This dueling pistol, one of a pair owned by Daily Picayune reporter Jose Augustin Quintero (1829–1885), exemplifies the history of New Orleans’s dueling culture.
The art of the duel, governed by a set of rules known as the code duello, was once viewed as a noble method for settling personal disputes. According to the code, it was customary for the challenger to choose the location and the weapon, usually a sword or pistol. One of the preferred sites in New Orleans was an area known as the “dueling oaks,” under the large trees in City Park, located near where the New Orleans Museum of Art stands today. Although the practice fell out of favor by the mid-eighteenth century in most parts of the United States, dueling prevailed in New Orleans well into the 1880s, until it was officially outlawed in 1890.
When Quintero moved to New Orleans sometime after the Civil War, he already held a substantial résumé as an intellectual, political columnist, poet, Cuban revolutionary, and former Confederate spy who was tasked with smuggling cotton through Mexico. Quintero also admired the code duello. In 1873, he wrote and published a second edition to John Lyde Wilson’s 1838 book, Code of Honor, which listed all of the rules and regulations for a proper duel. In the foreword of his book, Quintero defended the custom as a deterrent to more “needless” violence.
Much like dueling culture itself, the style of Quintero’s pistol is an artistic and romanticized representation of what, ultimately, was a device designed to kill. Manufactured by the Lewis and Tomes gunsmith company, the gun features a waterproof pan, platinum touchhole, adjustable trigger, engraved lock plate, and silver trim. It is four and a half inches in height by seventeen and three-quarters inches in length, and its components are made of wood, Damascus steel, sterling, and platinum. While it is unknown whether Quintero used this particular pistol in a duel, his affinity for the practice is well documented, and the item stands today as a reminder of a raucous time in New Orleans society.
Citation 1: 
Between 1825 and 1830; wood, Damascus steel, sterling, and platinum
Citation 2: 
by Lewis and Tomes, gunsmith
Accession #: 
Brett Todd, University of New Orleans