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Scarce Wolf & Durringer of Louisville Retailer Marked Henry Deringer Pocket Pistol

Scarce Wolf & Durringer of Louisville Retailer Marked Henry Deringer Pocket Pistol

  • Product Code: FHG-2304
  • Availability: In Stock
  • $2,750.00


There is probably no other single shot percussion pistol is more famous than those of the Philadelphia gun maker Henry Deringer. In fact, he was so successful in creating the archetype of the pocket pistol that his name became a generic term for any small, large caliber hideout pistol and is still used today with that meaning. His name is also synonymous with one of the most heinous crimes in American history, as it was one of Henry Deringer’s pistols used by assassin John Wilkes Booth to kill President Abraham Lincoln; a heavy burden that no doubt followed Deringer to his own grave.

 

Among most firearms authors and historians, when speaking of guns actually made by Deringer, the gun name is spelled the same as the makers’ name. However, when the term is used generically, it is typically written with a lowercase “D” and two “R’s” in the word. While we know that Deringer produced his pocket pistols from the late 1830s through 1868, it is about impossible to tell exactly when a particular gun was made since they are not serial numbered. However, through scholarly research, a general range of production dates has been established based upon various features. The most useful of which is the German Silver trigger guard finial decorations, that have been classified into specific date ranges by scholars. At least seven types of triggerguard finials have been identified and classified, allowing a basic date range of production to be assigned to most of the guns encountered today.

 

Deringer’s pistols were produced in huge quantities by his shop and were also copied far and wide. The guns came in a fairly wide range of barrel lengths, from less than 2” for the shortest “Peanut” style guns to as long as 6” in length for the larger “coat” sized pistols and as long as 9” for the “dueling” sized guns. The smallest guns were often not equipped with ramrods, while they are a common feature on the larger ones. While the typical caliber was around .41 or, it was certainly larger in some cases with many of the pistols being around .45 caliber. While the earliest of Deringer’s pistols had conventional locks, by the early 1830s the classic “Deringer” form with the back action lock had been introduced and very quickly thereafter the rounded bag shaped grip was replaced with the checkered Bird’s Head stocks that are the archetype of Deringer pistols. Simply engraved German silver mountings were common with some guns more ornately decorated with additional upgrades to the wood and mountings, including a variety of metals ranging from silver to gold inlaid as decorative bands at the breech. During the period of production, a large number of “agents” offered Deringer’s pistols for sale, many of which marked the guns with their own names and locations. Nearly twenty different such agents’ marks are known and some of these are quite scarce, making them a very interesting sub-category in the collecting of Deringer’s pistols.

 

The FINE condition Deringer pistol offered here is a very attractive, late production medium-sized pocket pistol that was retailed by the Louisville firm of Wolf & Durringer. The company was a partnership of George Wolf Sr. and Joseph Durringer. Although Sellers lists Wolf as Charles Wolf, this appears to be incorrect. The partnership operated from 1864 to 1868 according to Sellers, but further research suggests the pair worked together from 1859-1871. The company was a Jewelry, Watch Maker and Fancy Goods retailer and like most businesses of that type they also sold firearms. George Wolf Sr. was a successful silversmith who was born in Louisville circa 1837 and became a journeyman jeweler by 1856, according to his obituary. His initial retail location was at 5th & Market Streets and in the latter part of the 1870s relocated to 4th & Jefferson Streets. During the 1870s the business was listed under “Watches, Clocks & Jewelry”, after the ending of the Durringer partnership. Interestingly his obituary in the June 23, 1897 The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review read in part: “During the war he sold to the army the famous Derringer pistol.” While it is unlikely that Mr. Wolf sold any Deringer pistols to the military, he certainly did sell them to the public during the 1860s. While firearms and related items were part of the overall inventory by Wolf & Durringer, an August 12, 1861 advertisement in the Louisville Daily Courier reads in part:

 

Wolf & Durringer’s - Colt Cartridges. – We are now manufacturing the above cartridges for all sizes of Colt’s pistol. Call and see them. We also keep Smith & Wesson’s cartridges at wholesale.

 

An October 11, 1862 advertisement in the same publication not only lists all of the Colt’s  and Smith & Wesson cartridges carried in inventory by model, but also reads that they carry cartridges for: “Allen & Wheelock’s Rifle and all sizes of Pistols; Cartridges for Bliss’s, Sharp’s, Moore’s, Warner & Bacon Pistol; Cartridges for Lefaucheux or French Navy Pistol; Cartridges for Volcanic Nos. 1 and 2 Gun and Pistol; And all other kinds of Cartridge made to order.” Another ad also lists cartridge for the Spencer and Henry rifles. In July of 1863, the first advertisements for the firm offering the guns of Henry Deringer are found. These are larger ads that read:

 

AGENTS

FOR

DERINGER’S PISTOLS

We are now Agents for this celebrated Pistol, and would call the attention of the trade and public generally to our large assortment of GENUINE

DERINGER PISTOLS

Wolf & Durringer,

Corner Fifth & Market sts.,

LOUISVILLE, KY.

 

 

An October 1, 1865 ad in the Louisville Courier-Journal that mentions Deringer reads: 

 

“If you want a genuine Deringer pistol go to the agents, Wolf & Durringer. Corner of Fifth and Market.”

 

 

The Henry Deringer produced pocket pistol offered here is deeply stamped on the top of the breech in two lines: 

DERINGER

PHILADEL

 

The barrel is marked on the top flat in three lines:

 

WOLF & DURRINGER

LOUISE, KY

AGENTS

 

The back action percussion lock is crisply stamped in two lines: DERINGER / PHILADELAAs is typical of his pistols, the gun is adorned with hand engraved German Silver mountings and inlays. Even the breech is inlaid with a pair of German silver bands. There is an engraved, shield-shaped German silver thumb-piece escutcheon set into the backstrap of the gun that is engraved with a flowing feathery motif. The feathered motif is found on the triggerguard bow and continues on the butt piece and the cap box lid in the butt. The lock, hammer and breech plug tang are all engraved with feathery splays en-suite. As would be expected from a later production Deringer pistol, the upper left angled breech is marked with his {SUNBURST}-P proof mark. The engraved pineapple final on the forward end of the triggerguard is the latter period design, typical of pistols produced between 1850 and 1870.

 

The gun is about 7 ½” in overall length and has a 4” barrel that measures about .45 caliber. The pistol is assembly numbered 7 throughout and this number is found inside the lock, under the barrel and the breech piece, in the barrel channel of the stock and on the top of the barrel wedge. The lock and breech plug screws are both numbered \/|| with file slashes, matching a Roman numeral “7” to the Arabic ones found elsewhere. The barrel retains strong traces of its original browned finish, which has thinned and faded and has mixed with a lightly oxidized plum brown patina, giving the pistol the appearance of retaining more finish than it really does. The barrel is mostly smooth with some scattered areas of oxidized surface roughness here and there, as well as some light pitting at the breech and near the muzzle, particularly on its face. The blued lock, hammer and tang have a dull, smoky blue-gray patina with traces of thinned and dulled finish mixed with an oxidized patina. The lock is fully functional, and the pistol operates exactly as it should. The concealed cap box in the butt also functions exactly as it should. The bore of the pistol is in about GOOD condition with moderate pitting and heavy oxidation along its length but retaining strong rifling. The original German silver dovetailed front sight is in place on the top of the barrel near the muzzle with the original small, fixed rear sight notch present on the top of the breech plug tang. The pistol has an older wood ramrod in the channel under the barrel, which has a silver band at the tip. The rod displays well but is not the correct rod for the gun, as it is too short for the barrel. The stock of the pistol is in FINE condition and remains full-length and free of any breaks or repairs. There is a tiny and tight grain crack running from the lock mountings screw to the barrel channel, but this is a common issue with many percussion arms as over-tightening the screw can result in a stress crack along the grain. These stock shows scattered bumps, dings and mars from handling and use, but shows no indication of abuse or damage. The checkering remains fairly crisp with light wear and the stock shows no indication of having been sanded.

 

Overall this is a lovely condition example of a scarce and desirable Wolf & Durringer retailer marked Henry Deringer percussion pocket pistol. The gun remains in crisp condition with clear markings and has a ton of eye appeal. The pistol is 100% original and all matching, with the exception of the replaced ramrod. This would be a wonderful addition to any collection of Agent Marked Deringer pistols or a collection that focuses on the gun made and sold in Louisville during the mid-19th century. It would be a particularly nice gun to add to any collection that most specifically focuses on guns from Louisville.

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Tags: Scarce, Wolf, Durringer, of, Louisville, Retailer, Marked, Henry, Deringer, Pocket, Pistol