We believe this to be a real Derringer, made by Henry Deringer of Philadelphia.
Perhaps the most famous of Deringer’s pistols is the one used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, but his pistols were already famous before then and spawned many imitators.
We encourage you to read the chapter titled “Percussion Derringers (Henry Deringer and His Imitators)” in Norm Flayderman’s “Guide to Antique American Firearms”.
This handgun has survived in Fine condition, which is exceptional given its utilitarian pocket protection role.
It has an approximate 5 ½” overall length with the barrel measuring about 1 5/8” as measured from the muzzle to the seam at the breechblock; Flayderman indicates that 1 ½” was the smallest barrel length but that variations plus or minus 1/8” were common.
It has the appropriate seven groove rifling, engraving and markings. Included is a photocopy from Frank M. Seller’s ‘American Gunsmiths’, telling us that Charles Curry was an agent of the Derringer company in San Francisco, California from 1852-1863.
This puts production within the American Gold Rush timeline, from 1849-1855; if not directly tied to that historic event, it was definitely a part of early settling in California. Local buyers, make sure this one doesn’t leave the state!
These pistols are becoming quite scarce, especially in this condition and it is even more unique that this item has a documented history.