This is a fantastic example of an engraved S&W 1-1/2 2nd Issue produced from 1868-75. .32 Rimfire with nickel plating, and pearl grips. Standard 3-1/2" barrel. The engraving was almost certainly done in the shop of master engraver LD Nimschke of New York who did quite a bit of engraving for both Winchester and Smith and Wesson during the 1860's and 1870's. The scrollwork on the left and right panels of the frame are classic Nimschke style floral vignettes...see photo of an Engraved Henry Rifle attributed to Nimschke on pg. 42 of The Winchester Book by George Madis. We have not lettered this gun but usually, these will letter as plain guns shipped to MW Robinson in NY. MW Robinson was S&W's main dealer/distributor and it's generally accepted that they handled most if not nearly all of S&W's engraving work. With the Smith and Wesson plant located in Springfield, Massachusetts and their dealer in NY which was also the home of the American engraving community, it made perfect sense for MW Robinson to handle the engraving end of the business for S&W through local engraving houses like Nimschke of NYC.
Personally, I find it hard not to like almost all engraved S&W's from this era. It may just be my own personal likings, but this one stands out a bit beyond the crowd in my eyes. The engraving is simple but perfectly executed. He's (the engraver) not doing anything "off the chain" here in terms of complexity, he just knows how to carve metal extraordinarily well using a universally pleasing pattern that almost any person from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries would appreciate. Just look at vignettes on left and right frame panels. Note their boldness, their precision and consistency. In places where the vines roll into a curl, he runs a deep line down the edge to give it the illusion of having 3-dimensional depth. You may not see it in the photos but looking closely into these lines you can see the individual chisel marks powered by the engraver's hammer. He's chipping off tiny little square pieces of metal while holding his chisel at an angle in order to get these lines. The fascinating thing is that all these little chisel marks are spaced almost perfectly...like stitching on your clothes. He's clearly in control of his tools as though he's done this countless time before. Then look at the shading...how the punch dots in the backdrop are stacked and staggered to precisely to darken the reliefs. This makes the floral vignettes appear to almost flow over the surface. This is not the cut-rate work of a NY shop apprentice who's chiseling too deep, missing his lines, showing inconsistency, or going too wide in places to cover over mistakes or re-doing poor strikes. These panels are perfect and look as good as anything Nimschke ever did on a Henry rifle, 1866, or Model 1873 Winchester....all guns Winchester collectors will spend big money to acquire. That said, I believe this work to be from Nimschke's hand or at very least one of his very best engravers within the Nimschke shop. You don't have to know anything about engraving to appreciate this one. It's a simple floral design but one that only a master engraver could have executed to achieve that full "flowing" affect that made Nimschke's work so popular and timeless.
Overall condition grades to the low-side of NRA Antique Excellent with 93% original nickel plate remaining on the barrel and frame. The cylinder has 80% original nickel with some deterioration to the nickel in the cylinder flutes...that has turned to patina which will clean up considerably better if desired. Ejector rod still shows 80% original nickel. 20% case colors on hammer. The pearl grips are Very Good+ condition with nice depth and figure. No significant signs of damage or repairs. They are solid and fit the metal perfectly. There are few tiny flecks of pearl missing off the edges and a superficial scratch off the left escutcheon. Very good bore and mechanics. A beautiful early S&W that in my opinion is as much a work of art as it is an antique gun.