Rock Island Auction writes; “In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
One character that epitomized America’s romanticization with the Old West and symbolized its immense popularity through the 1950s was The Lone Ranger.
Beginning initially as a radio program in 1934, The Lone Ranger grew rapidly in popularity, eventually earning its own television series from 1948 – 1957. It has since become an abiding American icon.
The phrase “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” began every episode and has become part of the American lexicon along side phrases like, “Who was that masked man?” and Tonto’s frequent term of affection for the Lone Ranger, Kemo sabe. For that matter, the association between “The William Tell Overture” and horse riding is undoubtedly due to The Lone Ranger’s use of the Rossini finale as its theme song.
Coincidentally, two different consignors have items in our 2018 Regional Firearms Auction documented to John Hart, the actor who played the iconic role for 52 episodes in the TV series’ third season. They appear in three separate lots, giving several collectors a chance to put some Longer Ranger provenance in their collection.
Lot 6616: Documented Engraved Lefever H Grade Double Barrel Shotgun Owned by Both John Hart, The Lone Ranger, and Jay Silverheels, Tonto
This first item isn’t exactly the six-gun one thinks of when conjuring images of the Lone Ranger, but it arguably is the most desirable of the three. Not only is it a real, functioning firearm (as opposed to a prop), it was owned and fired by both the Lone Ranger (John Hart) and Tonto (Jay Silverheels).
According to the signed and notarized letter from John Hart, this Lefever double barrel shotgun is identified by serial number. He also mentions becoming good friends with Silverheels during filming and states that they “remained good friends right up to his passing.”
The pair would go shooting on countless occasions, with Hart eventually purchasing it from Silverheels “back in the 1950s.” Hart says, “We both put quite a few rounds through this double & it’s been a great shooter. I hope it adds to your collection & brings you years of enjoyment.”
This shotgun is accompanied by the aforementioned letter, as well as the autographed photo shown above signed, “Enjoy my old Lefever double #57191.”
Not is it only a direct connection to the iconic show, but the Lefever shotgun also serves as an enduring testament to a lifelong friendship.
Lot 6592: Documented Factory Inscribed Colt Third Generation Single Action Army Revolver with Factory Letter Presented to Mick LaFever by John Hart, “The Lone Ranger”
This beautiful, case hardened Colt Single Action Army is a Third Generation revolver presented by John Hart to his agent, Mick LaFever. These two men must also have remained good friends throughout the decades as the gun shipped from the Colt Custom Shop on November 3, 1999, long after the series had ended. While there it was customized with its grips and an inscription performed by Colt Master Engraver George Spring. The inscription reads, “Presented to My Good Friend/ Mick LaFever from John hart/ The Lone Ranger.”
This Colt also comes with an autographed photo of the Lone Ranger and Tonto signed, “To Mick, I’m sure you will have fun with Colt. S25372A. It’s a beauty. Fond regards, John Hart, “The Lone Ranger.”
Lot 6586: Documented John Hart “The Lone Ranger” Owned Model Gun Corp. Frontier Six Shooter Prop Revolver, Bear MGC Bowie Knife, and Holster Rig
It is unknown what role(s) Hart used these pieces in, but it is known for certain that they belonged to him. Each item – the knife, the holster rig, and the prop revolver – all come with certificates of authenticity signed by his wife, Mrs. Beryl Hart.
John met the Canadian-born Beryl Braithwaite when she was working a three-day acting job on “Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans” a TV series in which Hart played the starring role. Ten days later, she wed the leading man 19 years her senior, and they spent the next 52 years together.
The revolver is an MGC prop revolver that bears the Colt markings of “Frontier Six Shooter Cal .44-10” on the barrel as well as markings near the trigger guard where the patent dates would appear on a Colt. Instead of patent dates, however, the markings read, “Cal 44-40 Long blank / MGC MANUFACTORY.”
Unlike many other prop guns, this is no resin cast. The gun brings the weight of a Colt with it, functioning and disassembling like the real thing. Even the ejector rod is in place and functioning. The only apparent difference, aside from the markings and medallions, are the large obstructions placed in the muzzle end of each chamber and again in the forcing cone.
Hart had worked as a cowboy prior to show business so he knew how to ride a horse and ride it well. In fact, starring horse Silver was large, spooked readily, and was generally, “hard to handle.” But as his wife Beryl recalls of Hart’s horsemanship in his 2009 obituary, “He said he could call Silver from one side of a corral and get him pounding toward him, this huge horse, and get him to stop on a dime right in front of him.”
Despite his amiability with his co-stars, both man and beast, viewers at home never fully accepted him as The Lone Ranger. Hart had taken over the role for the beloved Clayton Moore. Hart knew it was going to be tough going after Moore’s popularity, but for that single 52-episode season, he owned the part of the masked man.
After that Moore resumed the titular role, but Hart was never bitter. In fact, the genial, easygoing cowboy rather relished his time as the “other” Lone Ranger.
The rest of his life he raced cars and motorcycles, penned a cookbook called Cowboys in the Kitchen, starred in several other movies, piloted airplanes, was an honorary member of the Former Texas Rangers Association, enjoyed Cowboy Action Shooting, and even left “the Fonz” starstruck when guest starring on an episode of Happy Days. If that doesn’t define cool, I don’t know what does.