In the pantheon of larger-than-life characters from America’s Old West era, few loom larger than Theodore Roosevelt. Prior to his two terms as the 26th US President, from 1901 to 1909, Roosevelt discovered and embraced the Wild West lifestyle, establishing and operating a cattle ranch in North Dakota. In spite of his New York socialite roots, TR learned to cowboy, rope, ride, hunt, and more in the rough country around the Little Missouri river. These experiences served him well when he formed the first volunteer US Cavalry regiment, the Rough Riders, at the outset of the Spanish-American War in 1898. At this time, he was gifted a Smith & Wesson single-action revolver. Rock Island Auction recently sold this historic firearm at auction (along with numerous other interesting pieces), and as you might expect for such a storied gun, it fetched quite a sum – $910,625.
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Before his Presidential days, Colonel Roosevelt (center) led his famous Rough Riders cavalry regiment in battle during the Spanish-American War. (public domain, Wikimedia Commons/William Dinwiddie)
RIA’s statement on the Roosevelt revolver auction reads as follows.
In its December Premier Auction, Rock Island Auction Company, the No. 1 antique and fine arms auction house in the world, actioned off a Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 Single Action Revolver belonging to former President Theodore Roosevelt for $910,625.
The revolver was presented to Roosevelt on May 12, 1898, the same day he departed for San Antonio to train the famed Rough Riders. The Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 was intended to be carried into the war against Spain. However, according to documentation from Roosevelt’s bodyguard, the revolver was placed on the side of his bed every night while in the White House making it known as a “nightstand gun.” Watch as Roosevelt’s Smith & Wesson crosses the podium!
Rock Island Auction Company concluded its final Premier Auction event of 2022 with a volume of more than $18.3 million. Over the span of three days, history was brought to life, with immense firearms artistry on display, and one of the most historic lineups to date. This sale had it all: rarity, beauty, history, and so much more. Below, I included more key highlights from the auction.
- Engraved Cased Colt Model 1877 Lightning Double Action Revolver: This factory Cuno Helfricht Master engraved, Colt Model 1877 Lightning DA blew past its estimate to realize an astounding $323,125. Watch a video of it selling.
- Gustave Young Engraved Gold Winchester Model 1866 Rifle: An extremely rare, exhibition grade, Gustave Young engraved gold Winchester Model 1866 realized a monumental $211,500.
- Ames Sword Presented to Future Confederate General P.J. Semmes: A well-documented Ames inscribed officer’s presentation sword presented to Confederate General Paul J. Semmes, mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, brought $176,250.
- Outlaw Jesse James Attributed Smith & Wesson Schofield & Holster: This outlaw Jesse James attributed Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver gaveled for $152,750.
It is unknown whether the new owner of this famous revolver will display it or use it as a nightstand gun, as Roosevelt did in the White House.One of the key factors in historical firearms valuation and auctioning centers around provenance – i.e. the more certain an item’s historical connection is, the better. This revolver’s provenance is ironclad, with Smith & Wesson documentation confirming that this serial number was factory-shipped to then-Colonel Roosevelt on May 12, 1898. This was the same day he traveled to San Antonio, Texas to begin his regiment’s training in preparation for combat in Cuba. It was less than two months later that the Colonel led his Rough Riders in a famous charge to a bloody victory alongside a contingent of Buffalo Soldiers, from the 9th US Cavalry, in the Battle of San Juan Hill. Given that the eventual President had this revolver at that time, and it later became his White House nightstand gun, it’s no wonder the famed firearm sold for the better part of a million dollars. Quite an impressive piece of history! See you at the range.