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American Handgunner May/June 2011 - Page 67
MaMa Ida’s hen I was growing up, my grandmother lived with my parents. Mama Ida, as she was known to me, frequently became our live-in baby sitter, and when she and I spent evenings together in her room I always asked to see her “treasures.” The treasures weren’t many; some old jewelry, a few gold coins she had neglected to turn in to the government, some old uncut semi-precious stones. Each piece had some sort of story to accompany it. But there was one item always receiving my full attention — an old single-shot pistol. It had been given to her by my grandfather some 60 years before in the early 1890s as he was leaving on an extended trip. My grandfather, a mining engineer/geologist, had apparently purchased the gun as a young man in the early 1870s while living in the New England states. The gun remained in Mama Ida’s possession until her death in 1963, when it was passed on to me. Ed JEnnInGs Old Gun W This gun is a Model 1859. Wesson concurrently produced a similar Model 1862. The Model 1859 single shot was Wesson’s first entry into the firearms market. By today’s standards the .30 RF isn’t much of a defensive cartridge. Perhaps owners in the 19th century weren’t as fixated on stopping power as we are today! Perhaps the most interesting feature of this gun is the serial number. Unfortunately my grandfather lacked the foresight to purchase a Colt SAA with the same serial number! There were apparently three frame sizes and a variety of calibers available. Wesson eventually sold his interest in the company to Richardson, and the company became known as Harrington and Richardson. They went on to manufacture a wide variety of single-shot rifles and shotguns, continuing to this day. Wesson continued on his own as a Model 1859 Frank Wesson was the younger brother of Daniel B. Wesson of Smith & Wesson fame. In 18701871, in partnership with his nephew Gilbert Harrington, he opened a firearms manufacturing firm in Worchester, Mass. This facility manufactured single- shot pistols in both the Model of 1859 and 1862. Mama Ida as a young girl. fairly prolific manufacturer of single shot rifles. Mama Ida’s gun is a Model 1859 medium frame single shot spur trigger pistol in caliber .30 RF. Measuring just over 7" in length, the gun has a brass frame and a cast steel barrel measuring 4". My research indicates that .30 RF ammunition was last manufactured in 1919. Perhaps the most interesting feature of this little gun is the serial number. Stamped on the butt of the little pistol is the number “1.” All other specimens I have seen had a 3- or 4-digit number in the same location. Per Roy Jinks, S&W Historian, both the Models 1859 and 1862 were serialized and began with #1. There is some collector interest in Wesson’s pistols, with most examples being valued in the $300$500 range. Serial number “1” may have a somewhat greater value — but it’s obviously not for sale. * 67 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM