Francis Tomes & Sons of New York Retailer Marked Beaumont-Adams Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2221-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a VERY FINE example of the Beaumont-Adams Model 1854 double action percussion revolver manufactured during the years immediately preceding the outbreak of the American Civil War and imported for sale in the United States. While it is often difficult to know if a particular Beaumont-Adams revolver ever made it across the Atlantic to America, we know for certain that this one did. The topstrap of the revolver is marked not only the name of the English retailer (and gun designer) Robert Adams, but also with the name of New York retailer Francis Tomes & Sons. One of Adams’ larger customers in America was the New York firm of Francis Tomes & Sons. The company was started in 1819 by Francis Tomes, an immigrant from Birmingham England, and was initially known as Lewis & Tomes. The initially the company specialized in selling hardware, much of which was imported from England. In 1833, the company became Tomes & Miller and in 1836 became Tomes, Miller & Company. In 1840, the company was renamed Francis Tomes & Son(s) and operated under that name until some time during 1859 when it became known as Tomes, Son & Melvain, under which name it operated until 1864. In 1864, the company was renamed Tomes, Melvain & Co and in 1874 the firm became Francis Tomes & Company, which it remained until it went out of business in 1883. Although initially formed as a hardware company, as the business expanded, it branched into other imported and “fancy goods” with a heavy emphasis on imported English firearms. The company also branched out into military goods and outfitting. The firm of Tomes, Son & Melvain delivered some 16,172 “long Enfields & bayonets” to the US Ordnance Department during the early days of the American Civil War, along with 100 “short Enfields”. A variety of military buttons are also known with the early Lewis & Tomes backmark, as well as the later Tomes, Son & Melvain backmark. Obviously, the company found a good market supplying military goods to various state and local militia units, much like their New York competitors Schuyler, Hartley & Graham.
One of the more interesting customers of Francis Tomes & Sons was Thaddeus Hyatt, president of the Kansas National Committee, which was a grassroot “Free State” organization, that agitated for the abolition of slavery. The Kansas Historical Society has two receipts in their collection from Francis Tomes & Sons, detailing items purchased by Hyatt in support of his cause. The receipts, dated August 22 and August 23, 1856 respectively, detail the purchase of some interesting items including:
1 Tranter Revolver in Case
100 Colt 5 in. Pistols (probably Colt M1849 pocket revolvers)
50 Deane, Adams & Deane cartridges
The receipts also list over 60 Bowie Knives of various makes and styles. Obviously, Mr. Hyatt was not interested in peaceful protests. The Adams cartridges suggest that at least one (if not more) Adams patent revolvers had been previously obtained by Hyatt or were about to be ordered. These two receipts are probably only a small sampling of the arms and supplies that were obtained from Francis Tomes & Sons by Kansas Free State supporters.
The fine quality Adams solid-frame revolvers were as important to the history and development of the revolving handgun as were the innovations and designs of America’s Samuel Colt. Robert Adams received his patent for a solid frame revolver design in 1851. The patent covered his design for a very strong revolver, where the frame and barrel were machined from a single, solid forging. Adams additionally patented a self-cocking lockwork, which today would be referred to as “double action only”. This mechanism indexed the cylinder, cocked and released the hammer to fire the gun, all as the result of a single pull of the trigger. While this allowed for rapid fire, the long, heavy trigger pull inhibited accurate shooting. In 1854, Lt. Frederick Beaumont of the Royal Engineers developed an improvement for Adams’ lockwork, which produced what would be called a traditional “double action” revolver today. These design improvements were incorporated into Adams’ Model 1851 self-cocking revolver. The new lockwork allowed the revolver to operate in the fashion of Adams’ original design, but also added the facility to cock the revolver manually and fire it with a lighter “single action” trigger pull. This refinement allowed for more accurate shooting. In 1854, Adams patented additional refinements to his original frame design by adding a sliding safety catch, mounted on the right side of the frame, as well as an improved cylinder arbor retaining mechanism as well. The resultant combination of design improvements was manufactured as the Model 1854 revolver, known to most as the Beaumont-Adams revolver. These revolvers were produced directly by Adams as part of his partnership with the London based Deane, Adams & Deane, as well under license by Birmingham makers like Joseph Brazier, Isaac Hollis & Sons. William Tranter also employed Adams’ solid frame in the production of revolvers as well, using both Adams’ lock work and lock works of his own design. Upon the dissolution of the Deane, Adams & Deane firm, Adams went to work for the London Armoury Company, and his revolvers were produced there as well circa 1857-1859. After Adams left his position at London Armoury Company, he went back into business for himself and continued to manufacture his patented revolvers.
It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many Adams patent revolvers were imported for use during the American Civil War, however, at least 1,075 were purchased directly by the US government for military use. It is known that some military outfitters like Schuyler, Hartley & Graham purchased quantities of these revolvers for private sale to officers and those volunteer groups who looked to their state and local governments (rather than the US government) to purchase arms. Some of the Schuyler, Hartley & Graham guns (about 300) are reported to have been purchased by the state of Alabama prior to the war. Virginia and Georgia are reported to have made pre-war purchases of these revolvers as well. While the Confederate central government never directly contracted to purchase Adams patent revolvers, instead concentrating on purchasing Kerr’s Patent revolvers from Adams’ former employer the London Armoury Company, Confederate speculators and individual states did purchase these fine English revolvers in some quantity. Several Confederate identified and presented Adams revolvers exist in public and private collections, including #40,537 in the Museum of the Confederacy. This revolver is cased with an engraved presentation plaque from Robert Adams to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Two other Adams revolvers in the Museum of the Confederacy collection (both in the low 41,XXX serial number range) are attributed to Confederate naval use aboard the CSS Shenandoah. Most Confederate war time purchases are believed to have fallen within the 32,000 to 42,000 serial number range, although it is quite likely that guns produced prior to that range (and imported to America) were used, and in some cases it appears that “new old stock” (older, unsold guns in dealer’s inventories) was sold to Confederate speculators, resulting in pistols that were several years old passing through the blockade. American Civil War regiments that are known to have carried or been issued Adams Patent revolvers include the 8th PA and 2nd MI cavalry on the US side and the 1st & 5th VA and 5thGA cavalry on the CS side. It is generally assumed that most these guns were 54-bore (about .442 caliber) Beaumont Adams M-1854 pattern revolvers.
This Model 1854 Beaumont Adams Revolver is in about VERY FINE condition. The gun is a 54-bore (.442 caliber) revolver with a 5-shot cylinder with the serial number 24,783.R. While it is difficult to date Adams revolvers from their serial numbers the way you can with Colts, it is safe to assume that this revolver was probably produced circa 1858. The M1854 frame improvements were not put into production until February of 1855, and London Armoury production started somewhere in the low 17,000 serial number range in late 1856 or early 1857. This gun does not have the London Armoury frame marks found on the earlier M1854 revolvers and was likely produced soon after Robert Adams’ departure from that firm. The R-suffix to the serial number indicates manufacture by Adams. The gun also bears the B-prefix serial number B.9112, a reference to Beaumont’s lockwork patent. This additional number was applied to Adams revolvers from mid-1855 through the expiration of the Beaumont patent royalty agreement with Adams circa 1862. The “B number” indicates that this was the 9,112th pistol to be produced with the Beaumont patent lockwork. The topstrap is crisply engraved:
ROBERT ADAMS LONDON
and the barrel is engraved in two lines:
FRANCIS TOMES & SONS.
AGENTS . NEW YORK .
The obverse frame is engraved in two lines below the cylinder: B . 9112 / ADAMS’ PATENT. No 24,783 . R. The cylinder bears the matching serial number 24,783 / R, engraved in two lines. The cylinder has the expected London commercial proof marks between the chambers and the barrel has a pair of London proofs on the upper left angled flat. The barrel is 5 ¾” in length and is rifled with three wide grooves, roughly twice the width of the lands. The bore rates about FINE. It is mostly bright with crisp rifling but shows some lightly scattered pinpricking and minor pitting along its length, primarily in the grooves.
As previously noted, the gun is in about VERY FINE overall condition, and retains much of its original, period bright blue finish. The barrel of the revolver retains about 75%+ of the original bright blue, the cylinder about 50%+ and the frame about 70%+. The greatest amount of loss is on the butt cap and triggerguard, which have a dull gray patina and might have been cleaned at some point in time. The finish loss throughout is from flaking, service, wear and use, with many of the high and sharp edges showing loss, and additional loss due to handling. There are a couple of thumb-sized patches of loss on the cylinder that is likely the result of laying on fabric for a long period of time, resulting in oxidation and some pitting, with the area subsequently cleaned and now appearing a dull gray. There is also light pitting and moderate oxidation present in the percussion cone (nipple) recesses on the rear of the cylinder, as well as on its face of the cylinder and around the chamber mouths. All the original cones (nipples) are all present in the cylinder and remain in very good, crisp condition. The revolver is assembly numbered 12533. This number is found inside the triggerguard bow, as well on the rear of the cylinder, on the interior side of the loading lever and on the interior edge of the loading lever ram as well. It is probably also located on some of the internal surfaces and parts. The revolver is equipped with a Kerr’s patent rammer, which typified Adams revolver production at London Armoury, as well as after Adams’ departure from that company. Adams also used the Kerr rammer after leaving L.A.C., no doubt as part of an agreement with Kerr and the London Armoury Company. The loading lever functions correctly and locks securely into place within the left side of the grip. The revolver is mechanically EXCELLENT, and the action works very well in both single and double action modes. The gun is a standard production example of the Model 1854 model. The gun has the M1854 patent sliding safety on the right side of the frame and the improved cylinder arbor locking screw on the right side as well. Amazingly, the often damaged or missing arbor pin wingnut is present and remains fully functional. The sliding safety is present and functions exactly as it should and is in excellent mechanical condition. This is also a part that is often damaged or missing. The original front sight is dovetailed into the top of the barrel near the muzzle and remains in fine, crisp condition. The checkered one-piece walnut grip is in FINE condition as well. The grip is solid and complete with no chips, cracks or repairs noted. The grip does show some very minor flattening to the tips of the checkering, as well as some light handling marks, along with some bumps and dings. These are nothing more than the usual wear expected to be found on a revolver that is 150+ years old and saw actual period carry and use. Overall, the condition of the revolver is indicative of a gun that was carried and actually used quite a bit but was never abused during its service life and was always well cared for until its post-war life when it was left laying on fabric for a long period of time.
Overall this is a very good looking New York retailer marked M1854 Beaumont-Adams patent revolver in a very nice state of preservation, retaining most of its period blued finish. This gun is a prime candidate in terms of the era of production and the retailer mark to potentially be one of the guns sold to the Kansas Free State supporters but could have just as easily spent the war in either a southern or northern holster on the hip of an officer or cavalryman. These guns were as important to the development of revolvers in England and on the European continent as the Colt revolvers were in America and were some of the first truly successful double action style service revolvers to see combat. These guns saw service on both sides during the American Civil War, and a Beaumont-Adams revolver is a must have in any Civil War revolver collection. This gun is in fine mechanical condition, retains a lot of finish and is very well marked by a famous New York retailer. It will certainly be a nice addition to any collection of Civil War era secondary martial percussion revolvers, as we know that it was definitely in the United States prior to the outbreak of the war.