Operating in Philadelphia from 1861 to 1864, Jesse Butterfield's historical claim to fame was percussion weapons with integral priming devices, such as his self-named revolver and this very special derringer pistol. Originally patented on December 11, 1855, the design bears similarities to the one used in the Sharps carbine, with a spring loaded tube carrying mercury-fulminate pellets up to a reciprocating arm which is connected to the hammer, pulling back to the tube and catching a fresh pellet in a hole at the tip when the hammer is cocked and moving over top of the nipple when the trigger is pulled. The hammer, especially designed with an striker to pass through the hole in the tip, then crushes the pellet against the nipple and clears the arm for the next pellet. Brass blade front and notch rear sights, with the breechplug bordered with zigzag lines and silver bands, "12" on the top flat, and a streaked brown finish on the barrel, all made similar to Derringer's pistol. The lock plate is marked "BUTTERFIELD'S / PATENT DEC. 11. 1855" on the lock plate, which extends up to contact the tang to accommodate the priming hardware, with the rectangular magazine extending down past the wood, capped with a knurled brass disc with a pin extending through. Most Butterfield pistols show a different design, thicker with a knob on the bottom to conceal the pin, which is from the bottom of the brass magazine tube. Fitted with German silver hardware and extensively engraved, with fine scrollwork on the lock plate, hammer, bolster, magazine extension, trigger guard, reverse plate and tang, with burst patterns on the tang and lock screws, floral patterns on the wedge escutcheons, zigzag borders on the initial shield and buttplate, and a pineapple finial. Fancy hardwood grip, with a triangular inlay on the Schnabel tip and checkering on the birds head butt. Consignor information states that this arm was photographed on page 99 of John Parson's "Henry Deringer Pocket Pistols" (please note the pin visible on the underside of the magazine disc). It is believed that only 25 of these arms were produced, and that only 15 survive today.
Very fine. Approximately half of the original streaked finish is clearly visible on the barrel, strongest on the top flat, with strong definition between the lines, the start of a gray patina, and a few light dings on the muzzle. A smooth gray patina is settling on the lock, hammer and tang, with bright traces of the original case color visible under the hammer. Very fine wood, with a pair of extremely tiny chips absent from the top and front of the lock, along with some scattered pressure dents and excellent color and grain. Silver is excellent, with a small patch on the trigger guard behind the screw, some handling marks, a green hue around the trigger and an excellent color overall. Both the lock and the primer are mechanically excellent. A superb piece which can easily be the centerpiece of an advanced Derringer or antique American weapon collection. Few are fortunate enough to see one of these, let alone having the opportunity to own one!
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