Answer from Henry Rep Arms Corp

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Fox Creek Kid:
Mr. Johnson, I agree with you 100% and would never buy that ugly rifle, minor point. Henrys were made by the New Haven Arms Co. which was briefly changed to the Henry Rifle Co. albeit for a short period before Oliver F. Winchester changed the name to Winchester in 1867 I believe.  ;)

Well said Mr. Johnson. If backdoor double talk were airplanes, Henry Repeating Arms Comp. would own a airport. I wish them luck being a American firearms manufacturer, but they will never see any of my money. HRAC's liberal twisting of history and the truth has never set well with me and never will.

Driftwood Johnson:
Fox Creek Kid:

There simply never was a Henry Company producing firearms in the 19th Century.

In 1854 Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson were doing business as Smith & Wesson Manufacturing in Norwich Connecticut. They were building a lever operated rifle and pistol that got the nickname of ‘Volcanic’ after an article in Scientific American in 1854, comparing the rapid fire of the rifle to a volcanic eruption. They were using a mechanism they had developed based on their earlier work on the Jennings Patent rifle. The Volcanic was the direct forerunner of the Henry rifle. The Volcanic system’s weak suite was its under powered ammunition, the famous ‘Rocket Ball’ ammo, which was really nothing more than a hollow bullet filled with powder.
In 1855, a group of New Haven and New York investors, including Oliver Winchester, bought out Smith and Wesson. Oliver Winchester was a prosperous New Haven shirt manufacturer. Smith and Wesson moved on to Springfield Mass and started a new venture producing revolvers. The new investors renamed the company the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. It did business from June 1855 to February 1857. The guns did not sell well because management did not attempt to change the real problem, the ammunition, and in February 1857 Volcanic Repeating Arms Company declared bankruptcy.

Oliver Winchester headed up a new set of investors and formed the New Haven Repeating Arms Company from the ashes of the Volcanic Company in Late 1857. Production was continued on the Volcanic line of firearms. Winchester and his shirt business partner John M Davies continued to pour their own personal money into the company. In 1858, Winchester hired Benjamin Tyler Henry as plant superintendent. Winchester directed Henry to improve on the Rocket Ball ammo that was stifling sales of the rifle line. Henry developed a 38 caliber rimfire cartridge, but Winchester thought it was too light, so by 1860 Henry had developed the 44 rimfire cartridge that became the heart of the new rifle. Henry had also been busy redesigning the Volcanic mechanism to accept the new ammo and on October 16, 1860, a patent was issued for the new rifle. A grateful Winchester was glad to have the patent issued in Henry’s name.

Despite his contribution to the company as a designer and inventor, during the course of his employment Winchester and Henry did not see eye to eye on a number of matters. Winchester utilized an inside contract system. Factory foremen would contract to produce a set number of firearms at a fixed price per unit. The company provided materials, financing, and sales. Henry felt his compensation was inadequate and refused to hire enough workmen to produce rifles in quantity, and delays in production frustrated management. Henry’s contract expired in 1864. Winchester hired new Superintendents for the New Haven plant and a new one in Bridgeport.

In 1865, Oliver Winchester retired from the shirt business and took an extended trip to Europe. Henry was still a stockholder in the New Haven Repeating Arms Company. In Winchester’s absence, he petitioned the Connecticut state legislature to change the name of the company to the Henry Repeating Rifle Company, and turn over control of the company to him. Winchester caught wind of the plot and rushed home from Europe. He managed to prevent the takeover.

It was at this time that Winchester formed a new company, with some of the old investors, as well as some new ones, and named it the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

My source for this information is The History of Winchester Firearms, by Dean K. Boorman. It does not mention whether any business was actually conducted under the name of Henry, but if the legislature did not alter the company’s name, and it did not, then the company name was never legally changed. It is interesting to note that the photograph which the present day Henry Repeating Arms Company claims to be the ‘original Henry factory’ in their advertising is actually a photograph of the New Haven Arms Company in 1859. The photo is very well known. When the photo is enlarged a figure can be seen sitting in the window on the second floor nearest the tree. It is usually assumed the figure in the window is Oliver Winchester.

Comanche Kid:
    I would have to say "Thank You" to Driftwood Johnson for taking an unpopular, yet factual stand on solid facts about this companies hog wash. The Only thing I can disagree with is the statement about American workers enjoying better pay and benefits than their European counter parts. I lived and worked in Europe for 6 years. Most Europeans enjoy shorter work days, better pay, and a social medical system that gaurantees everyone medical coverage. The same cannot be said about American workers.
      Stay the course Driftwood. Maybe a few of these folks will take a closer look at what it is they are spending their hard earned cash on.

Driftwood Johnson:
Don't get me wrong folks. I have no problem with the Henry company's products. It is there marketing strategy that I find offensive. I was probably a little bit harsh referring to the Big Boy earlier as 'ugly'. Personally, I do not find it to have attractive lines, but as we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally gravitate more to the authentic designs of the period. I regularly shoot an Uberti '73, and I also have an original Winchester Model 1892 made in 1894 as well as a Marlin Model 1894 made in 1895. And I'm thinking of buying an Uberti 1860 Henry. I personally find these designs more aesthetically pleasing than the Big Boy. But that is just a matter of personal taste.

I have handled the Big Boy and worked the action. It seemed to me to be a quality made firearm, and the sample I handled had a very smooth action. I just don't find it to be attractive.

The first time the Big Boy came up for a vote for acceptance in SASS I told my TG I was voting against it. But this was soley because I disliked Henry's deceptive marketing practices, not for any other reason. The second time it came up for a vote, I actually voted for it. I decided that if shooters wanted to shoot it as a SASS legal rifle, who was I to stand in their way. So I told my TG I was voting for its acceptance as a SASS legal Main Match rifle, despite my personal misgivings about the company's marketing practices.

The Henry Big Boy is now a SASS legal Main Match rifle, and I will respect that decision. I just won't buy one myself, because I don't care for the design, and I don't care for the company's marketing strategy.


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