Iver Johnson Pistol: Johnson & Bye 1880 ‘SMOKER No 2′
Iver Johnson Pistol: 1880 ‘SMOKER No 2′
Iver Johnson produced firearms under various names, and this one comes from his first company. He started out in 1871 with another firearms maker, Martin Bye, trading as Johnson Bye & Co, and that company ran until 1883 when he bought out Bye and changed the name of the company to Iver Johnson & Co. (His most famous trading name, Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works, was incorporated in 1891).
As a product of the earliest Iver Johnson company, this pistol has an interesting historical significance.
Iver Johnson pistols were well-made, with designs and innovations that other companies copied. US Revolvers, for example, made cheaper imitations of the Iver Johnson range over many decades.
The Smoker No 2 was a cheap pistol; the various models in this style offered by Iver Johnson were very popular and many were manufactured. In 1876 Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp became law officers in Dodge City, and restrictions were subsequently placed upon large pistols being brought into saloon bars. As a result, a fashion grew up for pocket pistols such as this Smoker No 2. Many of the single shot pistols made by various companies were somewhat unreliable: once you’d missed with a single shot pistol you were at the mercy of your adversary! As a result, those pistols became known as ‘suicide specials’ as the only target they had a chance of reaching was at extreme close range. A pistol such as this was popular with gamblers.
As you can see, there’s no trigger guard. A trigger guard would have made it too big too fit into a pocket, and a drop down trigger is easily broken. The hidden trigger on this revolver can’t be seen in a side profile, but you can see it clearly in the close-up below; it’s activated by a light touch.
In early 1876 Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp became law officers in Dodge City. Both were special policemen under Ford County Sheriff Charles Bassett; Earp was also an assistant city marshal.
Deciding to run for sheriff, Bat’s made his announcement in the “Dodge City Times:”
“At the earnest request of many citizens of Ford county, I have consented to run for the office of sheriff, at the coming election in this county. While earnestly soliciting the sufferages of the people, I have no pledges to make, as pledges are usually considered, before election, to be mere clap-trap. I desire to say to the voting public that I am no politician and shall make no combinations that would be likely to, in anywise, hamper me in the discharge of the duties of the office, and, should I be elected, will put forth my best efforts to so discharge the duties of the office that those voting for me shall have no occasion to regret having done so.
“Respectfully, “W. B. MASTERSON.”
The home paper said that, “Mr. W. B. Masterson is on the track for sheriff. Bat is well known as a young man of nerve and coolness in cases of danger. He has served on the police force of this city, and also as undersheriff, and knows just how to gather in the sinners. He is well qualified to fill the office, and, if elected, will never shrink from danger.”
In November, 1877, Bat was elected sheriff of Ford County, KS — by three votes. The Dodge City Times noted on November 24, 1877: “Larry Deger only lacked three votes of being elected Sheriff of Ford county. His successful opponent, Bat Masterson, is said to be cool, decisive, and a bad man with a pistol.” *
It’s rare to find an American Iver Johnson pistol in Great Britain. The London proof marks on this one show that it was most likely imported into this country in the Victorian era.
Iver Johnson Arms Co.
Iver Johnson Arms Works
Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works
In 1883, renamed to Iver Johnson Arms Company, which became Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works in 1884
The partnership of Iver Johnson and Martin Bye inteded to manufacture Pepperbox Revolvers. Instead they manufactured small personal weapons and everything they could produce on their highly automatic machinery. They where among the first to utilize such machinery and produced a wide diversity of objects as toy guns, air guns …. Almost no manual fitting was necessary.
Very early, they realized not having the capability to mass market their products. When being aware Martin Bye contacted his war comrade John Lovell (J.P. Lovell Arms Co.). In 1881 they signed a contract that all of their products were sold solely by J.P. Lovell Arms Co. This agreement was maintained when the partnership of Johnson and Bye was dissolved.
Much of the large mail order houses had to purchase through Lovell. And most of the firearms they sold were of Johnson & Bye or of the later companies of Iver.
for details see under the specific gun
American Bulldog, first type, 3 or 5″ barrels, saw-handle grip, 1878 – 1885
American Bulldog, second type, 3 or 5″ barrels, rounded grip, 1886 – 1897
American Bulldog, third type, as second type but marked Model 1898
Boston Bulldog 1887 – 1899 Defender, 2 1/4″ octagon or round barrel, half-fluted cylinder, mostly with bird’s head grips, 1875 – 1888
Defender 89, as Defender, round grips, 1889 – 1895
Encore, as Favorite but semi-octagon barrel, 1874 – 1887
Favorite, 3″ or 4″ octagon barrel, fluted cylinder, 1873 to 1884
Favorite Navy, as Encore, 1874 – 1887
Old Hickory, as Defender, 1875 – 1884
Smoker, 3″ or 4″ octagon barrel, flueted cylinder, 1875 – 1884
Tycoon, as Favorite but round barrel, 1873 to 1887
.22, .32., 38 or .44 Cal. Spur trigger revolver
.30 caliber percussion, Uncle Sam & Hero muzzleloading derringers, spur trigger, 3″ barrel, manufactured from 1871 to 1887
.22 r.f. caliber, Eclipse and Star breechloading derringer
.32 r.f. caliber, Eclipse and Star breechloading derringer
.38 r.f. caliber, Eclipse and Star breechloading derringer
Manufactured from 1873 to 1895
.22 r.f. caliber, single action revolver, spur trigger, solid frame
.32 r.f. caliber, single action revolver, spur trigger, solid frame
.38 r.f. caliber, single action revolver, spur trigger, solid frame
.41 r.f. caliber, single action revolver, spur trigger, solid frame
all were 5 shot, production was several milions and started in 1873, serial numbers from 1 to 99999 and than restarted at 1
Model 1879 Side Swing Double Action Revolver
.38 S&W caliber, manufactured from 1883 to 1887, production was about 10000
In 1873 the first bycicles were manufactured.
This info with thanks to: