The History of Winchester Repeating Arms Company

In mid 1855, Oliver Fisher Winchester was one of forty investors who knew little about firearms but was promised huge profits if he along with the other investors purchased shares in ownership of this newly formed company known as the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. This company contained patents for the Hunt-Jennings-Smith lever action repeater and the Rollins-White cartridge. The company was located in Norwich Connecticut and Oliver F. Winchester was elected to a directors post that same year. The company quickly moved to New Haven, Connecticut and Benjamin Tyler Henry, shop foreman, of Robbins & Lawrence (Windsor, Vermont) came to the new company to make improvements to their Volcanic rifle. In 1856, Nelson B Gaston passed away and Winchester purchased Gaston's mortgages thus becoming the new president as well as the principle creditor of the company. Unfortunately, the company failed by 1857 due to poor sales and because many firearms were returned with unsatisfactory comments. Early in 1858, Oliver formed the New Haven Arms Company using Benjamin T. Henry's improved cartridge and a larger scaled version of the rifle. The cartridge was the 44 Henry rimfire cartridge and in the first couple of years the rifle was a single shot version but by 1860, Henry had perfected it to become a repeater. In the first couple of years the sales were slow but with the on coming Civil War, sales eventually picked up and nearly 14000 rifles were produced over a period of seven years. By 1865, the Henry rifle became so popular that the company changed its name to the Henry Repeating Rifle Company. This name lasted only until May of 1866 when the name was again changed. This time it was changed to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and Benjamin T Henry left the company shortly thereafter. By 1867 most of the manufacturing plant was moved to nearby Bridgeport with production in full swing while the offices and warehouses remained in New Haven. Over the last century and a half, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company has had a number of name changes as they purchased other companies, went through difficult financial time periods and were even bought out by other financial investors. Regardless, Winchester firearms have become the one of the most recognized and sought after names for hunting, collecting and as investments when compared with all other firearms manufacturing companies of the world.

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