This Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver has a six-shot fluted cylinder, blued frame and checkered walnut grips with S&W medallions. It was manufactured by Smith and Wesson in Springfield, Massachusetts and is mounted in a wood and glass hinged case. An interior plaque reads “Fire & Brimstone 1970-1986″ and a Pioneer Press letter to the editor entitled “Put away parade ‘fun’ guns” is affixed to one corner.
Beginning in 1970 this Smith & Wesson revolver was fired by members of the Vulcan Krewe as they rode their Royal Chariot (a 1932 Luverne fire engine) during Saint Paul Winter Carnival parades. In the letter to the editor published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and affixed to the revolver’s frame, a parade attendee complains that she is “at a loss to explain what is so darn much fun about loud, scary noises and guns.” The revolver was “retired” in 1986 due to complaints like this claiming that gunfire during the parades was scaring children.
The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is a celebration of winter and its end. The Carnival has been held since 1886 in Saint Paul, Minnesota and a legend has evolved to support the Carnival’s theme. The story reaches its climax during the annual Torchlight Parade. During the parade Vulcanus Rex, the King of Fire, and his Vulcan Krewe overthrow King Boreas, the King of the Winds. The Vulcans are known for their rowdy revelry and the group emphasizes the community involvement of its members.
Krewe members are selected by the Imperial Order of Fire and Brimstone, the oldest formal organization within the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. When appearing at Krewe functions throughout the year, Vulcans wear a red and black costume consisting of a hat, running suit, cape, boots, gloves, and goggles. In 1994 the Order donated a collection of Vulcan-related memorabilia dated back to the original Saint Paul Winter Carnival in 1886 to the Minnesota Historical Society.
Sondra Reierson, Collections Assistant