Daniel B. Wesson

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Daniel B. Wesson
Daniel Baird Wesson.jpg
Daniel Baird Wesson

(1825-05-18)May 18, 1825
DiedAugust 4, 1906(1906-08-04) (aged 81)
OccupationInventor, industrialist
Spouse(s)Cynthia Maria Hawes
Partner(s)Horace Smith
ChildrenSarah Janette Wesson Bull, Walter Wesson, Frank Wesson, and Joseph Wesson
RelativesDaniel Baird Wesson II, Edwin Wesson, Frank Wesson

Daniel Baird Wesson (May 18, 1825 – August 4, 1906) was a firearms designer from the United States. He was the co-founder of Smith & Wesson and responsible for helping develop several influential firearm designs over the course of his life.

Early years[edit]

Daniel Baird Wesson was the son of Rufus and Betsey (Baird) Wesson.[1] Daniel's father was a farmer and manufacturer of wooden plows and Daniel worked on his father's farm and attended public school until the age of eighteen, when he apprenticed himself to his brother Edwin Wesson (a leading manufacturer of target rifles and pistols in the 1840s) in Northborough, Massachusetts.[2][3]

Wesson was married to Cynthia Maria Hawes, May 26, 1847 in Thompson, Connecticut. Hawes' father objected to the couple's engagement fearing that Wesson was a "mere gunsmith" with no future, forcing the couple to elope. Wesson's salary at Smith & Wesson amounted to over $160,000 a year by 1865.[4]

The couple had one daughter and three sons: Sarah Janette Wesson (b. 1848); Walter Wesson (Smith & Wesson executive, b.1850); Frank Wesson (b. 1853); and Joseph Wesson (Smith & Wesson executive, b. 1859).[5]

Smith & Wesson[edit]

In 1854, Daniel B. Wesson partnered with Horace Smith and Courtlandt Palmer to develop the Smith & Wesson Lever pistol and the first repeating rifle – the Volcanic. Production was in the shop of Horace Smith in Norwich, CT. Originally using the name "Smith & Wesson Company", the name was changed to "Volcanic Repeating Arms Company" in 1855, with the addition of new investors, one of whom was Oliver Winchester. The Volcanic Repeating Arms Company obtained all rights for the Volcanic designs (both rifle and pistol versions were in production by this time) as well as the ammunition, from the Smith & Wesson Company. Wesson remained as plant manager for eight months before rejoining Smith to found the "Smith & Wesson Revolver Company" upon obtaining the licensing of the Rollin White "rear loading cylinder" patent.[6]

In 1856 Smith & Wesson began to produce a small revolver designed to fire the Rimfire cartridge they had patented in August 1854. This revolver was the first successful fully self-contained cartridge revolver available in the world. Smith & Wesson secured patents for the revolver to prevent other manufacturers from producing a cartridge revolver – giving the young company a very lucrative business.

At the age of 65, Horace Smith retired from the company and sold his share of the business to D. B. Wesson, making him the sole owner of the firm. In the late 1800s the company introduced its line of hammerless revolvers (still represented in Smith & Wesson's handgun line).

In 1899, Smith & Wesson introduced what is arguably the most famous revolver in the world, the .38 Military & Police (Model 10). This revolver has been in continual production since that year and has been used by virtually every police agency and military force around the world.[7]

Charitable donations[edit]

In 1900, Daniel Wesson, a strong advocate of homeopathy, founded the Hampden Homeopathic Hospital with a donation of $100,000.[8] The hospital (later known as Wesson Memorial Hospital[9][10]) was located in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1923 the hospital switched from homeopathy to modern-day medicine.[11]


Wesson remained active in the firm until his death in 1906. After a four-year illness, Wesson succumbed to " ... heart failure superinduced by neuritis... " Daniel Wesson was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts.[1][12] His great-grandson Daniel B. Wesson II (called Dan Wesson), followed the family tradition as gunsmith.


Wesson Mansion, Springfield, Massachusetts

Wesson lived and worked in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, building hospitals and a home there. Wesson’s primary home was located at 50 Maple Street in Springfield and was the city’s most extravagant mansion. Wesson hired New York architect Bruce Price to design his residence in the early 1890's. The design was published in the American Architect and Building News in 1893. The house was three and a half stories in height and constructed of pink granite with a red slate roof and bronze cresting and finials. Stylistically it was adapted from the French chateaux of the Renaissance. Completed in 1898, the house cost between $350,000 and $450,000. At Wesson's death in 1906 it was to be given to the Connecticut Valley Historical Society, but they weren't able to raise the necessary endowment. In 1915 it became the clubhouse for the Colony Club of Springfield and remained such until fire destroyed the house in 1966.

In 1886, Daniel Wesson built a summer home in Northborough, Massachusetts called Wesson Terrace. It is now known as the White Cliffs and was in the past a restaurant and function hall. It was closed in December 2014 after the LaCava family decided to sell it.[13] They were unable to find any buyers and rumors went around Northborough that it would be torn down. The people of Northborough came together and at the annual town meeting in 2016 the town voted to purchase the White Cliffs.[14]

The summer house he built in Northborough, Massachusetts was on land belonging to his wife's family. He was apprenticed in Northborough at his brother's gunsmith shop until his brother died. Having learned the gun trade in town, as well as having a wife from town, Daniel Baird Wesson returned with his wife to build a summer house there.

It was not the first mansion built by the wealthy inventor/industrialist. 13 houses (mansions) were constructed for him but White Cliffs is the only remaining Wesson mansion. The others have all been destroyed, mostly by fires.

The summer house benefited from his numerous European trips. He was an avid admirer of the Medici period, and family, in Italy, and had a few of the Countess's rooms dismantled and rebuild in Northborough. Smith & Wesson guns were worldwide. This was from their licensing agreements set up with foreign countries and rulers to mass-produce them for their armies. S&W sidearms were desired sidearms in many foreign armies, including the armies of the Russian Czar.

White Cliffs was named after the "White Cliffs" of England, especially in the Dover area. He had a painting of the magnificent white-chalk-cliffs there that he placed over the mantle that faced the main entrance. It is for this that the residence was called White Cliffs; even though at their time it was not a white building.

Wesson Terrace is actually a small development built in the 1950s–60s nearby. The only association of this and D.B. Wesson is that it was built above a brick aqueduct system, which supplied White Cliffs, that crossed the top of this New England hill. Wesson Terrace was bought by the Tomaiolo family in the 1930s and turned into the restaurant now known as "The White Cliffs". According to Teddy Tomaiolo, one of the brothers who ran the restaurant in the 1970s, the building had been called "The Cliffs" by local residents. But an Irish waitress who worked at the restaurant in its early years used to sing "The White Cliffs of Dover" while doing her prep work. The Tomaiolos liked the name and used it for their restaurant, eventually painting the exterior all white.


  1. ^ a b ObituaryNew York Times
  2. ^ S&W History
  3. ^ S&W Bio
  4. ^ Boorman, Dean K. (1 December 2002). The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms. Globe Pequot Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-58574-721-4.
  5. ^ NNDB Archived 2014-07-21 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ American Business BSA Merit Badge Guide, 22 Jun 2015.
  7. ^ S&W Model 10 Product page Archived 2009-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Small Talk of Washington New York Times
  9. ^ Picture of WMH
  10. ^ "Mass Hospitals". Archived from the original on 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
  11. ^ Springfield, Volume 2, p. 79 (Cruikshank, Ginger, Arcadia Publishing, 2000)
  12. ^ Find a Grave
  13. ^ Staff, Jim Haddadin Daily News. "White Cliffs in Northborough closes its doors". The Villager. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  14. ^ Correspondent, Ann Kenda/Daily News. "Northborough voters OK purchase of White Cliffs". MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, MA. Retrieved 2017-03-03.

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