This is an interesting Colt Model 1895 Double Action Revolver in .38 Colt. Standard 6" barrel with blued finish and checkered hard rubber grips. The base of the handle is stamped "RWY. EX."; abbreviation for the Railway Express Company. What makes this revolver a bit of a mystery (at first) is that there is a 32 year gap between the time it was manufactured (1897) and the founding of the Railway Express Company (1929). However, as we read up on the history of the Company to what amounted to a fairly informative lesson on American civics and business, I think we've come up with a fairly good concept as to how this gun ended up with a more contemporary Railway Express marking.
It all started in December 1917 when the United States experienced a severe coal shortage. The timing couldn't have been worse as the United States had just declared war on Germany and was scrambling to train and equip an army that would soon be sent to Europe. None of this was possible without the railroads and the necessary coal to fuel them. Thus, in order to effectively control movement of troops and supplies, the US gov't seized the railroads in 1918. During that summer, it also consolidated the railroads' express delivery businesses which owned vast amounts of infrastructure within the railway system consisting of thousands of miles of track, rail cars, hundreds of express railroad offices scattered across the country along with thousands of employees. These three big players in the express business were the Adams Express Company (est. 1842), American Express Co. (est. 1850) , and Wells Fargo & Co. (est. 1852). The new company with all three rolled into one along with subsidiaries like Adams' Southern Express Co. was named the American Railway Express Company or "AREC" for short. The shares of this new corporation were split among these three companies with Adams eventually buying all of the American Express shares. Then, in 1929, all assets owned by AREC and shares of stock were sold to 86 railroads in a $42 million deal. This effectively gave the railroads a monopoly in the Railway Express business. The new firm was appropriately titled "Railway Express" and remained in business until 1970. Adams Express, American Express, and Wells Fargo were now all out of the delivery/courier business but were loaded with cash. As we know, all three went on to become successful investment firms, credit card companies, and banks.
Our belief is that this Colt revolver was originally sold in 1897 to either Adams Express, American Express, or Wells Fargo & Company and was eventually part of the assets of these three companies that were consolidated into AREC in 1918 which turned into the "Railway Express Company" in 1929. As part of the audit of assets, that is most likely how the "RWY EX" stamp came to find this revolver.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Very Good++ to Fine with 25-30% original blue remaining with the balance mostly turned to a light brown patina. Excellent markings throughout with good traces of original fire blue remaining on the trigger, protected areas of the rear hammer faces, and several screws. The checkered hard rubber grips are in Very Good+condition overall with sharp checkering, strong Colt horses, and only one minor dish-shaped chip on the bottom of the left hand grip. Strong mechanics with a good bore. A unique Colt with a very interesting and most likely a long history in the Railroad Express delivery business.