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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Holy Toledo!

I finally received the Factory Letter on my New Service revolver and it raises about as many questions as it answers. The revolver in question is a blue 5-1/2” in .38WCF and was discussed in this thread:
http://www.coltforum.com/forums/colt-revolvers/69578-refinish-not-refinish.html
with photos on Post #333 in this thread:
http://www.coltforum.com/forums/photos-area/6396-let-s-see-your-new-service-s-34.html

Apparently it was special-ordered by “Marburger Brothers” and shipped to the Bostwick-Braun Company of Toledo Ohio in April 1924. By special-order, I mean that it was a one-gun shipment, sold to Marburger Brothers, not that it was customized in any way.


So this raises the obvious question, who or what was “Marburger Brothers” and why did they special-order a New Service in the mid-1920s?


A quick web search revealed that Bostwick-Braun was a huge hardware company (its warehouse covered a full city block). The company is still in existence and apparently focuses on wholesale and industrial sales at present. I don’t know whether they also did retail back in the 1920s. I’ve tried calling them on the off chance that they might still retain sales records from that era, but have only gotten voicemail.


I have been unable to find out anything about Marburger Brothers. Web searches don’t yield anything in that timeframe; the closest that I get is a construction company presently located in Texas. I’ve thought about looking in a 1920s-era city directory, but have been unable to locate one so far. I’m not sure that Marburger Brothers was even located in Toledo in 1924, but am guessing that they were at least located somewhere in the area, since they had the firearm shipped to Bostwick-Braun.


Perhaps some of you Ohio collectors might remember hearing or reading about “Marburger Brothers” in that area. Maybe an old advertisement or perhaps you once saw that name painted on the side of a building? Given the name, I’m assuming that this was some sort of business firm, but what type? Were they perhaps a retail establishment, or a trucking company? Maybe they were a front for bootleggers? And one can only speculate why they felt the need to order a Colt at the height of Prohibition – was it for protection against The Mob or a reward for Employee of the Month? :rolleyes:


Any ideas?

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I looked at Bostwick-Braun's "history" page on their site, and it sounds like they were always a wholesale hardware distributor covering a 10 state area.

That being said, I found a Marburger Brothers Hardware in Peru, Indiana, not that far fron Toledo.

My guess is that Bostwick-Braun was the wholesale distributor for Colt's in that area, and Marburger Brothers ordered your New Service through them for a customer in Indiana.

PS In your photo, the barrel looks like it's 5 1/2 inchs, not 4 1/2.
 

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Is it just me or doesn't the reference to caliber in the letter 38/c refer to 38 special? The barrel length sure appears to be 5 1/2" to me as well.
Colt has been screwing up a lot of letters lately, or has this old girl had some cosmetic surgery?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
That being said, I found a Marburger Brothers Hardware in Peru, Indiana, not that far fron Toledo.
Thanks – that may very well be the answer.

PS In your photo, the barrel looks like it's 5 1/2 inchs, not 4 1/2.
Good eyesight! You are correct, it is indeed a 5-1/2” barrel (and I’ve corrected that in the original post).
Something that I did not mention earlier was that I had requested two Colt Letters: one for this New Service and another on an SAA. The New Service lettered as 4-1/2” although as you correctly stated, it has a 5-1/2” barrel. The letter for the SAA mentions a 5-1/2” barrel, although it currently wears a 4-3/4” barrel which appears to be correct to the rest of the gun. Both letters are dated and mailed on the same day, which raises the question of whether someone in the Archives transposed the barrel lengths on the two letters. Of course, it’s certainly possible that some previous owner changed the barrel, but what are the odds that it happened on both guns, and to opposite barrel lengths? I intend to take up the matter with Colt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Is it just me or doesn't the reference to caliber in the letter 38/c refer to 38 special? The barrel length sure appears to be 5 1/2" to me as well.
Colt has been screwing up a lot of letters lately, or has this old girl had some cosmetic surgery?
DACOLT, I wondered the same thing about the caliber marking and checked my copy of Timothy Mullin’s book, “Colt’s New Service Revolver – A Particularly Strong, Heavy Weapon.” Mullins states (page 7) that the New Service wasn’t offered in .38 S&W Special until the year 1932, so that may explain the letter. But it is a bit confusing.

I couldn’t find any .38WCF revolvers in Mullin’s book which letter as “.38/c” but there are several .44WCF revolvers which lettered as “.44/c” (and one which letters as “.44/40”) whereas .44 Russian and .44 S&W are lettered as “.44 Russian” and “.44 S&W” respectively.


Page 168 shows an engraved Shooting Master in .38 S&W Special lettered as “.38/c.” On Page 161, another is lettered as simply “.38 Special.”


On the other hand, there are several (pages 111, 117, 125, and 142) that letter as “.38/40.” Of note is that all four of those letters were issued on 17 July 2007 in preparation for an auction at Rock Island. Perhaps the caliber designation on Colt letters varied based on the timeframe in which they were written, or based on this one auction?


But if Mullin is correct that the .38 S&W Special wasn’t offered until 1932, then I feel relatively certain that this one left the factory chambered for .38WCF … in whatever barrel length.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Does your SAA have a 1, or 2 Line barrel address?
Rusty, the SAA has a two-line address, which as I understand it, would be consistent with a 4-3/4” barrel. Meaning that if the Colt letter is correct, the barrel was removed and replaced at some point in the past. Certainly not unheard of, but it seems a bit coincidental.
 

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Rusty, the SAA has a two-line address, which as I understand it, would be consistent with a 4-3/4” barrel. Meaning that if the Colt letter is correct, the barrel was removed and replaced at some point in the past. Certainly not unheard of, but it seems a bit coincidental.
Sounds like an original 4 3/4" barrel is on there now---- As I have said in earlier posts, I letter all my Colts, and it has paid off for me a number of times over the years, BUT, I have seen many instances of mistakes made on letters.

I guess you take your chances & hope for a nice surprise, or not.
 

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I checked 2 letters I have for a New Service shipped 1934 and Shooting Master shipped 1937 that are both in 38 special. Both letter as 38/c. I have New Service shipped in 1902 and New Service shipped in 1926 both 38/40 both letters show 38/40.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well, I spoke to Paul in the Colt Archives and he pulled the original ledgers to verify both letters as correct.

He told me that my New Service appeared into the ledger as ".38/c" and so that is how they listed it on the letter. He agreed that would be correct for a .38WCF, as Colt was not offering the New Service in .38 Special yet. The only Colt advertising of that period which I've seen is the advertisement on page xix of the Mullin book. The ad states that the revolver was "made in calbers .38, .44, and .45" which I would understand to mean .38WCF, .44WCF (although it could also include .44 Russian or .44 Special after 1913), and .45 Colt. That particular ad was from 1923, the year before mine was made.

He also verified that the barrel lengths in the ledger matched the barrel lengths listed on the letters, so I guess both revolvers have had barrel changes over the years. As they say, "you pay your money and you take your chances!"
 
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