Benjamin Tyler Henry: The Forgotten History of the Inventor of the Legendary Henry Rifle

Benjamin Tyler Henry: The Forgotten History of the Inventor of the Legendary Henry RifleWhile he doesn’t have the same household recognition as Sam Colt or Smith & Wesson, Benjamin Tyler Henry is a towering figure in the world of ammunition and firearms – and those in the know, know. Henry invented the eponymous Henry rifle, which was the world’s first repeating revolver that actually worked.

Henry was born in Claremont, New Hampshire in 1821, to one of the most prominent families in the area. His grandfather, Colonel Benjamin Tyler, had been the town’s first millwright, who founded several successful mills in the town and invented the wry-fly water wheel. One of his cousins, James Tyler, likewise continued in the innovative spirit of their shared grandfather by perfecting this water-wheel design, creating much of the prosperity that visited the town during the early years of the Industrial Revolution, but allowing paper and textile mills to spring up throughout the town using the power of this perfected design.

At a young age, he became an apprentice gunsmith, working his way up to the foreman at Robins & Lawrence Arms Company of Windsor, Vermont. It was here that he worked with Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson on the volitional repeater, which would eventually become the Henry rifle.

Henry Becomes Involved in Gun Manufacturing

This development prompted Smith and Wesson to form the first Smith & Wesson Company, later known as the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, which is what it is commonly referred to as today to differentiate it from the later (and current) Smith & Wesson. This company was started in 1855, with the addition of some new investors, one of whom was Oliver Winchester. This was arguably one of the most stacked payrolls in the history of weapons design.

Unfortunately, it was not to last. Wesson left eight months later. For his part, Winchester forced the company into insolvency in late 1856, took the company over, moved it to New Haven, Connecticut, and transformed it into the New Haven Arms Company – which later became the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Henry was hired as the plant superintendent by Winchester, because he was deeply trusted by all the principals of the company.

Henry Invents the Repeating Rifle

Henry had to work hard and doggedly to get a design that would work as intended. Finally, the hard work paid off. On October 16, 1860, Henry received a patent for the Henry .44 caliber repeating rifle, which soon demonstrated just how effective such a weapon would be on the field of battle during the Civil War. The repeating rifle quickly demonstrated its superiority to the muzzle-loaded rifle when it was rolled out onto the battlefield in 1862. It effectively gave a single man the firepower of a dozen men.

The Confederacy could hardly stand a chance when it was so outgunned. While a highly skilled rifleman could fire off a few rounds in a minute from his muzzle loader, the Henry repeating rifle allowed for 16 shots to be fired without any reloading at all. Muskets were much cheaper, often less than half the price of the Henry. However, the dollar of a soldier and the military was much better spent on something with the comparatively awesome firepower of the Henry.

Continue reading Benjamin Tyler Henry: The Forgotten History of the Inventor of the Legendary Henry Rifle at Ammo.com.

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