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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor

 



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Oliver Fisher Winchester

WINCHESTER, Oliver Fisher, manufacturer, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 30 November, 1810; died in New Haven, Connecticut, 10 December, 1880. After receiving a limited education, he was apprenticed to a carpenter, and in 1830 became a master-builder in Baltimore, Maryland, but left his trade in 1833, entered business in that city, and in the following year established the first men's furnishing-store in Maryland. About 1848 he removed to New Haven, Connecticut, and began the manufacture of shirts, which he was probably the earliest to undertake in this country. The business, in which he was associated with John M. Davies, grew to be one of the largest in the United States. About 1856 he became interested in firearms, and in 1857 he was a large stockholder in the Volcanic arms company, which had just been formed to manufacture the repeating rifle of Benjamin T. Henry, one of the earliest magazine arms in this country. The company was unsuccessful, and in 1860 Mr. Winchester bought it out and organized the New Haven arms company, of which he became president. In 1865 the company was reorganized as the Winchester repeating arms company, and, selling his interest in the shirt-factory, Mr. Winchester gave the former his entire attention. The Henry rifle was improved more and more, until its name was changed to the Winchester repeating arm, and in 1872 the company also began to make metallic cartridges, of which its plant can produce half a million a day. The build-rags of the company in New Haven cover an area of four acres. They furnished many rifles for the French government during the war with Germany, and for Turkey in the Russo-Turkish war. Mr. Winchester was a Republican presidential elector in 1864, and in 1866 was chosen lieutenant-governor of Connecticut. He took a deep interest in religious and educational affairs, which he aided liberally. Besides large donations to the scientific and theological departments of Yale, he gave to the university property whose value at the time was about $100,000, and will increase to many times that amount, for the foundation of the Yale observatory. Though this was called at first the Winchester observatory, Governor Winchester specially requested that his name should not be used in the title. One of the chief features of the observatory is its heliometer, which is the only one in the country, and at the time of its purchase was the largest in the world. The institution is also known for its horological and thermometric bureaus, by which many hundreds of watches and thermometers are examined yearly, and their peculiarities certified. Governor Winchester was also much interested in horticulture, and his residence and grounds in New Haven were among the finest in the city.

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