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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reflections on the Putnam Green Collection: The World War 1 Collectables

This September Rock Island Auction Company is proud to offer museum quality military collectables from the Putnam Green Collection. This fantastic collection spans two world wars and features some of the best American and German military collectables Rock Island Auction has ever offered. This article will focus on the U.S. World War I collectables of the Putnam Green collection. Writing for the Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine blog the JAG File on February 23,2011, the magazine editor John Adam-Graf notes a rise in the popularity of World War I collecting (See article here). A renewal in World War I collecting has turned to robbing French military museums. At the Verdun Memorial 40 of the museum’s most valuable objects were stolen and there were other robberies at Fort Vauz and Fort de la Falouse. The director of the Verdun Memorial referred to the robberies as “stealing to order”, believing that collectors had become thieves or collectors had hired others to steal for them. While the French have possibly tuned to theft to meet collecting demands, here in the United States the renewal of World War I collecting is less dramatic, but are on the rise. As the 95th anniversary of America’s entry into the war approaches, “collecting has surged—both in the numbers who collect and the prices being paid.” Material that has taken the lead in desirability have included aviation, Tank Corps, uniform groupings, weapons and helmets, and examples from each category are featured in the Putnam Green collection this September.

From the war to end all wars, do not miss out on the U.S. Colt Model 1911 Semi-Automatic Pistols and Model 1911 holsters. The highlight of the over 130 1911s is a serial number 33, this U.S. Colt Model 1911 (Lot 3131)pistol was assembled during the first week of production of the U.S. government contract at the Colt factory and was one of 50 pistols shipped to the Springfield Armory on January 4, 1912. Serial number 33 has the Colt high polish blue finish and amazingly retains 95% of the original finish. The pistol belonged to Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering graduate Lewis Moore. During World War I, Captain Lewis Moore was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers and built bridges for river crossings in France. The exceptional condition of serial number 33 makes this Model 1911 the perfect centerpiece to an advanced U.S. martial arms or Colt collection. Manufactured in1917, serial number 152166 (Lot 3143) is another fantastic example of a World War I U.S. Colt Model 1911 Pistol which retains 99% of the original military blue finish. Note that serial number 33 has the Colt high polish commercial blue finish and serial number 152166 has the military blue finish.
These two pistols are perfect examples of the finish changes that occurred during the evolution of the U.S. Model 1911 pistol. In April 1912, the Chief of Ordnance ordered that the high polish blue finish change to a dull finish which was applied to Model 1911 pistols after serial number 2400.

For a historical and exceptional Colt Model 1911 pistol see serial number 13734. Shipped to the Augusta Arsenal on November 15, 1912, this Model 1911 belonged to Lawrence D. Tyson of Knoxville, Tennessee. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1883, Tyson participated in the Apache Wars. He continued this military service as a Colonel of the 6th Regiment, U.S. Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish American War and participated in the occupation of Puerto Rico. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Tyson entered American politics and from1903-1905 was the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. When the United States became involved in World War I, Tyson was a Brigadier General in the Tennessee Nation Guard, and in 1917 Tyson was assigned to the 59thBrigade, 30th Infantry Division. The 30th Infantry Division experienced some of the heaviest fighting that any American Division saw during World War I. Serving with the British, the 30th Infantry Division participated in breaking the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918 and has the distinction of being awarded more Congressional Medals of Honor (9medals in all) than any other American Division during World War I. For his service, General Tyson received the Distinguished Service Cross. Tyson retuned to politics after the war and in 1925 was elected the U.S. Senate. A year after his election, Tyson sponsored legislation that created the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Beyond its historical significance,Tyson’s Model 1911 pistol is extraordinary for retaining 99% of the original finish, making for another fantastic pistol for an advance U.S. martial arms or Colt collection.

The Putnam Green collection also offers eleven lots of rare and outstanding Model 1911 pistol holsters. Most of these holsters are early production models stamped with the dates 1911, 1913, and 1914 and there are two rarely seen U.S. Marine Corps Model 1911 holsters that would make fine additions to a military collection. And don’t forget the privately purchased holsters manufactured by Abercrombie & Fitch and Mills. The Abercrombie & Fitch Model 1911 holster was a private purchase item offered to military officers in their stores and the Mills canvas holster while never adopted by the United States government was available for private purchase and was adopted by the Canadian government.

Beyond firearms the Putnam Green collection offers World WarI insignias and uniforms. There are groupings of Tanker Corps tunics and gear including a rare paint camouflage tanker's helmet and leather vest. These groupings showcase quality artifacts from the early days of American’s armored force. For our aviation enthusiasts, there are the U.S. Air Service groupings that include patches and wings and the historical significance of these lots are deeply rooted in the heritage of today’s United States Air Force. And if autographs are more to your likely there is a signed photo of General John Pershing.

I cannot end this article without mentioning a pre-World War I rifle. The rifle is a Model 1903 and we are calling it “The Finest Known Identified U.S. Springfield Model 1903 Bolt Action Rifle”. Dated “2-14” this spectacular example of a Model 1903 rifle retains 99% plus original blue finish. It is simply the best Model 1903 that has ever gone to auction.

From Colt Model 1911s to Tank Corps tunics, this September auction offers historical and exceptional World War I U.S. military collectables. For our World War I collectors, it is an auction that cannot be missed.

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