|Henry Deringer, Jr.|
The Henry Deringer pistol used by John Wilkes Booth.
October 26, 1786
Easton, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||February 28, 1868
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|Occupation||Inventor, gunsmith, businessman|
|Religion||First Reformed Church|
|Children||Theophilus T. Deringer (1811 - 1874), Bronaugh McClain Deringer (1819 - 1868), Calhoun Mason Deringer (1824 - 1907), Eliza Deringer (1831-1907)|
He was born in Easton, Pennsylvania on Oct. 26, 1786 to colonial gunsmith Henry Deringer Senior (1756-1833) and Catherine McQuety (1759–1829). The family moved to Philadelphia where his father continued work on the Kentucky rifle, both an ornate sporting model and a basic version for the US Army. Henry, Jr. married Elizabeth Hollobush at the First Reformed Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 5, 1810.
Henry Deringer's father, Henry Deringer, Sr. was also a gunsmith who came to the U.S. before the Revolutionary War, living in Richmond, Virginia and then in Pennsylvania. He sent his son Henry to Richmond to apprentice with another gunsmith there.
Henry moved back to Pennsylvania after serving his apprenticeship and set up shop in 1806 in Philadelphia, on Tamarind Street.
Deringer's early efforts were for military contracts, producing military pistols, muskets and rifles. Among those he produced was the Model 1814 Common Rifle and the Model 1817 Common Rifle. He also produced trade rifles, designated for the Native American tribes, to fulfill the U.S. treaty obligations. His specialties became fine sporting rifles and fine dueling pistols. He stopped pursuing the government contracts by the mid-1840s.
In 1825 he designed the first of the large caliber, short barreled pistols that would lead to considerable wealth and fame for himself. Using the basic flintlock action in common usage at the time, the pistols were muzzle loading single shots, or in some cases, double barreled in an over-under manner.
Later models used the percussion cap action, although both actions were manufactured and sold for some time. For guns of his own design, he adopted the newer percussion cap technology, putting his weapon on the modern cutting edge. He was innovating; the percussion cap was perfected about 1820, and Deringer was marketing them by the 1830s, and possibly the mid-1820s.
He never claimed a patent for his notorious pistols, not intending it as something special. The public bought them as fast as he produced them. Further development and copying of his design resulted in the derringer (note the double-r) pistol that was generically manufactured widely by other companies.
Copying of his work
There was widespread copying and trademark infringement of his designs, include outright counterfeiting with his proofmarks being copied. One company went so far as to hire a "John" Deringer ( a tailor, not a gunsmith), so that it could put the Deringer name on its guns. Some of Deringer's workmen also left the company to set up their own duplicates. Still others copied his guns as closely as possible, some even putting on its Deringer name and trademark. Deringer fought these infringements for most of his business life, ironically having his best success after his death. The Derringer vs Plate ruling, in which the California Supreme Court ruled in the company's favor, became a landmark in trademark law.
- "The Booth Deringer—Genuine Artifact or Replica?" at FBI.gov
- Bond Arms - Modern manufacturer of derringers
- American Derringer - Modern manufacturer of derringers
- Peterson, Harold L. (1971). The Great Guns. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, Inc. pp. 176–185.
- Chapel, Charles Edward (2002). "6". Guns of the Old West. Courier Dover Publications. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-486-42161-2.
- The American Rifle Shop, Inc. "1814 Common Rifle (516 A)". Retrieved 2011-12-19.
- Robert P. Broadwater. "A Most Uncommon Rifle, The Model 1817 U.S. Flintlock". Retrieved 2011-12-20.
- Flayderman, Norm (2007). "Percussion Deringers". Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values (9 ed.). Iola, wisconsin: F+W Media, Inc,. p. 406. ISBN 978-0-89689-455-6.