November 30, 2021
By Garry James
Question: This pistol was passed down from my father. It has been in our family for many years. It was my grandfather’s originally, and I believe he bought it in the late 1950s or early 1960s. I think my father told me that my grandfather obtained the pistol in Michigan. I’ve tried doing research on it, but I cannot find much information. I’ve attached images and hope that you can do better. I’m unsure on the caliber, maybe .45 or .54. The length of the pistol is 9 inches exactly. The inscription of the lockplate says “Made for Hooper Martin & Smith Philadelphia.“
-M.V. via email
Answer: That’s an interesting piece. It is a greatcoat-sized percussion pistol manufactured by some unknown maker for the hardware store Hooper, Masters and Smith which maintained a business on 1153 Market St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 1839 edition of “McElroy’s Philadelphia City Directory” states the firm was “Importers and dealers in foreign and domestic hardware and cutlery.” The style of the pistol indicates an American — probably Pennsylvania — origin. I would date it circa 1845. It is similar to the wares of Henry Deringer, though because it’s so plain, I would be inclined to think it was made by someone else. It’s rather nice. If it was mine, I’d fit it with a proper hammer screw and get a ramrod for it. My guess is the rod would probably have had a horn, brass or German silver tip.
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