Note that the post linked to in TripleLock's post perpetuates the myth that the .38 S&W Special was introduced in 1902! "Cartridges of the World"** also repeats this as well as at least one major re-loading manual, Speer** as I recall. Where this ever started I have no idea. Maybe that is the year Colt adopted the cartridge (as the .38 Colt Special)? Unfortunately Suydam makes no mention whatsoever about the Colt variant.
** Just shows re-loading manuals aren't the place to look for reliable/accurate historical information on cartridges!
Gunsmithing S&W since 1961