Cased Adams Pocket Revolver - Louisville Retailer Marked
- Product Code: FHG-1925-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a very attractive example of a cased English Adams M-1851 self-cocking (double action) revolver, retailed by Joseph Griffith of Louisville, KY. These fine quality, solid frame revolvers were as important to the history and development of the revolving handgun as were the developments and designs of Samuel Colt. Robert Adams received his patent for a solid frame, one-piece revolver design in 1851. The patent covered his novel concept for a very strong revolver, where the frame and barrel were machined from a single steel forging. Unlike practically every other revolver design of the period, where the barrel and frame were separate components that were joined by wedges, screws or some other mechanical system. Adams additionally patented a self-cocking lockwork, which today would be referred to as “double action only”. This mechanism cocked the hammer, rotated the cylinder and released the hammer, all as the result of a single pull of the trigger. While this allowed for rapid fire, the long, heavy trigger pull inhibited accurate firing. These designs were incorporated into Adams M-1851 self-cocking revolver. The major drawbacks to Adams’ M-1851 design were the heavy double action only trigger and the lack of an integral loading lever, requiring lading tools to be transported with the gun if it needed to be reloaded while being carried. In 1854 Lt. Frederick Beaumont developed an improvement for Adams’ lockwork, which produced what would be called a traditional “double action” revolver today. The new lockwork allowed the revolver to operate in the fashion of Adams’ original design (double action), 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. Interestingly the development still required the trigger to rotate and index the cylinder on most versions, unlike Colt’s design, which rotated the cylinder simultaneously with the cocking of the hammer. In 1854 Adams also patented refinements to his original frame design by adding a sliding frame mounted safety on the right side of the frame and an improved cylinder arbor retaining mechanism as well. The resultant combination of design improvements was manufactured as the M-1854 revolver, known to most as the Beaumont-Adams revolver. The revolvers were produced directly by Adams as part of his partnership with the London based Deane, Adams & Deane (circa 1853-1855), as well under license by gunmakers like Joseph Brazier and Isaac Hollis & Sons. Brazier and Hollis also produced frames under Adams’ license, which they subsequently provided to Adams for his company to build revolvers. Birmingham gunmaker William Tranter also employed Adams’ solid frame in the production of his revolvers, but utilized 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; both while he worked there from 1857-1858 and well into the production of the London Armoury made Kerr revolvers, circa 1860. Upon leaving the London Armoury Company, Adams went back to work producing his own revolvers, many of which were retailed by other London and Birmingham gun dealers, and were often marked with the retailer’s name on the top strap. While most of the Beaumont-Adams revolvers were produced with loading levers designed by Adams, Joseph Rigby, or those patented by James Kerr (especially the guns manufactured by the London Armoury Company), a few were manufactured with a rather complex loading lever designed by Joseph Brazier. Joseph Brazier was a very successful gun, rifle & pistol maker in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. He was most famous for producing extremely high quality gunlocks, and many of the top target rifle manufacturers utilize Brazier locks in their rifles. Brazier established his business in 1827, and in 1849, the firm became Joseph Brazier & Sons. That firm remained in business under varying versions of the Brazier name until 1987. The greater part of the firm’s 19th century manufacturing took place at their works known as “The Ashes” on Great Brickklin Street, from 1834-1880. In 1855 Brazier received British patent #760 for a loading lever for percussion revolvers. Brazier applied this lever to the Adams revolvers that he manufactured under license, and offered them for sale to other gun makers who wanted to include the loading lever on the pistols they made or sold. All his levers were numbered, and to the best of my knowledge, the highest number encountered is around 900. Thus, these loading levers are relatively rarely encountered on Adams revolvers. Many of the Beaumont-Adams revolvers encountered today are double “serial numbered”, with one “serial number” actually being the number that tracked the royalty payments due to Adams on his solid frame patent. These numbers are typically marked with a suffix letter that indicates the manufacturer using the patent (for example “T” for Tranter, “B” for Brazier and “X” for Hollis & Sons). Those pistols produced by Adams himself are usually suffixed with an “R” or with no letter at all. The second number has a “B” prefix to track the royalty payments due to Beaumont on his lock work patent. However, after the expiration of both patents, the guns are normally marked with only a single serial number and without any prefix or suffix letter. The Beaumont patent expired in early 1862, so these single serial number guns were most likely assembly after the expiration of his patent. As Adams allocated serial number ranges to licensees who had the right to manufacture guns on his solid frame principle, it can be quite difficult to date Adams revolvers by serial number, especially prior to the expiration of the Beaumont patent. According to English revolver authors & researchers W.H.J. Chamberlain and A.W.F. Taylerson, Brazier was allocated some numbers in the 30,000 B range prior to 1854, with the “B” suffix, while Adams himself produced revolvers in the same serial number range with an “R” suffix. They note that Hollis & Sheath never had their own range, but used their “X” suffix to distinguish their work, and that Adams often relied upon frames manufactured by William Tranter to manufacture his own revolvers! All of this clearly muddles the serial number picture for Adams handguns from about 1854-1860. From extant examples, however, it does appear that sometime in the mid-30,000 range serial numbers do become somewhat more consistent, and some inferences regarding dates of manufacture, attributed use, etc. can be drawn from the serial numbers of extant examples.
The Beaumont-Adams revolvers, in their .54-Bore configuration (about .442 caliber), were one of the best combat revolvers of the mid-19th century and as such a number of them were imported for use during the American Civil War. However, the lack of records makes it is difficult to ascertain exactly how many Adams patent revolvers were imported for use during the American Civil War. At least 1,075 were purchased directly by the US government. 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 government (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 start of 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 (they concentrated on purchasing Kerr’s Patent revolvers from the London Armoury Company), Confederate speculators and individual states did purchase these fine English revolvers in some quantity. In fact, many Adams revolvers, manufactured by the London Armoury Company, are believed to have been in the L.A.C. in inventories at the outbreak of the war. It seems quite probable that when Major Anderson and Commander Bulloch initiated their relationship with Archibald Hamilton (of Sinclair, Hamilton & Co, and the managing director of the London Armoury Company) that they arranged for a substantial number of these revolvers to be delivered to various Confederate states and to the Confederate Navy. Several Confederate identified and presented Beaumont Adams revolvers exist in public and private collections, including #40537 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 low 41,XXX range are attributed to Confederate naval use aboard the CSS Shenandoah. Most Confederate war time purchases are believed to have fallen within the 33,000 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 old stock, sitting on the shelves of London and Birmingham retailers, was sold to Confederate speculators. This resulted in some pistols that were several years old, but were actually “new, old stock” passing through the blockade. 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 & 18th VA and 5th GA cavalry on the CS side. Two Beaumont-Adams are specifically listed by serial number on the Pratt List, a list of the revolvers (by make & serial) in the possession of the cavalry squad of Lt. G. Julian Pratt, who served in Company H of the 18th VA Cavalry. The guns are #36604, carried by trooper James Tharp and #36609 carried by George Conrad. The squad roll is from July of 1864, and lists not only Adams, but also Kerr, Webley and Bentley revolvers. This primary source document is often used as a time point to determine when certain English revolver serial numbers can be determined to have been in field service for the Confederacy. The list is often used as an indication that Kerr’s in the 9XXX range were in service at that point in time. In the case of the Adams revolvers, it shows they were in field service, but the serial numbers are from guns produced much earlier than 1864. A Confederate identified Beaumont-Adams; serial number 36853 is in a private collection, with a New Orleans retailers mark on the topstrap. Realistically, this places any Beaumont-Adams under that number as having been produced prior to the fall of New Orleans in April of 1862. It is generally assumed that the majority of the Adams pattern revolvers in Confederate service were 54-Bore bore (about .442 caliber), but a handful of 38-Bore (.50 caliber) of the earlier M-1851 pattern have Confederate provenance as well.
This M-1851 Adams Pocket Revolver is a VERY FINE condition example of a rarely encountered Kentucky retailer marked pistol that is complete in an original English retailer casing with accessories. While some southern retailer marked (particularly New Orleans) Adams revolvers are encountered from time to time, as well as New York retailer marked guns, Adams revolvers with retailer marks from the “western” part of the United States during the antebellum era are practically unheard of. However, as locations like St. Louis, MO and Louisville, KY often represented some of the last major cities encountered by settlers moving west, and their locations along major rivers made them important centers of trade and commerce. The barrel of the revolver is crisply engraved in a single line, reading from the frame to the muzzle:
JOSEPH GRIFFITH LOUISVILLE, KY
Joseph Griffith was a gunsmith, retailer and importer located in Louisville, KY, who worked from about 1842 through 1878, with the firm operating as Joseph Griffith & Son from at least 1866 and as Joseph Griffith & Sons from at least 1872 through 1878. The first reference I could find to Griffith’s occupation was a notice in an 1847 Louisville newspaper noting that a river boat from Pittsburgh included among its cargo “3 do(zen) gun barrels” for “J. Griffith”. This suggests that Griffith’s “gunmaking” was primarily the building of rifles, using barrels, locks and likely furniture from eastern sources. A September 20, 1858 notice in The Louisville Daily Courier noted:
GUNS, PISTOLS, ETC. – Joseph Griffith, on Fifth street, a few doors above Main, is not opening a new and fully supply of guns, pistols, ammunition, etc., etc. His stock is both domestic and foreign. From the English manufacturers, of the best name, he has received through the custom house, all the paraphernalia of the sportsman. He can fix up a hunter so that he can gather in all they birds of our fields, and the game of the prairies, if he keeps shooting long enough, and will only aim one of Griffith’s guns in the neighborhood of the thing to be killed. His prices are low for the quality of the article sold and those who buy of hi may rely upon what he says. He is too honest to sell a bad gun for a good one, and so of all he sells.
An advertisement in the same paper a month later noted that Griffith was an “IMPORTER OF GUNS, PISTOLS and GUN MATERIAL, and Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Fishing Tacking and Sporting Apparatus.” The advertisement continued by noting that “Merchants and others are respectfully invited to examine his stock before making their purchases.” Other advertisements of the period listed him as an “Importer, Manufacture, Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Fire-Arms and Fishing Tackle.”
The revolver is a 120 bore (.338 caliber) handgun with a 5-shot cylinder and a 4 3/8” long octagon barrel. The obverse frame is engraved in a single line below the cylinder: ADAMS’ PATENT . No.30571 B. The “B” suffix indicates that Joseph Brazier of Wolverhampton manufactured the frame/barrel assembly. As the gun is further marked with London proof marks rather than Birmingham proofs, it is probable that Adams’ firm assembled the gun using Brazier’s frame, as Brazier produced guns usually have Birmingham proof marks. It is difficult to date Adams revolvers from their serial numbers the way you can with Colt revolvers. In this case, it is even more difficult to use the number as it is part of a range allotted specifically for Brazier’s use. However, it is reasonable to assume the revolver was produced circa 1852-1854 by Adams using the Brazier frame. The cylinder bears the matching serial number and is engraved in three lines: No / 30571 / B. The cylinder has the expected London commercial proof marks between the chambers, a (CROWN) / V and a (CROWN) / GP. The barrel has a London commercial view mark, a (CROWN) / V on the upper left angled flat, as well as the expected (CROWN) / GP proof mark. The revolver features some tight foliate style scroll engraving around the rear and lower portions of the frame, on the barrel at the frame juncture and on the bottom of the triggerguard and gripstrap. While it is not uncommon for Adams revolvers to show a small amount of engraving, this is significantly more than standard and certainly indicates that this was a higher-grade gun than the standard production revolvers. The octagonal barrel is 4 3/8” in length and is rifled with three wide grooves, roughly twice the width of the lands. The bore rates about VERY GOOD and is mostly bright along its length, but shows some light pitting in the grooves along its entire length. As previously noted, the gun is in about VERY FINE overall condition, and retains much of its original finish. The barrel retains about 60%+ of the original bright polished blue, with the expected fading, dulling and loss due to handling and use, with the usual loss along the high edges and contact points. The frame retains about 75%+ of its original finish, with some fading and thinning from handling and use. The barrel and frame are almost entirely smooth and are free of any real pitting, with only some small areas of lightly scattered oxidized surface freckling and pinpricking present, most of which is on the underside of the topstrap, inside the frame. The cylinder retains none of its original case hardened finish, which is not uncommon. The case hardened cylinders typically “silvered out” if the revolvers were fired much, as the heat generated in firing the revolver quickly dulled the finish. The cylinder has a medium pewter patina, typical of an Adams cylinder that has seen real use and service. The cylinder shows scattered surface oxidation and discoloration, along with some scattered pinpricking and some very lightly scattered pitting. There is also some minor pitting and oxidized roughness in the recesses where the cones (nipples) are, typical of the wear caused by caustic percussion caps. The cylinder retains all of its original cones and all are in fine and crisp condition. The hammer appears to have been left in the white and shows evenly speckled minor age discoloration and some light pinpricking. The trigger retains some traces of its original fire blue, but most of the finish has faded to a mottled silvery-gray color. The iron trigger guard retains about 20%+ of its original blue, with the expected fading and wear, with the balance of their metal having a smooth, untouched plum-brown patina. The butt cap is silver plated and has a dull pewter tone, indicating it was probably polished long ago and is starting to tone down. The gun retains its original M-1851 patent spring safety on the reverse of the frame, which functions smoothly and correctly. By barely pulling the trigger the safety can be pressed into the frame, engaging the hammer and creating a hammer block that also frees the cylinder to rotate for loading and unloading. The system is nearly identical to that found on the Perrin revolver. Pulling the trigger automatically disengages the safety, allowing the gun to fire once the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. The Adams M-1851 patent spring arbor pin retention mechanism is in place on the right side of the frame, forward of the cylinder and functions exactly as it should. The action of the revolver is mechanically EXCELLENT, and the gun times, indexes and locks up perfectly, as well as the day it was made. As with all the M-1851 Adams revolver I have encountered, this one is without a loading lever apparatus. The checkered one-piece walnut grip is in about NEAR FINE condition. The grip is solid with no cracks or repairs noted. However, there is an old chip missing from the lower rear trailing edge of the grip. This is not particularly noticeable, but is mentioned for exactness. Otherwise the grip remains in very nice shape, showing only the minor wear, due to handling with very fine, crisp checkering that shows only the most minimal flattening to some of the sharp points. Overall, the condition of the revolver is indicative of a gun that saw some real use and was actually fired to some degree during its lifetime, but was always well cared for.
The pistol is contained in an original English retailers oak case. The case appears to retain its original green baize lining, which shows wear and use. The interior dividers and lining show the expected mars, rubs and wear from 150+ years of pistol storage and transportation. The case is in about VERY GOOD+ condition and shows real world wear and tear but no abuse or significant damage. The hinges appear to be the original “bible” hinges and they keep the case lid at an upright, 90-degree angle when open. The case shows some minor cracking along the rear edge of the lid. An old coat of varnish, that is probably from the period is protecting the case. The original lock is in place, as is the key and it still functions correctly. The brass lock escutcheon is loose and needs to be glued to remain securely in place. The original round brass nameplate is in place on the lid, but has not been inscribed. The case contains a number of accessories appropriate to the use and display of the pistol. These include a VERY FINE condition dual cavity Adams mould, which casts both a conical and a round ball. The mould is clearly marked with a 120 on its side (indicating 120-bore) and bears the Adams Patent trademark on the side of the mold body. Both the steel hinge pin and the sprue cutter are assembly marked “7”. The mould has a lovely, untouched bronze patina on the exterior and a lightly toned brass color on the inside, complete with perfect mould cavities. The iron sprue cutter functions perfectly and retains about 30%+ of its original bright fire blued finish. The case also contains an appropriately sized, Dixon & Sons / Sheffield marked English copper bag flask with an adjustable spout which can throw charges of 5/16, 4/16, or 3/16 a drams of powder. The copper flask has a gorgeous deep umber patina and shows only the most minor small marks from handling. The brass charging cap and spout have a lovely, untouched patina and the charging spring retains about 60%+ of its original bright fire blued finish. The charger functions as it should and retains strong spring tension. An original ebony combination cleaning rod and rammer of the period is included as well. The rod includes a brass ball puller and removable rammer head. The rod is 7 ¾” in overall length and the shaft the right length and diameter to push a cleaning patch through the barrel of the pistol or draw a squib load from the barrel. A period jappaned tin of percussion caps is include with the pistol casing as well, and the tin bears the embossed legend on its top: ELEY in an arc, over LONDON. Due to shipping restrictions, the caps themselves cannot be shipped with the pistol, but the tin will be included for display purposes. An original Ebony handled cone wrench (nipple wrench) is included with the set as well, and it fits the cones (nipples) of the revolver perfectly. The ebony handle shows some scuffing and mars, but displays well with the set. A removable cone prick is contained in the base of the cone wrench handle. An original pewter oiler is included as well. It is Dixon & Son marked as well, and is in FINE, complete condition. An original wad cutter is included, as well as a heavy brass bullet starter. A turned bone container has five spare percussion cones (nipples) in it as well. A round and a conical lead bullet are included as well, and they match the mould cavities perfectly, so I must assume they were cast from it.
Overall this is a really wonderful Adams patent revolver, in a FINE state of preservation. The gun displays wonderfully in a very nice period English made casing, along a very nice compliment of period accessories. The fact that this revolver was retailed by a somewhat famous Louisville based retailer makes the gun very special. As previously noted, English revolvers from the antebellum era simply do not appear with American retailer marks that are not southern or north eastern (primarily New York). Finding a gun from the mid-1850s that might have traveled west with early settlers (or those seeking their riches in the gold fields of California after the 1849 Gold Rush) is quite uncommon. While the lack of a southern association may make this revolver less interesting to some, it makes it even more romantic in my mind, as it is hard to know where it ended up and what it did during its lifetime. For the die-hard Confederate collector, you only have to remember that Kentucky was really a boarder state and that most of the Henry Rifles that saw southern use were acquired from a Louisville retailer! The Adams handguns 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. These guns saw service on both sides during the American Civil War, and at least one pattern of Adams revolver is a must have in any Civil War revolver collection. For any collector who demands quality, condition, rarity and desirability, this cased set has it all in spades, what more could you ask for in a wonderful, pre-Civil War Adams percussion revolver”