Guns, Goods and Gold: A 19th century story about New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– The Historic New Orleans Collection always has a beautiful way of making our city’s history accessible. During the coronavirus pandemic, they are still offering tours but with a twist. From the comfort of your own home they have an wide array of virtual tours through history. Lydia Blackmore is the Decorative Arts Curator and also behind the virtual tour entitled, Goods of Every Description: Shopping in New Orleans. One of the stories on her tour is all about guns, goods and the California gold rush; but make no mistake, this story is entirely New Orleans.

A Tranter patent pocket revolver pocket revolver was designed and manufactured by British gunmaker William Tranter. His double-trigger double-action revolvers, patented in 1853, were especially popular in the US and a must have at the onset of the Civil War.

This particular gun was manufactured in England specifically for sale in New Orleans at the jewelry store Hyde & Goodrich. Hyde & Goodrich started in New Orleans by the late 1820s, when James Nevins Hyde, a watch dealer in New York, partnered with his brother-in-law James Whiting Goodrich. Goodrich was related to several silver manufacturers.

The original Hyde & Goodrich store was located on Chartres Street, selling silver and jewelry. Most of their wares were imported from manufacturers in New York, Connecticut, and Boston. Hyde & Goodrich got into the gun trade in the late 1840s, marketing pistols specifically for people heading west to California during the gold rush.

In 1853 the company moved to a larger location in the new Touro Buildings at the corner of Canal and Royal Streets. Their store was marked with a large golden pelican perched on its second floor balcony.

When the Canal Street store opened, The Times Picayune described the display in the shop window, which included elaborate silver, jewelry, statuary, clocks, and other luxuries. However special attention was given by the newspaper to the revolver, which wrote, that the Tranter revolver was “a revolver of a very superior make, having many advantages over Colt’s.”

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