Colt 1878 Revolver Belonging to SAMUEL F CODY
“The Flying Cowboy”: Britain’s First Aviator
Here we present an antique Colt Model 1878 Double Action Revolver in .45 Colt, once belonging to Samuel Franklin Cody & his Wild West show, made in 1888 and shipped to the Colt London Agency in England.
“Samuel Cody, Britain’s first aviator, was a naturalized British citizen (born in the USA) and a cowboy who modelled himself on Buffalo Bill. His story straddles two continents, two eras: the Wild West of America, where he rode the same cattle trails as Buffalo Bill, played the same roulette tables in Dodge City as Wyatt Earp and competed with Annie Oakley at sharp shooting; and later along with the Wright brothers he became a pioneer of early aviation, whose achievements led to the foundation of today’s aviation industry and to Farnborough becoming synonymous with flying.”—The Flying Cowboy by Peter Reese
This man lived a relatively short but active life, one that can certainly be described as ambitious, but “Larger than Life” also comes to mind. Born Samuel Franklin Cowdery in 1867, he would later call himself S.F. Cody for theatrical purposes, using the famous last name Cody to attract a bigger audience to his Wild West shows, first in the United States and then in Great Britain. Cody’s shows included dramatic storylines, feats of trick shooting, horse riding stunts, wrestling matches, and just about anything else that would entertain people. Eventually, Cody would become very interested in flying.
At the turn of the century, Cody began his successful experimentations with man lifting kites, even working with the British government to apply them militarily. Cody also designed gliders, dirigibles, and airships and is credited for piloting the first official flight of a heavier than air machine in Great Britain in 1908. He won the Michelin Cup in 1910 and first prize at the British Military Aeroplane Competition Military Trials in 1912. He was killed at the age of 46 in 1913 as he was flying one of his latest designs. The Daily Sketch wrote at the time that 100,000 were present at his funeral procession. His only child, Franklin Leslie Cody, would go on to fight in the Great War, very fittingly as a pilot. He was shot down to his death by four German planes in early 1917. Much more can be read about S.F. Cody in his biographies.
Sotheby’s Auction in London sold the items in the S.F. Cody Archive in January of 1996, everything from show props to firearms to pieces of aeroplane. This revolver, target ball mold, resin to make the target ball, an example of the ball, and a small display cup came out of this auction in various lots. This revolver comes with all of these things in addition to a Colt factory letter, the original auction catalog which lists and depicts this revolver both pictorially and descriptively, and a binder of copies of Cody’s fliers for his show and other research. The target mold is marked in reverse on the interior “C. LANCASTER/CODY”. This was the work of Charles Lancaster, a gunsmith at 151 New Bond St. in London at this time.
The revolver is marked “SF” on the front right side of the frame, which is not a factory marking. The barrel address reads “COLT’S. PAT. F.A. MFG. CO. HARTFORD CT. U.S.A.” The accompanying letter states that it was sent to Colt’s London Agency with a blue finish and rubber grips. This revolver now has an old nickel finish and checkered wooden grips and is pictured this way in the Sotheby’s catalog from 1996.
The overall condition is very good. The nickel finish shows much use and is about 80% present. The markings are clear and legible. The bore is in good shape, dark with visible rifling. The checkered walnut stocks are good. The action on this revolver is strong. Here is your chance to own an exceptional set of effects from the S.F. Cody Archive!
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 5-1/2 inches.
Caliber: .45 Colt
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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