Pearl Hart was your average Arizona citizen—who just happened to like to hold up stagecoaches. She was born Pearl Taylor, c. 1871, and by the time she was in her 20s, she’d developed a taste for hard liquor, rough cigars and morphine.
“I was only 22 years old. I was good-looking, desperate, discouraged and ready for anything that might come. I do not care to dwell on this period of my life. It is sufficient to say that I went from one city to another until sometime later I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona.”
She was working as a cook in a boarding house in the mining town of Mammoth, southeast of Phoenix, when she received word her mother was seriously ill. She and her beau at the time decided to relieve the Globe to Florence, Arizona, stagecoach of its strongbox in order to acquire travel funds.
Pearl cut her hair short and donned men’s clothing. She had a .38 revolver but was also known to carry a Merwin Hulbert & Co. double-action pocket revolver. They held up the stagecoach—grabbing $400 and some guns—but were soon arrested. Pearl’s first jury found her not guilty, so the judge retried her for tampering with the U.S. mail. She was found guilty and served five years in jail before being pardoned in 1902.
Merwin Hulbert & Co. is probably the most successful gun company that never manufactured a single gun. The firm was founded in 1859 by Joseph Merwin and a partner; the company was re-formed in 1869 when William Hulbert came aboard.
In the 1880s the company oversaw production of a large-frame revolver known as the Army. It was chambered in .44-40 Win., .44 Russian and the proprietary .44 Merwin & Hulbert. The firm’s revolvers were actually manufactured by the Hopkins & Allen firm under Merwin’s supervision.
What made the Army revolver unique was the revolutionary system for loading and unloading. With the hammer on half-cock, a catch on the lower left side of the frame was depressed and a similar catch under the frame pulled to the rear. Then the front part of the frame, including the cylinder, could be raised, ejecting the spent shells.
There was also a smaller version of the Army produced called the Pocket Army. Manufactured from 1883 to the end of 1887, it was available in the same calibers and around 9,000 were available in single or double action. Rather than the seven-inch barrel of the Army, it carried a 3.5-inch barrel.
The frame on the Pocket Army was changed from a square butt to bird’s head for ease of concealability. A metal “skull cracker” protrusion on the bottom of the bird’s head butt enabled the revolver to be used as a mace should the gun go dry.
The 3rd Model that Pearl Hart carried had a topstrap, unlike earlier models. The cylinder had flutes three-quarters of its length, and the barrel wedge was eliminated. The 3rd Model could be had with a folding hammer spur, but that was rarely seen.