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Palmetto Armory Pistol

Palmetto Armory Pistol

  • Product Code: FHG-2063-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

William Glaze of Columbia, SC entered the arms business through the same somewhat circuitous route as several other famous antebellum southern entrepreneurs; most notably Hyde & Goodrich of New Orleans. Both were dealers in a variety of items from jewelry to fancy goods and also imported items for sale, with little or no arms experience initially. Glaze entered the jewelry business in the late 1830s and by 1848 had partnered with Thomas Radcliffe of Columbia for a joint venture. Radcliffe was also a jeweler, silver smith and fancy goods dealer who dabbled in firearms sales as well. Antebellum examples of Thomas Radcliffe imported, English-made Tranter revolvers are known to exist, as are other arms that bear his retailer mark. In 1849, the pair entered into an arrangement to sell arms to the state of South Carolina for the use of the state’s militia. That year the state acquired 100 muskets and 274 rifles from the partners, all of which they simply acquired from northern makers and resold at a profit. The rifles were of the M1841 pattern and were made by Whitney, although modified with barrels that would accept a socket bayonet. The muskets appear to have been US M1842 percussion muskets that were acquired from Asa Waters, who would play a pivotal role in the soon to be formed Palmetto Armory of William Glaze. The following year the Glaze & Radcliffe partnership sold an additional 640 M1842 muskets to the state of South Carolina, this time they were obtained from Benjamin Flagg, who had previously worked as the foreman in the Waters operation and who was attempting to strike out on his own.

By March of 1851 the partnership between Glaze and Radcliffe dissolved, with Radcliffe returning to his pre-partnership business of general line and fancy good sale sales, while Glaze pursued a new career as an “arms maker”. Glaze partnered with Benjamin Flagg and James Boatwright in the establishment of what would be known to history as the Palmetto Armory but that was originally named the Palmetto Iron Works. Boatwright, however, would not remain with the firm for long. Both partners were instrumental in the initial success of the venture, as Glaze had neither manufacturing experience nor any real experience in the arms trade, other than the small group of weapons that had been sold by Radcliffe and himself in 1849 and 1850. As previously mentioned, Flagg had served as Water’s foreman before venturing out on his own. Flagg had all the required knowledge to establish a functional armory, as well as the contacts to acquire the necessary machinery to make arms, as well as the contacts to obtain components parts for arms. Boatwright was an old friend of the Glaze family who was politically well-connected, with the necessary contacts to obtain further state contracts for arms.

The looming crisis between slave holding states and free states was clearly forefront in the minds of the South Carolina government as they sought to establish the ability to manufacture arms within their own state, rather than rely upon arms from northern factories. This path had been successfully followed by the state of Virginia during the first two decades of the 19th century and likely served as a model for the new South Carolina operation that the government sought to establish via Glaze and his partners. In April of 1851, the new company that had a factory (but that was not yet likely capable of producing much of anything), entered into an agreement with the state of South Carolina to provide the following arms: 6,000 percussion muskets, 2,000 percussion pistols (1,000 pairs) and 1,000 each of rifles, dragoon and artillery sabers. The items ordered and their relative ratios of production (3 times as many muskets as pistols, half the number of dragoon sabers as pistols, etc.) looked quite oddly like the products and output ratios of the Virginia Manufactory. The contract specified that the arms were to be delivered during the calendar year 1852 and were to be of the current US patterns then in use; in others words the arms were to be US M1842 pattern muskets, US M1842 pattern pistols, US M1841 pattern rifles and US M1840 cavalry and light artillery sabers. However, the most important contract requirement was that: “These arms and their component parts, to be manufactured within the State of South Carolina, of the best material and workmanship and as far as practicable, of material and by mechanics obtained in the state foresaid.” It is clear from that contractual clause that the State of South Carolina was trying to establish a Virginia Manufactory type facility and wanted to be completely independent of any reliance upon the industrial north for the manufacture of the arms. This clause would also be Glaze’s undoing.

It appears that even though Glaze built a factory and acquired some machinery, he never intended to actually fabricate arms in the facility. Rather he intended, at the most, to acquire finished components and assemble them into complete arms. As noted by author Lew Southard in his excellent article The Origin of the Palmetto Pistols (American Society of Arms Collectors Bulletin 81:29-42) the “economy of scale” clearly indicated that Glaze had no intention to manufacture complete arms. The very cost of tooling to manufacture muskets, rifles, pistols and two patterns of sabers would have been so enormous that only large contracts, at least in excess of 10,000 units of each item, would have justified such a capital outlay. By comparison, Southard notes that the initial Henry Aston contract for M1842 pistols was for 30,000, thus justifying the capital investment. It also took Aston nearly two years to from the date of the contract acceptance to the delivery his first pistols. Clearly Glaze’s contract for 2,000 pistols, to be delivered within a year, was only possible if he were to rely upon a source of completed parts, if not completed pistols! The later Ira Johnson contract was for 10,000 M1842 pistols was only economically feasible because Johnson was a partner of Aston’s and had access to the Aston machinery to manufacture the guns, rather than having to tool up from scratch. So, it was upon the Aston-Johnson partnership that Glaze was relying in order to deliver pistols, when he accepted the South Carolina contract. Correspondence exists that proves out this point, that via Glaze’s partner Flagg, as well as the earlier Glaze relationship with Waters, a deal was struck to supply finished components to the Palmetto Armory for assembly into complete pistols. It appears that Johnson was the source for the components and that the locks were assembled by Waters, with all parts subsequently sent to Glaze for final assembly. Further investigation of extant, authentic Palmetto Armory pistols reveals that many of the parts used are condemned parts left over from the Federal contract M1842 pistols, marked with the condemnation “C”, which is sometimes partially or nearly completely obliterated, no doubt intentionally. While it was certainly bad enough that Glaze was violating the contractual requirement that the arms be made within the state from components and raw materials sourced from the state, the use of condemned parts certainly violated the clause that noted the arms were to be of the “best material and workmanship”.

The inherent delays in the acquisition of the parts and final assembly of the pistols resulted in Glaze failing to meet his contractual goal of delivery in 1852. This resulted in the cancellation of the contract in May of 1853. However, via cajoling and in some cases outright lying, Glaze managed to convince the state that 1,000 of the guns were mostly ready for delivery. Thus, Glaze managed to salvage part of the pistol contract. In the end, he managed to deliver 1,000 M1842 pattern pistols by the end of 1853. Correspondence reveals that at about the same time the contract was about to be canceled by the state, Glaze had reduced his order of parts from Johnson, Waters, etc. to about 720 component parts. This suggests that Glaze had some forewarning of contractual difficulties. It is also hypothesized that his machinations to retain a part of the contract is the reason that all extant, authentic Palmetto Pistol locks are dated “1852”, while the barrels are dated “1853”, and no guns were delivered prior to late 1853. The theory is that the locks, which had not yet been assembled as of the time of the contract cancellation, were “back dated” to support the claim that the guns were nearly complete. This certainly seems to be a reasonable assumption. Despite the fact that Glaze eventually delivered 6,000 muskets, 1,000 rifles and 1,000 pistols that he had assembled from parts obtained elsewhere, no further contracts for arms “manufacture” were forthcoming. He also delivered some 2,526 swords, which he only stamped his name upon and did not “manufacture” in any sense of the word. Glaze would additionally convert some 6,000 muskets from flint to percussion for the state, but his clear violation of nearly every term of the contract, from delivery time to sourcing parts, to the quality of the parts used, simply excluded him from any serious consideration for arms production for the state in the future.

The Palmetto Armory Pistol, as previously noted, was for all practical purposes a US M1842 Pistol. The guns were brass mounted, singles shot, percussion smoothbore pistols with 8 ““ barrels of .54 caliber and were equipped with a swivel ramrod. The parts were provided by Ira N. Johnson and included a combination of condemned parts from both the earlier Aston and later Johnson contracts, as well as some newly finished parts. The locks were assembled by Asa Waters, and it seems likely that Waters applied the Palmetto lock markings as well, as those markings would have to be stamped before the lock plates were casehardened. It is not uncommon to find some, or nearly all of the parts, marked with a condemnation “C” or some other mark (such as a punch dot) suggesting the parts had not been passed for Federal contract use. Additionally, the components should bear no US sub-inspection marks as do Aston and Johnson produced pistols. Unlike the US contract M1842 pistols, which were delivered with bright barrels, the Palmetto pistols were delivered with browned barrels. This may have been an intentional attempt to conceal the flaws or issues with the many second-hand and condemned barrels used. The barrels are typically marked on the left flat with WM GLAZE & CO and with a small “P” proof, a small “V” and a “Palmetto Tree” on the breech where the usual Federal contract larger “V”, “P” and “Eagle Head” marks are found. The rear face of the barrel and the breech plug are typically marked with alphanumeric mating codes, such as “F 4”. The breech plug tangs of the barrels should only be dated “1853”. As noted the locks of the guns are only dated “1852” and are marked in two horizontal lines behind the hammer: COLUMBIA / S C. 1852. It is worth noting that there is generally not a period after the letter “S’ on authentic examples. Forward of the hammer, the locks are marked with the circular legend: PALMETTO ARMORY S * C, surrounding the South Carolina palmetto tree. The letters “AL” and “ME” in “palmetto” and “AR” in “armory” are typically conjoined by the bottom leading and trailing edges of their serifs, respectively. The locks and hammers appear to have been delivered color casehardened, rather than casehardened and polished bright, as they were on US contract guns. As the guns used surplus and condemned components, sometimes earlier pattern parts from M1836 pistols are found on the Palmetto Armory guns. In particular sometimes M1836 triggerguard screws and ramrod swivels were utilized in the assembly of the guns, as well as some M1836 swivel screws.

Offered here is a NEAR FINE condition example of a Palmetto Armory Pistol. The gun has been fully disassembled and is a completely authentic, 100% original Palmetto Pistol. The lock is clearly marked with the circular PALMETTO ARMORY S * C legend, surrounding the usual South Carolina palmetto tree. The serifs of the letters “AL” and “ME” in Palmetto and “AR” in Armory connect as they should. The palmetto tree has the correct, unidirectional cross hatched trunk and the lowest left-hand frond correctly contacts the trunk. The rear of the lock is clearly marked vertically in two lines: COLUMBIA / S C. 1852. The lock has a mottled gray appearance with what appears to be some trace hints of case color on the exterior and some flaking dull color on the hammer. The interior of the lock shows dull, blue-black finish typical of an oil quenched case hardening. The locks shows some moderate pinpricking and surface oxidation on its exterior, along with some scattered light pitting, while the hammer remains mostly smooth with strong traces of its finish. The lock remains fully functional and operates crisply and correctly on all positions. The bridle mortise in the stock shows a worn, partially obscured C condemnation mark. The barrel is clearly marked WM GLAZE & CO on the left flat at the stock line. It also bears a very clear Palmetto Tree inspection at the breech, followed by a clear, small V and less clear, partly obscured small P. The date 1853 still remains legible on the breech plug tang. The rear face of the barrel and the breech plug tang bear the alphanumeric mating mark G 5. The barrel shows a partially legible C condemnation mark below the bolster, concealed by the stock. The barrel shows some rough machining and tool marks on its bottom where the workmanship is concealed by the stock. These tool marks would have never been acceptable to a US arms inspector, thus indicating the quality of the workmanship that went into the Palmetto pistols. The barrel retains about 40%+ of its original browned finish, with the expected wear and loss. All of the marking remain clear, with the exception of the “P” proof which is partly obscured, and the metal remains mostly smooth. Some scattered surface oxidation and light pinpricking is present, as well as some very light pitting in the breech and bolster area. The bore of the pistol is dark and heavily oxidized with scattered light to moderate pitting. A good scrubbing might improve the bore to some degree. The original brass front sight is in place on the top of the barrel, near the muzzle. The captive swivel ramrod is of the M1842 pattern and is also marked with a condemnation C, as was noted on the barrel and inside the lock mortise. The rod appears to have some machining flaws that resulted in its rejection, but it still remains fully functional. The rod is secured by a pair of M1842 pattern swivels. The brass furniture has a lightly cleaned golden patina and neither the triggerguard nor the backstrap bear the condemnation “C” marks that are sometimes found on their interior. Neither do the parts show any Federal sub-inspection marks, indicating these parts were made by Johnson specifically for the Palmetto contract, or were simply overrun production parts. The stock of the pistol rates about VERY GOOD and is not quite as nice as the metal of the pistol, overall. The stock shows wear and use and appears to have been lightly sanded, with the sharp edges of the counterpane rounded and worn. The stock is solid and full-length with no repairs but does show some cracks. Most notably one running from the top of the barrel channel through the rear lock mounting screw into the flat on the reverse, as well as a short grain crack at the tail of the lock mortise. The stock also shows some scattered bumps and dings from service and use. This is to be expected, as most of the Palmetto pistols saw service during the early days of the Civil War, as handguns were in short supply in the south for cavalry use. The initials WWH are carved into the counterpane of the pistol. If a list of known regiments that received these pistols could be compared against these initials and their rosters, the soldier who carried the pistol might be identifiable.

Overall this a very nice, completely authentic example of a scarce Palmetto Armory Pistol, produced for the state of South Carolina in the years immediately preceding the American Civil War. With only 1,000 pistols manufactured, and with the proliferation of fake examples on the market, finding a completely authentic example can be quite difficult. Additionally, finding one with any original finish on the metal is almost unheard of. This is really a wonderful example of a scarce and desirable secondary Confederate pistol that would be a fantastic addition to any collection of southern arms and represents a great value when compared to the price of any of the Confederate made revolvers. This gun is southern made, from the state that started the American Civil War and lead the south in secession and is about one-third the price of the cheapest of the Confederate made revolvers! However, it is still just as Confederate as a Griswold & Gunnison of Leech & Rigdon pistol.


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Tags: Palmetto, Armory, Pistol