This .28-caliber percussion pistol with a distinctive underhammer design was made in Qualla Town, now Cherokee, North Carolina in 1843. Inscriptions in English and Cherokee identify it as the work of Salola, a blacksmith of the Oconaluftee Cherokee.
Underhammer pistols were popular from the mid-1830s until the Civil War. Sometimes called bootleg pistols, underhammers were easily constructed, were easy to carry and draw, offered an unobstructed line of sight for aiming, and provided a measure of safety from exploding percussion caps to the shooter's eyes.
This pistol was sent to the Patent Office in 1845 by William Holland Thomas as an example of the educational and industrial aptitude of the Cherokee people. A white trader in Qualla Town, Thomas learned the Cherokee language and was soon adopted by the tribe. He went on to become a lawyer and represented the Eastern Band of Cherokee as a state senator and as an advocate in Washington, D. C.
The pistol was held at the Patent Office until the opening of the Smithsonian's Arts & Industries Building in 1883.
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