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Texas Navy Collection

With Ormsby’s Original Drawing for Colt’s 1851 Navy Revolver Cylinder


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520.     [TEXAS NAVY]. Collection of artifacts, documents, images, and other ephemera related to Edwin Ward Moore, the fabled commander of the second Texas Navy, and his fleet.

     Edwin Ward Moore (1810-1865), after serving in the U.S. Navy, was the instrumental figure in the success of the second Texas Navy. In 1840-1841, he cruised the Mexican coast and kept the Mexican Navy bottled up in port. Subsequently, he cruised to Yucatan to assist the rebels there in resisting Santa-Anna. Although the Texas Navy effectively ruled the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas coast, Sam Houston accused Moore of insubordination, but he was cleared. After the Texas Navy was dissolved, Moore spent time in New York City, eventually returning to Galveston. He was back in New York City, however, when he died. His appointment to the Texas Navy was in keeping with Mirabeau Lamar’s policy of making such appointments on merit rather than on political connections. Not only did the appointment prove to be an inspired one, but Moore also at times kept the fleet afloat by financing it from his own money. See: DAB. Alex Dienst, “The Navy of the Republic of Texas,” Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 12-13 (January-October 1909). Handbook of Texas Online: Edwin Ward Moore; Texas Navy.

     Because the second Texas Navy was so short lived, any artifacts or other documents relating to it are rare. It came into existence in March, 1839, when the Zavala was commissioned. The fleet basically ended in July, 1843, and was acquired by the U.S. three years later. It never numbered more than a handful of ships and men but was instrumental in securing Texas independence.


     The collection consists of the following materials:

COLT NAVY REVOLVER DESIGN. ORMSBY, Waterman Lilly (artist). Original working drawing for the Texas Navy battle scene that was first engraved on the cylinder of the 1851 Colt Navy revolver. Pen and ink on card with watercolor finish, signed in ink and pencil: “Drawn Ormsby 116 Fulton St. NY” and with legend “Colt’s Patent No.” at left of image. Signed below image: “E.W. Moore” in ink and with caption in Moore’s hand reading: “Action between two Texas naval vessels of War and Mexican Squadron off Campeche Apl 30, 1843.” Image area: 2.5 x 12.6 cm; card size: 8.2 x 14 cm. With original brown paper envelope addressed in Samuel Colt’s hand: “Commodore E.W. Moore, Present.” The drawing is the exact scale as the scene used on the revolver cylinder. A few fingerprint smudges on drawing, otherwise very fine. Envelope is moderately worn. Legendary Colt engraver Ormsby (1809-1883) was born in Connecticut and trained at the National Academy of Design. He became a leading banknote engraver, proprietor of the New York Bank Note Company, and a founder of the Continental Bank Note Company. He is credited with several inventions, including the grammagraph for engraving directly on steel from medals and medallions. See: DAB. Groce & Wallace (p. 478), Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers (Vol. I, p. 211). Mantle Fielding (p. 683). Illustrated in a Colt advertisement (see p. 23 in United States Navy, Naval History Division, The Texas Navy, Washington: GPO, 1968). To view the cylinder engraving and read a discussion of how it was made, see Arthur Tobias, “Pirates for the Republic: Engaged 16 May 1843”: <>

The action depicted on the Navy Colt cylinder was a significant one. On April 30, 1843, Moore’s two wooden sailing ships engaged a Mexican force that included two steam vessels, one of which was armored, and one of which was manned by Englishmen. Not only was this the first time sail and steam had met in combat, but it was also the first time wooden-sided and armored vessels had fought. Further, as is pointed out in United States Navy, Naval History Division, The Texas Navy (Washington: GPO, 1968, p. 22), these two engagements marked the first time exploding shells had been used in action at sea and the only known instance in which sailing ships defeated steamers. Jonathan W. Jordan, Lone Star Navy: Texas, the Fight for the Gulf of Mexico, and the Shaping of the American West (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., p. 254) comments, “Spread out before Moore was the most powerful, technologically advanced battle squadron ever assembled on the Gulf of Mexico.” It is a tribute to Moore’s skill and his crews’ bravery that the battle was basically a draw, when in fact it should have been a lopsided Mexican victory.

MOORE, Edwin Ward. Letter signed, in secretarial hand except for Moore’s signature, dated New Orleans, November 6, 1841, addressed to Charles Mason, auditor of the Republic of Texas, Austin, Texas, discussing various pay vouchers in his favor. 4to (26 x 20.6 cm). Moore encloses a copy of a letter (not present) to Musgrove Evans and mentions a controversy with Mr. Tod over $600 due to Moore. Probably a retained copy. Creased where formerly folded. Except for small reinforcements on the verso to the creases and small remnant of old mounting paper, very fine.

[MOORE, EDWIN WARD (sitter)]. Cased sixth-plate daguerreotype (half length portrait) believed to be of Moore, ca. 1850, probably taken in New York City. Image: 7.3 cm tall, 6 cm wide, set within gilt mat. Original embossed case with two brass clasps, navy blue plush liner: 9.5 x 8.3 cm. Case is split in two at spine and somewhat worn. Except for a few light spots of chemical residue at extreme left and bottom of image near mat edge, the image is strong with good contrast. The sitter is handsomely dressed, and on his cravat can be seen various symbols of the Texas Navy, highlighted by hand in gold. At the time the portrait was made Moore was no longer with the Texas Navy and would have been attired in civilian dress.

[MOORE, EDWIN WARD (sitter)]. FOSTER, W[alter] W[ashington] (photographer). Albumen cabinet card with contemporary amateur hand color depicting Moore sitting in a chair and wearing his naval uniform. On verso of mount: Artist & Photographer [ornate initials on illustration of artist’s easel] W.W.F. [Latin quotation] W.W. Foster 112 N. Ninth St. Richmond, Va. Image area: 13.3 x 9.6 cm; card area: 16.6 x 10.8 cm. Titled below image in contemporary ink: “Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Commander of the Old Texas Navy,” and endorsed on verso: “Rare picture of Commodore E.W. More [sic] of the Texas Navy.” The present image is slightly worn with loss of some color, and card has marginal staining and is chipped at its lower corners, affecting only the border. Verso is worn with some loss to photographer’s printed imprint. A rare depiction of Moore in his Texas Navy uniform—probably an image taken from either a painting or a daguerreotype. An uncolored copy of a similar image is in the museum of the United States Navy, Naval History Division (see illustration on p. 12 of their publication, The Texas Navy, Washington: GPO, 1968). Walter Washington Foster was a photographer and artist in Richmond, Virginia, between 1876 and around 1935. His studio was one of the best equipped establishments in Virginia. The firm’s huge collection of images (reportedly 65,000 prints and 100,000 glass negatives) was donated to the Virginia Historical Society around 1972, but most of his nineteenth-century work was destroyed in a 1920s fire.

[MOORE, EDWIN WARD (sitter)]. FRIEDLAENDER & HORWITZ (photographers). Albumen carte-de-visite showing an older, bearded Moore seated, dressed in formal suit, hat by his side and cane in left hand. New York, ca. 1861. Printed on verso: Friedlaender & Horwitz Photographers No. 388 Bowery, Near the Cooper Institute, New York. Image area: 9.1 x 5.4 cm; card area: 10 x 5.7 cm. Signed in ink by Moore on the verso. This carte-de-visite is one of the few photographic likeness of Moore taken from life. Excellent condition.

TEXAS NAVY BELT BUCKLE. AMES, Nathan P. (maker). Belt buckle with Texas Navy emblemata, ca. 1840. Silver with gold wash, brass Lone Star over fouled anchor and chased wreath of oak and laurel leaves soldered on front. 5.1 x 7 cm. Illustrated in O’Donnell & Campbell, American Military Belt Plates, plate 681, and in Mullinax, Confederate Belt Buckles & Plate, plate 319. The only known example of this buckle. Because this is basically the same design as the button (see following), it probably dates from about the same time. Except for slight wear, very fine. Nathan P. Ames (1803-1847) was associated with the Ames Sword Company established by his father (of the same name) in Massachusetts in 1791, and still in existence. The firm evolved to be the foremost and most prolific manufacturer of swords in the U.S, receiving their first government contract in 1831 and introducing gilding and electroplating to the U.S. in 1839. The Ames firm furnished most of the brass cannon for the United States Army, cast statues such as that of George Washington in Union Square in New York City, and created military regalia, such as the present handsome artifact. See p. 234 in Harold Leslie Peterson, The American Sword, 1775-1945 (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2003).

TEXAS NAVY COAT BUTTON. SCOVILLS & COMPANY (Waterbury, Connecticut, 1840). Stamped brass coat button (23 mm) with separately applied backing plate; remains of original gilt still present, “Scovills & Co., Waterbury” on back. Image on front depicts star and fouled anchor in center, the words “Texas Navy” to either side, the whole surrounded by a wreath. Depicted and discussed in Bob Shelton & Al Luckenbach, Uniform Buttons of the Republic of Texas (N.p., privately published, 1986, pp. 48-49), where they remark that Scovills produced “an unknown quantity” of them in 1840. Illustrated on p. 41 of United States Navy, Naval History Division, The Texas Navy (Washington: GPO, 1968). Somewhat worn, especially on back. Front is very good.

TEXAS NAVY COMMEMORATIVE RIBBON. White silk ribbon, ca. 1843, depicting a Lone Star and warship, probably issued as a commemorative piece following the engagement off Campeche. 20 x 7.5 cm. Text surrounding star reads, “Alone But Not Deserted | We Have Met the Enemy & They Are Ours”; text on ship’s side reads, “Equal Rights. Don’t Give Up the Ship.” Except for moderate staining at center, fine. Vivid ephemera, and a rare survival.

TEXAS REPUBLIC CURRENCY. Receivable for all Government dues. 10…Ten…Twelve Months after date. The Republic of Texas Promises to pay Ten Dollars… [lower left] Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, New Orleans [lower right] Rawdon, Wright & Hatch, New-York. Austin, ca. 1839. Dated in manuscript, May 22, 1839, and signed James H. Starr and Mirabeau B. Lamar. Cut cancelled, but otherwise fine. A red back with prominent Lone Star and decorations printed in red on verso. Criswell Texas A5. Three engraved vignettes, including a three-masted sailing ship. This currency is illustrated on p. 24 of United States Navy, Naval History Division, The Texas Navy (Washington: GPO, 1968), with the comment: "Texas currency commemorating the naval heritage of the people of Texas."

THEATER BROADSIDE. PARK THEATRE (New York City). Park Theatre. Printed theatre program for the comedy Used Up, including an announcement that Ex-Texas President Mirabeau Lamar, Commodore E.W. Moore, Mayor Morris, William S. Pearson, and other “Distinguished Gentlemen” will be in attendance that evening. Printed broadside (30 x 16 cm). [New York, 1845]. Small tear in top margin (neatly repaired, no loss) and lacking an indeterminate amount of text at the bottom; professionally stabilized and backed with tissue. The comedy, originally entitled L’Homme blasé, was written by Félix-Auguste Duvert and translated by Charles James Mathews. No copies on OCLC.




Auction 22 Abstracts

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