Honoring "The Father of the Browning Company. "

John M. Browning family photo.

The picture of the John Browning family was taken in 1892. From left to right: John Jr., John Moses Browning, Elsie, Carrie, Rachel (the mom), Monida and Louie. John Browning was 37 years old. Not all of his children are shown in the photo. Two of them had died during childhood and several would come later. This was the year he created the Model 1892 lever action. 

The book "John M. Browning, American Gunmaker," by Curt Gentry.

For those who study the life of John Browning the Curt Gentry book is a required read. This short excerpt covers the time Browning completed the Single Shot and married Rachel.

"On April 10, 1879, John Moses Browning married Rachel Teresa Child. 

"Rachel's father, Warren G. Child,  merchant and landowner,  had passed the Browning shop too many times to be entirely pleased with his daughter's choice. Still, he had to admit that John was a good-looking young man, a practicing Mormon who did not smoke or drink. He gave the couple his blessing, together with a cookstove, bedroom set, cottage organ, and a cow. Delivery on all these items had to be delayed until their new house was finished; the Browning adobe was already crowded, and the cow, which would not "come in fresh" for some months, was comfortable on a farm that Mr. Child owned. Rachel had to wait about a year for her house, as nearly as we can estimate.

"By the time the house was finished, John was building his new shop downtown and was so pressed for money that he could add to father Child's contributions only a few essentials: kitchen table and chairs, a few dishes and utensils, and two indispensables, a rocking chair and a cradle. It has become a Browning family legend that after Rachel had  ar­ranged and rearranged, making  as brave a showing as possible with the little she had to work with, John looked through the house, frowned thoughtfully and said, "It seems  a little crowded, Rachel, but I believe there is still room  for the cow." 

"Jonathan's health was failing rapidly.  One of the greatest pleasures of his life occurred when John handed him the finished single-shot rifle to test-fire. "He stood as straight as he had at the turkey shoots  in  Tennessee," John remarked, "loaded,  closed  the  action,  fired,  snapped  out the  empty  and  asked  for  another   cartridge."  Gunmaker himself,  Jonathan was devoutly proud in the knowledge that he had sired a  greater gunmaker, and had helped to give direction to his talent.

"Jonathan died on June 21, 1879, in his seventy-fourth year.  "Died of weariness," John said. "He had worked so hard that, finally tired out  he went to sleep and didn't wake up." He had turned the shop over to John a year before his death, saying, "You've earned it ten times over  John Mose, and anyhow, it's not much of a gift. Maybe if you run it your way you can make something of it."

"John became nominal head of the brothers of the second two families by right of  age; he had never assumed authority over them, although they always looked up to him."

John Moses Browning is usually portrayed as "bigger than life. " Not a great deal is known about his personal life, but he clearly relished his role as a family man.

Family man first. John and Rachel Browning had a big Utah family. 10 children total. Six boys and four girls. Those were tough times raising a family as not all their children lived to adulthood. Child number eight was Val Browning, who went on to assist his father for years as his liaison to Fabrique Nationale, making many dozens of steamship trips across the Atlantic from the U.S. to Belgium. The family grew up in Ogden, Utah and John and Rachel lived in Ogden their entire lives.

We don't know a great deal about the daily lives of the Browning family other than that Rachel focussed most of her attention on raising their children and that she was understanding of the long times she and John would be apart as he pursued his life as the world's leading gun designer. They had several comfortable, but not ostentatious, homes over the years and were well known and well liked by the Ogden, Utah community. 

John M. Browning portrait

This photo shows him at about the age he was in the photo showing his family above. 


Rachel Child, taken at 18 years old, close to the time she married John Moses Browning.

Rachel Child, taken at 18 years old, close to the time she married John Moses Browning. 


Young John M. Browning portrait

This rare photo shows John Browning as a young man. This may have been taken in the years close to the time he married Rachel and started manufacturing his Single Shot, which became the Model 1885 Winchester. 


John M. Browning family home on Ogden Utah.

The Browning family built this home around 1900. There have been a few minor changes over the years, but overall it is very close to the original. 


Growing up on the frontier. His father Jonathan Browning was a true pioneer, crossing the plains to Utah by wagon train in the early 1850s. He was a gun designer and businessman of note and had done groundbreaking gun design in Illinois, many years before coming to Utah with the Mormon pioneers.

In the truest sense, John Moses Browning grew up on the great American frontier.  John worked in his father's Ogden gun and blacksmithing shop from around the age seven until he and his brothers took over after his father's death. It was at this shop, where he was taught large doses of frontier engineering techniques. It is also where he gained his first understanding of the principles of manufacturing.

His father was indeed an incredible man -- a true Renaissance man --  and he encouraged John and his brothers to experiment and test the concepts for improving products and tools, especially firearms.John Browning developed his first rifle, the Single Shot Browning at his father's shop. It was a single shot with a falling block action. It differed greatly from the popular Sharps rifle of the day in that the hammer was centered on the action and ingeniously dropped down, out of the way to load a new cartridge. With the design of his rifle, he and his brother Matt started their own manufacturing facility and began producing their rifle in Ogden. About 600 were produced before John Moses Browning was "discovered" by Winchester Repeating Arms.

A historical overview from the Browning Collector's Association website. This historical synopsis gives an excellent overview of his life and a few of his accomplishments There are too many to list here. Go to the Browning Collector's Association site for an extensive listing of history and information on his inventions. 

"It can be argued that John M. Browning was pre-destined to his future title as the "Father of Modern Firearms." John's father Johnathan was an accomplished gunsmith in his own right, with numerous original designs to his credit. John, along with third-generation Brownings, would build upon that legacy.

John Moses Browning was born on January 23, 1855, in Ogden, Utah.

"At the age of ten, John built his first gun from his dad's scraps. He received his first patent at age 24 for a rifle that Winchester manufactured as its Single Shot Model 1885. Impressed by the young man's inventiveness, Winchester asked Browning if he could design a lever-action-repeating shotgun. Browning could and did, but his efforts convinced him that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and he patented his first pump model shotgun in 1888.

"In 1889, Browning began experimenting with his idea of harnessing the force from the gas emitted from the muzzle when a gun was fired. Three years later, he received a patent for the first crude fully automatic weapon that used those gases to power a mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. Shortly thereafter, U.S. soldiers went to Europe during WWI carrying Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as Browning's deadly machine guns."

Born in 1855, John M. Browning dedicated his life to inventing revolutionary firearms that were desitned to shape the future. Read about him in this riveting biography. Click Here to learn more.