Pistol, percussion, pepperbox, calibre 0.9cm, muzzle loading, six barrels, Marked "J.R. COOPER'S PATENT", Great Britain, c. 1840 -1860 (OF).
The pepperbox revolver, named because it resembles a peppercorn grinder, was an innovation in handgun design in the mid nineteenth century because it not only enabled the use of four or more shots loaded and ready to fire, but it was simple, compact, light and less expensive than larger percussion revolvers. These handguns came to Australia in large quantities during the Australia gold rush.
Gold was found by European settlers at Ophir, near Orange, NSW, in 1851. It had a huge social impact on the workers of NSW, and thousands of eager prospectors deserted regular jobs to seek their fortunes in the goldfield.
Such was the influx of men into the areas where gold had been found that the police and governing authorities were not always able to ensure order. Personal and property protection were important to those who were mining, and weapons, particularly handguns, became much desired tools in the goldfields. Australian gunsmiths, mainly importers of European and North American guns rather than makers, made exceptional trade, as did emigrees from the Northern Hemisphere who brought guns to sell and trade.