The Balance of Power on the American Frontier

Ongoing

The Autry in Griffith Park

About the Exhibition

Explore the history of the revolver that shifted the balance of power in the American West. Featuring sixteen guns and related artifacts from a gift by Dennis A. LeVett, this new installation examines the revolutionary Paterson Colt and the role it played in the decisive 1844 clash between sixteenTexas Rangers and approximately seventy Comanches. Through this pivotal battle, the installation tells the story of a weapon that could keep pace with the bow and arrow—a development that forever shifted arms superiority on the frontier.

About Dennis A. LeVett and His Collection

The Autry Museum of the American West is pleased to announce that it has received an extraordinary collection of Paterson Colt firearms and ephemera from Dennis A. LeVett, the largest private collector of Paterson Colts in the world. LeVett grew up in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and like thousands of other little boys across the country, his favorite cowboy was Gene Autry. When he was nine years old, his boyhood dreams came true when he met Gene and his horse Champion. LeVett still recalls Gene saying, “Howdy, little cowboy,” and wearing two Colt .45 Single Actions. That was the year LeVett started collecting guns.

Throughout his adult life, he has focused his collecting efforts on the Paterson Colt series of firearms—studying them and traveling the world to find rare pieces and meet other collectors. When asked about his fascination with the Paterson Colts, he explains that “it is a combination of their beauty, mechanical ingenuity, and extraordinary history.”

LeVett’s generous gift to the Autry includes seven cased revolvers, six longarms, two pistols, and rare Paterson Colt ephemera, including the only known period photograph of a soldier armed with a Paterson Colt.  Jeffrey Richardson, the Autry’s Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms, notes that the centerpiece of the gift is the exceptional Cased No. 5 Holster Model Pair with nine-and-one-half-inch barrels, one of only two such examples known to exist. Richardson explains that with LeVett’s gift, the Autry now has examples of every Paterson Colt model, allowing the museum to explore in detail these revolutionary firearms.

When asked what advice he had for burgeoning collectors, LeVett recommended collecting “only antique firearms—pre-1899 for U.S. firearms and pre-1898 for Canadian. And keep in mind that condition is key. These guns will always be in great demand, so always go for rarity and condition.” LeVett adds, “I am very proud that my guns are a part of such a significant keeper of our Western history and culture. It is now a tradition for me to gift to the Autry.”