This is a scarce full silver-plated Smith and Wesson Model One, First Issue, Type 6 Revolver. The Model One was the world's first successful cartridge revolver, making this little gun one of the first cartridge guns ever produced. Using the the Rollin White Patent (1855), Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson designed a small .22 rimfire short cartridge to work with White's patent for a "bored-through" cylinder. The result was this gun! With White's patent in hand, Smith and Wesson obtained a virtual lock on the cartridge revolver market until the early 1870's when the patent expired. Only approx. 11,600 Model One's were produced from 1857-1860, before an improved Model One, known at the 2nd Issue, was introduced in 1860. Many of these saw use in the Civil War as they were quite popular with soldiers who privately purchased them for their personal carry guns. Standard 3-3/16" octagon barrel with seven-shot cylinder and rosewood grips. Standard finish on the Model One was a silver plating over the brass frame and blued barrel and cylinder. This one has a less commonly seen full silver-plated finish.
This S&W came to us indirectly from the family of the original owner, Calvin H. Wells (1823-1896) of Oneida Castle, New York. One of the reasons this little S&W survived in such beautiful shape was because, until just recently, it was still housed in its original S&W gutta percha case. Unfortunately, it was placed in an auction house, which decided to split up this 150+ year old set in hopes of reaching higher bids. That is pretty much how things played out, although we tried, the original case brought several thousand dollars alone while we were only able to secure a winning bid for the revolver. While it would have been nice to have kept the set together, the case did a good job in protecting Mr. Wells' Model One for all or part of the past three centuries. The revolver comes with a copy of a notarized letter from Mr. Wells' great-great-grandson. While the names will be listed in the letter, for sake of privacy, we are omitting surnames within the the framework of the writeup for this item.
"Originally purchased by my great, great, grandfather, Calvin Horton Wells of Oneida Castle, NY, the pistol was passed down to me by my Mother, Harriet HR . It had passed through her family from Calvin W to his daughter Florence HW (my great aunt), thence to his granddaughter Marian DN (my grandmother, thence to his great granddaughter Harriet HR (my mother) thence to me Harry WR."
From the Oneida (New York) Dispatch -- September 18, 1896.
"September 16, 1896: Calvin H Wells, one of the oldest and most respected residents of Oneida County, died in his home in Oneida Castle at 12:30pm Wednesday. While attending the State Fair in Syracuse a few weeks ago, he contracted a severe cold which caused stomach trouble, finally resulting in death. Mr. Wells was born in Sherrill, Oneida County, on June 8, 1823. For about four years he conducted a hotel in Morrisville, but for the last quarter of a century he had lived a retired life. Fifty years ago last July, Mr. Wells was married to Adelia B of Morrisville. The event was observed by a golden anniversary.
Besides his wife he is survived by the following children: Sidney J.B. W of Philadelphia, C.J. W of Utica, Mrs. C. WC, Mrs. JC of Oneida, and Miss FHW of Oneida Castle.
One daughter, Harriet A., wife of Dr. A.P. D. of Oneida Castle, died in 1886. The deceased was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Oneida Castle and his funeral will be held from his late home Friday afternoon at 3:00.
The serial number is in the 7,000 range which dates its manufacture to circa 1859 in S&W's m'fg plant located in Springfield, Mass. From there, it would have been shipped to S&W's sole distributor, JP Storr in New York City. From there, it didn't have to travel far as Oneida is approximately 150 miles from NYC. Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Excellent with 95% original silver plating on the frame, 95% silver on the gripstraps, 80% silver on the barrel, 80% silver on the ejector rod, and 60% silver remaining on the cylinder. The rosewood grips retain 98% shiny original varnish with perfect wood-to-metal fit. Action is in Very Good Working Order. Barrel still latches tightly to the frame with no wiggle. Very Good bore with strong lands and grooves. All matching numbers and assembly numbers. Excellent markings include a sharp barrel address and patent dates still visible on the cylinder. Very good untouched pins and screws throughout. This is a very strong example of the earliest S&W revolver as well as the world's first commercially successful cartridge gun. Over the years, we've managed to find a dozen or more of these early Model One, First Issue Revolvers. That said, this is the only one we've ever had or seen that can be traced back to its original owner.