November 18, 2020 Extraordinary, Sporting & Collector Firearms
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 11/18/2020


Rarely has a more important or unique pair of Colt percussion revolvers and associated artifacts been offered for sale. This lot includes the only known Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver with a case hardened cylinder and browned rather than blued barrel. The only known Colt Model 1855 "Root" Sidehammer Revolver with a casehardened frame along with being the only known antique Colt firearm with a name (L. Ballou) marked in place of the serial number. Revolvers are housed in an equally unique London made, deluxe Hartford style walnut fitted case with brass corners and brass escutcheon marked "L. BALLOU / LONDON". Most interesting, this London made case is set up to accept the Hartford made 1855 Sidehammer, and London made 1851 Navy, with an American style powder flask rather than an English style flask. This feature in itself is unique and stands as a testament to Ballou’s influence and ability to have items custom made in the Colt shops to his specifications. Also included are the only known surviving 19th century pair of Rampant Colt Sculptures. The lot further includes a custom London made Traveling Desk, Tea Chest, Sewing Box, Snuff Box, “Sea Trunk”, and, most importantly, L. Ballou’s Engineering Handbook that is inscribed to him by Colonel Samuel Colt. -MKS-


The cased set is accompanied by important artifacts, documents, records and a three-ring binder with letters, photo-copies and other material. This research was performed at the request of Al Cali by R.L. “Larry” Wilson during the early 1960s. The research in some detail documents the career of Loren Ballou, born August 24, 1828 in Hinsdale, NH and died August 18, 1880 in Syracuse New York. At the time of death, Ballou was employed by the W.H. Baker Gun Co. as factory foreman. 

Beginning as early as 1851, Loren Ballou served as a trusted and well-placed employee with Colonel Colt and his company, not only in Hartford, but in London. Quoting from a highly detailed five-page letter dated November 25, 1964, from Wilson (then Curator of Firearms, at what is today known as the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford): "L. Ballou was an important Samuel Colt representative and employee in whom the Colonel placed great trust and obviously had great respect.” Loren Ballou was employed by Colt as a manufacturing engineer. His years of service are believed to have begun in 1851 and continuing through 1866 with various records providing more details of his services.

According to Wilson's research: L. Ballou was in Europe from approximately May 1856 to February 1859, and was instrumental in closing Colt's factory in London, as well as acting as Colt's European representative with major responsibility of investigating future manufacturing possibilities for the company.

Wilson’s research documents Ballou's salary with Colt during 1856 through 1866 with figures that ranged from $1,500 to $2,000 annually. A comparison of Ballou’s salary paid through this period confirms the importance of his position with Colt. As an example, during 1857, his salary ranked third beneath Colt’s Vice President E.K. Root’s salary of $5000, and Secretary L.P. Sergeant’s salary of $3000. In 1862, the pay scale ranked Ballou above Sergeant and third only to Root, now President with a salary of $5000. The 1866 scale had W.B. Franklin, Vice President’s salary of $6000, with Harbison next with $2500 and Ballou third with an annual salary of $2000. 

Upon leaving Colt in 1866, the company saw fit to present Ballou with a Model 1855 Revolving Shotgun and a “New Model” 1855 Sidehammer Pocket revolver with a 3-1/2 inch barrel. Colt’s Journal B, pages 342 and 352 documents the presentation.

Accompanying documentation provides a photocopied letter dated 1853 requesting Loren Ballou's services as Foreman of Colt’s London Machine Shop, as well as "General Assistant throughout the Manufactory." The letter indicates that both Colonel Colt and Elisha Root were trying to hire Ballou for the London operation. The note provides “the assurance of great potential in the proposed employment”. Also included is an envelope addressed by Colonel Colt, to "Mr. Ballou," and a letter dated November 10 1856, from Colonel Colt, attempting to arrange a meeting by Colt with Ballou.

Included is a photocopy of U.S. Passport No. 3908, dated 24 and 25 October 1856, with the signature of Loren Ballou at the lower left, and that of U.S. President James Buchanan, at the lower right. Notes in the left margin provide Ballou's physical features.

A letter dated April 17, 1866, from Colt in Hartford, grants permission to L. Ballou for travel to Europe and return any time within a period of one year, beginning April 17th. Ballou left Colt's employment during February of that year. 


(A) Colt London Made Model 1851 Navy Revolver, serial number 37301 made in 1855. Matching serial numbers on barrel, frame, trigger guard, cylinder, and backstrap. Case hardened frame, hammer, and loading lever. The only known 1851 Navy with a factory case hardened cylinder with W.L. Ormsby’s roll-die Naval Battle Scene. Silver plated backstrap and triggerguard. 7-1/2 inch octagon barrel, chambered in .36 caliber. Dovetailed small blade front sight. Unique brown finish on barrel with top flat marked “-ADDRESS. COL.COLT.LONDON-”. Typical London type rounded head screws. One-piece select grain walnut grips with extra “piano” style finish. Backstrap inscribed in two lines: “L. BALLOU / LONDON” in block style letters. This style of inscription is another unique feature of the revolver, as script style inscriptions were customary during the percussion era. It is interesting to note, this style block letters are also found on the mating 1855 Sidehammer. British proof marks found on the barrel lug and six places on the cylinder. CONDITION: Excellent overall with 90+% original brown finish on barrel. Original case colors are turning a mottled grey with areas of bright color. Original unmolested screws. The grips are near mint showing little wear, minus a couple of modest mars on the left side. 98% original silver plating on the triggerguard and backstrap. Bore is excellent. Action is tight and crisp.

(B) Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer Pocket Revolver, commonly referred to as the “Root Model” after Elisha K. Root the noted designer, machinist, and President of Colt’s Manufacturing Company. Manufactured in 1861. This example is a Model 6-A with a 4-1/2 inch round barrel, chambered in .31 caliber. Two line barrel address marked “ADDRESS COL. COLT /NEW-YORK U.S.A.”. Blued barrel and cylinder. Case hardened hammer and loading lever. Spur trigger. One-piece oil finished wrap around grips. Full round five shot cylinder with roll-die stagecoach hold-up scene. This is the only known example with a factory case hardened frame. It has further distinction as being the only known antique Colt firearm with a name (L. Ballou) in place of a serial number. Name is found in block style letters on the cylinder under “COLTS PATENT” marked “No. L Ballou” the backstrap is also marked in place of a serial number, “L Ballou”. The manufacturing serial number 2806 is found on the bottom of the barrel behind the loading lever. CONDITION: Excellent plus, with approximately 85-90% original high polish blue remaining on the barrel and cylinder. Light scattered freckling on the barrel. Moderate pitting on the rear of cylinder around nipples. 85+% original bright case colors on the frame, hammer, and loading lever. Bright original, non-molested screws. Bore is excellent. The action is tight and crisp. The grips are excellent showing minimum wear.

(C) These unique revolvers are housed in an equally distinctive Hartford style partition fitted case, made in London at Loren Ballou’s personal request. One of only a few known cases fitted for a 1851 Navy and 1855 Sidehammer revolver as a pair. The case is walnut using the same scalloped brass corner protectors, hinges and brass sliding latches as found on the Ballou sewing kit, traveling desk, and tea set. A scalloped brass escutcheon is mounted to the lid and hand engraved “L. BALLOU / LONDON” The Interior is lined with burgundy velvet. Complete with accessories including an embossed Navy size stand of arms powder flask marked Colts Patent. It is interesting to note, most London made revolver cases were fitted to accept an English style flask, this unique case is fitted for an American style flask. Other accessories include a correct two-cavity, blued steel bullet mold marked “COLS PATENT”. L-Shaped blued steel nipple wrench. Pewter English style oil bottle. An unopened and sealed tin of 250 Eley Brothers percussion caps. An unopened and sealed packet of six combustible .36 caliber cartridges, and an unopened and sealed packet of five combustible .31 caliber cartridges. Condition of the case exterior is excellent with minor dents and scratches to the lid. The interior is clean and in excellent condition overall. All accessories are excellent showing original finishes. -MKS-

R.L. Wilson states in his accompanying five page letter to Al Cali: “The Colt-Root Sidehammer pistol in your collection, I am sure, was custom made at Ballou's personal request. It is the only Colt percussion weapon I have ever seen with a name marked in place of a serial number. It is further distinguished by the case-hardened frame, and the unfinished walnut grips. Both characteristics add to the uniqueness of this weapon. The 2806 on the bottom of the barrel is the serial. "L .BALLOU" on the butt and the cylinder is in place of the normal serial markings”.

Wilson further states: “Cased with Ballou's personal Sidehammer pistol was a London-made 1851 Navy. This weapon has L. Ballou engraved on the backstrap, in identical lettering to that on your pistol. The use of block letters in the percussion period is another great rarity (script was the customary marking). On the Navy's barrel is a custom reddish-brown finish, the likes of which I have never seen on a Colt percussion revolver. This revolver was exhibited in our exhibition, SAMUEL COLT PRESENTS, though it is not in the catalogue because it was got to us too late to be included. Had I known then of this Ballou Sidehammer now in your collection it would have been exhibited in SAMUEL COLT PRESENTS as well…[T]hese special features on your Root and the Navy are, to my knowledge, unique for these models. Custom finished and markings as above are indicative of Ballou's closeness with the manufacturing end of the Colt operation”.


A tea chest, traveling desk, sewing box and snuff box are also part of the presented Ballou collection. It is believed Loren Ballou had these items custom made by the casemaker employed by Colt's for their firearms casings. Wood for the tea chest, traveling desk set and sewing box incorporates the three types of wood most often employed on the company's London gun casings: oak, mahogany and birdseye maple. Further, the brass fixtures, including hinges and lid inlays, are the same types used on the London Colt firearm cases.

The tea chest was made at Ballou's request for his wife. The selected wood was that used most often for firearm cases, oak. Like the gun cases, the tea chest is reinforced with brassbound corners and other mountings. Inlaid on the lid is a brass escutcheon, inscribed "H. BALLOU/LONDON". 

Undoubtedly built by the same casemaker, again for Mrs. Ballou, is a sewing chest, made primarily of varnished birdseye maple, with brass corners and mountings. The escalloped brass lid plaque is also inscribed "H. BALLOU/LONDON." The interior is intricately and superbly outfitted, in matching woods, and fabrics, again sharing several similarities to the London Colt firearm casings.

Loren Ballou's portable writing desk, of brassbound varnished mahogany, is yet another masterfully built case by Colt’s London case maker. The writing desk bears many similarities to some of the best single and double cases made for the London Model 1851 Navy, Pocket and Dragoon revolvers. Inlaid in the lid is a brass escutcheon, inscribed "L. BALLOU/LONDON." 

The round snuff box is also constructed of highly figured birdseye maple with a silver plaque inscribed in olde English script “L. BALLOU”.


Of special interest is the matched pair of superbly cast Rampant Colt Sculptures made for Colonel Samuel Colt. Mounted on select grain walnut bases of same quality wood as used for Colt revolver grips. Each sculpture is cast of gun metal, and given a special patina finish, simulating bronze. Each figure stands 5-7/8 inches tall by 5-5/8 inches wide at the base. The bottom of each walnut base is covered with a tan fabric similar to that used for firearm casings. The bases are 3/4 inches thick, 5-inches long, and 3-3/4 inches wide. Quality throughout is exquisite, and the chased castings are a tribute to the high quality of Colt’s casting shop and workmanship. According to the Doty sisters, Loren Ballou’s granddaughters, the Rampant Colt Sculptures were given to their grandfather, Loren Ballou, by a grateful Colonel Samuel Colt. No other known set of Rampant Colt Sculptures like these have survived from 19th century.


The road from Liverpool to New York, as they who have traveled it well know, is very long, crooked, rough, and eminently disagreeable”. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, while aboard the packet ship New York.

In today’s travel, a corporate executive can fly from New York to London’s Heathrow Airport in a matter of hours. In Loren Ballou’s days, if you were lucky enough to acquire passage on one of the few available steamships you could make it 16-18 days. If you took the “economy passage” via a sailing ship it would take excess of 40-days. Luggage of the day required rugged, sturdy structures known as “Sea Chests” This green painted wooden chest measures 38-1/2 inches wide by 13-3/4 inches high. On the front panel is hand painted in script “L. Ballou”. Hinged lid with steel handles at each end. According to Ballou’s granddaughters, this is the Sea Chest Loren Ballou used on those long arduous journeys.


Of most significance is L. Ballou’s engineering handbook titled: “THE ENGINEER’S AND CONTRACTORS POCKET BOOK FOR 1858”. A fitting companion to this unique collection as it is the only known Samuel Colt inscribed / presentation book in existence. Written in Samuel Colt’s handwriting “LOREN BALLOU ESQR./COMPLIMENTS OF COL. SAM COLT/HARTFORD SEPT. 25 1858”.


Included with the lot is a folder and 3-ring binder containing numerous papers, composed of correspondences during the early to mid-1960s between Al Cali and R.L. Wilson. Wilson pursed extensive research relating to the Ballou Colt revolvers. The folder includes several letters from the Doty sisters, granddaughters of Loren Ballou, which led ultimately to Cali's purchase of the letters, records and memorabilia. The correspondence also led to Cali's purchase of the matched pair of Rampant Colt Steel Sculptures.

Among the correspondence and data is a letter dated February 22nd 1965 from H. Arline Doty, Newington CT, including reference to: "Mr. Wilson had told us some months ago that he was in communications with 'someone' on the West Coast who was interested in Grandfather. In fact, he brought along a book I believe is the one you mention – “Presented by Sam Colt”. “The truth of the matter is that Larry knows more about him than my sister and I do". The letter goes into some detail about the family, particularly in regard to their grandfather, Loren Ballou. And notes: "My sister and I have a double connection with Colonel Colt, for he and our Grandfather Doty were such good friends that our father was named for him, Samuel Colt Doty!"

Additional Documents:
*Letter posted April 17th 1968 to Mr. and Mrs. Al Cali, from H. Arline Doty.
*Letter posted April 22nd 1968 to Mr. and Mrs. Al Cali, from Miss H. Arline Doty.
*Christmas card posted December 22nd 1968 to Mr. and Mrs. Al Cali, from the Misses H. Arline Doty and Margorie B. Doty. In this card is stated: "Are you still interested in the Colts?” It was that query, noted by Mrs. Cali to her husband, which led to their purchase of the pair of cast gunmetal steel Rampant Colt Sculptures.*
*Letter posted May 11, 1969 to Mr. and Mrs. Al Cali from Miss Margorie B. Doty.*Letter from Al Cali to Joseph G. Rosa, author and researcher of the book: “Colonel Colt London” requesting Mr. Rosa to research Loren Ballou, on behalf of Mr. Cali.
*Letter dated August 30, 1967, from L.C. Jackson, Dallas TX, to Al Cali, regarding acquisition of the double brassbound walnut case fitted for the Loren Ballou Model 1855 Sidehammer revolver and matching Model 1851 London Navy Revolver.
*Several letters from R.L. Wilson to Al Cali, written on Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and on Colt Factory leatherheads, reporting progress by Wilson on the Loren Ballou firearms and memorabilia. Dating from June 1964 to June 1965
*Photocopies of letter hand-delivered from Samuel Colt dated Brussels (Belgium) Nov. 10 1856, from Hotel deBelle Obue, to Loren Ballou, with notation "The Bearer awaits an answer."
*Copy of document from Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co., Hartford, April 17, 1866, regarding Loren Ballou life insurance policy no. 45141.
*Three-page letter to Loren Ballou, from the Colt company, London, May 1853, urging him to accept offer of assignment in London at Colt's factory, of Colonel Colt.
*Photocopy of page 924 of the book of genealogy on "Descendants of Abner Ballou," regarding Loren Ballou, including statement: "Loren Ballou was a very ingenious mechanic, and rose to be a trusted superintendent of several important mechanical establishments, viz., Colt's Armory in London, Eng., another in Syracuse, N.Y.  We have been favored with only a very meager outline of his characteristics, but infer from this that a full delineation would give him a rich record. It seems that his talents and skill were demanded in various prominent localities".

*Photocopies from “An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America”, by Adin Ballou.
*Letter from Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse NY, to R.L. Wilson, dated 27 November 1964, with research data on Loren Ballou and W.H. Baker & Co. Gunmakers.

All items are originally from the Ballou Family. The story of how these guns and artifacts were disbursed from the family then eventually brought back together is as interesting as the collection itself. The story reads like a “who’s who” novel of noted first generation Colt collectors. The 1855 Sidehammer was acquired by Jonathan M. Peck in the 1950s. Peck in turn sold the revolver to Robert (Bob) Allan. Upon the passing of Bob Allan, Greg Martin acquire the 1855 Sidehammer in a closed bid estate auction in the early 1960s. Alec Redfield acquired the 1851 Navy, and L.C. “Red” Jackson had the case.  When Al Cali purchased the Sidehammer from Martin in approximately 1965, he hired R.L. “Larry” Wilson to research Loren Ballou. It was through Wilson’s research that Cali learned the history of Loren Ballou and was introduced to his granddaughters. Through this remarkable effort, Cali was able to reassemble the collection in the mid-late 1960’s. The entire collection remained in Al Cali’s procession until 2011. -MKS-

Traveling Desk, Sewing Kit, Revolver Case, 2 Rampant Colts, Tea Set, Snuff Box, and Sea Chest
Barrel Length
(A) 7 - 1/2" (B) 4 - 1/2"
(A) .36 Percussion (B) .31 Percussion
FFL Status
(BOTH) Colt
(A) 1851 Navy (B) 1855 Sidehammer
Samuel Colt Inscribed Engineering Handbook, and 3-ring ring binder with provenance
Serial Number
(A) 37301 (B) L. Ballou /2806
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $150,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium:
Estimate: $300,000 - $500,000
Number Bids: 1
Auction closed on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
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