Many historians have speculated have about the classic hand in the jacket pose for Civil War photographs. The most likely theory: the subjects were mimicking Napoleon’s trademark pose, immortalized in Jacques-Louis David’s famous portrait Napoleon in his Study. Where’d that come from? According to napoleon-series-org, “in 1738, Francois Nivelon published A Book Of Genteel Behavior describing the ‘hand-in-waistcoat’ posture as signifying ‘manly boldness tempered with modesty.'” So where did the French get it? One theory . . .
Long before Napoleonic France, the pose was popular with Romans wearing tunics. Considering what happened to Caesar, perhaps the Roman tunic was a handy place to hide a dagger. So maybe Civil War officers posed with their hand in their jacket because they were keeping it close to a concealed weapon.
Is that the bulge of a Smith & Wesson #1 under the left arm of the officer in the picture above? It is about the right size. The number one was one of the first easily concealable cartridge pistols. It was first produced in 1857 and was in great demand by officers in the Civil War.
As a .22 short, we might not think of it as having much stopping power. But considering the extreme reliability and convenience of the cartridge compared to the percussion arms of the era, seven quick shots would have been very attractive. As they say, what goes around comes around.
[Note: RF and JWT are traveling to Texas’ Bond Arms later this week, to sample some modern-day derringers. If you have any questions you’d like asked, please email them to [email protected]]
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