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Old 22nd April 2021, 05:40 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,389
Default Underhammer boot leg pistol

These are relatively little known single shot percussion pistols of around 1830s to 1860, which were apparently used in Maine, primarily by lumber jacks and loggers on the rivers and the mill towns. Bangor was the largest and busiest of the lumber milling cities in those times.

These pistols were unusual with percussion lock on the underside rather than traditionally placed on the stock, and while termed 'boot pistols' , many were actually worn in a holster on the belt, as William Neal's typically were.

This pistol by William Neal, of Bangor was likely made in the 1840s. He was listed in his shop at East End Kenduskeg Bridge there, where he remained until his death Oct.10, 1853 (@ 43 yrs old). He set the style for the 'saw handle' underhammer pistols of the 1850s.

In the spring, the tightly wound river drivers (moving the logs down river on the Penobscot) would descend on Bangor (they were termed Bangor tigers from the ensuing release of energy). As they poured into the many hotels, bars, gambling halls and brothels on Exchange Street, violence was no stranger, and this was actually another version of the 'wild west' , much in the manner of later Alaskan and other gold rush towns.

I bought the gun (outside my normal field of swords) as one of my grandfathers was originally from a town nearby on the Kennebec River, and that it was unusual and from the place he was born in the same period. He had moved to Minnesota and in 1862, he served with the 2nd US Sharpshooters (Berdans Sharpshooters), and this unit (one of only two regiments) was comprised of men from Minnesota and Maine, many notably in lumber industry.

Coincidentally, William Neals son also joined the Union army and fought in the 2nd US Sharpshooters ! My grandfather may well have known him!!
Such is the happenstance and remarkable coincidence that is part of the adventure of collecting and studying arms
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