job (pp. 332-333). From that point forward there was peace between the families. A rare signed copy (1 of 100) of Crittenden's memoirs accompanies this lot.

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