164: Pair Of Nimschke-Style Engraved Smith & Wesson Mod
Pair of Nimschke-Style Engraved Smith & Wesson Model No.2 Revolvers Inscribed to D.B. Dyer
.32 caliber RF, 6" octagonal barrels, S/N 19189, S/N 17780. Nimschke-style engraving with nickel finish and pearl grips; both with custom pearl grips and contemporary hand-tooled Slim-Jim-style leather holsters. One gun originally cased in fancy rosewood box with brass corners and lined in maroon velvet lining.
A near matching pair of the acclaimed rimfire No. 2 Army Smith & Wesson revolvers that first saw widespread service during the Civil War as a reliable personal weapon and later carried on the Western frontier by the likes of George Armstrong Custer and “Wild Bill” Hickok.
These guns were exquisitely engraved by the shop of superlative firearms engraver Louis D. Nimschke (1832-1904) and illustrate the perfect symmetry of his distinctive scrollwork design, harmonious and masterfully executed albeit on the Smith and Wessons. Both pistols were originally cased in rosewood boxes and are identically inscribed “D.B. Dyer” on the back strap. One gun bears the serial number 17780 and is confirmed by Jinks as having been made in 1864 and retailed by Smith & Wesson’s exclusive agent, J.S. Storrs of New York City. The other pistol numbered 19189 was made slightly later and shows a variant pattern of Nimschke’s work on the frame, barrel, cylinder, and butt strap. That both handsome pistols were once carried by Daniel B. Dyer (1849-1912) as a pair is evidenced by the matching black leather "Slim Jim" holsters, custom-made with an identical flower-over-star pattern tooled into the leather with aesthetic reverse hook trigger guard. The right holster shows more wear than the left.
Family recollection says that the Smith & Wessons were purchased by patriarch Captain George Randolph Dyer, then serving as Quartermaster at Pilot Knob, Missouri, as a gift — possibly a birthday present — for his second son Daniel B. Dyer sometime after 1864. Parenthetically, the family retains a gold cased pocket watch inscribed and presented to the older brother, Captain George Dallas Dyer, on the occasion of his 18th birthday in 1862, lending substance to gift story. Even though Daniel Dyer was a fifteen-year-old civilian, he had been present at Fort Davidson — staying with his father — during the battle of Pilot Knob on September 27, 1864 where Sterling Price sought to overwhelm the thin Federal defenses en route to St. Louis. Family history relates that young Daniel was captured at Pilot Knob and managed to escape after a few weeks. A plausible supposition is that Captain Dyer purchased the guns for his young son in recognition of that harrowing occasion.
The pistols must certainly have accompanied Daniel Dyer to Baxter Springs, Kansas in 1870 where he built a successful hardware and dry goods business in the sprawling cattle town. In 1880 Dyer took up a Federal appointment as Indian Agent at the newly created Quapaw Agency in the nearby Indian Territory. He had earlier accompanied General Sherman with William Cody as their scout to the Klamath Reservation in the Oregon Territory to relocate the remnants of the defeated Modoc tribe--about 165 men, women, and children held as prisoners of war--to the distant Oklahoma reservation. It is thought that during this time D. B. Dyer and the flamboyant plainsman who would be regaled as "Buffalo Bill" became lifelong friends and business associates. The Dyers moved to the Darlington Agency in 1884 near the newly constructed Fort Reno and walked into the middle of a simmering dispute between the restive Cheyenne and Arapaho bands and local cattlemen. The ranchers had purchased limited and cheap grazing rights on the reservation that provided income for the tribes but now began to encroach directly on Indian camps. Rejecting Dyer’s officious demands that they take up farming, the hungry Indians began to steal cattle, causing the angry ranchers to clamor for army intervention. Brow-beaten by the whites arrayed against them, the Cheyenne led by the Dog Soldier faction grew surely and aggressive and “threatened to go on the warpath.” The whites at the Darlington Agency immediately fled to safety of nearby Fort Reno while the Indians watched the darkened Dyer homestead for signs of the despised Indian Agent. Dyer only survived the incident thanks to a friendly half-breed who had convinced the cautious warriors that Dyer had “already gone to the fort.” Unquestionably the pair of Smith and Wesson’s were cocked and ready as the Dyer family remained secreted until the cavalry came to the rescue. By the summer of 1885 Dyer’s days as an government Indian Agent were over.
Dyer moved to Kansas City, Missouri where he and a partner engaged in the real estate business reaping significant wealth and social status in relatively short order. The Dyers had brought with them a massive collection of Indian artifacts from the Darlington Agency — then regarded as little more than curiosities — which was displayed at the National Agricultural Exhibition in Kansas City in 1887. Today, the Dyer collection is held — but not displayed — by the Kansas City Museum and is said to be the largest collection of period Cheyenne-Arapaho artifacts in the world.
Lured to the newly opened Oklahoma Territory in 1887 by the prospect of fresh business opportunities, Dyer dabbled briefly in territorial politics and was elected the first mayor of Guthrie, Oklahoma before abruptly returning to Kansas City. Dyer had caught wind of a more promising venture in Augusta, Georgia. Having lined up investors and secured capital, he moved to Augusta in 1890 and quickly chartered the Augusta Street Railway Company. Financial reward was immediate and Dyer would go on to successfully parlay his railroad company into a multitude of holdings that included utilities, real estate, and the venerable Augusta Chronicle newspaper. Dyer soon commissioned an opulent twenty-seven room mansion in Augusta he named “Château Le Vert” and thereafter alternated between his Georgia estate and the 41 acre river front manor in Kansas City called “Clarendon.”
In 1911 Dyer sold all of his Augusta interests and returned to Kansas City, Missouri. On December 23, 1912 at age sixty-two Daniel Dyer died of pneumonia. Woven into the rich tapestry draping the Gilded Age of Industrialists is the illustrious Daniel B. Dyer — a Captain of Industry. In describing his life’s success Dyer preferred a baseball metaphor stating matter-of-factly: “Business is like playing baseball. I’ve been lucky in hitting the ball.” He was brought back to the home of his father in Joliet, Illinois where he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, the pair of Smith and Wesson’s a lasting legacy of his frontier roots and successful ascendancy in the West.
Along with the pistols is a large cross section of intriguing ephemera —newspaper clippings, letters, pamphlets, genealogy, and photography—relating to D.B. Dyer’s eminent life as a business mogul and respected philanthropist during the Gilded Age. The paper reflects Dyer’s privileged status during the last decade of his life and touches upon some of personal relationships he cemented with similarly high profile individuals including the American icon “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Born on his father's rustic farm near Plainfield, Illinois on March 21, 1849, Dyer as a successful man expended considerable energy in documenting the extensive genealogy of his long and illustrious family tree, an impulse not lost on his survivors who likewise compiled several files of florid newspaper clippings and printed obituaries after their patriarch’s demise and funeral in 1912.
There are twelve different cabinet cards of the heavily bearded Dyer ranging from 1884 through at least 1911; all are obligatory formal poses mostly by Augusta photographers. Three of the portraits show the regal Major Dyer wearing a Georgia National Guard dress uniform, GAR medals, and presentation sword. From a historical perspective the most interesting photograph is the portrait of a younger D.B. in civilian suit wonderfully inked on verso, “D.B. Dyer/US Indian Agent/Cheyenne and Arapaho/Agency. I.T./May 2. 1884” with Kansas City, MO imprint. Mrs. Ida Dyer’s later frontier classic Fort Reno does not even include her then-husband’s photograph from his time as Indian Agent. Two more photographs depict showman extraordinaire, William Cody. One is an undated picture of the ubiquitous “Buffalo Bill” and D.B. Dyer standing side-by-side — looking like twin brothers — with matching moustaches and goatees, now aged silver-white. The other is a glossy contemporary print of Cody mounted in full regalia, a later 20th century copy of an original photograph made up with a fabricated autograph by “Buffalo Bill” to “Col. Dyer dated Arizona Feb. 26, 1911.”
The extensive ephemera consists of fifty-eight large file folders dated 1898-1912 each tab having a brief handwritten description of the generally sparse contents contained therein. Twelve more folders are undated and comprise otherwise uncategorized drafts notes, inventories, clippings, and letters. Among the most interesting material is a highly collectable engraved $1000 gold bond certificate for the Augusta Railway Company, an interurban founded by Dyer in 1890 as his first business venture in that city. This fine example of scripophily is printed in rust and black with fabulous graphics, the uncut document measuring 21 x 17 in. unfolded, retaining all of the redeemable coupons. Dated February 1911 is a typed two page communication on the business letterhead of the Edison Storage Battery Company informing D.B. Dyer that “converting existing carriages and wagons into electric vehicles” is “impossible to carry… into effect” from a cost standpoint. The iconic inventor Thomas A. Edison is listed as “Company President.”
From Mrs. William F. Cody and family is an actual black bordered death notice still in its original envelope dated January 16, 1917, addressed to Miss Mabel E. Green, a niece of D.B. Dyer. Also, a large file relating to “Buffalo Bill’s” gift in 1912 of his “old Deadwood coach” to the local Kansas City, Missouri DAR chapter. Two typed letters dated July 1911 (one a typed transcription of an original hand written letter) on the colorful heading of William F. Cody’s Campo Bonito Mining & Milling Company in which D.B. Dyer responds to Lieutenant jg. Robert. L. Ghormley, USN giving the officer formal permission to marry his favorite niece, Lucile Lyon. Vice Admiral Ghormley, USN (1883-1958) later took command of SOPAC in April 1942 and planned the initial operation at Guadalcanal during the early days of World War Two. Another folder contains Daniel B. Dyer’s official paperwork related to his 1889 membership in the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), a prestigious post-war organization populated exclusively by successful Civil War veterans and their male offspring.
Lastly, a selection of poems and illustrations by an obscure artist named Frank C. Roberts (1861-after 1924) that appears to have descended by marriage. The handwritten collection is bound in a modern folder (1997) and lists nineteen pieces of verse on a contents page written between 1895 and 1897 in Kansas City and Chicago. Frank Roberts is a virtual unknown who seems to have specialized in “outdoor verse,” particularly “the wild but restful forests of Canada” according to the only reference found on the Internet.
Descended Directly in the Dyer Family
Both revolvers have been lightly cleaned. Still retain some of the original nickel finish. Case is in excellent condition. Holsters show wear and use but are in excellent condition. Paper, documents, and photographs showing expected age and minor handling wear, else undamaged.