Allen & Thurber Cased Pepperbox - Excellent
- Product Code: FHG-1833-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
The various firms owned and operated by gun maker Ethan Allen eventually resulted in a true powerhouse of American arms manufacturing during the middle of the 19th century, Allen & Wheelock. Unlike the major American arms producers of the era like Colt and Remington, Allen’s companies concentrated upon manufacturing arms for civilian sale rather than focusing on trying to obtain government military contracts. The company was founded in 1831 when Ethan Allen started to make cutlery in Milford, MA. Allen’s primary line was the knives and tools needed for cobblers. Allen then moved his small facility to North Grafton, MA where he added a cane gun to his line of shoemaker’s tools. In 1836 Allen introduced his “Pocket Rifle”, a single action, under hammer, long-barreled rifled pistol in .31 caliber. With the initial success of this product, Allen pursued the design and patent of a double action pocket pistol, and eventually the pepperboxes that would be his mainstay product line for the next 20 years. In 1837 he brought his brother-in-law Charles Thurber into the business, creating Allen & Thurber, and in 1842 the company moved to Norwich, CT, where it would remain until 1847. In 1847, the firm moved to Worcester, MA, where it would remain until it went out of business in 1871. In 1854 Thomas Wheelock, another of Allen’s brother’s-in-law joined the company, and it was rebranded as Allen, Thurber & Company. In 1856 Charles Thurber retired, and the company known as Allen & Wheelock came into existence. In 1865, after Wheelock’s death the previous year, the company was renamed for the last time E. Allen & Company. The new company included more of Allen’s extended family, his son’s-in-law Sullivan Forehand and Henry Wadsworth. After Allen’s death in 1871, the 34-year-old company would change names again, this time to Forehand & Wadsworth, and the Allen name would be left to history. During that 34-year history, the company produced thousands of firearms ranging from single shot percussion pocket pistols and multi-barrel percussion pepperboxes, to rather innovative and complicated large frame percussion revolvers and even some of the first truly successful cartridge revolvers. The development of Allen’s “Lip Fire” self contained cartridges were truly revolutionary, especially because the rimfire cartridges of the era that were offered in the Smith & Wesson #1 and #2 revolvers were only .22 and .32 respectively, while Allen offered self-contained handgun cartridges in the much larger calibers of .36 and .44. Unfortunately Allen’s production of his Lip Fire and Rim Fire series of revolvers was brought to a screeching halt due to litigation from Smith & Wesson, who were defending the bored through cylinder patent of Rollin White, which they had purchased exclusive access to. He managed to produce his sidehammer rimfire revolvers for about 3 years, from 1859 to 1862, before the patent infringement suit shut down the production of that product line as well. His revolutionary Lip Fire revolvers saw a much shorter production life, with the guns being patented in 1860 and being out of production by mid-1862. Despite these setbacks Allen persevered, continuing to manufacture percussion revolvers, and long arms, including a drop-breech cartridge rifle and double-barreled shotguns with metal wrists. Allen also produced a successful line of single shot, cartridge derringers that did not infringe upon the Rollin White patent. Allen’s innovations in revolver actions, and self-contained cartridge designs earned him numerous patents. His use of large-scale production techniques and interchangeable parts also made his a leader within his industry. While certainly not as famous as Samuel Colt, Eliphalet Remington or Oliver Winchester, the contributions of Ethan Allen to the American firearms industry were important and long lasting, and his high quality arms offer a worthy and wide array of collecting possibilities.
Offered here is a really wonderful example of a fully cased and accoutered Allen & Thurber Pepperbox in about EXCELLENT condition, that was retailed by the famous John Krider of Philadelphia, PA. While known to arms collectors today as a gunmaker, who manufactured high quality arms, Krider was much better known in the period as an outdoorsman, and sporting goods mogul. Krider was a successful businessman who had built a large sporting goods business during the 1830s, 40s & 50s in Philadelphia, called the Sportsman’s Depot. The name of the business and the breadth of items offered in his store bring to mind the sprawling 19th century equivalent of Bass Pro Shops or Cabelas! Krider served all of the sporting public’s needs by providing everything from fishing tackle to taxidermy supplies to dog muzzles and firearms. According to research by noted author & collector George Moller (see American Military Shoulder Arms Volume III), Krider’s pre-Civil War firearms business was primarily in the sales of arms from companies like Sharps, Colt and Deringer, while his “gun making” was really the assembly of arms from parts he acquired from other sources, rather than being a real manufacturer of arms. Mr. Moller’s research also indicates that Krider provide accouterments to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and also repaired accouterments for them as well. Apparently Krider also offered the guns produced by the various firms run by Ethan Allen, as the paper label inside this cased Allen & Thurber pepperbox set attests. The gun is a classic Allen’s patent pepperbox, based upon his 1845 patent, which represented a significant improvement over his 1837 patent mechanism. The 1845 patent simplified and improved the functionality and ease of production of the pepperbox’s internal mechanism. The right side of the barrel hammer is marked in reference to these patented improvements in two lines: ALLEN’s PATENT/ 1845. The barrel is marked inside one of the flutes in a single long line: ALLEN & THURBER and WORCESTER. The barrel marking allows us to date the production of the gun to somewhere between late 1847 (after the company had moved to Worcester, MA) and about 1854, when the company became Allen, Thurber & Co. As such, this pepperbox was manufactured at the height of popularity for this sort of gun. The basic design double action, bar hammer pepperbox has reached its pinnacle, and by the mid-1850s was being rapidly supplanted by the much more reliable and advanced Colt percussion revolvers like the M-1849 Pocket Model. The gun is a 6-barrel pepperbox that is nominally .32 caliber with a 4” barrel cluster, and is sometimes referred to as a Standard Light Fluted 6 model. The barrels are fully fluted without ribs, and were the final incarnation of the various Allen barrel cluster designs that has previously featured mostly ribbed barrels. The fully fluted barrels were introduced after the firm moved to Worcester and only the very latest of the Allen & Thurber marked gun featured the fully fluted barrel cluster. These barrels are standard on all subsequent Allen, Thurber & Company and Allen & Wheelock pepperboxes. The flash guard is removable and is hand engraved with light floral splays and the frame is similarly hand engraved with floral patterns. The backstrap is engraved with light, decorative boarder designs. As the popularity of the pepperbox began to wane, Allen eliminated the engraved embellishments to reduce cost and try to remain competitive with the new conventional percussion revolver designs that were beginning to dominate the market. The gun is assembly numbered 95 and this matching number is found on the barrel cluster between two of the nipple recesses, on the inside of the triggerguard, inside the frame on the left side (under the grips), on the left edge of the mainspring and stamped into each of the grip panels. The pepperbox measures about 7 5/8” in overall length and weighs a hefty 1 pound 8 ounces unloaded, a fairly substantial amount of weight to carry in a pocket. The gun retains about 90%+ of its original high luster blued finish, which is uncommon for Allen handguns, as the fragile blued finish was prone to flaking. The barrel cluster retains about 95%+ blue, with some very minor fading and thinning, and some flecks of light oxidation scattered within the blue. The barrels are free of pitting, but a couple of small areas of minor surface roughness and pinpricking are present near the muzzles, probably from resting in the cloth of the case over time. The frame retains about 92%+ blue, showing slightly more thinning and very minor wear than the barrel clusters. Most of this thinning is along the gripstrap and backstrap where the pepperbox has been handled. The backstrap also shows some freckled surface oxidation scattered along its surfaces. A small amount of pinpricking is also present on the right side of the frame where the frame and nipple shield meet. The most finish loss is on the nipple shield, which has the largest surface area that rested upon the cloth lining of the casing. Both the left and right sides of the nipple shield show this moderate pinpricking, with the right side that rested on the bottom of the case showing more than the left side that was only touched by the lining of the lid’s pillow. Interestingly, the while the right side that laid on the lining shows more pinpricking, the left side shows slightly more finish loss, possibly from the action of the lid’s pillow opening and closing upon the nipple shield. Even with the minor loss and thinning of the finish on the nipple shield it still retains about 80% of its original blued finish. The hammer and triggerguard both retain about 85%+ dulled and muted case coloring with the bar hammer showing some light pinpricking from percussion cap flash. The original cones (nipples) are all in place in the barrel cluster and show light wear from firing. The cone recesses show moderate surface oxidation and roughness and residue from being fired a few times and then not being adequately cleaned. The 6 bores of the barrel cluster remain in fine condition and show only some lightly scattered pinpricking along their length and otherwise remain crisp and smooth. The pepperbox remains mechanically EXCELLENT and functions perfectly. The gun times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should. The two-piece, bag shaped walnut grips are in VERY FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. They are extremely crisp and sharp and retain about 90%+ of their original varnished finish, with only some very light surface edge wear and some minor handling marks and dings. The grips are solid and complete and free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The pepperbox is accompanied by an original period casing for the gun. It is not clear if this is a factory casing from the Allen & Thurber factory or a retailer-casing put together by Krider with the correct factory accouterments. The varnished walnut case is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition and would rate truly fine if the interior compartments had not been relined. The original mauve velveteen lining remains in the lid, covering the padded pillow. This lining has an old repaired patch of fabric, laid over an area of apparent wear. The wear is right above the nipple shield of the gun and is the only place the pillow would have regularly touched the pepperbox when the lid was closed. I believe this patch was taken from the original lining of the bottom of the case when it was recovered. Above this patched repair is the paper Krider retailers label. The label reads: JOHN KRIDER, / GUN MAKER / GENERAL SPORTING STORE. / NORTHEAST CORNER OF SECOND & WALNUT / PHILADELPHIA.. The third and fourth lines of the label are arced to create a cartouche and surround an image of bird dog in a marsh. The label is block printed in yellow and black and appears completely original. No tell tale pixels, indicating modern printing, are present when the label is examined under extreme magnification. The label remains in about FINE condition with light wear. The relined compartments have been covered in an attractive, if somewhat thick deep maroon baize that is close in color to the original pillow lining and matches fairly well. The case is solid and complete and the hinges and lock still function smoothly and correctly. The original key remains with the case as well. The lid and sides retain much of their original finish, with some light to moderate wear and loss noted and the usual array of bumps, dings and mars appropriate to a casing that is more than 150 years old. The case is free of any major defects, cracks or repairs, other than those mentioned relative to the lining. The casing contains a series of correct accouterments for the loading and firing of an Allen pepperbox. This includes a leather-covered brass “plunger flask”, a dual cavity iron bullet mold, a combination cleaning and loading rod and a tin of percussion caps. The leather covered plunger flask is a very scarce and correct pattern flask found in Allen pepperbox casing from this era. Later casings were more likely to have conventional bag shaped flasks, or occasionally a brass plunger flask without the leather covering. The leather covered variant is extremely scarce and is in FINE overall condition with only some light wear. The flask plunger mechanism is still functional. The dual cavity iron mold is unmarked and has the typical Allen pattern design with widely arced arms and no spure cutter. The mold casts one round and one conical bullet of the correct dimensions for use with the pepperbox. While conical bullets were uncommon for pepperboxes, the parsimonious Allen may have had a run of molds produced that could serve double duty with either pepperboxes or his new sidehammer percussion revolvers which were coming into production towards the end of the production period for this pepperbox. The mold is in VERY GOOD+ condition with crisp cavities and remains completely serviceable. The mold shows some lightly scattered pinpricking and minor pitting on its exterior and has a mottled and oxidized dark gray over light gray metal patina. The combination loading and cleaning rod is in FINE condition and is a typical Allen pattern rod. The turned wood knob at the top is of the distinctive Allen pattern and the iron shaft includes the integral cleaning jag at the end, as well as a cupped rod tip to load either round or conical balls. The rod is complete, solid and completely original, and is ready to load the pepperbox if necessary. The accompanying tin of percussion caps is a typical mid-19th century jappaned container with the lid embossed ELEY BROs / LONDON. The tin retains about 30% of its original jappaned finish and part of its original paper closure label. The tin may or may not be original to the casing but is absolutely typical and correct for the era and fits the casing perfectly.
Overall this is a really wonderful example of a fully cased Allen & Thurber 6-Shot Pepperbox.The condition of the gun is truly EXCELLENT, and the gun remains in a state of preservation rarely found with American made pepperboxes from the Gold Rush period. The gun is housed in a very nice period case with a wonderful Krider retailer label inside the lid. All of the accompanying accessories are correct pattern Allen accessories, including the very rare leather covered plunger flask. Cased pepperbox sets of this quality rarely appear on the market and even more rarely with such a famous retailers name on them. This would be a wonderful addition to any collection of mid-19th century American handguns, whether is centered on Ethan Allen arms, cased arms, Gold Rush era items or Philadelphia produced and retailed guns. The accompanying photos do not do this gorgeous pepperbox justice and I am sure you will be very proud to make this gorgeous cased set a center piece in your collection.SOLD