Extremely Rare Bridgeport Rig Equipped Remington 1875 Army
- Product Code: FHG-1844-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
On January 17, 1882 Louis S. Flatau, an inventor living in Pittsburg, TX and currently serving as the Camp County Sheriff, received a patent for his newly designed Pistol and Carbine Holder. While Flatau’s official name was for the hardly catchy or the thing of legends, the nickname that the device would receive (based upon the name of the manufacturer of the device for civilian) was; and thus was born the Bridgeport Rig. Flatau was born in San Augustine, TX sometime in the early part of the 1840s. Various period accounts give different birth dates, but Flatau’s death certificate lists May 25, 1843 as his date of birth. Early information about the man is sketchy, and most of Flatau’s early life is reconstructed from period newspaper interviews and articles, as well as at least one article that he penned himself for Confederate Veteran magazine (Volume XV, No 9 September 1907). Based upon these scanty primary source documents it appears that Mr. Flatau was an unabashed self-promoter, as most successful inventors are, who was always interested in mechanical devices and had a knack for tinkering. Flatau’s early life was very much in the vain of Samuel Clemmons (aka Mark Twain) as he claimed to have spent his early life working riverboats and eventually piloting them on the Mississippi, Missouri and Red rivers. By the 1850s he was said to be living in Pittsburg, TX working both as an inventor and a riverboat pilot. One source claims that he was piloting riverboats by the mid-1850s, but this seems somewhat unlikely for a boy only in his early teens. According to his own accounts, he joined the Confederate Army in May of 1862 and began service in Cowan’s Battery (Battery G of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery) serving at Fort Pemberton on Snyder’s Bluff, part of the defenses of Vicksburg, MS. A search of Confederate records reveal no one named “Flatau” who served in the Confederate army, let along in the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. Interestingly, in Flatau’s own writings, he talks of how he was known as “Spencer” or “Spence” by the men of the battery. A Lewis Spencer did serve in Battery G of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. It is possible that Louis Spencer Flatau served during the war as Lewis Spencer, and may even have been born Lewis Spencer, taking the name Flatau after the war for some reason. According to Flatau’s own writing he was captured at the fall of Vicksburg and eventually paroled, serving the rest of the war fighting with Hood’s Army through the Atlanta Campaign and the Tennessee Campaign. In one account of his service Flatau gives a very poetic description of the fighting at the Battle of Franklin, in a prose reminiscent of Private Sam Watkin’s 1882 memoir Company Aytch (H). In the post war era, Flatau was known locally as “Captain” a moniker he may have given himself in much the same way that Samuel Colt referred to himself as “Colonel”. There is no indication that he ever achieved that rank, and realistically there is no actual proof that he ever served in the Confederate Army, other than a pension application filed by his widow after his death. In post-Civil War Texas, where emotions ran high and a lawman was likely to have to deal with more than one former Confederate soldier heading west looking for a new life after the war, the story of his heroic Confederate service may have been more a way of establishing local “street cred” than having much to do with reality. After the war Flatau returned to Pittsburg, TX where he again took up as an inventor and also served as the Camp County sheriff. It was during this time that he began to experiment with what would eventually be known to the firearms world as the Bridgeport Rig. The concept was rather simple. It involved the addition of a long screw to the frame of the firearm that protruded from the side and allowed a large, mushroom head to engage a two pronged spring clip mounted on belt or saddle of the user. This allowed the firearm to be secured to the belt or saddle without the encumbrance of a holster or scabbard, and could even allow the gun to be rotated and put into action without removing the gun from the spring clip. Flatau wrote in his November 16, 1881 patent application:
“The object of my invention is to provide cheap and efficient means for carrying firearms either upon the person or horseback, the same being so constructed that the arm may be quickly and easily drawn for use and easily returned to place in the holster.”
Although Flatau uses the term “holster” it is clear from the patent drawings that this was not a typical holster at all and was in fact simply a mechanical system to attach the firearm to either a belt or object for carrying it, while allowing quick access. He further describes his thoughts about how best to attach the “button” on the end of the screw to the frame of the gun by saying:
“In cases where the arm is to be carried is a pistol or revolver of ordinary construction the button should be formed on the hammer-pivot, as then the additional expense will be very slight. In case the arm is a breech-loading carbine, or other similar arm, the button may form a part of the pin upon which the breech-block is pivoted; but I do not wish to be understood as confining myself to any particular attachment of the button, as it can be attached in various ways and still involve the principle of my invention, and I do not wish to be understood as confining myself to any special means of attachment of the holster to the person or saddle, as this also may be accomplished in various ways.”
Although patented as the “Pistol and Carbine Holder”, when Flatau began to campaign to sell his idea to both the US military and the general public, he re-christened it the “Pistol and Carbine Carrier”. Through a variety of self-promoting maneuvers, he first managed to obtain a written recommendation for his invention, signed by some 32 Texas sheriff’s and US Marshals, meeting in Austin as the “Sheriffs Association of Texas”. The testimonial read in part:
“We can safely say it that is is the most simple and convenient thing that was ever invented for carrying arms. It is very cheap and will suit any gun or pistol, and no convict or jail bird can draw it from you”..Another thing, you pistol will never cauker or rust and in case of a struggle with an adversary you will never lose your weapon”. No critic can find fault with it “A desirable and cheap convenience.”
It is interesting to note that in reading the entire celebratory description, the system is called “convenient” three times and is twice referred to as “cheap”. With this laudatory document in hand, Flatau started to campaign for a US military contract by going straight to the top, Secretary of War Robert Lincoln. At least one newspaper article printed in the Galveston Daily News on June 7, 1882 noted that Flatau was in Austin to “confer” with the governor about his “pistol and carbine holder” and noted that Texas Senators Samuel Maxey and Richard Coke “accompanied Flatau to the office of General Benet, chief of ordnance United States army, who is also an inventor. The result of the conference was an order issued by the general to Colonel Flagler, chief of the United States arsenal at Rock Island, Ill, to manufacture 1000 of the holders. The order also provides that 500 of these holders shall be sent to San Antonio for use at that military station, and 500 shall be sent to Washington to be parceled out among the troops for trial.” The newspaper story is partly correct, the Ordnance Department, under pressure applied to Secretary of War Lincoln by the two Texas Senators as well as Texas Congressman D.B. Culberson, agreed to acquire 500 of the Flatau Patent Pistol & Carbine Holders (Carriers) and on July 31, 1882 an order for them was placed with Hartley & Graham of New York, at the price of $0.60 per holder and $0.25 for the buttons. Marcellus Hartley, one of the two principle partners in Hartley & Graham (formerly Schuyler, Hartley & Graham) was also the principle in a newly formed manufacturing entity, the Bridgeport Gun Implement Company of Bridgeport, CT. The Bridgeport Gun Implement Company had been started by Hartley in 1878 to manufacture firearms accessories, cleaning rods, etc. for the firearms sold by Hartley & Graham. As the company grew it produced a wide variety of sporting goods ranging from fishing rods & tackle to golf clubs and bicycles and bicycle accessories. Hartley was making money twice on this deal, manufacturing the items at Bridgeport and then selling them in New York! According to research by Colt Single Action Army researcher and author John Kopec, these 500 “Patented Pistol Carriers’ were delivered to the San Antonio Arsenal by June 26, 1883. From there 50 each were issued to 16th and 19th Infantry and 200 each were issued to the 8th US Cavalry and the 10th US Cavalry (the “Buffalo Soldiers”) for field trials. The system did not work well in the field, and a November 30, 1883 letter from Robert G. Gunther stationed at Fort Davis, TX said it all with the single sentence: “I consider the carrier inferior for Cavalry to the holster now in use, and the holster issued for trial under the provisions of Circular Letter NO. 11 C.T. Department of Texas is greatly superior to it.” Mr. Kopec suggests the “holster issued for trial” mentioned in the letter is probably the Rope’s Pattern holster that was being tested out of the San Antonio Arsenal during that same time period. Captain Gunther goes on to list six very specific reasons why he did not like the “Pistol Carrier” and these included first and foremost: “The revolver is supported only by the hammer screw, which would not be sufficient during stress of duty.” He additionally goes on to note that “the revolver would be exposed to weather, resulting in rusting and washing away the protective oil” and that the “revolver would require constant watching , to prevent loss during a day’s ride”. Other complaints regarded safety, as the Captain felt it would be easy to snag the hammer and potentially discharge the gun accidently, and the fact that the Captain felt that “no trooper who has regard for his horse would shoot from the hip, even if the necessity arose, which would be doubtful.” This letter seems to have summarized the overall negative response from the field regarding the Pistol & Carbine Carrier, and the military career for the invention came to a screeching halt. This was not the end of Louis Flatau’s inventing career. Over the next two decades he would apply for and receive a number of US patents for everything from a car wheel & axle to a chemical fire extinguisher, a metal roof and a carbon based paint to replace lead based paint! In fact in two period of 1895-96 Flatau received no less than 6 patents. In 1901 he and formed the Dillon Manufacturing Company in Dallas, with partners I.H. Dillon and C.H. Briggs and during the last years of his life he also owned a metal roof and paint company in St. Louis, MO. Flatau died on July 14, 1920 at the advanced age of 77. Although his Pistol & Carbine Holder was not a military success, the “Bridgeport Rig” as it was now being called in civilian circles did manage to develop a small but loyal cult following among those who made a living with a gun and western lawmen during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Probably the most famous lawman to make use of the “Bridgeport Rig” was Elmer Keith, who spent his latter days as one of the most read and most revered of the early “gun writers”. Other lawmen known to have used a Bridgeport Rig were El Paso Marshall James Gillett, and Deputy W.I. Smith of Las Animas County, CO. Deputy Smith carried a Smith & Wesson M-1903 revolver with the system and his picture, complete with the gun suspended from the Bridgeport Rig is featured on page 295 of Firearms of the American West 1866-1894 by Louis A. Garavaglia & Charles G. Worman. On the facing page is a 1904 picture of San Diego detective Tom Burns carrying a 7 ““ Colt Single Action in a Bridgeport Rig, after the shootout in which an outlaw named John Sontag was killed. However, for most people the only exposure they have had to the Bridgeport Rig is through popular culture, as any “quick draw” system like Flatau’s seems more an invention of Hollywood prop masters working on Wild Wild West than in the real west. The most notable use of a Bridgeport Rig was in the 1995 movie The Quick & The Dead where a Buffalo Soldier turned gun fighting character named Sgt. Clay Cantrell goes up against the Gene Hackman character, only to be killed before he could get his cartridge converted Remington New Model Army, Bridgeport Rig mounted revolver into action. Is it possible that the script writers actually KNEW that the Buffalo Soldiers received 200 Pistol & Carbine Carriers (Bridgeport Rigs) to test in 1883, and carried Remington “Armies’ in the years immediately after the Civil War” Not a chance, real history and Hollywood rarely meet.
Offered here is a very rare, original Flatau’s Patent Pistol & Carbine Holder complete on a period cartridge belt and accompanied by a Remington M-1875 Single Action Army Revolver with the original “Bridgeport Rig” stud. This model was the first military sized, cartridge revolver to be produced by Remington that was not an alteration of one of their earlier percussion models. The gun was a six shot, single action revolver that competed directly with the Colt Single Action Army. The gun had a fluted cylinder and was produced in three center fire calibers, .44 Remington, .44 WCF (44-40) and eventually .45 Colt. The majority of the revolvers produced had 7 ““ barrels, although a few were produced with 5 ““ barrels and are considered very scarce today. The revolvers were produced with both blued and nickel finishes. Oil finished, two-piece walnut grips were standard, but other options were available on special order. As Remington was owned by a consortium of Winchester and Hartley & Graham during the 1880s and Hartley was the principle in the Bridgeport Gun Implement Company as well, it seems more than likely that some Remington revolvers were offered with with Bridgeport alteration as a factory option, and were no doubt offered for sale with complete gun belt rigs by Hartley & Graham in their New York retail location as well as by railroad freight for those out west. Remington produced the M-1875 revolver from 1875 until 1889, with a total production of only between 25,000 and 30,000; a very small production run when compared with Colt’s M-1873 Single Action Army. Remington entered the big-bore military cartridge handgun market with an initial order for 10,000 pieces from the Egyptian government. These guns were all chambered for Remington’s new .44 Remington CF cartridge, a short lived cartridge that was very close to the .44 Colt in dimensions and power, but was discontinued in 1895 due to lack of sales. Later Remington M-1875s would be produced in the more successful .44-40 and .45 Colt calibers. The Egyptian contract guns were inspected like US military arms, and carried a * mark on the left side of the barrel, forward of the frame and an R sub-inspectors mark on the cylinder and the frame between the cylinder & the barrel. The left grip was also with either an FR or JWR cartouche. Unfortunately for Remington, the big Egyptian order did not pan out and few (if any) of the guns were actually delivered to the Egyptians. The problems arose over Egypt’s failure to pay large balances due on an earlier Remington Rolling Block military rifle orders. The end result was that the production of the Egyptian contract guns ended prematurely and the existing guns were apparently sold on the open market to allow Remington to recoup their money. Despite the overwhelming competition from Colt, Remington did manage to receive a small contract form the US Government in 1883 to deliver 639 nickel plated M-1875s to the Department of the Interior for use by the Indian Police. These guns were chambered in the much more popular .44-40 (44 WCF) caliber. Among the luminaries of the old west era who used the Remington 1875 was infamous outlaw Frank James, who preferred to carry one in .44-40 (the same caliber as his Winchester rifle), noting that it was important to “not confuse your ammunition in a hot fight”. While the Remington M-1875 never achieved the success or sales figures of its Colt rival, it was none the less one of the important cartridge revolvers to see use during the taming of the American West. To this day, its distinctive rib under the barrel brings to mind the Remington percussion military revolvers that it was based upon, and makes the gun instantly identifiable in period images.
This salty old west veteran example of a Remington M-1875 “Army” Revolver is in about NEAR VERY GOOD condition, but has a wonderful original Bridgeport Rig stud in place on the left hand side of the frame, extending from the hammer screw that the mount replaces. The pistol is 100% complete, correct and original in every way. The gun is clearly marked on the top of the round barrel in a single line: E. REMINGTON & SONS, ILION, N.Y. U.S.A.. There are no other external markings on the revolver, indicating that it is chambered for the .44 Remington cartridge. Those guns that were chambered for the popular .44 Winchester Center Fire caliber (.44-40) were marked “44” on the left side of the frame. The serial number (really an assembly or batch number) 218 is present on the edge of the left grip frame, underneath the grips. This number is also partially visible on the interior rear of the loading gate hinge and both of the grips are also pencil numbered 218 on their interior surfaces. The gun is well worn and has seen lots of firing and use. The pistol retains about 50%+ of its original nickel-plated finish, with significant flaking and finish loss throughout. The nickel has that mellowed, slightly milky patina that we have come to expect from late 19th century nickeled handguns that have seen real world use. The most obvious loss of the original finish is along the left side of the barrel and barrel web, where the finish has been worn away from long term carry on the Bridgeport Rig. The cylinder has also lost most of its original nickel finish, while the balance of the gun shows the usual high edge wear and loss that would be expected from a 19th century firearm that saw real carry and use during the old west period. The areas where the nickel has flaked and worn have a deep, dark and completely untouched chocolate brown patina. The long stripe of oxidized brown along the left edge of the barrel shows some evenly disturbed light pitting while the web under the barrel shows some spots of more moderate pitting as well. The cylinder evenly distributed pinpricking with some spots of minor even moderate pitting, mixed with some oxidized surface roughness. The balance of the gun shows evenly distributed pinpricking as well, with some scattered spots of light to moderate pitting in places. The condition of the gun is a perfect example of one of Captain Gunther’s primary complaints about the Bridgeport Rig, “the revolver would be exposed to weather, resulting in rusting and washing away the protective oil”. There is no doubt that this gun was carried a lot and exposed to the weather in the process. The bore of the revolver rates about NEAR VERY GOOD as well, and has the same dark, evenly seasoned brown patina as the parts of the gun where the nickel is gone. The bore retains very strong and fairly crisp rifling, but shows light pitting its entire length, with patches of more moderate pitting present as well. The action of the revolver is very good, and the gun functions perfectly on all positions except half cock. The revolver times, indexes and locks up perfectly and had a very crisp trigger pull. However, the half cock notch is non-existent. The hammer can be held in that position to allow the cylinder to be rotated for loading and unloading, but will not rest in that position. Interestingly the two safety positions (clicks 1 & 3 during the cocking operation) engage quite firmly. It is not clear if the the half cock notch is simply damaged or was removed intentionally to prevent the hammer from snagging and engaging in a position that would allow the cylinder to rotate freely. This would be a real issue if the gun was being carried with some spent rounds in the cylinder and was needed quickly as the free spinning cylinder could have indexed in a way to place a previously fired round under the hammer when fully cocked. When operating the action of the pistol if functions fine, but you can feel that the it is a little odd due to the Bridgeport stud replacing the hammer screw and likely having bent slightly from the years of being carried suspended from that stud. Again, this was the first complaint lodged by Captain Gunther, and you can certainly feel the action “drag” slightly as the hammer is cocked, suggesting the axis of the stud/hammer screw is no longer completely true. The loading gate functions perfectly and snaps securely into both the open and closed positions. The ejector rod functions smoothly as well and has good, strong spring tension. The cylinder arbor pin is securely retained by the catch at the end of the tapered barrel web, but is easily withdrawn by depressing the release, again functioning exactly as it should. The hammer has a dull, slightly mottled grayish patina suggesting that there are the most minor traces of the case coloring under that dark gray color, and further indicating that the finish on the gun is original as re-nickeled guns usually end up with nickeled hammers as well. The screws are all in very good condition, with the heads remaining fairly crisp and sharp with minimal slot wear. The factory screws (not counting the Bridgeport stud) have a dull dark gray patina suggesting their original blued finish. The Bridgeport stud retains much of its original nickel, showing wear and loss as expected at the contact points with the carrier and the high edges. The original factory lanyard loop ring mount is present it the bottom of the grip as well. The two-piece walnut grips of the pistol are in about GOOD+ condition and show lots of wear. The oil-finished walnut grips are solid and are free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. They do show a small chip out of the bottom of the left grip and minor chips to the leading edges of both grip bottoms. The grips appear to have slightly warped as well, resulting in the bottoms of the grips not fitting the frame as tightly as they should, but this is minor. The grips show lots of smoothing due to carrying, handling and and use and may have even been lightly sanded during the period to contour them for the hand. The gun really feels wonderful in the hand, almost like it was made to sit there as an extension of your hand.
The gun is accompanied by a wonderful Old West period cartridge belt with an original Bridgeport Rig hanger mount attached on the right hand side. The mount is nickel plated and matches the gun well. It retains about 75%+ of its original nickel plating and again the wear is along the sharp edges and contact points. The mount shows scattered patches of darker surface oxidation as well as some surface roughness and lightly scattered pitting. The mounting plate measures just over 4 ““ in length and is secured to the belt with four large, domed steel rivets. The two-pronged (“bifurcated” in the patent description) retention spring is secured to the mounting plate with three similar domed rivets and measures about 4 1/16” in length. The two prongs are marked PAT’d. JAN. 17, 1882 in one line on one prong and BRIDGEPORT / G.I. CO. in two lines on the other prong. The markings are opposed, so that no matter which way the mount is installed one marking is in the correct position and the other marking is upside down. If the mount were attached for left hand use, the markings would simply reverse. The Bridgeport stud on the gun engages the mount on the belt securely and functions exactly as it should. The mount is clearly original to the belt and the period as it was riveted to the belt prior to the leather being folded over and sewn, and the stitching is all period and original and has not been altered. The belt itself is a classic example of an Old West cartridge belt, assembled from a wide piece of leather folded over, to create a two layer “money belt” style body that was not ever made into a money belt. It has smaller billets attached to the main body of the belt for the buckle and tongue. The overall length of the belt is slightly over 42” including the tongue extension, and the belt appears to have been sized for about a 38” waist, +/- an inch or so. The main body of the belt is 2 ““ wide, while the billet holding the buckle and the tongue extension are only about 1 3/8” wide. The buckle is a simple stamped steel octagon that was nickel plated and now only retains about 30% of that finish. The main body of the belt has 30 cartridge loops sewn in place, and they are sized to accept .44/.45 caliber revolver cartridges. The belt remains in VERY GOOD condition and is still quite pliable and remains fully functional. All of the original stitching remains intact and remains quite tight.
Overall this one of the coolest pieces of Old West firearms history I have ever had the opportunity to own. This rig latterly exudes the aura of the western gunfighter, of the outlaw and lawman facing off at high noon. Rarely are Bridgeport Rigs found for sale, they simply were not that successful and the condition of the accompanying Remington revolver in both finish and mechanics attest to all of the inadequacies of the design, as so eloquently stated by Captain Gunther. This is, however the most quintessential piece of gun fighting history you can add to your collection of shooting irons and holsters. The gun has certainly seen better days, but all of that wear and tear is legitimate use. The Bridgeport Rig is well used but remains in very nice, fully functional condition. This is one of those great items that will certainly be a centerpiece in your collection and will certainly get lots of interesting comments from those that see it, and you will have the pleasure of telling people about “Captain” Flatau’s invention that was a military flop, but did develop a cult following among the professional pistoleros who tamed the old west during the last decades of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century. I don’t say this very often, but if I get to keep this rig for a while, I won’t mind a bit. Maybe I’ll even challenge Gene Hackman to a gun fight!SOLD