Saturday, March 7, 2009

Harry Orchard's Colt .45 Cal. Single Action Army Revolver

Harry allegedly carried a revolver, a Colt Single Action Army, that was sold at auction somewhere between 2000-2003 or so. While going through my stacks of papers, I ran across the listing in the upper left. The picture is from elsewhere on my blog and was shown at the Haywood trial and also published in Cabal of Death by Robert Grimmett. I have forgotten, and could not locate, the name of the auction house but will keep looking. I had seen this listing a few months after the gun had sold and did contact the auctioneer but was given no information.

I would like to get some information and pictures of Orchard's Colt and/or of any guns he might have owned. To the right is perhaps a similar model as in the auction listing. Click on the picture to be taken to the Wikipedia page on Colt Army Revolvers where this photograph is located. If anyone has one of Orchard's guns, or know who does, please let me know. Harry probably had several old revolvers as he used most of his guns as triggering mechanisms for dynamite bombs. Being strictly a coward, he was never one to get in a face to face gunfight. Harry preferred dynamite and to be a long distance away when his killings took place. If he ever had to use a gun, I am sure his preference would have been a shot in the back.

Picture below shows the twisted remains of one of Harry's revolvers used as a triggering mechanism in a dynamite bomb. This was not (see addendum below) the trigger mechanism used in the bomb that mangled and killed Ex-Governor Steunenberg at the gate of his home in Caldwell, ID.
Photo taken of a display at the Idaho Historical Museum in Boise.

3/8/09 - Addendum: The label in the photograph from the Idaho Historical Museum indicates "This damaged revolver was used by Harry Orchard to trigger the mechanism which killed Governor Steunenberg." Justice Byron Johnson has reminded me that the stated information is incorrect. I mistakenly perpetuated it by restating the same as fact. All of us that have studied these events know that the trip mechanism was a vial of sulfuric acid sealed with a cork. A pin was pushed into the cork and attached to the pin was a trip wire. Over the blasting caps in the bomb was a piece of cotton saturated with cyanide of potassium and sugar. When the governor tripped the wire, the cork was pulled from the vial, the sulfuric acid spilled onto the cotton and ignited the blasting caps, setting off the explosion of dynamite. Although Orchard did use parts of a revolver to fashion triggering mechanisms for some of his bombs, the one that killed Governor Steunenberg was not of that type. So unless the revolver parts just happened to be in the box containing the bomb, the pieces shown in the photograph above would have come from a different infernal machine.

I believe the Idaho Historical Museum is incorrect just as I was incorrect in stating it above. Evidence from some of Orchard's other bombs was brought to Boise for the trial and I believe that is the case here. I will research it a bit further as cannot immediately put my hands on the information this morning. When I find it, I will request that the Idaho State Historical Museum correct the label in their display of trial artifacts if they have not already done so.

Thank you Justice Byron Johnson for pointing out that error.

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