‘Bo Whoop,’ ‘Hairtrigger’ Meldrum and Boutet lead Julia $8M auction

FAIRFIELD, Maine — The James D. Julia Auction Company held their annual spring firearms auction; it was held in conjunction with the Poulin Auction Company. Together it represented the most significant firearms auction event in the world this year. The Poulin Auction Company, which specializes in the handling of mid-market firearms and military items, and the Julia Auction Company that specializes in high-end firearms and militaria, conduct an auction twice a year. The positive results of both of these auctions are a strong indicator that things are getting a little better in the firearms world.

The most intriguing story of the Julia auction was about a gun named “Bo Whoop,” which may be the most famous of all American shotguns primarily because of its former owner, Nash Buckingham. Buckingham is considered by many to be the most famous sporting writer in history. “Bo Whoop” is a special gun whose barrels were bored by renowned barrel maker Burt Becker. The shooting capabilities during its time were extraordinary. Buckingham revered his gun and expressed those sentiments in a great many of his writings, thus introducing the gun to millions of sporting enthusiasts. The gun’s nickname was originated by Nash’s friend, based on the sound it made each time it was fired as “Bo Whoop!” In the 1940s, Nash placed the gun on the fender of his car and then drove home with friends from a hunting trip. The gun, of course was lost off the car and never recovered. For generations, “Bo Whoop” was considered to be lost so the revelation of its discovery a few months prior to Julia’s auction and subsequent advertising generated a tremendous stir in the shotgun and sporting fraternity.

The grandfather of the consignor bought the gun about 50 years ago (10 years after Nash’s loss) from an individual for $50. The broken gun was set aside and forgotten about for many years until the next generation inherited it. A couple of years ago, the grandson discovered the gun in his father’s closet. They then decided to have the stock repaired and took it to a local gunsmith. Later the gunsmith called back and asked the family if they knew the history on this famous shotgun, and then proceeded to enlighten them about “Bo Whoop.” The family later decided to have a replica stock put on rather than the repaired stock and after completion, “Bo Whoop” was returned to the father’s closet where it stayed for another year and a half.

Recently, because of illness, the son made the decision to sell the gun and contacted Julia’s.

Since its discovery was announced, the sentiment, reverence and enthusiasm associated with this single gun is as significant as the Julia Company has experienced about anything they have sold in the past. It emphasized the immense stature that author Nash Buckingham retains to this day. The final conclusion to this story could never be more fitting: The buyer was Nash’s godson and the son of Nash’s dearest and best friend Al Howard. Howard was the most mentioned character in Nash’s writing (also a renowned sportswriter). He was the high bidder at $201,250. His motivation for buying had nothing to do with collecting, but was motivated by his memory of the tremendous bond and friendship between his dad and Nash Buckingham.

Of significance is the fact that the buyer purchased the gun for the specific purpose of placing it on loan to the National Ducks Unlimited headquarters, where it will be displayed as a testament to, and in honor of, the close friendship Nash and his father had enjoyed most of their lives.

The financial leader of the auction was a pair of gold and silver inlaid flintlock pistols made by Nicholas-Noel Boutet. Boutet’s shop, located at Versailles, was one of the finest in history. His high-art creations were sought after by various wealthy individuals. Figures of state and Napoleon himself often used these works of art as gifts to prominent figures.

The pistols were from the select collection of the late H.H. Thomas of Kentucky and carried a presale estimate of $250,000 to $500,000 and finally sold for $437,000. Another pair of high-art Boutet cased pistols realized just under $100,000 and a final garniture consisting of four quality guns, albeit not as lavishly ornamented as the previous guns, brought a final price of $132,250.

Also from the same collection was a pair of engraved and gold inlaid percussion pistols mounted in ivory. This cased set realized $69,000.

Other early arms in the sale included a collection of early martial flint and percussion pistols from the collection of Charles Radcliffe of New York City. The collection was one of the finest of its type to come to auction in years, and boasted a number of rarities. The high seller was a North & Cheney 1790 contract flintlock pistol that realized $40,250. A 1797 McCormick US Navel Flint pistol, acquired from the James Wertenberger collection and originally in the Robert Howard collection and estimated at $12,000 to $15,000 finally sold for $20,125. An 1811 S. North pinned contract pistol acquired from the Joseph Murphy collection and originally in the Meade-Patterson collection, sold for $22,425. And a pair of Halbach & Son flint pistols formerly in the Charles Dupont collection and estimated at $8,000 to $10,000, sold for just under $15,000.

The auction started Monday morning with a selection of Class III weapons, many of which were from the estate of the late Allen Brown. A Browning Automatic M1918A2, estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, sold for $19,550. The high seller for Class III was an M-60 machine gun by Maremont estimated at $25,000 to $35,000, which went out at $36,250.

Springfield rifles from the Robert Rosenthal collection, many of which were featured in Brophy’s book, included a fine 1904 Ramrod Bayonet estimated at $30,000 to $40,000, which sold for just under $34,000. A Winchester-Springfield Army Type 2 Sniper Rifle, estimated at $18,000 to $25,000, realized $25,300. A BSW double rifle drilling, at one time presented to the notorious Nazi Field Marshall Hermann Goering, carried a presale estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It saw spirited bidding that resulted in a final bid price of $58,000.

The afternoon session on Monday included another array of high-end shotguns and sporting rifles in addition to the Buckingham previously mentioned. In general, the sporting rifles did extremely well. A choice L.C. Smith Specialty Grade 410, estimated at $30,000 to $40,000, sold for $37,400. The original prototype for the desirable Winchester Model 42 pump sold for $69.000. A Rizzini R-1E, engraved with gold by M. Terzi brought $89,125, while a Boss 20 bore over-under estimated at $65,000 to $95,000 brought $92,000.

The high seller for Sporting Rifles was the E & G Higham 4 bore hammer single barrel ball and shot gun for “Elephant, Rhinoceros, and Other Pachyderms,” estimated at $13,000 to $18,000 finally sold for $48,875. The first day concluded with a collection of rare single-shot rifles from the collection of the late David D. Sobel. A one-of-a-kind Remington No. 3 Hepburn Schuetzen, estimated at $9,000 to $12,000 brought $13,250. An extremely rare Frank Wesson No. 1 long-range single shot, estimated at $6,000 to $10,000 realized $23,000.

Day 2 included a select grouping of fine Winchesters including numerous Henry’s and rare ‘66’s. A scarce Henry marked Model 1866 Winchester, estimated at $30,000 to $40,000, realized $40,250. There was an offering of Colts and the highlight of the Colts was an engraved and gold inlaid single action inscribed “From The Tomboy Gold Mine Co. Lt’d / Telluride Colo to Rob’t. D. Meldrum". Meldrum spent much of his life as a deputy sheriff but also worked for the Pinkertons as a guard and also as a covert Pinkerton operator while in the employ of the Tomboy Gold Mine Co. He also worked for the Colorado Cattleman’s Association and like his good friend Tom Horn, was essentially a hired gun. He was a small man of only 140 pounds but hard as nails. He is purported to have killed more than 14 men in his lifetime, most in the line of duty (two were unarmed). Around the turn of the century, the Tomboy Mining Company was having a great problem with organizers who were attempting to get the miners to go on strike. It’s not known what Meldrum did for the Tomboy Mining Company, but one thing is for sure, they were exceedingly grateful. Because of the cost, only 16 Colt revolvers were ever produced with gold inlay. Only two of these were inscribed and presented, and this is one of them. The piece sold for $258,750. A cased Nimschke engraved Colt Single Action Army realized $69,000. A rare rosewood cased engraved pair of Colt Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolvers with carved patriotic ivory grips carried a presale estimate of $50,000 to $60,000. As a result of competitive bidding, it went out at just under $75,000.

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A near pristine “Charter Oak” Colt 1855 Root Model 7 was offered; it probably came as close as you could ever find to what a brand new Colt directly out of the factory would have looked like. Its condition propelled the final selling price up to $126,000. An engraved Colt Model 1862 Police in outstanding condition was estimated at $30,000 to $40,000 and sold for $46,000.

A number of fine Civil War and Confederate items were included in the sale. One was a Confederate battle flag captured during the Gettysburg campaign. The outstanding example descended through a Maine family. The piece hammered at $120,750.

During the Civil War the U.S. Sanitary Commission was formed to help in the development of hospitals and care for wounded veterans. This sale included a San Francisco silver presentation service to the president of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Henry W. Bellows. Presented in 1863, it consisted of over 30 pounds of silver with the tray alone weighing in excess of 10 pounds and having 4 vignettes of famous California scenes. The service was at one time in the collection of the National Red Cross; it was offered with a $20,000 to $35,000 estimate, but settled at $46,000.

A Confederate Baby LeMat percussion revolver, in outstanding condition was estimated at $75,000 to $125,000 and finally sold for $103,500.

More details on this auction can be found at www.jamesdjulia.com.

Photos courtesy James D. Julia Auctions.

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