Winchester, Oliver

Winchester, Oliver (Fisher)

(1810–80) manufacturer; born in Boston, Mass. He worked at various jobs until 1837 when he opened a men's clothing store in Baltimore that manufactured and sold shirts. In 1847 he moved to New York City where he and a partner made men's shirts by a new method Winchester had patented; business was so successful that in 1850 they opened a factory in New Haven, Conn. By 1856 he had become the principal stockholder and owner of Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, which as president he reorganized as the New Haven Arms Company (1857). The company was superintended by the well-known armaments inventor, Tyler Henry, and Winchester acquired the rights to manufacture pistols and rifles under the patents of Henry and others. By 1860 he was manufacturing a new, superior repeating rifle, used by both sides in the Civil War; by acquiring still more inventions and patents, Winchester greatly improved the rifle in subsequent years. His company had been reorganized as the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1866. Active in politics, he served as lieutenant governor of Connecticut (1866–67). He made generous gifts to Yale.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.