This is an interesting piece of Colt and New York City Police history. Its an antique pre-1898 Colt New Police Revolver in .32 Colt/.32 S&W, 4" barrel with a factory engraved backstrap marked "NEW YORK POLICE". In addition to those markings, the bottomstrap and front strap of the handle has the badge numbers of two NYCP officers who were issued this gun. The Colt Police was the grandfather to the modern double action Police revolver.
These were originally ordered by Theodore Roosevelt, NYCP President of the Board of Commissioners 1895-97. We all know of TR as the colorful Rough Rider in the Span Am War who became President of the United States, but his early years were far from mundane. After the loss of his wife, he spent several years out West as a rancher and even local Sherriff of his community. He eventually moved back East and began a career in public service during the 1880's. By the Mid-1890's Roosevelt had made a name for himself as a reformer on the New York Civil Service Board. He had fought hard to hire public servants based on their qualifications rather than who they knew.
With the public atmosphere charged by reform, Roosevelt must have seemed the perfect candidate for Police Commissioner. One might also have described Roosevelt as determined and completely impervious to corruption....two qualities that would be needed in the tough fights that lay ahead of him. Prior to Roosevelt joining the force, many officers were hired based on political friendships while others even bought their way onto the force. Officers would arm themselves with pretty much whatever they wanted and corruption was ramant. Roosevelt began to slowly change this. For starters, he ordered 4500 Colt New Police revolvers and began standardized training in marksmanship...a skill most 1890's era officers sorely lacked. He also fought hard to end corruption on the force by weeding out bad officers and constantly monitoring his men on their beats. It was not uncommon to find Roosevelt walking NYC streets late at night as he was out some nights until 3am. During his brief time in office before becoming the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt hired 1600 new officers based solely on their qualifications and standardized exam scores. In keeping up with the times, he even formed a special bicycle unit. Roosevelt's changes had successfully steered the NYCPD towards the modern day force we know today. We view this revolver is a direct historical link to Roosevelt's early career as a reformer and the beginning of the modern day NYCPD.
There is some interesting family history that came with this revolver. It was purchased about 5 years ago by a collector from the Great Granddaughter of Theodore Bingham who carried it at the turn of the 20th century. The collector mentioned that he was told Bingham was a highly ranked official in the Police Department. After some light research, we believe this revolver belonged to General Theodore Bingham who was Police Commissioner of the NYPD from 1906-08. If this is correct, Bingham was also in charge of the White House grounds for a number of years prior to his service as Commissioner. As of this writing, we have not been able to confirm this with the Bingham family descendants. To complicate matters, the NYCP Museum is currently closed for renovations preventing us from learning about the other officer/s who may have carried this weapon. I wish we had more time to devote to additional research but this isn't always possible in our business...bills don't seem to wait around. Therefore, we are going ahead and listing it along with a fair warning that the price may be subject to change as we learn more of this revolver's history. If you have a little time, this would make a fantastic research project. Here are a couple of interesting links:
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Excellent with 80-85% original blue remaining overall.The trigger, back face of the hammer, and screws still show much of their original tempered fire blue. Very Good original hard rubber grips are numbered to the gun and show a few handling marks with strong checkering and Colt Motifs. Left side of frame marked "COLT'S NEW POLICE" wrapped around Rampant Colt symbol. Barrel is marked on left side "COLT NEW POLICE". Top of barrel has Colt name, Hartford address, with 1884 and 1888 patent dates. Backstrap is engraved in script style "New York Police". Nice working action and a fine bore that is bright with strong rifling.