“This is the story of the Winchester Rifle Model 1873, ‘the gun that won the West.’ To cowman, outlaw, peace officer, or soldier, the Winchester ’73 was a treasured possession. An Indian would sell his soul to own one.”
And so it was with opening title card of Winchester ’73. The 1950 movie starred Jimmy Stewart and a rifle that kept changing hands. From legends and myth to history, and from movies to real life, this firearm was synonymous with the West.
But, after World War I, Winchester Repeating Arms Company had deep financial woes. It didn’t have the government contracts on which it had come to depend. To prevent bankruptcy, it partnered with Kidder, Peabody & Company, to whom they owed $8 million. The extra capital loosened their purse strings, and the new management team decided to diversify. Hoping to return the company to full production, it had 750 new products being manufactured or nearly ready for production by 1920.
In the Cody Firearms Museum here at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, we have a replica hardware store with your typical hardware-type merchandise. When one takes a closer look, however, many of those doo-dads have the Winchester logo on them!
So, for a time the famous firearms maker manufactured flashlights, batteries, fishing rods, ice skates, roller skates, cutlery, hatchets, saws, screwdrivers, headlamps, and even a motorcycle!
Take a close look at these posters–and the one at the top of the page. Can you see all those non-firearms products? Better yet, come to the Center’s Cody Firearms Museum to see them “up close and personal”!