Monday, November 30, 2009

His Company Built The Gun That Won The West

Oliver Fisher Winchester was born November 30th 1810.

Oliver Fisher Winchester the son of Samuel and Hannah (Bates) Winchester was born November 30th 1810 in Boston, Massachusetts. He married in Boston February 20th 1834 to Jane Ellen Hope, they had three children.

Winchester was a clothing manufacturer in the New York City and New Haven, Connecticut areas. He found out that Smith & Wesson, who had new patents for arms, were having financial trouble. Seeing a money making opportunity, Winchester bought the Volcanic Repeating Arms division of the Smith & Wesson Company in 1850. By 1856 he had moved the company to New Haven Connecticut and renamed it the New Haven Arms Company. An engineer working for the company, Benjamin Tyler Henry redesigned the Volcanic Repeating rifle, enlarging the frame and magazine so it could use his new all-brass .44 rimfire cartridges. It was this .44 cartridge that built the company, and made the Henry Rifle famous.

With the success of the Henry Rifle, Winchester reorganized and renamed his company the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The repeating rifles had some limited use in the Civil War. Since it was new technology, the Union Army didn't trust them and stuck with the breech-loading single shot rifles. But the Repeaters were popular with civilians and became known as the gun “that won the West“.

Winchester was active in politics. He was the New Haven City Commissioner and an delegate for the Republican Presidential election of 1864, and he was the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut in 1866 - 1867. Winchester died December 11th 1880 and his company passed to his son William Wirt Winchester.