A week after the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake came first signs that life in the town was slowly returning to normal. Electric lights were (mostly) on at nights, a couple of lovebirds were married, and someone wounded himself with his revolver.
Frequent incidents involving handguns serve to remind that in 1906, the Wild West days really weren’t so long ago, as many men went around town with a pistol in his pants. Nor did the law consider simply packing heat an offense; trouble came only if you fired the gun recklessly (a $5 fine per shot, please) or threatened to shoot someone (or, of course, did). But judging by reports in the papers, the most common use of handguns was to accidentally shoot yourself in the leg.
All of these self-shootings were probably avoidable. For years, Smith & Wesson had offered a “Safety Revolver” that “only the hand of an adult can fire” because of its safety grip, which prevented the trigger from being pulled unless the handle was being squeezed at the same time (a good technical description of how it worked can be found here). Iver Johnson, another large gunsmith, also heavily advertised its “Safety Automatic Revolver” with the claim that it was “the one revolver that cannot go off by accident;” while their gun had no safety lock, the trigger had to be pulled all the way back. Instead, it appears most men carried a snub-nosed “bicycle revolver,” of the sort shown in the magazine ad seen here. These were cheap, small, and easily concealed, no small consideration for men wearing jeans or fashionable tight-fitting trousers, such as the fellow seen to the right in this post-earthquake photograph (although that other gentleman might well be hiding a battleship in his ample folds).
While putting a revolver in his pocket on Wednesday night, Attorney A. B. Ware accidentally shot himself in the fleshy part of the leg. The wound is a superficial one and not dangerous. The trigger caught and caused the accident…– Democrat-Republican, April 26, 1906
PARIS DREW BIG REVOLVER
Gets Arrested and Puts Up Cash Bail
Angelo Paris drew a big revolver Sunday evening on L. W. Eberle and was landed in jail for this offense against the peace and dignity of the people. Monday morning he was released on fifty dollars’ cash bail by Justice Atchinson, to appear in court next Saturday to explain his action.
The troubles between the men occurred over the opening of a door to permit the cool evening air to penetrate the building in which the respective families of the men mentioned reside. As the result of the altercation Paris declared he would fill Eberle full of lead and produced the weapon in sight to carry out the declaration he had made.
Constable Boswell arrested Paris, and escorted him to the station, assisted by Eberle and Officer Lindley. Later Lindley and Boswell searched the premises and found the gun used beneath the bed clothing. The shells had been extracted. Paris put up quite a fight to Boswell and struck the latter before he was subdued.– Santa Rosa Republican, July 23, 1906
PISTOL WENT OFF WHEN MAN FELL
An unusual accident happened in a little fight on Main street Saturday night. A local man knocked down a party with whom he had some difficulty, and a pistol in the pocket of the man knocked down went off. The parties to the fight both believed that a tragedy had been enacted, the party down at first being convinced that he had been struck from the bullet from his revolver, and the party who did the knocking felt sure he would be called on to answer to a charge of murder. The incident caused no little excitement for a time.– Santa Rosa Republican, August 13, 1906
COST HIM $5 EACH SHOT FROM REVOLVER
M. Davis, a brickmason, was arrested Saturday by Officer McIntosh, and fined $10 by City Recorder Bagley for firing his pistol from the scaffolding of the brick buildings on Fourth street. He was under the influence of liquor and mounting the scaffolding where men were at work began to celebrate by firing his revolver. He fired two shots and was forced to pay $5 for each shot.– Santa Rosa Republican, September 4, 1906