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Home / Collections / Podcast & Blog » Colt Baby Dragoon Revolver Owned By Alexander Ramsey

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December 10, 2010

Colt Baby Dragoon Revolver Owned By Alexander Ramsey

Filed under: What's New — Matt Anderson @ 1:50 pm

Model 1848 Colt Baby Dragoon

It’s remarkable that truly unique objects continue to surface. Such is the case with this handgun recently donated by a member of the North Star Circle. The weapon belonged to Minnesota politician Alexander Ramsey, and it dates to our earliest territorial days.

The gun is a Model 1848 Colt Baby Dragoon. The five-shot, .31 caliber, percussion cap revolver represents Colt’s first foray into the civilian market. While the military Dragoon was designed for cavalry forces, the “Baby” Dragoon was scaled down for easy portability and concealment. It should be no surprise that a practical civilian handgun was a big seller in an age of westward expansion and pre-war anxiety. More than 350,000 Dragoons were sold before production ended in 1873.

One of those buyers was Alexander Ramsey. Appointed Minnesota’s first territorial governor in 1849, Ramsey likely purchased the gun for personal protection on the northwest frontier. While we have no record of the governor taking part in gunfights, wear on the revolver suggests that it has been fired. Ramsey carefully preserved the gun, along with its leather-covered wooden case, a powder charger, a bullet mold, and a wrench for extracting spent percussion caps.

For years after Ramsey’s death in 1903, the Baby Dragoon sat in his bedroom closet in St. Paul, alongside a more ornamental pair of dueling pistols. Ramsey’s granddaughters sold the Dragoon in the early 1960s. The dueling pistols came to the Minnesota Historical Society (along with the Ramsey House itself) after the governor’s last granddaughter passed away in 1964.

With the Baby Dragoon now in the Society’s collection, Alexander Ramsey’s guns will be reunited for the first time in 50 years. It’s a most exciting addition to our holdings.

Matt Anderson
Objects Curator

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Model 1848 Colt Baby Dragoon and accessories

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