Old Paper Cap Pistols Of 1876

This is an article that appeared in a magazine called “HOBBIES – The Magazine for Collectors” in October 1941. By Wilbur F. S. Quick

The snap-crack-bang heard on the Fourth of July in 1876 and years thereafter are only an echo of the interesting old juvenile cap pistol which has been laid aside and forgotten for over sixty years and is not resurrected and today features as an important item for collectors. It is difficult to realize that there were really such attractive and odd contrivances made for the sole purpose of shooting paper caps, and still more surprising to know the very low price for which they were sold. Old catalogs published in 1882 listed certain varieties of the animated mechanical pistols at $2, $1.50 and $1 per dozen. Two dollars was the highest price, and it is only reasonable to presume that 25 cents was a top retail price for one of the most desirable of these old cap shooters.

Shown here is a group of seven rare vintage cap pistols of the animated varieties, with action of each described as follows: (See Below The Image)

Young Cowboy
Vintage Cap Pistols

  • The first, left at the top, is inscribed, “The Chinese Must Go.” It bears the patent mark of September 2, 1879. The action is to place the cap in the mouth of the Chinaman and pull the trigger, whereupon he receives a kick in the seat of the pants, thereby exploding the cap.
  • The top center is the Dolphin, which snaps the cap in its jaws. It has an under fin which serves as a trigger.
  • Top right, is marked “Punch and Judy.” The cap is placed on Judy’s back and Punch tips forward and shoots cap by striking his nose.
  • Left, lower, is the “Lightning Express.” The locomotive slides forward and snaps cap at bumper.
  • Center, the rare Duckling which cracks the cap in its bill.
  • Lower right, the Wild Cat, its tail forming the handle and the cap is exploded by its paw.
  • Lower center, the Monkey and Coconut; the cap touched off by the Monkey striking it with a Coconut.

Appearing in another group is the “Snapshot Camera,” which when loaded and pointed as a camera discharges the cap in place of making a picture. Others include four conventional type pistols, and following these early models were a great many to follow, even down to the present date. These old pistols were akin to the old penny banks and were made by the same manufacturer, the most prominent foundry being located at Cromwell, Conn. It is interesting to know that the same old firm as well as one at Lancaster, Pa. is still making cap pistols today.

The Kenton Hardware Co. make the “Gene Audrey’s Repeating cap pistol,” a life sized weapon that should satisfy any American youth with a retail price of $1. The Hubley Manufacturing Co. make a wonderful, attractive, double barreled pistol called the “Pirate,” retailing at $1.

Most of the early pistols were patented and many of them bear the patent mark, as well as their name. Following are some of the “markings” – Sept. 17, 1876; June 17, 1890. OK USA; June 2, 87; Look Out, Comet, War Model, Acorn, Pluck, Zip King, Gem, Pet, Lion, Colt, Gip, Star, Eagle, Scout, Colombia and Bang.

Ives and Blakeslee, Bridgeport, Conn., made quiet a number of the animated varieties, including “The Chinese Must Go,” the Locomotive Cannon and Ship, as well as many others. The pistol “The Chinese Must Go” is likely the most desirable of all. Patented September 2, 1879, and connecting up with the date of the agitation at the time against the Chinese in California.

Stevens Lion Cap Gun

Particularly in the city of San Francisco, where the feeling ran high, the slogan was “The Chinese Must Go, for Kearny says so.” Kearny, it is said, was political boss. Seichow and Righter, New York City (Jobbers), listed the Monkey and Coconut pistol at $1 a dozen; The Mule and Clown at $2 a dozen; the Monkey pistol at 75 cents a dozen, but just find one today at twice that amount.