Horace Smith and Daniel Baird Wesson formed a firearms manufacturing partnership in Springfield, Massachusetts, that held many patents in the mid-1800s. They produced a variety of rifles, pistols, and revolvers. The Smith & Wesson.22 caliber revolver became a worldwide success.
Smith, born in Cheshire, Massachusetts, moved to Springfield at the age of four, and upon completing his public school education, joined his father working in the United States armory as an apprentice. Through his early career, heworked his own gun-manufacturing business, as well as producing pistols and tools for the manufacture of rifles for other companies. He patented an improvement on the breech-loading rifle in 1851, a year before he met Wesson through their work at Allen, Brown, and Luther rifle barrel manufacturers.
Wesson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was the son of a farmer andmanufacturer of wooden plows. He attended public school until he was eighteenyears old, and then apprenticed himself to his eldest brother, a gunsmith. After his brother died, Wesson owned the business for a short time, then became employed by Allen, Brown, and Luther. In his off-hours, Wesson experimentedon an improved metallic cartridge, and in 1853, convinced Smith to go into business with him. The following year, the pair patented a pistol that used acartridge with powder and lubricant, and had a new repeating action, which became the basis for the famous Winchester rifle.
Smith retired from the business in 1855, when Wesson became superintendent ofthe Volcanic Arms Co., and they sold their patents to the company. Under Wesson, the Volcanic Arms Co. produced the self-primed metallic cartridge used throughout the Civil War. In 1857, the two men rejoined to produce the Smith & Wesson revolver. Manufactured with interchangeable parts, it used repeating action, metallic cartridges, and an open cylinder. It was the only one ofits type, and it became an enormous success. It was adopted by U.S. militaryauthorities and also secured foreign markets in European and South Americancountries, as well in China and Japan. In 1860 Smith & Wesson expanded their 25-member workforce to 600 and built a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Smith and Wesson improved their inventions with patents of their own and those purchased from other inventors. In 1869, they bought a design by William C.Dodge that emptied shells from the gun. Wesson patented a safety revolver that prevented unintentional firing in 1887.
In 1883, Smith sold his interest in the company to Wesson and retired, involving himself in local business activities. Wesson took on his two sons as partners ten years later. Smith & Wesson is still one of the largest gun manufacturers in America.