Thursday, July 11, 2019

Firearm Factory of the Month: Harrington & Richardson

My Ghost Gun Factory post was immensely popular, people really seemed to like seeing where their guns came from and what happened to the factory.
I decided to make it a monthly post, focusing on one company and the factories they occupied. The posts will go a little deeper into the history of both.

This month's focus is: Harrington & Richardson.

To properly tell the story of H&R we need to go back before the company was officially founded.
Frank Wesson, who was  the brother of Daniel Baird Wesson (Smith & Wesson's co-founder) started a small firearms manufacturing company in 1859. He had shared a patent with his brother in law Nathan Harrington. Their products included spur trigger pistols and compact shotguns (one called the "Topper", a name used later by H&R).

Then in 1871 Frank Wesson formed a new partnership with his nephew Gilbert Henderson Harrington (Nathan's son) Gilbert had invented a new top breaking self ejecting revolver. The new partnership was called Wesson & Harrington and lasted for just 3 years. In 1874 Harrington bought out his uncle and a year later brought in a new partner, a former employee named William Augustus Richardson. The company was renamed Harrington and Richardson.
They started with a $75,000 investment. The original factory had an address of 18 Manchester Street in Worcester, MA.

This address still exists, but it is a residence. It could be that the shop was located behind the home or the shop was replaced by the home at some point.

in 1877 they moved to one of these brick buildings on Hermon Street (also in Worcester). The address of 31 Hermon street no longer exists or perhaps it was a second entrance to 26 Hermon or 33 Hermon? It is also possible the address changed.
The building still stands and the current occupant is a lock maker called Killeen Security Products.

Buoyed by their success H&R moved production to Park Ave in 1894 and built a large facility that eventually took up most of the block.

1914 postcard showing the factory

Located on the corner of Park Ave and Chandler Street. Here it is in 1986 after being abandoned and demolition started.

The land was purchased by the Park Chandler Realty Trust, they had plans to put in a Burger King, but the lot sat empty for years, being used for carnivals, used car sales and other short term ventures. In 1994 the Trust signed a 50 year lease with Walgreens 

Here is a Google street view of the intersection from about the same vantage point, the location is now a Walgreens Drug Store, taken November 2016, 30 years later.

Overhead view shows that there are still remnants of the old foundation

While the factory was up the street at the corner of Park and Chandler, the corporate offices had numerous addresses along Park Avenue over the years including:

320 Park Avenue
365 Park Avenue
430 Park Avenue
434 Park Avenue
871 Park Avenue 

In the 1960's H&R was purchased by the Kidde Corporation (the folks who make fire extinguishers) and run by the Rowe family.
In 1986 the company folded and after the "paperwork" from the bankruptcy was completed a new company was formed in 1991 called "H&R 1871 Inc.". They resumed production in a factory at 60 Industrial Rowe in Gardner, MA (the street was named after the Rowe family). The facility is now a brick manufacturing plant

In November of 2000 H&R1871 Inc was acquired by H&R 1871 LLC which was owned by rival arms maker Marlin. The new company no longer honored warranty claims for guns made prior to the acquisition.
In December of 2007, Marlin, H&R 1871 LLC and the other Marlin assets were purchased by Remington Arms, part of the Freedom Group. Manufacturing was again moved, this time from Gardner, MA to Ilion, NY.

On February 27th, 2015 production of all H&R products ended, closing the door on 144 years of history.


NRA Museum
Nicole M Mawoo

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