The Rock Island Premier Auction lived up to its reputation for buyers and sellers.


Decorated by Winchester’s famed engraver John Ulrich, Zane Grey’s Model 1895 rifle is well documented. Grey’s name and Ulrich’s initials appear on the firearm, along with a deer, bear and mountain lion, all inlaid with gold. 


Rock Island firearms auctions are among the largest in the country. The Rock Island May 2023 Premier Auction was no exception, with 2,056 lots offered and total sales of $22 million. With such a large number and variety of firearms on the block, it can be difficult choosing which to highlight for “Collecting the West.” Zane Grey’s Model 1895 Winchester was an obvious choice, given Grey’s pedigree as a Western writer. Accompanied by extensive documentation, the rifle sold for $440,625. Like the Zane Grey rifle, the next choices needed a clear connection to the West. Of the other 2,055 lots, seven best met that criteria. 

The impact of the Civil War on the American West cannot be overstated. Jefferson Davis spent time in the West but is best known for being president of the Confederacy. When he was captured at the end of the war, he was carrying an engraved Beaumont-Adams revolver. That revolver, accompanied by documentation, sold for $470,000. Prior to the war, Captain George A. Williams served the Army in Indian Territory. Following the war, he was presented with a pair of Colt 1861 Navy revolvers. His career was controversial, which may have influenced the revolvers’ sale price of $238,500. 

Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. were close friends and members of the Boone and Crockett Club, founded to support conservation through ethical hunting. A Smith and Wesson New Model 3 revolver, reportedly given to Lodge by Roosevelt while hunting in the West, sold for $14,100. John R. Hegeman Jr. was an early Colt collector at the turn of the 19th century. He wore a Colt Single Action Army revolver around his Wyoming ranch and during a guest appearance in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. It sold for $21,150.

Remington over/under derringers, with two barrels, were easily concealed in pockets or purses. They were particularly popular with gamblers and women. A derringer believed to have belonged to a prostitute named Lillie Woods, who plied her trade in the West, sold at the auction for $18,800. 

In 1868, 500 Spencer Model 1865 carbines were sent to Colorado Territory.  Three years later Buffalo Bill led the millionaire Jerome brothers on a buffalo hunt on the plains near the territory. A Colorado Territory carbine sold for $3,525, while a rifle presented by one Jerome to the other after the buffalo hunt sold for $14,100.


Captured with Jefferson Davis at the end of the Confederacy, this British-made Beaumont-Adams revolver was passed down in the family of John Hines, the man to whom he surrendered.



September 18-23, 2023

Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale

Rendezvous Royale (Cody, WY) • 307-587-5002


October 3-6, 2023

Sporting & Collector Firearms Auction #1041

Rock Island Auction Co. (Rock Island, IL) • 309-797-1500


October 25, 2023

The Paul Friedrich Collection of Firearms & Gold Rush

Morphy Auctions (Denver, PA) • 866-968-8880


Captain George A. Williams was presented with a case containing two Colt Model 1861 Navy revolvers following the end of the Civil War. His otherwise illustrious Army career, which began in the West, was tarnished by later accusations of extortion, abuse of prisoners and neglect of duty.


Believed to be a gift from Theodore Roosevelt to his friend Senator Henry Cabot Lodge during a hunting trip in the West, this Smith and Wesson New Model 3 revolver was passed down through the Lodge family.


In 1871 Buffalo Bill Cody led General Sheridan and a group of New York millionaires, including the Jerome brothers, on a buffalo hunt. Following the hunt, this E.M. Reilly and Company rifle was presented by Leonard Jerome to his brother Lawrence in commemoration of the experience.


The initials branded into the buttstock of this Spencer Model 1865 read “U.S., COL. TER,” indicating it was sent for use in Colorado Territory.


Noted Colt collector John R. Hegeman Jr. acquired this Colt in 1896. He later had the revolver’s barrel inscribed with the words “Secret Service 1898, Fort Wingate, Wounded Knee.” The reasoning behind the inscriptions is unknown.


This Remington derringer (above) was originally acquired in a photograph album modified to hold the pistol. Also within the album are photographs, a newspaper clipping and an addressed envelope, suggesting it belonged to Lillie Woods, a prostitute in Wyoming and Montana.

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