Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Deringer versus derringer by Zina Abbott


The term “derringer” is a generic misspelling of the last name of Henry Deringer, a famous 19th-century maker of small pistols that fit inside a pocket. Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gun makers worldwide. In addition, the name was often misspelled. Eventually, this misspelling—derringer—soon became an alternate generic term for any pocket pistol.

 Deringer metal nameplate

Along with the generic phrase, palm pistol, derringer was used by Deringer's competitors in their advertising. Today, that is the spelling most often used to describe any of the small pistols, including single-barrel, double-barrel, or the three- or four-shot palm size pepperbox guns. The term "derringer" became a genericized misspelling used by many who reported about the assassination of American president, Abraham Lincoln. The weapon used to kill him was a concealed Philadelphia Deringer.

Philadelphia Deringer used by John Wilkes Booth

The original Deringer pistol was a single-shot pistol developed by Henry Deringer. His original Philadelphia Deringer was a muzzleloading, caplock, single-shot pistol he introduced in 1825. Approximately 15,000 Deringer pistols were manufactured. All were single barrel pistols with back-action percussion locks. They typically used .40 with rifled bores and walnut stocks. Barrel lengths varied from 1.5 to 6 inches. The hardware was commonly a copper-nickel alloy known as German silver.


 Left side of Philadelphia Deringer

Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gunmakers worldwide, but they did not have the rights to the Deringer name. They often used the misspelling, derringer, which soon became an alternative generic term for any pocket pistol. Deringer's competitors also used the generic phrase "palm pistol” in their advertising.

With the development of metallic cartridge firearms, pistols began to be produced in the modern form. They were still known as “derringers.” Derringers are also generally the smallest usable handgun of a given caliber. Easily concealed in a purse, pocket, or secured to a thigh using a garter, they were frequently used by women. They were also known as “muff pistols,” because their compact size allowed them to be carried in a muff.

Remington Model 95 Double Derringer

Many Western or other historical writers refer to a double barrel derringer, also known as an over-and-under derringer. These were first manufactured by Remington.

While maintaining the compact size, the Remington derringer design doubled the capacity by adding a second barrel on top of the first. The barrels pivoted upwards to reload. Each barrel then held one round, and a cam on the hammer alternated between top and bottom barrels. This pistol became very popular due to its ability to hold two shots. The Remington derringer was sold from 1866 to 1935.

Remington Model 95 Double Derringer with Pearl Handles

However, it is important to note, although this gun, like many of the pocket-sized pistols might have been known generically as a derringer, its official name was a Remington Model 95 Double Derringer. Designed by William H. Elliott on December 12, 1865, and manufactured by Remington Arms, it could not legally use the Deringer name. It went with the generic term, derringer, as part of the pistol’s official name. This pistol achieved widespread popularity.

.41 Short caliber rimfire bullet

The original cartridge derringers held only a single round, usually a pinfire or rimfire .40 caliber cartridge, with the barrel pivoting sideways on the frame to allow access to the breech for reloading. Once they moved to rimfire, almost all derringers used the .41 Short caliber rimfire bullet.


The Remington derringer was in .41 Short caliber. The .41 Rimfire Cartridge was first introduced by the National Arms Company in 1863. The bullet was also known as the .41 Short. At about 425 feet per second, the .41 Short bullet moved very slowly. (In comparison, a modern .45 ACP travels at 850 feet per second.) It had a muzzle energy of 52 foot-pounds force (71 J). The bullet could be seen in flight. Within about a six-foot range, such as at a casino or saloon card table, it could easily kill. When shot at a target farther away, the bullet lost much of its effectiveness.

Colt Deringer-Right: 1st model 1870-90, Left: 3rd model 1875-1912 all .41 rimfire

Colt also developed and sold three versions of derringers. Sometimes, the Colt pocket pistol is referred to as a Colt Deringer.

In both of my recently published books, Abilene Gamble and Indianapolis Justice, much of the mystery behind the death of the villain, Wilfred Osprey, involves a derringer used at the crime scene. It was identified as a “Remington Model 95 over-under Derringer.” Since this came out in courtroom testimony, I needed to be precise in naming the type of small pistol used which left one bullet in the wall next to the doorjamb, and one bullet missing. This was what sent me down the research rabbit hole of learning the difference between a Deringer and a derringer.


Abilene Gamble is now available in ebook, including at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. It is also available in paperback. To find the book description and purchase link, please CLICK HERE.



Indianapolis Justice is now available in ebook, including at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. It will be available in paperback soon. To find the book description and purchase link, please CLICK HERE.

To better appreciate the story, you will want to read these books in order.





Saturday, March 26, 2022


By Caroline Clemmons

Women's History Month Honors Mardy Murie.

Grandmother of
the Conservation 

Margaret (Mardy) Murie is fondly called the Grandmother of the Conservation Movement, but her love of the land began at a young age. Margaret Thomas grew up in Fairbanks after arriving by sternwheeler with her family as a small child. Her stepfather, Louis Gillette, was an assistant U.S. attorney in Fairbanks.

She met Olaus Murie, a biologist, in Fairbanks. In 1924, Mandy was the first woman to graduate from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, now the University of Alaska. She and Olaus married in 1924 in a 3 a.m. sunrise ceremony at Anvik on the Yukon River. Doesn’t that sound romantic? It does to me, but there’s a more practical explanation. After her graduation, Mandy traveled by steamwheeler to the village where she and Olaus had agreed to meet. Olaus had been studying birds in Hooper Bay. The couple left on a 550 mile honeymoon on dogsled and riverboat to study caribou migration.

Mardy and Olaus Murie

Another expedition a few years later involved boating from Fairbanks hundreds of miles to the Old Crow River in Canada to band geese. She continued to accompany her husband on his journeys even while nursing their three children. 

The couple left Alaska in 1927, but returned to visit many times in the following decades. Mardy's adventures growing up in Alaska and as a scientist's wife are chronicled in her book, "Two in the Far North," and in a documentary, "Arctic Dance." Published in 1962 and still in print, the book describes the winter night when she was 14 and Fairbanks caught fire. The men burned the town's bacon supply as fuel to keep the steam-powered water pump running. She also recounts her late-winter dogsled trips over thawing rivers, how she became the first woman to graduate from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, her marriage to Olaus, the couple's honeymoon, as well as a later river journey taken with their infant son, Martin, strapped to their boat. She also authored "Island Between," published in 1977, and "Wapiti Wilderness," published in 1966 with her husband as co-author, even though he had died three years earlier.

Olaus and Mardy
I love the adoring way she
looks at her husband.

In 1927, the Muries moved to Jackson, Wyoming, where Olaus studied ecology, specifically the elk population. Mardy worked side-by-side with Olaus in the field, studying elk, sheep and numerous other animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They would camp for weeks at a time in the wild, open valley of Jackson Hole. Olaus' primary goal was to identify pressures on the elk population, causing the startling decrease in the area. Over the course of nearly 40 years, The couple had numerous backcountry expeditions tracking the wildlife in the area. The couple even took expeditions when their three children were still nursing!

In 1945, they bought a former dude ranch after Mardy decided she no longer wanted to live in town. She wanted to walk out her back door and into the woods. The Murie Ranch became a hub for conversations and problem solving to protect the wild. Olaus and Mardy took on work as director and secretary of the Wilderness Society, helping draft recommendations for legislation and policy like the protection of Jackson Hole National Monument. 

In 1956, Mardy, Olaus and other field biologists traveled to the upper Sheenjek River on the south slope of the Brooks Range, inside what is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That trip began the campaign to protect the area as a wildlife refuge. The couple recruited former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas to help persuade President Eisenhower to set aside 8 million acres as the Arctic National Wildlife Range, which was expanded to 19 million acres and renamed in 1980.

Mardy and Olaus


The idea of preserving an entire ecological system became the intellectual and scientific foundation for the creation of a new generation of large natural parks, especially those established by the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act. By the time of his death on October 21, 1963, Olaus had earned a prominent position in the historical ranks of eminent American preservationists. Although he did not live to see the Wilderness Act passed, its enactment was in part attributable to his work and convictions. Mardy, however, attended the signing of the Act, by President Lyndon Johnson, in the Rose Garden of the White House on September 3, 1964.

After her husband 's death in 1963Mardy began writing and took over much of her husband's conservation work, writing letters and articles, traveling to hearings, and making speeches. Mardy returned to Alaska to survey potential wilderness areas for the National Park Service and worked on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act that was signed by President Carter in 1980. That legislation set aside 104,000,000 acres of land in Alaska and doubled the size of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to Alaska, Mardy traveled to Tanzania and New Zealand studying wild areas, assessing areas for wilderness qualities and working to protect nature from exploitation.]


The Murie Residence in Moose, Wyoming was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. As part of the Murie Ranch Historic District Landmark in 2006, it now houses a conservation institute name for Mardy and Olaus.


During her life, Mandy Murie received numerous honors and awards. She died peacefully at home at age 101.




Thursday, March 24, 2022

IN YOUR EASTER BONNET by Marisa Masterson


Easter will soon be here. It started me thinking, "When did women begin wearing Easter bonnets?"

According to one source, Easter bonnets actually connect back to a Eurpoean tradition. To celebrate spring, people would dress in new clothes and decorate themselves with flowers.  I suppose that is sort of like an Easter bonnet. I celebrate Christ's resurrection at Easter and the new life I found with him. (

Still, that isn't quite what I think of with Easter bonnets. I imagine women and girls with lovely dresses and hats decorated for the season. 

More like what happened on the Sunday following the end of the American Civil War . It was Easter and women wore decorated bonnets to church to show their joy at having peace once more. (

It wasn't until the 1870s that cities like New York began holding Easter parades. These called for churches to empty at the same time so that the Easter churchgoers could stroll down the parade route in their finery. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

National Women's History Month - Winifred Bonfils, Reporter

Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils
from Wikipedia

I wish I knew more about what the newspaper newsrooms were like back in the late 1800s. There were some amazing women in the news industry, both as reporters and newspaper owners. I've written about Nellie Bly, Polly Pry, Nora Marks, and Eva Gay. In this post Annie Laurie, the name Winifred Bonfils used as an investigative reporter is in the spotlight.

Born Winifred Sweet in Wisconsin on 14 October of 1863. During her lifetime she seemed to let nothing stop her. This seemed to come naturally to the Sweet family. Her father was General Benjamin Sweet. Her sister, Ada, was the first female dispersing agent in the US government.

Most biographies say she was educated in private schools and started out to be an actor, but soon made the change to reporter. She began her career at the Chicago Tribune but soon landed a job with Wm. R. Hearst's first newspaper the San Francisco Examiner.

1900 Newsroom of the Times-Picayune
from Wikiwand

Most consider her 'fainting spell' as the beginning of her career as an investigative journalist. She pretended to faint on the street in San Francisco in order to write a piece on the conditions of emergency treatment in the city. The expose' exposed the problems with one of the outcomes being the city purchasing an ambulance.

It was said she published some sixteen thousand articles in her lifetime. Some of the events she covered were the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the murder trial of Harry K. Thaw. To report on the aftermath of the 1900 hurricane in Galveston she dressed as a boy and slipped through the police lines. She was the first reporter in, and history says the only woman.

She married twice. Her first marriage was to Orlow Black. Reports say she divorced him, charging cruelty. Her second marriage was to Charles A. Bonfils. This takes us back to the first post in this series. Polly Pry, Mrs. Leonel O'Bryan, the reporter for the Denver Post who saved the life of Frederick Bonfils one of the owners of The Denver Post, and older brother of Charles.

Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils died March 25, 1936, in San Francisco, California.

One of my favorite quotes attributed to her is: "I'd rather smell the printer's ink and hear the presses go around than go to any grand opera in the world."

If you want to read the other post, here are the links:

Nellie Bly, Polly Pry

Eva Gay, Nora Marks

Until next time, wishing you a productive and profitable year.



Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Angel of the Battlefield - The Life and Times of Clara Barton by Jo-Ann Roberts


In celebration of the 2022 Women History Month theme “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” Clara Barton's gift of healing gave hope to the lives of others and reflects a belief in the unlimited possibilities of this and future generations.

Born into an abolitionist family in Oxford, Massachusetts in 1821, Clarissa Barton's love of nursing started when her oldest brother experienced a serious head injury and she nursed him for two years.

Here are some extraordinary facts about this remarkable woman...

As a child, Clara was painfully shy. Determined to overcome her shyness, she became a teacher at the age of 17, and sought to encourage her students without harsh discipline and was praised for it.

"Her compassion for other and her willingness to help them always won out over her shyness."                                                                   David Pierce 

While visiting a friend in New Jersey, Clara came across many poor, school-age boys on the streets. Determined to help them, she received permission to start a free public school. By the end of the year, the school had grown from six students to several hundreds. But when the school board voted to replace her with a man at twice her salary, she left in protest.

"I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay."        Clara Barton

In 1854, Clara took a job as a copyist for the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. Within a year, she was promoted to clerk, making her the first woman to receive a government appointment. She lobbied to receive $1,400, the same salary as her male counterparts, many of whom resented women in the workplace. Her promotion didn't last long. A new boss demoted her back to copyist, earning her ten cents for every one hundred words.

It was while she was working at the Patent Office that the Civil War broke out. A week later, soldiers of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry were attacked by southern sympathizers.  A makeshift hospital was created in the uncompleted Capitol Building. Though shy, Clara rushed to help the wounded, and was shocked to discover that some of the men were her former students.

"They were faithful to me in their boyhood, and in their manhood faithful to their country."                                                                           Clara Barton



As the need for care and medical provisions grew, she gathered provisions from her home, and organized a campaign to solicit relief items from her friends, neighbors and the public, earning her the name "Angel of the Battlefield".

More importantly, she spent hours with the wounded, homesick soldiers, nursing them back to health, writing letters, offering up prayers and words of care and comfort. Though she lacked formal training, she called upon common sense, courage, and compassion.

In 1862, she received permission to take bandages and other supplies to a battlefield hospital after the Battle of Cedar Mountain. From then on, she traveled with the Union Army.

While cradling the head of a wounded soldier at the Battle of Antietam, a bullet passed through the sleeve of her dress and into her patient.

"A ball has passed between my body and the right arm which supported him, cutting through his chest from shoulder to shoulder. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his rest. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?"                                                                                                   Clara Barton                                                                                                                       
At the end of the war, tens of thousands of men were missing. With Lincoln's approval. she founded the Missing Soldiers Office to help families locate their loved ones. Of the 63,000 requests, Clara and her staff located 22,000 men, some of whom were still alive.

"You must never think of anything except the need and how to meet it."                                                                                                                        Clara Barton  

 In 1869, Clara traveled to Europe for a well-earned rest. After witnessing and joining the efforts of the International Red Cross to help wounded victims of war, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881. She led several relief efforts, including those of the Mississippi River and Ohio River floods, the Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, and the devastating hurricane in Galveston, Texas. Her work helped convince the International Red Cross to expand its mission to include helping those affected by natural disasters.

"The only reason we have a Red Cross today that responds to natural disasters and emergencies is because of Clara Barton and her determination to help her fellow man."                                                               David Price

Clara Barton served on sixteen battlefields during the Civil War. Whether working behind the scenes to procure supplies, prepare meals, arrange makeshift hospitals or tend the wounded during some of the bloodiest battles in American history, she earned the respect of countless soldiers, officers, surgeons and politicians. She almost singlehandedly changed the widely held viewpoint that women were too weak to help on the battlefield.

The American Red Cross wouldn't exist as it is today without her influence. She believed in equal rights and helped everyone regardless of race, gender or economic status. When she died in 1912, the New York Times wrote,

"She was a woman of remarkable executive skill, of unbounded enthusiasm, inspired by humane ideas...Her name became a household word, associated in the public mind with goodness and mercy."

A fearless humanitarian who helped revolutionize battlefield medicine, she is celebrated for her lifelong dedication to helping others. She was a teacher, nurse, an abolitionist, and a campaigner for women's rights, and remains one of the most honored women in American history.


American Red Cross Founder Clara Barton. American Red Cross.
Biography: Clara Barton. Civil War Trust.
Clara Barton. Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum.
Clara Barton and the American Red Cross. Clara Barton Birthplace Museum.
Clara Barton at Antietam. National Park Service.