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From Time to Time… By R.L. Wilson
Photo credit: Christopher T. Wilson   R.L. Wilson was a noted freelance consultant, author, researcher, scholar, historian, and literary powerhouse who wrote on a wide variety of subject matter, including the broad fields of the Old West, firearms and engraving. His career began with intern positions at the Royal Armouries, H.M. Tower of London, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Wadsworth Atheneum, where he was appointed Curator of Firearms at the age of 23. A keen sportsman, Wilson has been on nine African safaris and on shooting trips worldwide.

Born in Minnesota, Wilson studied history and art as a scholarship student at Carleton College. A resident of Nevada (part time in San Francisco CA), he was author of over 50 books and over three hundred articles. Appearing initially in English editions, several titles are also in French, German, Italian and Japanese.

His The Colt Heritage (1979) is the only firearms-related work ever nominated for the American Book Award. The Peacemakers and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West (with Greg Martin) received the Director’s Award for Contributions to Western Material Culture, at the 32nd and 38th Annual Western Heritage Awards, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City (1993 and 1999). Additionally, his landmark The Book of Colt Firearms, originally printed and published in 1972, easily remains as the finest firearms reference book ever created, with over one million words of text – all done on an IBM Selectric typewriter!

One of Wilson's most recent projects was the landmark two-volume work, Magnificent Colts Selections from the Robert M. Lee Collection, coauthored with Bob Lee. Another is being guest curator for the Nevada Museum of Art loan exhibition Art of the Tiffany Era, featuring arms from the Lee Collection on loan through May 20, 2012. His last book to appear in print during his lifetime was History and Art of the American Gun (originally titled Steel Canvas).

R.L. "Larry" Wilson, appropriately nicknamed "The Professor" by the late Robert M. Lee, passed away unexpectedly in his San Francisco apartment on Dec. 11, 2016.

Alfred DeJohn Maestro of Colt’s Custom Gun Shop (March 15th, 1924 - June 13th, 2013) - Part 1   
Alfred DeJohn Maestro of Colt’s Custom Gun Shop (March 15th, 1924 - June 13th, 2013) - Part 2   
Joseph A. Murphy, Ph.D Collector Nonpareil (January 19, 1944-July 23, 2013) - Part 1   
Joseph A. Murphy, Ph.D Collector Nonpareil (January 19, 1944-July 23, 2013) - Part 2   
Norm Flayderman A Life Lived Large in Arms and Militaria, and in So Much More (July 19, 1928- May 23, 2013) - Part 1   

Norm Flayderman A Life Lived Large in Arms and Militaria, and in So Much More (July 19, 1928 - May 23, 2013) - Part 2

At the Hartford Gun Show, 2006. Norm and Peter Tillou first met at a Columbus, Ohio, gun show when Norm was 25, and Peter 18 (1953). Both men became giants in their fields, with encyclopedic and comprehensive knowledge - and experience and judgment to match. Anyone who was ever lucky enough to get a hand-written letter from Norm Flayderman will instantly recognize his trademark penmanship.

Inspired by the need for a broadly based reference work on antique American arms, Norm set a course to create what became Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values. First published in the 1970s, this complex undertaking is now in its 9th Edition, and of more than 800 pages. This title has had a dramatic impact on collecting, and added yet more luster to his star – recognized as “the world’s best-known antique arms dealer and authority.” The Guide stands as the number one best-selling book on antique collector’s firearms, and it is fitting that such a volume came from his desk – a desk always piled high with papers and artifacts and things to do.

Reviews were unanimously congratulatory. The New York Times, not exactly a friend to firearms or the shooting sports, termed the Guide, “A most valuable book for the person interested in truly old guns made in this country . . . .” While The American Rifleman stated: “Coverage is thorough and material is arranged in a manner that permits easy access. The book is as valuable a general reference as any listed in its extensive bibliography.” Rival dealer Herb Glass wrote “If I had to settle for only one book in my arms library, [Flayderman’s Guide] would be that choice.”

The Bowie Knife Unsheathing an American Legend is yet another landmark Flayderman title, and one that required decades to research and write. The mammoth publication was hailed by James S. Hutchins, Historian, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, as “ . . . at long last, the first well-grounded, thoroughly researched, conscientiously documented study of the Bowie knife, an artifact that has long enjoyed a unique place in American history and folklore . . . .”

Flayderman’s Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders: Whales and Whalemen was the first comprehensive work of reference on a subject revealing of the broad expanse of its author’s knowledge and expertise. This writer assisted in the research for the project, and remembers Norm’s keen interest in going on a whale hunt – up close from a boat with human harpooners, just as practiced by New Bedford whalers in the 19th century.

Norm Flayderman visiting Marty Lane at the latter's Americana Gallery on West Houston Street in New York. Examining a rare 1870s era Colt Single Action Army. Lane was proud to be regarded as a protege of Flayderman and they became friends more than three decades ago.

With Peter Tillou by campfire in Alaska, fly-fishing on five different rivers, flying in and out each day. For rainbow trout, Arctic Char, Pink salmon, Grayling, and King or Pacific salmon. Each river had a different species of fish. This was Peter's treat for his longtime friend Norm. Camp Iliaska, July 1990.

Norm Flayderman A Life Lived Large in Arms and Militaria, and in So Much More (July 19, 1928 - May 23, 2013) continues in Part 3
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