Smith & Wesson
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?
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.