You might have seen those old Colt revolver adverts from the late 1800s and early 1900s with their quirky claims and beautifully drawn illustrations. What you might not realize is that Colt, and many other firearms manufacturers of the time, provided the templates and even the woodcuts needed to print them, for free.
Colt Revolvers @ TFB:
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I recently acquired a catalog produced by Colt – it doesn’t list the company’s wares instead it covers “newspaper advertisements, booklet and circular cuts, electros for catalogs, etc.” for Colt’s dealers. Put simply, a dealer’s catalog full of advertisements and templates put together by Colt for use advertising locally.
Colt explained their strategy inside: “we advertise in the big national mediums to CREATE A DEMAND ON YOU for our arms; these advertisements are read by thousands of perspective customers IN YOUR LOCALITY, therefore YOU can obtain the benefit of SALE by local advertising.” It’s a sound enough strategy.
Once a dealer chose one of Colt’s advert templates they would write to Colt with an item number (like D-14 seen above) and Colt would then send them the woodcut or print set needed to print the chosen advert. The dealer could then take the woodcut or print set to the local newspaper or printers. The booklet includes Colt’s entire revolver line as well as their growing line of semi-automatic pistols. From the pistols featured inside, however, it’s clear that the catalog pre-dates the iconic Colt 1911.
The catalog includes a huge range of Colt’s revolvers of the era ranging from various Colt Single Action Army models, including a target pistol with a Bisley grip, to Colt New Service Revolves, Army Specials, Police Positives and smaller Pocket Positives aimed at the civilian market.
Colt also provided blank templates marked with “space for dealer’s name and special advertising’ next to an instantly recognisable Colt advertisement illustration.
Below are a couple of adverts for simply ‘Colt Revolvers’, they include brilliant lines like “the man behind a Colt can look calmly at danger because he knows he has the advantage. There’s satisfaction in feeling secure” and “The Colt is the World’s standard of revolver perfection. Its dependability is historical. It has been the tried and true friend of more genuine red-blooded American manhood than all other makes combined.” Each advert has “Space for Dealer’s Name” below it so the general advert could be somewhat customised.
Finally, and forgive me for straying away from wheelguns on Wheelgun Wednesday, we have to take a look at the 1911’s immediate ancestors, the Colt Automatic Pistol. Developed by Colt and John Browning from the earlier Colt Model 1902 Military Pistol. The pistols shown are Colt Model 1907 in .45 ACP, a part of the iterative development of the Model 1911, and evolved from the earlier Colt Model 1905. On the opposite page is a series of gorgeous illustrations of the Colt Model 1907 in its combination stock and holster. These illustrations are relatively rare given just a few years later the Colt Automatic Pistol ‘Military Model’ was superseded by the 1911.