This is a fantastic early example of a Whitney Navy Revolver that dates just prior to the beginning of the Civil War and it's one of the best early 2nd Models we've seen in a long time. The Second Model was Whitney's response to improvements needed in their fragile First model. It featured a thicker top strap on the frame, a brass trigger guard, and rounded grip panels. There are 5 distinct variations or "types" of 2nd Models, this one being the first and most desirable variation with the ball-type loading lever catch and the single safety notch on the back of the cylinder. The serial number is in the 1,400 serial range. 100% all matching numbers throughout (see photos). Top of barrel is marked "E. WHITNEY N HAVEN".
There were only around 1,200 of these 1st types built with the single safety notch and being mfd just prior to the Civil War with a number ending up in Confederate hands. To put that into perspective for you Colt collectors out there, these are about as twice as rare as a 1851 Squareback Colt Navy Revolver. One of these 2nd Model, 1st type Whitneys that made its way South served as the prototype for the Confederate-made Spiller & Burr revolver. Safe (temporarily, at least) within Georgia and the newly formed Confederate States, it seems the Spiller & Burr Company had very little to fear in the way of patent infringements coming from the Whitney Company in Connecticut. Interestingly enough, history seems to have repeated itself with Whitney and the Spiller and Burr infringements. Several decades earlier, the elder Eli Whitney and founder of the company came about his idea for the cotton gin while he was living in Georgia on Catherine Greene's plantation near Savannah. Catherine Greene was the widow of the Revolutionary War hero General Nathaniel Greene; one of George Washington's most trusted officers and the namesake of many towns and counties throughout the South. It's said that Catherine was a great inspiration to the young Whitney. In spite of obtaining a patent for his invention, Whitney had a great deal of trouble with Southern planters copying his product. Some say the endless patent violations and subsequent lawsuits were primary reasons that drove Whitney into the firearms business and how we get to this revolver in 1861. Well, maybe that can be a story for some other day...back to this Whitney.
Overall, this one is in NRA Antique Fine+ condition with 70% original blue remaining on barrel and cylinder. The original blue on the frame has mostly flaked down to 20% which is fairly common on Whitney revolvers. The scene on the cylinder is Excellent with nice contrast between the blue and engraving. Whitney cylinders scenes are so finely engraved that even modest wear makes them nearly impossible to view. This is one of the best we've seen with all panels 100% intact and visible which includes the Whitney Crest, Lion, Eagle, Flags, etc. See photos. Hammer retains 50% original case colors which have turned smoky. Loading lever also shows good original case colors on the fulcrum. Walnut grips are in fine condition showing minor handling wear with most of the original finish remaining. Excellent wood-to-metal fit with no chips, cracks, or repairs. Action functions flawlessly. Excellent bore that is bright and shiny with strong rifling. If you've been looking for a nice example of an early Whitney revolver with that elusive single safety notch on the cylinder, this is an exceptional example in Fine condition!