Important dates in Browning family history.

Listed By Year

1824-1852

1824 – Jonathan Browning serves a short apprenticeship in Nashville, Tennessee, at the gunshop of Samuel Porter. Browning offers to forego wages in exchange for learning how to make hand forged gun barrels.

1834 – Jonathan Browning, the father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors, moves his family and gunshop from Sumner County, Tennessee, to Quincy, Illinois.

Mid-1830s - Jonathan Browning, the father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors, invents his first muzzleloading repeating rifle at his gunshop in Quincy, Illinois. His initial design featured a multi-shot rotating cylinder and was fired using a new invention of the time, the percussion cap.

Late-1830s - Jonathan Browning, the father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors, invents a new generation of muzzleloading repeating rifle at his gunshop in Quincy, Illinois. His improved design featured a horizontal, multi-shot sliding bar with drilled charge holes and was fired using a percussion cap for each charge. The bar was re-indexed with the barrel by hand for each shot. The innovative design was capable of being made in quantity and was often called a “slide rifle” or “harmonica rifle.”

Circa 1840 - Jonathan Browning, the father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors is elected justice of the peace in Quincy, Illinois. On several occasions a then little-known Illinois lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln travelled through the area and stayed overnight with the Browning family.

1840 - Jonathan Browning, the father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors embraces the then new Mormon religion in Quincy, Illinois. Over the next decade he would serve as a gunsmith equipping the Mormons for their exodus from what was then the United States, across the Great Plains to Utah.

1842 - Jonathan Browning, the father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors, moves his family and gunsmithing business from Quincy, Illinois, to the city of Nauvoo, Illinois. It was a time of great social unrest with open antagonism and active persecution against those who practiced their Mormon faith.

1846 – As the Mormons begin their exodus westward, US Army officers arrive in their camp and request the Mormons furnish several hundred volunteers for the developing War with Mexico. Jonathan Browning steps forward to join the ranks, only to be pulled aside by Mormon leader Brigham Young and asked to remain behind to supervise arming the Mormons for their westward trek.

1852 - Jonathan Browning and his family finally make their trek westward to join the Mormons in Utah. That fall he settles in Ogden, a small rustic hamlet 30 miles north of Great Salt Lake City. The village, nested on the flanks of the rugged Wasatch Mountains had been founded only two years earlier. 

1853-1880

1865 – John Moses Browning, at age 11, builds his first gun out of cast off parts and scraps found in his father’s gunsmith shop. He and younger brother Matt took it hunting the same day, providing three prairie chickens for the Browning family’s next meal. Upon seeing the crude gun, his father Jonathan reported observed, “John Moses, you’re going on eleven. Can’t you make a better gun than that?”

Spring of 1868 – A passing wagon freighter gives John Moses Browning a badly damaged single barrel percussion shotgun, which was something of a rarity on the western frontier. Over the next several weeks, Browning restores the damaged gun to like-new condition. The project marks a major turning point in his development as a gunsmith, and a good reason to get out of the shop to spend time hunting in the hills around Ogden.

Early in 1878 – John Moses Browning is at his workbench repairing a fragile and complicated firearm for a customer. “I could make a better gun than that myself,” he fumed. “I know you could John Moses, and I wish you’d get at it. I’d like to live to see you do it,” replied his elderly father, Jonathan. The design and prototype model are completed in less than a year, and Browning files for a patent on May 12, 1879. The gun becomes known as the Browning Single Shot, and the patent model is on display at the Smithsonian.

Late 1879 – John Moses Browning’s younger brother Ed quits his job on the railroad and joins his brothers in the family gunsmith shop. Ed becomes a first class gunsmith and the lead model maker on all of John Moses Browning’s designs until the inventor’s death in 1926.

1880 - John Moses Browning begins construction on the Browning Brothers Factory, a robust brick structure in downtown Ogden, Utah. While John, Matt and Ed continue their gunsmith work in the original shop, Browning‘s youngest brothers Sam and George are employed as masons and carpenters on the new structure. After completion, the new building housed both the Browning firearms production operation and a retail sporting goods store. English gunsmith Frank Rushton and blacksmith Ed Ensign soon join the team. Never letting good material go to waste, the old wooden gun shop originally built by Jonathan Browning was torn down and the rough, weathered wood planks were reportedly used to build a new cow pen and a chicken coop on Uncle Moses Browning’s farm. 

1881-1890

Early 1881 – Two newcomers arrive in Ogden, Utah. German physician Dr. A. L. Ulrich and Professor H. R. Ring, both highly-educated, well-travelled professionals, share a consuming passion – shooting target rifles. They both soon discovered the Browning Gun Factory and in short order, along with several of the Browning brothers, they organized the Ogden Rifle Club. It would be the setting for several major innovations in firearms design by John M. Browning.

Early Spring of 1883 – Mr. T. G. Bennett, vice president of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut, is shown a Browning Single Shot Rifle. He immediately boards a westbound train for Ogden, Utah to meet the inventor and negotiate purchase of the manufacturing rights for Winchester. In a short meeting with John and Matt in their new gun shop, a deal was quickly struck for $8,000, and Bennett returns on the next eastbound train. It was the start of a design relationship between John M. Browning and Winchester that would last until 1902. In fact, every rifle and shotgun introduced by Winchester Repeating Arms during this 19-year period was designed by John M. Browning. Rugged, reliable, simple and accurate, the John M. Browning designed Model 1885 remains in production today.

1885 – Winchester Repeating Arms of New Haven, Connecticut, adds the Browning Single Shot to its catalog, calling it the Model 1885. It would be produced in several different variations and chambered in everything from .22 Short to the largest black powder express cartridges of the day, and it would remain in the line for more than a dozen decades.

October 1884 through September 1886 – John M. Browning would sell the patents and designs for eleven new firearms to Winchester Repeating Arms Company

1889 – 1892 – After spending two years on a proselyting mission for the Mormon faith in Georgia, from 1887 to 1889, John M. Browning returns to Ogden, Utah, and engages in a flurry of design work. The result is 20 new gun patents granted over the next three years.

Fall of 1889 - John M. Browning begins to experiment with the concept of a fully automatic firearm, capable of continuous fire as long as the trigger was held back and there was ammunition in the magazine. One of his first test bed models was based on a Winchester Model 1873 with a flapper device attached to the muzzle to capture the expanding gas from a fired cartridge to operate the action. Browning files his first patent for a gas operated automatic firearm early in 1890, and the patent is granted two years later.

Circa 1890 – T. G. Bennett of Winchester Repeating Arms asks John M. Browning to design a replacement for the venerable Model 1873 lever action rifle, the “gun That Won the West.” Bennett offered Browning $10,000 if he could deliver the prototype in three months, and $15,000 if it were ready in two months. Browning countered that, figuring in about a dozen days for rail travel, he’d deliver the prototype rifle to Bennett in 30 days for $20,000, or it was free. John and Matt Browning worked out the design details on the train trip back to Utah, and they were test-firing the prototype within two weeks. Bennett had the sample rifle in his hands in less than 30 days, and it was soon introduced as the Winchester Model 1892. A favorite of everyone from Annie Oakley and working cowboys to polar explorers like Admiral Peary, the Winchester Model 1892 remains the top choice of real cowboys and cowboy action shooters to this day.

1891-1899

Circa 1892 – John M. Browning begins work on a new lever action rifle capable of handling longer cartridges than the Model 1892. Fitted with a tubular magazine, the initial chamberings included the 38-55 Winchester and 32-40 Winchester. The gun was soon introduced By Winchester as the Model 1894. A new sporting cartridge, one of the first to use smokeless powder, was also introduced called the 30-30 Winchester. Offering the perfect balance of accuracy and power in the light saddle rifle, it instantly became America’s favorite deer cartridge. Millions of Model 1894s have been produced, and it remains in the Winchester Repeating Arms product line today. It’s rightly been called “the most popular hunting rifle ever built - bar none.”

Mid-1890s – Trapshooting becomes the latest rage in the shootings sports, and in Utah the team to beat is called the “Four-B’s.” Members include John M. and Matt Browning, Gus Becker, the owner of a popular local brewing company, and A. P. Bigelow, a local banker and hotel owner. The famous foursome went on to become one of the top ranked trapshooting teams in the nation, and Becker shot trap for the USA at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Banker A. P. Bigelow is shown “cooking the score sheets” in this classic photo of the Four-B’s team.

1894 –John M. Browning begins work on a new lever action rifle featuring an internal box magazine capable of handling the latest spire pointed bullets and the higher chamber pressures generated by the new smokeless powders. The result is the Winchester Model 1895. An instant favorite of sportsmen everywhere, it was nicknamed “Big Medicine” by Theodore Roosevelt who used it with great success on his 1909 African Safari. Military and lawmen also embraced the Model 1895, as it saw duty along the border with the legendary Arizona Rangers, while more than a quarter million of these rifles went to arm the Russian Czar’s troops during WW I.

1895 – John M. Browning begins work on a new pump action shotgun. With a slick slide action, external hammer and quick takedown design, the Winchester Model 1897 quickly commands a significant share of the US shotgun market. The gun goes on to gain success in hunting, competition, law enforcement, and is used with devastating effect by American doughboys in the trenches of France during WW I.  

1899-1905

1899 to 1902 – John M. Browning designs three different automatic shotguns to present to T. G. Bennett of Winchester.  Bennett, a very traditional and conservative businessman, is highly skeptical of how the new design will be accepted by American consumers. As the most promising autoloading design of the trio emerges, John. M. Browning asks for a royalty on each gun Winchester would produce rather than a complete buy-out on his patent. Bennett balks at the request. The 19-year design relationship between John M. Browning and Winchester Repeating Arms that made that brand the leader in sporting firearms throughout American comes to an abrupt end.

1905 – John M. Browning receives the John Scott Legacy Medal from the Franklin Institute and the City of Philadelphia for his revolutionary contributions to firearms design, most notable that of the autoloading pistol operating slide.

1905 - John M. Browning invents a very small .25 caliber automatic pocket pistol. Legend has it Mr. Browning wanted a small, light pistol to take on his long walks through the scenic foothills surrounding his home in Ogden, Utah. The diminutive gun is first produced by Belgium’s Fabrique National (FN) and becomes known worldwide as the “Baby Browning.” The gun was also manufactured by Colt and marketed by Browning Arms. Millions have been made over the last 100 years.

This history of Browning did not end with his 25 caliber pistol. History from 1905 to present is being prepared and will be presented here when completed. 

Events in Browning Family History by Month

On occasion we have posted historic information on our website or on social media by month. A "What Browning event happened in this month" sort of thing. These posts have involved the Browning family and company, their friends and associates and a bit of world history. These historical snippets provide some interesting reading, so we have provided them here for your enjoyment. Listed by month, of course. 

January

January 1921 – At the request of General C. C. Williams, Chief of the US Army Ordnance Bureau, John M. Browning begins design work on an autoloading 37mm aircraft cannon, intended for anti-tank and ground attack roles. He completes the first prototype in less than two months. Initially the 37mm cartridge had a muzzle velocity of only 1400 feet per second. As Browning evolved the design of both the gun and cartridge, the final version offered a velocity of some 3050 feet per second. While the cannon saw limited service with the US Army Air Corps, it saw widespread action against German armor in the P-39 Bell Aircobra fighter that the US provided to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease Program during WW II.

January 8, 1902 – Having been rebuffed by T. G. Bennett of Winchester Repeating Arms on his request for a royalty on each of his autoloading shotguns produced, John M. Browning looks to another major American gun maker, and to Belgium’s Fabrique National (FN) who had recently build one of his autoloading pistols. Browning first offers the innovative design to Marcellus Hartley, the president of Remington Arms Company. Hartley’s initial response is enthusiastic, and he asks Browning to bring the prototype autoloader by his office right after lunch. As Browning waits patiently in Hartley’s outer office for the afternoon meeting, he is informed that Hartley had tragically died of a heart attack only minutes before. Fate had decided that the most innovative shotgun design by America’s most famous firearm inventor would now be made in Europe at FN.

January 22, 1880 – The birth of John Browning, the first son of Moses Browning and Rachel Teresa Child in Ogden, Utah.

January 23, 1855 – John Moses Browning, the greatest firearm inventor in history is born in Ogden, Utah, to Jonathan and Elizabeth Browning.

January 26, 1859 – Jonathan Edmund Browning is born in Ogden, Utah, to Jonathan and Elizabeth Browning. He joins the gun making operation his older brother John Moses Browning around 1878, and becomes the trusted model maker for the firm. He would remain in that role throughout his brother’s life, bringing John’s vision into reality in carved wood and machined steel. Ed died on May 16, 1939.

January 31, 1914 – Fabrique Nationale (FN) celebrates the production of their One Millionth unit of the John M. Browning designed Model 1900 autoloading pistol.

February

Early February, 1902 – Carefully wrapping the single prototype of his new autoloading shotgun under his arm, John M. Browning boards a steamship for Europe to offer his design to the gunmakers at Fabrique Nationale in Liege, Belgium. Browning calls on NF’s Director, Henri Frenay. FN’s enthusiasm for the new autoloader is absolutely overwhelming and a new era in firearms design began.

March

March 3, 1911 – The US Army Ordinance Command conducts official trials for a new .45 caliber autoloading military pistol, and it is scheduled to be a brutal 6000 round endurance test. The testing took two full days, and the pistols became so hot during firing they had to be dunked in a bucket of water to cool them. At the end of the test, the John M. Browning designed autoloader submitted by Colt emerged the winner, firing all 6000 rounds without a hitch. On March 20, the testing board submitted their report, recommending the Browning design be adopted for both infantry and cavalry troops. The Browning designed pistol was officially adopted as the US standard sidearm on March 29, 1911, and was designated the Model 1911. The .45 Automatic pistol was produced in the millions, and it remained the standard issue US Military sidearm through WW I, WW II, Korea, Vietnam, and well into the 1980s. It still serves in a combat role with select US Special Operations forces, and has become the standard by which all other military and defensive service pistols are measured.

March 6, 1899 – John M. and Matt Browning write to T.G. Bennett of Winchester that they have a new automatic shotgun they would like to show him at the end of the month in New Haven. The shotgun would eventually become the famous browning Auto-5.

March 24, 1902 – John M. Browning signs a contract with Fabrique Nationale (FN) for worldwide rights to produce his new autoloading shotgun, with a royalty to the inventor on each gun built. Browning remained at the FN factory for several months getting production underway. It new gun would be called the Browning Auto-5, the world’s first successful semi-auto shotgun and it would remain in the Browning and FN product line for nearly a century. Browning was so confident in the product he personally ordered 10,000 Auto-5 shotguns for the US market, and they were sold in less than a year. As restrictive trade tariffs enacted by the US Congress make the imported gun prohibitively expensive to the American sportsman, Browning negotiated for the US production rights for the Auto-5 for Remington, which introduced the gun in 1905 as their Model 11.

March 28, 1887 – John M. Browning is called into missionary service for the Mormon Church. He spends the next two years proselyting for the faith in Georgia. Upon his return home to Ogden, Utah, he engages in a flurry of design work resulting in 20 new patents over the next three years.

March 29, 1915 – After a year of development, Colt begins production a John M. Browning designed autoloading .22 rimfire pistol. The gun soon becomes known as the Colt Woodsman, and its half-length slide is the basis for a number of similar designs by competing manufacturers around the globe.

April

April 10, 1879 – John Moses Browning marries Rachel Teresa Child in Ogden, Utah.

May

May 12, 1879 – John Moses Browning files for a patent on his single shot rifle design. The patent is granted on October 7, 1879. The gun becomes known as the Browning Single Shot, and the patent model is on display at the Smithsonian. The design was later sold to 

Late May 1884 – John M. Browning files a patent for a large frame lever action rifle with a tubular magazine under the barrel, and the patent is granted in late October of the same year. The design is capable of handling the largest and heaviest black powder cartridges of the day. The design is sold to Winchester Repeating Arms and becomes their Model 1886. The original design would remain in the Winchester product line for more than 70 years.

June

June 6, 1900 – John M. Browning files a patent application for a new autoloading centerfire rifle. The patent is approved on October 16, 1900, and the new gun is introduced by Remington as the Model 8 in 1906. It was the first successful autoloading centerfire rifle. Fabrique Nationale (FN) produces the rifle for the international market beginning in 1910.

June 21, 1879 – Jonathan Browning, father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors, dies at age 74 in Ogden, Utah. Shortly before his death he has the chance to test fire his son’s new single shot rifle, and was secure in the knowledge that his son was soon to be a great firearm designer in his own right.

July

July 1917 – At the request of General John “Black Jack” Pershing, John M. Browning begins design on a .50 caliber machine gun. By scaling up his .30 caliber water-cooled design, he has a working prototype ready for testing in Colt’s pasture in Hartford, Connecticut, only a year later.  While the gun’s acceptance was too late to see action in WW I, it became the mainstay heavy machine gun for the US and her allies in WW II, Korea, Vietnam and well into the 21st century. It remains the standard issue US heavy machine gun and is widely regarded as finest gun of its type in the world.

August

August 20, 1895 – A son, Val Allen Browning is born to John M. and Rachel Browning. He serves as a Lieutenant in the US Army Ordinance Branch during WW I, teaching US soldiers how to operate he father’s machine guns.  After WW I, Val becomes his father’s personal liaison to Fabrique Nationale (FN) to assist in the design and production of Browning-designed firearms. He became president of the Browning Arms Company in 1935 and personally designed the Browning Double Automatic shotgun and the single trigger for over and under shotguns. Later in his life he was well known for his generous philanthropy to worthy cultural and educational institutions. The third of four generations of Browning gun designers, Val Browning died on May 16, 1994 at age 98. 

September

No significant dates. Yet. 

October

October 3, 1916 – After having made refinements to his machine gun designs over a 20 year period, John Moses Browning files the first of several patents for an improved model to replace the Model 1895. The improved water-cooled version was first demonstrated in Washington, DC in late February of 1917. Based on this test the Browning design was recommended for immediate acceptance by the US Military. The gun became the Model 1917 and it first saw combat with US Army forces in France on September 26, 1918. The Browning design was also adapted for naval, infantry and aircraft use. Millions were built during this period and the .30 caliber Browning remained in active service with the US and her allies through WW II, Korea and into the early years of the Vietnam conflict.

October 15, 1923 – John Moses Browning files the first of several patents for an over and under shotgun. The gun was the last sporting arm personally designed by John Moses Browning, and the inventor died on November 26, 1926 at the Fabrique Nationale (FN) factory as the gun was in final development. Under the supervision of John Moses Browning’s son Val, FN brought the gun to market in 1930. Browning Arms brought the gun to the US market in 1931. It was the world’s first successful over and under, and sets the standard by which all other stackbarrels are measured.

October 22, 1805 – Jonathan Browning, father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors is born in a log cabin at Brushy Fork on Bledsoe Creek in Sumner County, Tennessee.

October 27, 1859 – Matthew Sandifer Browning, the younger brother and business partner of John Moses Browning, the greatest firearm inventor in history is born in Ogden, Utah, to Jonathan and Elizabeth Browning. Inseparable from his older brother John, he learns the gun trade at the side of his father and brother. Matt becomes part of the new Browning gun shop in 1878, and remains at his brother’s side for the remainder of his life. Matt S. browning dies on June 29, 1923, just three years before his older brother.

Late October 1884 – With the patent granted for his new heavy lever action rifle, John M. Browning and Matt Browning board an eastbound train for New Haven, Connecticut, intent on showing the rifle to T. G. Bennett. While showing the prototype to a knowledgeable gun parts salesman in New York City, the Browning brothers are told that they “… hold the future of the Winchester Company in your hands.” The design is quickly sold to Winchester Repeating Arms for a reported $50,000 and it becomes their Model 1886. The original Browning design for the Model 1886 would remain in the Winchester product line for more than 70 years. At the same meeting Bennett asks John M. Browning to design a new lever action repeating shotgun.

November

November 2, 1892 – John Moses Browning files the first of several patents for a gas operated, belt fed machine gun. Browning arranges for Colt to manufacture the gun, and the innovative design is tested by the US Navy in January of 1896. Owning to the success of these tests the US Navy orders 50 guns, and they soon see active service with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba in 1898 and with the US Marines in Peking, China, during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. It was the first fully automatic machine gun purchased by the US Military and would constitute the bulk of the American’s machine gun inventory at the start of WW I.

November 9, 1826 – Jonathan Browning, the father of John M. Browning and the first of four generations of firearm inventors, marries Elizabeth Stalcup. They live in a small house near Brushy Fork on Bledsoe Creek in Sumner County, Tennessee. Browning’s gunshop is in a small log shed behind the house.

November 14, 1761 – Edmund Browning, the father of Jonathan Browning and grandfather of John Moses Browning is born in Culpepper County, Virginia. The Browning family traces its roots back to Captain John Browning who arrived in Virginia in 1622.

November 19, 1912 – John Moses Browning files the first of several patents for an autoloading .22 rifle. Production of the rifle began at Fabrique Nationale (FN) in 1914, followed by Remington in 1924 and browning Arms in 1956. The svelte little rifle has become known worldwide as the Browning SA-22, and it remains in the Browning product line today.

November 26, 1926 – John M. Browning suffers a fatal heart attack while working on his latest shotgun design, the over and under Superposed at the Fabrique Nationale factory in Liege, Belgium. The master had finally laid down his tools.

December

Coming soon. 

Copyright Browning 2017. Compiled/written by Browning staff writer and Browning history enthusiast, Scott Engen. This content may be used and reference in historical articles and documents but should not be used/copied to any other website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes without specific written permission.