Morphy's Dec. 14-17 auction led by Civil War swords, USS Arizona lifebuoy, rare Lincoln items

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Morphy's Dec. 14-17 auction led by Civil War swords, USS Arizona lifebuoy, rare Lincoln items
Dated 1862 Civil War drum with beautiful painted images and silver presentation plaque. Given to a 15-year-old enlistee by ‘Officers & Members of Co. F. 14th / Massachusetts Volunteers / Heavy Artillery / Fort Scott, Va.’ Drum appears in Craig Caba’s ‘United States Military Drums 1845-1865.’ Estimate $7,000-$10,000.

DENVER, PA.- Morphy’s has gone above and beyond all expectations in preparing an incomparable selection of firearms, militaria and highly important American historical objects for its December 14-17 auction. Morphy’s team will be welcoming guests to the company’s spacious central Pennsylvania gallery for each of the sessions, and all forms of remote bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live.

Spanning more than 2,400 lots, the auction features a spectacular array of museum-quality Civil War swords and militaria, early advertising and historical memorabilia, Native American artworks, exceptional sporting arms, and military arms that include World War I and World War II issues. Also of note are more than a dozen lots of coveted Vietnam War bring-backs.

The sale starts with items from America’s Revolutionary War era and post-colonial days, with beautifully provenanced pieces that will delight collectors. There are muskets, bayonets, pistols and powder horns, including an example from French and Indian War period that was professionally engraved with the image of a map of New York. Its detail shows many important forts, churches, and other buildings of its time and comes with a letter of provenance stating it once hung on the wall of Unity Lodge in Lebanon Valley, New York, home of Major Elisha Gilbert. The horn was likely acquired by Gilbert’s father from a British soldier in New York during the French and Indian War. It subsequently passed by descent through the Gilbert family. Auction estimate: $7,000-$10,000.

Moving into the mid-19th century, the auction’s opening session introduces some of the finest Civil War-era presentation swords ever to appear at public sale. Among the many highlights are: the presentation sword of Lt. Col. Daniel M. Ray, a Southern-born Union loyalist mentioned more than 65 times in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, $8,000-$12,000; the high-grade 1860 Ames presentation sword of Dr. James Kent, who commanded the well-known Independent Blues of Selma, Alabama, $6,000-$10,000; and the Civil War marked Model 1860 cavalry saber with original scabbard that belonged to Edward Gustave Mathey. This sword is especially significant because Mathey was with Company C, 17th Indiana Cavalry unit, which was present at The Battle of the Little Bighorn. It is a very rare memento of a career Army officer who served in multiple wars and survived the infamous “Custer massacre.” Estimate: $15,000-$25,000

The swords are followed by an outstanding selection of flintlock muskets, flintlock (including Kentucky) and percussion rifles, pistols and revolvers. Many excellent models are offered, including sought-after Colts. Already attracting pre-sale attention is an 1858 Colt 3rd Model Dragoon percussion revolver with a Colt New York address on the barrel. As depicted in Morphy’s auction catalog, its appearance to the casual observer might seem curious – like a hybrid of a .44-caliber revolver and a rifle – but collectors know this beauty of a firearm, with its detachable period shoulder stock, was initially designed by Samuel Colt for the U.S. Army Regiment of Mounted Rifles as an improvement over the Walker model. The 3rd Model Dragoon became popular with civilians in the 1850s and ’60 and was also used during the Civil War. The auction example of the classic Colt, with stock, is estimated at $6,000-$8,000.

Edged-weapon collectors will want to look sharp and bid aggressively on two superlative Bowie knives. One is possibly the finest known example of a C. Roby & Co., U.S.-marked Civil War-period Bowie knife, made 1861-1865. With a 9-3/16-inch blade and in uncompromised condition, it could command a winning bid of $10,000-$15,000. An incomparable presentation-grade Collins & Co., Bowie knife, 15 inches long with a fearsome 10 3/16-inch clip-point blade, comes with a letter from renowned Bowie knife expert Herbert G. Ratner Jr., stating the knife is one of only three such knives of this style that he knows to exist. Estimate $15,000-$25,000.

It would be hard to imagine a Civil War relic in nicer condition than the wonderfully decorative drum that Morphy’s will offer with a $7,000-$10,000 estimate. It was given to George L. Miller, a 15-year-old enlistee whose military record included service at the Harris Farm Engagement near Spotsylvania, Virginia, where 366 men were killed or wounded. As noted on the engraved silver plaque, the drum was presented to Miller in 1862 by the “Officers & Members of Co. F. 14th / Massachusetts Volunteers / Heavy Artillery / Fort Scott, Va.” Formerly in the Flayderman collection, it is pictured in Craig Caba’s reference book United States Military Drums 1845-1865.

Two items of Lincoln memorabilia are worthy of special note: an 1862 silver Abraham Lincoln Indian Peace Medal, one of relatively few such medals ever distributed, $20,000-$30,000; and Lincoln’s personal “Fry’s Travelling Companion” whiskey flask, which was inscribed and gifted to Lincoln in 1861. It is believed that a Springfield (Ill.) distiller named Parley L. Howlett may have created the flask for the newly elected president to take on his journey to Washington. It was one of several Lincoln artifacts that were preserved by the granddaughter of Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister, and which later became the property of the Friends of the Lincoln Shrines. With an affidavit to that effect, and with the additional provenance of having been owned by respected Lincoln memorabilia collector/dealer King Hostick, it is offered with an $8,000-$15,000 estimate.

A silent witness to the infamous Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a lifebuoy, or life ring, that was recovered from the Battleship USS Arizona is fresh to the market after remaining for 80 years in the same Honolulu family. It was retrieved from the attack site by a contracted local mechanic named Ernest K. Morita, who had reported to work at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base – across from Battleship Row – one hour before the fateful attack. After the massive explosion – which resulted in the deaths of 2,403 U.S. personnel – Morita transported gravely wounded sailors to Fort Shafter Hospital. At the site of the attack, he personally recovered the lifebuoy. The ring has remained with subsequent generations of the Morita family, unknown to the hobby until now, and is expected to reach $30,000-$50,000 at auction.

The exciting mid-December event also includes a trove of percussion, single-shot, bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles; lever-action carbines, handguns, and over-under, slide-action and side-by-side shotguns; plus combination guns. Destined for the winner’s circle, a circa-1927 Boss & Co., “London Best” side-by-side 12-bore game shotgun is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

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