Recent Find Colt Worker Should Have Pay Docked

Joined
Nov 1, 2018
I'm going to need your help to track down the Colt employee that should have his pay docked, with 157 years interest. 🤪 It seems that one of the final assemblers got a bit sloppy. The attached picture of a Colt Navy is of an all-matching serial number gun, except that it isn't quite all matching. All the parts are matching, except the cylinder pin which almost matches...the last digit is a 4 instead of a 1. It seems somebody's eyes were fatigued when they assembled this and somebody didnt see the mismatch...the 4 can easily be mistaken for a 1, I suppose. Somewhere out there is the sister Navy with a similarly mis-atched part. Has anyone ever seen this type of mismatch before? Clearly it happened at the factory. ...pretty slim odds that somebody swapped the part years later and conveniently had a nearly matched serial number on it, don' you agree?
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Joined
Nov 1, 2018
That last "1" on the frame looks double stamped, too.
I've read there is a word in German that translates to "Monday Morning Work"
You know, I was so fascinated by the 4 that I didn't notice the double stamped 1. So, perhaps a full days wages are owing.

Checking the manufacturing date via the serial number, this Navy was made in very late December 1863. So maybe the worker was in a hurry to get home on Christmas eve, or hung over from too much festivities the day after! Human nature remains the same throughout the Ages.

Its a solid Navy otherwise.

So if I ever sell this, am I lying if I say this gun is all-matching? Does anyone doubt that it left the factory with these serial numbers? Its definitely a unique piece from the Colt factory...except for the sister gun. Would be amazing to find the other one and have the "matching set". 😉
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Charles Pate in his recent comprehensive book on the Colt model 1860s has some discussion of overstamps where a number was "corrected" by Colt by stamping the correct number over a wrongly stamped number. His star example was an 1860 I sold to him, in the 135,xxx range (I believe this was pictured this pictured in the , and he was able come up with a theory about what order the serial numbers were stamped on the various locations on a percussion Colt.)
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Charles Pate notes that the factory had lighting mostly from large windows, with some gas lighting.
He believes that a particular serial was applied first to the frame (which was not yet casehardened), then the various parts were added to the frame, then those parts were stamped with the frame's serial. The cylinder pin (aka "arbor") was not stamped yet with the serial, and neither were the wood stocks. The gun was then disassembled for finishing, including the removal of the cylinder pin so that the frame could be case hardened (the pins were not case hardened). The pin and stocks were marked with the serial at this time.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Charles Pate notes that the factory had lighting mostly from large windows, with some gas lighting.
He believes that a particular serial was applied first to the frame (which was not yet casehardened), then the various parts were added to the frame, then those parts were stamped with the frame's serial. The cylinder pin (aka "arbor") was not stamped yet with the serial, and neither were the wood stocks. The gun was then disassembled for finishing, including the removal of the cylinder pin so that the frame could be case hardened (the pins were not case hardened). The pin and stocks were marked with the serial at this time.
Interesting. I always figured that the parts were matched through a primary test fitting, then serial numbered, then put into a parts tray and sent for bluing/hardening. The parts would then come back in a tray (possibly many parts for many guns in that tray) and then the assembler made sure to match up all the parts by serial number. Any idea if a single tray with a single gun's parts came back or a mix of guns?
 
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Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
As I recall, Charlie Pate believes that there was one key serial number, and that was on the receiver, and all other parts on the gun would be, when fitted, given the same serial. He believes that this was Colt's way of not duplicating serial numbers.
There is a good deal of discussion about the process in his book, and I commend it to you - you will learn a great deal that applies to other models of Colts and other non-Colt guns.
I'll write a bit more on your specific question when I have the book at hand. I do believe he thought the final assembler would have on his bench as he put together each gun a tray with, say, 12 compartments, and would have in that tray the parts for that one particular gun including the hand, trigger, hammer, etc. that had been fitted to that particular gun in that tray.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Here are the requested pictures. LaTiger, please note that I "customized" the backdrop of the photos for you to add a little flair.

If you look on the external brass carefully, you will see some remnant silver plating. A lot more of the silver is preserved on the interior brass. The grips have the original varnish on them, and you can see the handwritten serial number in the backstrap channel.

Enjoy!

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Joined
Nov 1, 2018
A friend of mine has an old book, circa 1940, that chronicles rhe history of Colt Revolvers. In it, there are a number of pages that reprints an article from 1857...see the title below:

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Is this article widely known? It describes all the major steps in the production of a Colt revolver at the Hartford factory, and the author follows the manufacturing of Serial #138,565 (its a fictional number, since the gun being followed is a "navy pistol and the 1851 Navy serial number range was only up to 65,000 at the beginning of 1857; the only gun that could have such a high number would be a Pocket Colt and according to established serial # charts, the serial numbers were at 130,000 at the beginning of1857, so perhaps he was tracking the making of a Pocket Colt...but I digress). Anyhow, this article has lithograph drawings of views inside the factory and some of the craftsmen working at various machines. Its a fascinating(!!!) account, very informative.

After hearing members describe the assembly process at Colt, I remembered this article and finally dug it up late tonight. According to the article, after all parts of a gun were manufactured (I have skipped over many pages that describe this), they got inspected, and marked with the inspectors punch. The parts were then assembled into individual guns for the first time. The gun was now given its serial number stamp, and the "Address Colonel Sam. Colt, Hartford, Conn." got stamped on the barrel. As the gun was taken apart, all the parts that would bear serial numbers were then stamped, and then the parts were taken away for final finishing (the parts went to the Dry Polishing shop next, then for blueing and case hardening). After all final steps, the guns were then re-assembled ...."Guided by the numbers, they are once more assembled" ( this is where the Colt worker messed up on my Navy....grrrrrrrr). This is my summary of what the article said. Too bad he didn't provide a list of the assemblers so that I could continue my quest to dock the pay of a certain employee.

Since the arbor (a.k.a. cylinder pin) was not hardened, it would have been separated from the frame when it went for case hardening. So, definitely it was the assembler that messed up my Navy. After that, it got test fired, cleaned, and re-assembled but I doubt the arbor was separated from the frame during this. Dang you, assembler! 😡

This article is a true gift to us all today, written by a visiting journalist in March, 1857.
 
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Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
This is one of the many sources mentioned in Charlie Pate's book on the 1860s - he has 12 large pages discussing the manufacturing process. He calls this initial fitting, when the serials were stamped, as the "Soft Fitting" step of the procedure.
He says none of the historical accounts mention how a gun was assigned a serial, but suggests "To avoid duplication, serial numbers had to be controlled centrally...and the author [Pate] thinks it likely that serial numbers were applied to the frame at one station, and the assemblers used those numbered frames in assembling revolvers."
He found several 1860s where there are factory corrected serials on all parts of an 1860, except the stock (aka one-piece grips) and the cylinder pin (aka arbor) had only the correct serials. One of these is pictured in his book, an 1860 I once owned, where all visible parts had been factory corrected from serial 135190 to 135300. This was a gun that still had some finish on it, and the "correction" was made by over-stamping, clearly done at the time the gun was made. Pate believed this showed that using the frame number, all visible parts were stamped with that number during the initial "soft fitting," and the stocks and arbor pin (hidden when the gun is together) were serial numbered after it was taken apart for final finishing. These corrections, Pate believes, were made when it was discovered that an assembled gun's serial was a duplicate and needed to be changed. The correction was made on all visible parts, and when taken apart, the correct serial was put onto the "hidden" areas on the stock and the cylinder arbor.
 

La Tiger

Private
Joined
Jul 3, 2015
Location
Louisiana
I love it! I have a Colt "signature series" 1851 Naxy with silver plated triggrt guard and back strap. The rear of my trigger guard is square instead of rounded.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
I love it! I have a Colt "signature series" 1851 Naxy with silver plated triggrt guard and back strap. The rear of my trigger guard is square instead of rounded.
You mean you liked the "customized" backdrop? We folks at the Forum always aim to please! :giggle:

Is most of the silver plating still on the exterior? I have a Pocket that has maybe 1/3 to half of the exterior still showing silver. I'd love to see one in pristine condition. I am not one for fancy schmancy guns, but I do like the look of the silver.
 

La Tiger

Private
Joined
Jul 3, 2015
Location
Louisiana
Not the best pics, but you get the idea. I found it on Gun Broker last year and a Whitneyville Dragoon from the same series. (I couldn't let the Navy Colt get lonely, could I?) The finish appears much bluer than shown here.

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