My mom (who is 80+) was in a purge mood this weekend. She was going through items in her house and telling us who they should go to when she passed. She also asked us if we wanted some things that she didn’t want to keep around.
To our surprise, she produced an odd-looking pistol that had belonged to my grandfather’s grandfather. It had been buried in a closet for decades and nobody believed it even worked.
I was intrigued by this little pistol that fits in the palm of my hand. I’m not a gun collector and I don’t own any, but I do love history and something told me this might have a good story behind it.
And I was right. After doing a Google image search, I found out it’s called a Reid My Friend Knuckleduster. It was patented in 1865 and manufactured in the Catskills until around 1883.
It was designed so that when you ran out of bullets, you could use it to punch people. But here’s the best part, according to one of the articles I found, it was “the preferred weapon of prostitutes and gamblers!”
Was my great, great grandpa a gambler? Or was my great, great grandma a prostitute? Or was it both? Maybe he was a gambler who fell in love with a prostitute! Maybe they spread unruliness up and down the East Coast until quietly retiring in the Midwest.
If so, where is her gun? Maybe she had one of those garter holsters and chose to be buried in it in case somebody got handsy in the afterlife.
Of course, nobody in the family has mentioned the gambler/prostitute branch of the family tree in the entire time I’ve been alive. I wonder if Ancestry.com has a PG-13 mode when they determine great, great grandma had a naughty side? Why is it that the most colorful, remarkable parts of our family histories are the things our relatives try to shelter us from?
Now, I’m trying to decide what to do with it. Do I have it restored? Do I put it in a shadowbox frame? Or, do I keep it unable to fire and use it as a prop? Not everyone in our house is on board with the prop idea.
I asked my wife if she wanted to wear a garter holster with the gun for Halloween. She said if I asked that question again, she would see if the gun was indeed broken. So, I’ll be going as an 1880s gambler for this Halloween.
So, if you’re wondering about your own family tree, I would see what types of weapons your ancestors owned. And if they owned a “My Friend Knuckleduster,” just know you’re in good company.
Carry on, Citizens!