About 10 years back, Mr. Ray Schnell of Upland, California bought an old .410 caliber shotgun from a a man named Bill Bhornamanat at a private sale in California.
Mr. Bhornamanat stated that he bought the shotgun in the early 1990’s from an old Italian couple that moved to California from Long Island, New York years ago.
When Mr. Schnell bought the shotgun, he did not realize how truly rare it was. He was only looking to have something to go shooting with. He was intrigued by the craftsmanship and age of the shotgun. He eagerly purchased it for $150.
With a busy life and high work demands, Ray never had the time to go shooting, so the shotgun stayed in his closet for years. Knowing the the old shotgun needed to be cleaned and oiled, Ray brought the shotgun out of the closet for the first time in a while and began to disassemble it for cleaning. Low and behold, under the front forearm wood was an engraving that read “Prospero Donadio New York, New York”
The curiosity began to take hold of Ray as he started his search into Prospero Donadio and the origin of the shotgun. His first idea was to take it to a local gunshot and have it appraised. The shotgun appraised for $500, but they could not tell Ray anything about the shotgun other than it had Belgian proof marks. He first thought this was very odd. He thought this could have been the privately owned shotgun of Prospero Donadio and that it may have been bought in Belgium.
Time went by, but the curiosity still stuck with Ray. For some reason, he just had to know what this shotgun was all about. He then began an exhaustive search on the internet. He learned that there was actually a gun shop in Brooklyn, New York that was owned by a Prospero Donadio. At first light, Ray thought this was very interesting and wanted to know more. Ray began looking more into Prospero Donadio. Finally he came across a post mortem LinkedIn page for Prospero Donadio and his gun shop. Prospero’s LinkedIn page was created by his Great Grand son Barry Donadio.
Ray immediately contacted Barry Donadio to learn more about the shotgun. According to Barry, his Great Grandfather owned a gun shop at 11 Skillman Avenue in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York from 1916 to about 1938. The Brooklyn Queens Expressway was built and the shop was destroyed to make way for the new highway. Prospero then moved the gun shop to 378 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn. It was just West of the new highway and only a few hundred yards for the 11 Skillman Avenue shop.
Prospero operated his shop from there until December 7th 1941. That was the day he died in the shop. It was Pearl Harbor day. He never new of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor because it took a day for the news to arrive to the mainland on the United States.
Ironically, December 7th is Ray Schnell’s birthday. He turned 2 years old on the day Prospero died.
Prospero had an interesting life. He was also an inventor. He held at least 3 patents regarding pistol operation and a 1917 patent for revolver safety’s. Barry thinks Prospero’s gun shop may have started as far back as 1915 in Manhattan, but he has not been able to prove it yet.
Barry Donadio explained that it is the understand of his family that Prospero had a line of high quality shotguns made in Belgium. They were made for him to sell in his gun shop in New York.
It is not known for sure if Prospero engraved the guns with his name or the manufacturer in Belgium. It is quite possible that Prospero did it himself to personalize the guns coming from his shop. In either case, it would make the shotguns sold in his shop very rare. Just how rare are they? A .32 gauge shotgun from Propero’s shop went to auction in 2013 at a starting bid of $5,750. The reputable James D. Julia auctioneer company held the auction. Barry stated that he has seen these shotguns sell for a higher price.
Barry estimates that at the most, approximately 200 shotguns may have been made that are actually marked with “Prospero Donadio” name on them. He also estimates that probably only about 50 of these shotguns exist today. Out of those 50 existing shotguns, about 25 of the owners may not even be aware it is a “Prospero Donadio” shotgun unless they took apart the shotgun for cleaning by removing the front wood forearm grips. Barry Donadio stated; ” It is only a guess in regards to how many of these shotguns are in existence. The numbers can be far lower than even what I have concluded.”
The shotgun that Barry Donadio obtained from Ray Schnell is only about the 6th “Prospero Donadio” shotgun to surface publicly in the world. Barry believes that there are an additional 4 more “Prospero Donadio” shotguns owned by other Prosepero Donadio descendants, but they are not talking. “The shotguns are a very secretive possession by Prospero Donadio’s descendants. We know some descendants have other shotgun guns, but no family member knows exactly who possesses them in the family and no one talks about it or admits they have one.” Donadio said.
Barry Donadio went on to praise Ray Schnell for his genorosity. Donadio said; “Ray sold me the shotgun for far less then what it is worth only to make sure it goes back to a Donadio.” I really appreciate his empathy, his passion for history and his gentlemanly gesture of kindness.” My family is forever grateful to Mr. Schnell for contacting us and making sure this shotgun came home to a Donadio after 90 years.”
Donadio spoke of his Great Grandfather stating that he was a brilliant man that slipped through the cracks of history. He was never truly recognized for all the lives he may have potentially saved by making a patent in 1916 for a revolver safety. Prospero’s revolver safety was used on Iver Johnson manufactured revolvers, Meridian Firearms revolvers and Howard Arms revolvers as early as 1917. The safety levers on these revolvers are stamped “May 11 1917”. If you have a revolver with this stamped date on it, Prospero Donadio’s safety latch patent is applied to that revolver. This makes the revolver a little bit more historic.
Barry Donadio stated that one day he would like to go back to the same Brooklyn neighborhood to manufacture and sell “Donadio” shotguns. Donadio said “It would be good for New York and it would be good for Brooklyn to have their own organically made specialty shotguns of such fine quality. “