Small businessman, family man to industrialist. Oliver Winchester was a family man as well as one of the great American business leaders of the mid-1800s. On this Father's Day weekend we honor him as a father, and we also honor him for being the father of what has became one of the most important industries of the industrial revolution, helping the United States as it entered the world stage as a political and economic superpower.
His life, in brief. Very little is known about Winchester's early personal life. We know he was born on November 30, 1810, in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were Samuel and Hannah Winchester. Almost nothing is known about his childhood other than it seemed to prepare him well for his entrepreneurial life. He married Jane Ellen Hope in Boston Massachusetts on February 20, 1834. They had three children: Ann Rebecca, William Wirt and Hannah Jane Winchester.
When Oliver died in 1880 the ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was passed to his son William Wirt But this would not last long. Wirt Winchester died in March the next after contracting tuberculosis, a common disease at the time. The business then became largely run on a day-to-day basis by his son-in-law Thomas Gray Bennett, who was often just called T.G. Bennett. Although not as famous by name as his father-in-law, it is T.G. Bennett who was responsible, in large part, for creating the firearms empire of Winchester and for making the name "Winchester" a household word.
In probably one of the most significant licensing deals in history, it was T.G. Bennett who made contact with John Moses Browning and negotiated the business association that gave Winchester the creative output of the most prolific and talented gun designer the world has ever known.
As a side note, the wife of Oliver's son William was Sarah Pardee Winchester. She was the superstitious woman who, after William's death, went on to create the Winchester Mystery House in California. She used her inherited fortune to continuously add to her mansion until her death.