Gatling gun hits the mark for $172K at Fontaine’s Civil War, Firearms and Militaria sale


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Ordnance rifle cannon, carriage mount, 1861, firing 3-inch cannon balls ($28,750).


PITTSFIELD, Mass. – A Colt Model 1883 .45 caliber Gatling Gun – named after the man who invented it (Richard J. Gatling) and a 19th-century precursor to the modern-day machine gun – scored a bull’s eye when it soared to $172,500 at a Civil War, Firearms and Militaria Auction held Aug. 15-16 by Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, in the firm’s gallery located at 1485 West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield.

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Rare 16th century North European double-handled Landsknecht ($6,325).

The Gatling Gun was fully operational and in spectacular condition, boasting ten rotating .45 caliber barrels encased in a bronze jacket. It came out of the lifetime collection of the late George J. Bisacca, whose mainly Civil War collection had previously been housed in the Eastover Resort complex in Lenox, as part of a museum open to the public. The Gatling Gun was fired in showings at Eastover.

Actually, two Gatling Guns were sold at the auction, the other one (a Colt Model 1874) bringing $69,000. They easily took top lot honors in a sale that grossed $1.1 million and saw over 800 items change hands. The auction also featured vintage rifles, muskets, revolvers and guns, cannons, swords, drums, frocks, coats, uniforms, a Confederate belt with buckle, tintypes, cartes de visites and more.

“Obviously, any time you top the $1 million mark, it is a cause for celebration,” said John Fontaine of Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, “but the bigger story is the fact that we are now positioned as one of the premier auction houses for Civil War, vintage firearms and militaria in the Northeast. We’re already gathering quality consignments for another such sale, on Jan. 16, 2010.”

A standing room only crowd packed the Fontaine’s showroom, while online bidders (about 300 registered) participated through Proxibid, Artfact and Fontaine’s own Internet bidding platform, developed especially for them. In addition, approximately 200 people submitted bids by phone, while another 150 or so people submitted left bids. In all there were about 800 participating bidders for the 2 days.

Following are additional highlights from the sale. All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.

Ten lots topped the $10,000 mark, in addition to the two Gatling Guns. These included a 3-inch 1861 ordnance rifle cannon carriage mount ($28,750); a Confederate Fayetteville 1864 muzzle-loader armory rifle ($23,000); a 12-pound cannon on iron carriage mount, dated 1837 ($19,550); a Hotchkiss mountain rifle with 2-inch bore cannon ($19,550); and a Model 1861 ordnance rifle-cannon ($17,250).

Other lots that soared above the $10,000 mark included an artillery limber with heavy metal ammunition chest ($14,950); a Coehorn mortar round ($14,375); an artillery cannon, carriage only ($12,650); a Mann experimental breechloading cannon ($11,550); and a British 12-pound cannon, circa 1812 ($10,925). Also, an Ohio Civil War drum with a photo of drummer Corp. H. L. Smith hit $7,475.

A Civil War-era U.S. New York regiment militia frock coat (circa 1860) garnered $7,475; a U.S. Civil War uniform worn by Capt. John Berry realized $6,325; a 16th-century European double-handled Landsknecht commanded $6,325; a burst artillery (tube only, circa 1840) hammered for $6,900; a Mann prototype smoothbore cannon realized $5,750; and a Frankford arsenal 1859 star gauge brought $5,750.

A Revolutionary War-era British sea service musket breezed to $4,600; an engraved Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 revolver fetched $4,313; a painting by Horace Smith rose to $4,313; the Civil War collection of Henry. B. Walker of the 121st Volunteer Infantry N.Y. regiment went for $4,025; a Hudson Bay Fowler muzzle loader hit $4,025; and an engraved Colt 1860 Army revolver made $4,025.

A very rare field forge box changed hands for $3,738; a Model 1851 Colt Navy revolver, U.S. Martially marked, rang out at $3,450; a lot comprising an Adams revolver, a Confederate sword and a letter coasted to $3,450; an Ames Model 1832 artillery short sword with scabbard frog and belt earned $3,450; and a Civil War ammunition box mounted on a wood-framed caisson hammered for $3,450.

A Watertown Model 1861 U.S. percussion rifle-musket crossed the block at $3,393; a W. Parker half-stock percussion target rifle sold for $3,163; a Model 1817 flintlock .58 caliber rifle by W. Starr & Son garnered $3,163; a Model 1841 U.S. Harper’s Ferry percussion rifle made $3,163; a Confederate marked tower musket and scabbard hit $3,163; and a flintlock chief’s grade trade gun fetched $3,163.

Fontaine’s Auction Gallery’s next big sale will be a Cataloged Antique Auction on Nov. 21 at 11 am, featuring a galaxy of offerings in an array of categories. Sold will be over 300 lots of furniture, lighting (to include Tiffany, Handel, Duffner & Kimberly, Pairpoint and more), Arts & Crafts furniture and accessories, antique clocks including 2 Howard Astronomical Regulators, watches, bronzes, silver, paintings, porcelains and more.

Then, on Jan. 16, 2010, the next big Antique Firearms, Civil War & Military Auction will be held, starting at 11 a.m. If it is as big and successful as the one in August, as anticipated, it is entirely possible a second day will be added. Quality consignments for this and all future Fontaine’s Auction Gallery sales are being accepted. Call 413-448-8922 or e-mail to info@fontaineauction.com.

For more information on Fontaine’s Auction Gallery and the firm’s calendar of upcoming events, visit www.fontainesauction.net.

Photos courtesy Fontaine’s Auction Gallery.

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Confederate Fayetteville 1864 muzzle-loader armory rifle ($23,000).
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Ohio Civil War drum with a photo of drummer Corporal H.L. Smith ($7,475).
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The top lot of the sale was this spectacular Colt Model 1883 .45 caliber Gatling Gun ($172,500).
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Civil War-era U.S. New York regiment militia frock coat, made circa 1860 ($7,475).

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