RELEASE: Beyond the Law: American History Unfolds At Christie’s South Kensington In June

Featuring: ‘Al’ Capone’s Colt .38 revolver and ‘Cole’ Younger’s Colt .44-40 revolver

“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone” – Al Capone

South Kensington – Following the success of Christie’s Arms and Armour sale in September 2010 which was 91% sold by lot, achieving over £500,000, Christie’s is pleased to announce the upcoming sale, to be held on 22 June 2011. The auction will be led by the Colt .38 ‘Police Positive’ revolver formerly owned by notorious American gangster “Al” Capone (estimate: £50,000-70,000) illustrated top right. The revolver will be sold alongside a further 209 lots, dating from the 10th century to the 20th century – a millennia of martial history. Comprising principally arms, as well as armour, militaria and a broad selection of books on the subject, estimates for individual items range from £300 to £85,000.

Al Capone’s Revolver
Perhaps the most famous American gangster of all time, Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone (1899 –1947) has been immortalized in numerous books and articles, as well as countless films. The stereotypical mobster image – blue pinstripe suit, tilted fedora – is based upon photographs of Capone, and his personality has been used as a template for copious fictional criminal masterminds. Capone’s revolver has exceptional provenance and is being sold by a Private Collector. Colt records indicate that this pistol was manufactured in May 1929, a significant date in Capone’s life – the same year as the famous St.Valentine’s Day Massacre. At that time this would have been amongst the most reliable and concealable handguns available. The revolver is to be sold with an original personal letter from Madeleine Capone Morichetti, widow of Al’s brother, Ralph Capone confirming that the gun “…previously belonged to and was only used by Al Capone while he was alive”, as well as a copy of the affidavit sworn by her, on 25th March 1990. The oath confirms that the revolver was previously owned by her brother-in-law. Capone was simultaneously regarded a folk hero and a public enemy – despite his illegitimate occupation, he was regarded by many to be a ‘modern-day Robin Hood’, due to his various charitable endeavors using the money he made from his activities.

Cole Younger’s Revolver
Also featured in the sale is a .44-40 'Model 1873' six-shot single action army revolver once owned by bandit Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger (1844 - 1916) (Lot 209 – estimate: £65,000-85,000) illustrated right. The revolver is made by Colt, Hartford and dates from 1881 – manufactured whilst Cole served his life sentence at Stillwater Prison (he was paroled in 1901). Cole was an American Confederate guerrilla,  known as ‘bushwhackers’, during the American Civil War and later an outlaw with the James-Younger gang led by Jesse James illustrated below. Following the end of the Civil War, not all the ‘bushwhackers’ returned to peaceful ways and the first daylight, peacetime armed bank raid in American history took place on 13th February 1866 – led by Archie Clement, a former 'bushwhacker' leader and supposedly accompanied by Frank James and Cole Younger. The gang went on predominantly robbing stagecoaches, banks and trains in Missouri, although Cole Younger is said to have seen himself as more of an avenger than a criminal. The revolver is accompanied by an affidavit dated 21st April 1936 and sworn by James Isom Young stating that “... the gun described by number 67295, COLT'S .44 single action, front-ier model belonged to one, COLE YOUNGER, Missouri bandit who was a cousin of my father JAMES COOPER YOUNG”.

Further Highlights
Two elaborately decorated H.W. Mortimer 20-bore flintlock holster presentation pistols dating back to 1800 and 1805 respectively – the days when one’s weapon was seen as a status symbol  - will be on offer (Lots 207 & 208 – estimates: £10,000-15,000; and £14,000-18,000) lot 208 illustrated right. H.W. Mortimer, the gun-maker of choice for Royals and government officials alike – one of the pistols is engraved ‘Gunmaker to His Majesty’ – specialized in beautiful and detailed gun design, often mounted with silver, and featuring intricate motifs for bespoke commissions. Both pistols were made for Eastern presentation, most likely as a gift for a foreign dignitary, although the exact journey and history of the items is unknown.  

A particularly exciting and unusual item offered in the armour section of the sale is a life-size set of elephant armour dating from 20th century, inspired by Moghul India, and commissioned by well-known antique arms and armour enthusiast, Hew Kennedy (Lot 72 – estimate: £40,000-50,000) illustrated right. Made from metal plating, with a plush red velvet seat and piping, as well as red fringe, the decorative item is in excellent condition. Also on offer are two composite suits of armour on stands, dating from the 16th century and later (Lots 70 & 71 – estimates: £15,000-20,000 each).

Sure to be of particular interest for Danish collectors is a sporting gun, formerly owned by Louise Christine Rasmussen, Countess Danner (1815 –1874) (Lot 122 – estimate: £3,000-5,000) illustrated right. A Danish Ballet dancer and stage actor, the Countess was the mistress and later the morganatic wife of King Frederick VII of Denmark. The gun, which is to be sold in the original close-fitted leather-covered case, is a Belgian 14-bore pinfire double-barreled Lefaucheux patent sporting gun, is signed Georg Christensen Krobenhavn, and dates from circa 1860.  Also included are accessories such as a Hawksley powder-flask and reloading tools; the gun and case are engraved with the Countess Danner's full crowned coat of arms.

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High resolution images and further information available upon request


Notes to Editors:

Public Viewing:  
Saturday 18 June:        11.00am - 5.00pm
Sunday 19 June:          11.00am - 5.00pm
Monday 20 June:        9.00am - 7.30pm
Tuesday 21 June:        9.00am – 5.00pm

Auction: Antique Arms, Armour and Collectors Firearms  - Wednesday, 22 June 2011 at 1.00pm

Ecatalogue:     Available online from early June 2011 at

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