Oliver Fisher Winchester

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Oliver Fisher Winchester

Birthplace: Brookline, Norfolk, Massachusetts, USA
Death: Died in New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Place of Burial: New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Winchester and Hannah Winchester
Husband of Jane Ellen Winchester
Father of William Wirt Winchester; Ann Rebecca Winchester and Hannah Jane Winchester
Brother of Mary Ann Winchester and Samuel Croft Winchester
Half brother of George Winchester and Sarah Wales Johnson

Occupation: Gun Company Owner, Inventor & Firearms Manufacturer; Winchester Rifle, Built first Winchester rifle
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Oliver Fisher Winchester

He manufactured and marketed the Winchester repeating rifle, which was a much re-designed descendant of the Volcanic rifle of some years earlier. Winchester was a clothing manufacturer in New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut. During this period he discovered that a division of Smith & Wesson firearms was failing financially with one of their newly patented Arms. Having an eye for opportunity Winchester assembled venture capital together with other stockholders and acquired the S&H division in 1850 better known the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company.

Initially the company was plagued by sluggish returns, which was impart attributed to the design and poor performance of the Volcanic cartridge; a hollow conical ball filled with black powder and sealed by a cork primer. Although the Volcanic's repeater design far outpaced the rival technology the poor performance and reliability of the 25. Cal and 32cal. cartridges used in the pistol and rifle models respectively, was little match for the competitors larger caliburs.

Fortunately for Winchester he inherited a brilliant engineer that would prove an infallible asset and By 1856, Winchester had positioned himself as the principal stockholder in the company and relocated to New Haven, changing the name to New Haven Arms Company. Winchester's brilliant engineer was Benjamin Tyler Henry who sought to improve on the Volcanic repeating rifle, by enlarging the frame and magazine to accommodate 17, of his newly redesigned all brass case 44. Cal Rim Fire cartridges. This new cartridge put the new company on the map and Tyler's ingenuity was rewarded having acquired the patent in his name October 16, 1860 in what was to become the famous Henry repeating rifle, otherwise named during the U.S Civil War "that damn Yankee rifle, loaded on Sunday and fired all week." The Henry Rifle was manufactured for almost six years with a total production of approximately 12,000 rifles, both iron and brass frame models. Around 1200 of these arms were purchased by the head or ordinance Major James W. Ripley for use with the U.S. Marshall's. Other solders hearing of the abilities of the advanced arm would save up their money to have a Henry on their side; at time when the asking price for the basic model fetched $40.00, a fair price in the 1860's. Unfortunately the Henry had two design flaws.

1. Loading the gun required that you twist open the end of the barrel and drop the cartridges down into the magazine.

2. The cartridges were contained in an unsealed magazine, which often became caked with dirt and mud causing the arm to jam.

In 1866 King's new improved patent remedied the flaws by incorporating a loading gate on the side of the frame and integrating a round sealed magazine, which was covered by a fore arms stock. The company was reorganized once more and renamed the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The first Winchester rifle was the Model 1866, (Yellow boy).

Repeating rifles were used to some extent in the Civil War. However, the United States Army at that time did not use many repeating rifles as it was a new, untested technology and the army would rather spend money on proven firearms. Repeating rifles were not widely used until after the Civil War, but after the war they were increasingly popular with civilians, while the military authorities concentrated primarily on perfecting breech-loading single shot rifles for some years. With thousands of rifles in the hands of the average pioneer, the Winchester repeating rifles gained a reputation as "the gun that won the West".

Winchester was also active in politics, serving as a New Haven City Commissioner, Republican Presidential elector in 1864, and as Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut from 1866 - 1867.

When Winchester died his ownership in the company passed to his son, William Wirt Winchester, who died of tuberculosis in March of the next year. William's wife Sarah believed the family was cursed by the spirits killed by the Winchester rifle, and moved to California and began building a chaotic mansion with her inheritance, to confuse the spirits seeking revenge.

Winchester Avenue in New Haven is named in his honor.

Oliver Winchester was William Philo Hibbard's 6th cousin

Gun Company Owner

Oliver Fisher Winchester was an American businessman and politician. He manufactured and marketed the Winchester repeating rifle, which was a much re-designed descendant of the volcanic rifle of some years earlier.

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Oliver Fisher Winchester's Timeline

November 30, 1810
Brookline, Norfolk, Massachusetts, USA
June 2, 1835
Age 24
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
June 22, 1837
Age 26
Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
November 15, 1847
Age 36
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
December 10, 1880
Age 70
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA