Monday, January 28, 2008

Time Machine.


Smith & Wesson
Springfield, Mass.

Dear Sirs,

I have just read Mr. Twain's excellent new book,
A Tramp Abroad, and it has given me a zest to go traveling. Prudence would dictate procuring a Sidearm for my safety before entrusting myself to the gentle ministrations of Heathens in foreign parts, but I do not wish to encumber myself with a Belt Pistol. And yet I would prefer a revolving pistol of more Substance and Striking Power than the small revolvers of .32 calibres sold for the Gentleman's pocket. Accordingly, would you be able to advize me of the nearest dealer to my abode likely to have one of your .38 calibre central-fire Number Twos in his stock so that I may examine one before I make a Purchasing Decision?

Cordially,
J.Q. Public
Erehwon, Arizona Territory
28 January, 1881


The revolver that Mr. Public, citizen of the soon-to-be-incorporated town of Phoenix AZ, would eventually purchase was completed at the Smith & Wesson factory on April 28th, 1881. On that same day, a young miscreant by the name of William McCarty was shooting his way out of the Lincoln County jail in New Mexico, killing deputies Jim Bell and Bob Ollinger in the process.

While the revolver sat in a box being shipped out west, President Garfield was shot by a lone assassin; the famous Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, surrendered to U.S. government troops; and the first public high schools opened west of the Mississippi. On the day that Mr. Public went to purchase his revolver before setting out on his wanderings, the news in the Arizona papers was of "A Desparate Fight Between Officers of the Law and Cow-Boys" in the vacant lot by the OK Corral in the boomtown of Tombstone.



I know the gun pictured above was made in 1881, but I won't know where it actually shipped or its exact date of birth until my factory letter comes back from Springfield. Until then, I'm free to let my imagination run wild, and 1881 is an exciting year in which to let your imagination off its leash. "Why do you like these old guns, Tam?" Why, indeed.

Sometimes you go to a gun show and come back empty-handed, and sometimes you come back with a handful of history.

21 comments:

Earl said...

Nice History lesson, and your imagination isn't running as wild as it could have been. Nice pistol, too.

Hazel Stone said...

Is it in working order and how much did they gouge you for it (if I may ask)?

Tam said...

It is in outstanding mechanical condition, and I paid somewhat less than the asking price of $325. (About 77% of the asking price, but I knew the seller and have bought a fair number of Smiths from him in the past, so he felt sorry for me this time 'round when he saw how bad I wanted it and that I was a bit short. Plus, he probably hadn't sold much that weekend and by Sunday afternoon you want to at least cover table fees.)

Carteach0 said...

Nice prize.....

I like the old ones, with history. They have a feel to them, perhaps coming from only the new owner, but still there.

I have an old H+R top break in .38 S+W. Aquired from a friend, I know two generations of the men that owned it. I also know it has been around the world in the kit of a merchant marine.....

History....

phlegmfatale said...

OOOH! AAAH!

mustanger98 on thr said...

"I know the gun pictured above was made in 1881, but I won't know where it actually shipped or its exact date of birth until my factory letter comes back from Springfield. Until then, I'm free to let my imagination run wild, and 1881 is an exciting year in which to let your imagination off its leash. "Why do you like these old guns, Tam?" Why, indeed."

I'm kinda that way about an M1 Garand (Dec. 1943), K98k (1943), and VZ-24 (1940 or '41).

I've also had the opportunity to inspect an 1895 Nagant revolver who's owner's brother, an American GI, took it off a German.

I've not yet had the opportunity to add aquire pre-1900 American pieces.

Hazel Stone said...

*seething with jealousy*

staghounds said...

Interesting that you used a Mark Twain book as a prop- since he was a dissatisfied S&W customer...

Carl H said...

"Ah'm yo' huckleberry. THAT'S yo' dingleberry. Keep 'em straight, now, heah?"

Danged nice looking piglet-leg. Too petite to qualify as a hogleg.

Anonymous said...

Shoatleg is the term.

B&N said...

Simply loved how you composed that faux-letter to Smith. Simply reeked of that Twain civility and forthrightness.

Xavier said...

Gorgeous photo Tam!

Beautiful gun too.

Tam said...

I was careful not to wipe any of Oleg's fingerprints off the camera when I got it. They give it good photo mojo. ;)

mdmnm said...

Nice pistol, nice post! I have the full set of that same edition of Twain.

Matt G said...

A wonderful "non-firearm" (shh! don't tell!) that a man or lady could defend themselves with... anywhere. I'm not saying that a .38 S&W is a monstrous manstopper, but you could do worse... MUCH worse.

Cybrludite said...

Reminds me of the Colt Vest Pocket Model I lost in the storm. From the stag grips to the circular dings on the back left of the slide, you could tell that the piece had a history to it.

Flintlock Tom said...

I picked up an S&W 4th Model (1883) last year. When I got the provenance letter from Smith & Wesson, the depth and weight of history actually gave me goose bumps.
But aren't the little cartridges cute?

mustanger98 on thr said...

"But aren't the little cartridges cute?"

Oooohboy... you just went and said it now...

Just nothing cute or warm-and-fuzzy or humorous about a lead slug with a live charge of powder behind it... even less when somebody lights it.

Wild Bill said...

Nice find.
If you ever get a chance - see Hal Holbrook’s one-man Twain show. It was mesmerizing.

phlegmfatale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
phlegmfatale said...

Having waxed droolescent earlier, I will now quote Keats: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."