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    An Early Military- Issue Colt Single Action Revolver with 7½" Barrel, Acquired From an Indian in the 1920s, and Possibly A Little Bighorn Battlefield Pick-Up! This gun comes with extensive documentation, including 1962 and 1970 letters of transmittal. The first letter states that the gun came from Dr. Thomas Marquis, who acquired it from an Indian family in the mid-1920s, and speculates that it was a relic of the famed battle. The reference to Dr. Marquis is highly significant. He arrived at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana in the early 1920s to serve as an agency physician. Although he remained in that position for less than a year, he developed a fascination for these people and their history which would consume the remainder of his life. He continued to live close to the Little Bighorn battlefield site, photographing and interviewing Native Americans, particularly those with recollections of the 1876 conflict. During this period he also systematically collected artifacts related to Little Bighorn from the Indians. During his life the collection was displayed in a small museum in Hardin, Montana. The collection was disbursed upon his death, with a number of items now to be found in the Custer battlefield museum, the Buffalo Bill museum, and other distinguished venues.

    Dr. Marquis authored a number of books and pamphlets on the subject of Little Big Horn, including a scarce 1931 hardback book, A Warrior Who Fought Custer, a copy of which is included with this lot. His writings were based on personal interviews he conducted with participants and witnesses, often elicited after long efforts to build rapport and win their trust. Dr. Marquis is a highly credible source, whose personal papers are now stored in the National Anthropological Archives, a section of the Smithsonian Institution.

    The gun itself is a significant example in any case. It bears an early serial number, 12333, and the inspector's initial "A". That would stand for Ainsworth, the first inspector of this model, who did so only through November, 1874. The dating of course is highly significant. For many years it was thought that this serial number, since it predates the 1876 battle, would suggest the possibility that the gun had been issued to a member of Custer's Seventh Cavalry. However, further investigation indicates that it does not fall within the three ranges of Colts issued to the 7th. This would seem to be at odds with the stated provenance that the gun had been used at Little Bighorn. Yet even in the absence of any additional information, it seems almost certain that Dr. Marquis believed this to be the case. Given his narrow focus, it would be unlikely that he would have acquired the gun except in that belief. Accordingly, we must speculate as to how this particular gun could have been at Little Bighorn without having been issued to the Seventh Cavalry. That is where the precise date of manufacture comes into play. This revolver, while not issued to the Seventh, may well have been used in another engagement prior to Little Bighorn, during or after which it came into the possession of a Native American who carried it into the battle at Little Bighorn. Hopefully our examination of Dr. Marquis's records will yield more precise information. However, it is certainly plausible that this particular gun was acquired either from such an individual, or from another participant who picked it up on the battlefield, not from a slain soldier, but from a slain Indian warrior.

    In any case, this is a fine example of a .45 caliber Colt single-action. It bears an early serial number, and all numbers match. It is in good working order and in very pleasing condition, smooth and gray and showing only honest wear and use. At the very least, it is safe to assume that the gun came from a distinguished source, Dr. Thomas Marquis, and that he did in fact acquire it from a Native American prior to his death in 1935.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Nov-Dec, 2011
    30th-1st Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,795

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