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American Firearms and Their Makers: A Research Guide

Spencer, Stevens, Whitney

[Hunting trip in Idaho mountains]: Stalking Goats.
[Hunting Trip in Idaho Mountains]: Stalking Goats.1888. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. was established in 1862 by Christopher Miner Spencer, who had invented and patented a lever-action repeater with a rotating block that fed rimfire cartridges into the chamber via a tubular magazine bored through the buttstock. The Spencer repeating rifle was the world's first military metallic cartridge repeating rifle. Between 1860 and 1869 more than 200,000 examples were manufactured in the United States by the Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. and Burnside Rifle Co. The Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. was sold to the Fogerty Rifle Company in 1869 and ultimately to Winchester.

Stevens Arms was founded by Joshua Stevens in 1864 in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. The company introduced the. 22 Long Rifle round and made a number of rifle, shotgun, and target pistol designs. Savage Arms Company purchased Stevens in 1920, with Stevens operating as a semi-independent subsidiary until 1942. This merger made Savage the largest producer of arms in the United States at the time. As a division of Savage, Stevens continued to produce firearms at its Chicopee Falls facility until 1960 when Stevens production was moved into other Savage facilities. Savage dropped the Stevens name in 1991, but revived it in 1999 and still uses it for a number of its low cost rifles and shotguns.

Whitney Arms Company began production in 1798 as the Whitney Armory and continued under family control for 90 years. Eli Whitney's New Haven plant was one of the more important American arms factories of the 19th century. Whitney produced a number of unusual arms some exact copies of regulation U.S. martial long-arms, variations and derivatives of U.S. and foreign long-arms, a variety of percussion revolvers, and finally a variety of single-shot and repeating breech-loading rifles in an attempt to capture a portion of the burgeoning market in these cartridge arms during the post-Civil War period. In 1863 Eli Whitney, Jr. had reorganized the business as a corporation named the Whitney Arms Company; it was another 25 years before he sold out, retiring from arms making in 1888.

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to online resources are included when available.