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Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver


On display

Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver

Object information


Believed by descendants of the Faithfull family to have been dropped by one of the Gilbert-Hall Gang during the gun-fight with the four faithfull brothers. Penzig doubts the story believing the original went missing with the small revolver used by George and the Kerr rifle used by William. William Pitt Faithfull described the dropped weapon as a 'Government revolver'. If so, it would have been marked 'NSW Police' or 'NSW G'. This weapon is not. He goes on to argue that all police Colts had production numbers after 125,733. Penzig believes the weapon is simply a family weapon and subsequebnt generations have become confused about its use. Penzig (1988). Made in 1852, it is believed, by descendants of the Faithfull family, to have been dropped by a member of the Hall 'gang' during their attack on the four faithfull brothers in February 1865 (family has a ticket 'of reasonable age'). It is in good condition although the barrel-wedge has been replaced by a facsimile. The weapon may, however, actually be a family revolver and the Colt that was actually dropped is missing, like the small revolver used by George and (and the Kerr rifle (?carbine) used by William (Penzig: 56). The four Faithfull brothers (teenagers) were held up by the Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John Dunn near the family homestead Springfield outside Goulburn on 6 February 1865. The brothers were armed only with a rifle and a pistol but managed to fight off the gang. They were awarded a shared medal in March 1876. Their father William Pitt Faithfull applied for three duplicate medals so that eachof the brothers could have one. It appears that additional medals were awarded. These weapons were the most common revolver of the 1860s/1880s bushranging period. Single-action means that the hammer had to be cocked backwards with the thumb before each shot was fired and then to discharge the revolver, the trigger was pulled with the index finger of the same hand. Percussion basically means muzzle-loading type weapons with the charge having to be loaded down the front of each of the six chambers in the cylinder. Firstly, the gunpowder was poured in from a powder flask and then a round lead ball or conical bullet was placed in on top of the powder. Then the rammer (under the barrel) was pulled downwards and the plunger on the end of the same compressed the charge tightly into thechamber. A small percussion cap containing a tiny explosive charge was then placed on each of the nipples at the rear of the chambers. For more rapid loading, readymade paper cartridges containing gunpowder and bulletwere acvailable. These Colts were nkown as the Navy model because there was a rolled-on engraved scene around the cylinder depicting the Texas navy's victory over the Mexican Navy in May 1843, during which paterson model Colt revolvers were used. Whilst there were a few breech-loading revolvers and longarms available in the 1860s, about 95 percent of the weapons used were of the percussion type (Penzig:64).

Benjamin Hall was born in February 1837 at Breeza, Liverpool Plains, son of Benjamin Hall and his wife Elizabeth; both parents were ex-convicts. He became a stockman and with John Macguire leased a run, Sandy Creek, near Wheogo. On 29 February 1856 at Bathurst he married according to Roman Catholic rites Bridget Walsh of Wheogo. Her sister became Frank Gardiner's [qv] mistress. About 1860 his wife left him taking their infant son. In April 1862 he was arrested for armed robbery at a race meeting on the orders of Sir Frederick Pottinger [qv]. He was acquitted but soon afterwards detained for his share in the Eugowra gold escort robbery. He was not committed for trial but on his return to Sandy Creek found most of his stock dead and his home burnt down. Embittered, Hall joined John Gilbert [qv] and became leader of a gang of bushrangers. Hall was probably the most efficient of the bushranger leaders. His men were well armed and superbly mounted, often on stolen race-horses which easily outpaced the police nags. Some of their holdups seem designed only to defy the police: on their daredevil raid on Bathurst in October 1863 they took little loot and at Canowindra they offered food, drink and festivity to all for three days, but drank little themselves and left the town empty handed. On 24 October in a raid on Henry Keightley's homestead at Dunn's Plains Burke was shot. Hall prevented Vane from shooting Keightley in revenge and accepted the ?500 ransom procured by Mrs Keightley. Vane surrendered and in November O'Meally was shot. While Gilbert visited Victoria, Hall was joined by 'The Old Man' (James Mount) and DunIeavy, neither of whom lasted long. Gilbert returned and John Dunn joined the gang. In 1864 they concentrated on the Sydney-Melbourne Road south of Goulburn. On 15 November they held the road near Jugiong and robbed some sixty travellers; while holding up the Gundagai-Yass mail Gilbert shot Sergeant Parry. On 27 January 1865 Constable Nelson was shot at Collector by Dunn. In April the Felons Apprehension Act outlawed bushrangers and made it a felony to harbour them. Their only safety was to keep on the move. Hall with ?1000 on his head decided to quit but was betrayed. On 5 May he was ambushed and shot by the police near Goobang Creek on the Lachlan plain. His body, riddled with gunshot wounds, was buried in the cemetery at Forbes. His funeral was 'rather numerously attended' for his reckless courage, courtesy to women, humour and hatred of informers had won him a sympathy not shared by his more bloodthirsty colleagues (ADB)

Physical description

A Colt Model 1851 Navy six shot revolver with a steel frame and barrel, stamped on the top "-ADDRESS SAML' COLT NEW YORK CITY" and has wooden grips. It retains 80 percent of the naval battle cylinder scene. The butt strap and trigger guard are silver plated brass that is worn. Serial number "11967" marked on the barrel, frame and trigger guard.

Statement of significance

The Springfield Collection comprises about 1550 artefacts from Springfield station, south of Goulburn. It includes colonial era costume, a bushranger medal, surveying instruments, a late-19th century landau, firearms and edged weapons, wool samples and Joseph Foveaux's pocket watch and bible. The objects are complemented by over 400 photographs. This diverse collection reflects the growth and economic success of the property, responses to changes in the wool market and the daily lives of the people who have lived on Springfield.

Springfield has grown from a 518-hectare land grant given to William Pitt Faithfull in 1828 to the current 3183 hectares with ownership remaining in the one family. William Pitt Faithfull established the Springfield Merino Stud in 1838 with ten rams selected from the Macarthur Camden Park stud. The stud evolved slowly over the years until the early 1950s when, under the management of Jim Maple-Brown, a scientific approach to wool-growing was adopted and the stud's name was changed to Fonthill to reflect this.

Physical description

On display at the National Museum of Australia.

Object information


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