Sunday, September 9, 2018

Firearm Factory of the Month: Meriden Firearms Company

Like a lot of firearm factories the building's story has two beginnings. The building located at 508 N. Colony Street in Meriden, CT was built some time after the Civil War. It was occupied by the Malleable Iron Co. prior to Meriden moving in.
This hand drawn map from 1875, shows the factory buildings in the lower left, next to the rail road tracks on Colony Street.

The second part of the story starts with a gun designer by the name of Andrew Fyrberg. You may know the name as the designer of the Safety Automatic pistol made by Iver Johnson. Andrew also did design work for Hopkins and Allen, C.S. Shattuck, Forehand & Wadsworth and Harrington & Richardson before setting out on his own.

in 1899 Sears contracted with Andrew Fyrberg & Sons of Worcester, MA to build guns for them, as many as they could make. The contract included the entire production capacity of Fyrberg's company. Fyrberg needed more room, so he relocated his operation to an old shoe factory in Hopkinton, MA. Many of the guns made for Sears were marked "Chicago Arms Company", even though none of them were made in Chicago. Chicago, as you may know was the headquarters of Sears & Roebuck. This was the start of a long tradition at Sears, the brand labeling of firearms.

Sears was doing a very brisk business in firearms. They had a large network of mercantiles, hardware stores and private parties that bought thousands of guns for the not quite tamed west via their catalogs.

In November of 1904  Winchester decided they would no longer sell their firearms through the Sears catalog. They felt that Sears was cheapening their brand and lowering the market price. Winchester's decision left Sears in a bad situation, lots of customers with money to spend, but not enough product to fill the demand.
Shortly after Sears purchased Andrew Fyrberg & Sons assets, tools and machinery.
Sears put A.J. Aubrey in charge of finding a new location. Aubrey's brother in law brought the old Meridan Malleable Iron Company building to his attention. The building had been vacant and in need of a new owner. With some help from the local Board of Trade a deal was struck and Sears & Roebuck became the new owners of the old factory at 508 Colony Street in Meriden, Connecticut. Soon the equipment and some of the employees made the trek 96 miles to the south.

The factory faced Colony Street bordering the railroad tracks and Hick Street

 On February 3rd, 1905 with a $175,000 investment, the Meriden Firearms Company was born. They produced revolvers (designed by Fyrberg) Shotguns (designed by A.J. Aubrey) and rifles (partly from an acquisition of Atlas Rifle Co.) for the Sears & Roebuck Co.

Sears also produced cartridges at the factory

By 1909 many of the Meriden officers left the company and in June of 1916 it was sold to New England Westinghouse who had just received a contract to build rifles for the Imperial Russian Army. The factory was retooled to make the Mosin-Nagant model of 1891 rifles.
Unfortunately the February Revolution in Russia brought and end to the contract and payment was never rendered. Less than 1/2 of the contracted rifles were produced. It is unclear how many of  those rifles (if any) were actually produced in Meriden.

Meriden continued to produce some weapons at another factory on Center Street in Meriden, but in 1918 Sears announced that Meriden Firearms would no longer be produced.

The factory was sold again to Colt in 1917, Colt used  the plant to produce machine guns under contract for various countries.

The old factory is long gone.

There is a new building on the site, constructed in 1996, the 180,000 sq ft building is still involved in manufacturing.

Franco, Janis L.,(2010), Images of America: Meriden, Charleston, N.C., Arcadia Publishing
Meriden Fire Arms (wordpress)
Meriden Fire Arms
CT Digital Archives

1 comment:

  1. Stiffed by the commies!
    What a long and varied history.