It’s tempting to think that the way things are today is how they’ve always been. This perspective changes as the generations do; for kids growing up today, they probably assume that there were always 220 channels on TV and nothing worth watching. (The latter has always been true, but they’ll think it’s unique to their experience!)
The result of this is that we sometimes forget things which came before us. Even now it’s getting hard to remember Oldsmobile, and they disappeared just a few short years ago! How many of us remember AMC — or their predecessor, Rambler? Kaiser, anyone? You have to be substantially older than I am to remember the Hupmobile!
The gun business is the same way. Just as there were once hundreds of automobile marques in this country, we used to have more firearm brands from which to choose, many of which have passed into history — and the trails they leave are as interesting as they are convoluted.
Take, for instance, Mr. Ethan Allen. No, not the Revolutionary War hero, but the gun designer (and the two are not, as it happens, related.) In 1837 Allen went into business with his two brothers-in-law, Charles Thurber and Thomas P. Wheelock to form Allen & Thurber, makers of pepperboxes (an early revolving pistol.)
When Thurber died in 1856, the company was reorganized as Allen & Wheelock and came out with a single-action revolver. When Wheelock died (beginning to think Allen was a jinx? Yeah, me too) his sons-in-law came into the business and it changed names to Allen & Company. Just a few years later Allen died, and the sons-in-law — Sullivan Forehand and H. C. Wadsworth — changed the company name to Forehand and Wadsworth.
When Wadsworth retired in 1890, the name got changed again to Forehand Arms Company. A few years later Forehand died, and his sons shortly thereafter decided to sell the company (up to now a staunch Massachusetts employer) to a fairly successful competitor: the Hopkins & Allen Arms Company of Connecticut (reportedly Jesse James’ favorite pistol maker.)
Apparently that may not have been such a good move, as the previously thriving Hopkins & Allen themselves closed up shop in 1916, their assets being snapped up (at no doubt fire sale prices) by a company you may have heard of: Marlin.
(Now if you think that’s confusing, check out the history of some of America’s tool makers!)
Interested in learning more: head on over to Gun Digest and read the superb article about the guns of Forehand and Wadsworth.
-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-