Horace Smith and Daniel Baird Wesson officially began Smith & Wesson on November 18, 1856. Company records in possession of Smith & Wesson historian Roy Jinks reveal what it cost to get the company up and running.
Mr. Smith contributed $1,663 and Mr. Wesson contributed $2,003.68. Why the amounts are odd numbers is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it’s all they had at the time.
Former Colt employee Rollin White held the patent on the idea of a bored-through cylinder, so they also had to pay for the use of his design. That cost them a flat fee of $497, with an additional royalty of 25 cents per gun.
That initial startup cost paid off handsomely. By October 1865 – just shy of nine years later – the local paper in Springfield, Massachusetts reported that both Horace and DB cleared $163,000 in annual personal income. They were the only two residents in the city with six-figure incomes.
Though much of the initial momentum can be attributed in large part to the increased production of arms and ammunition necessary for the Civil War, the company’s profits showed no signs of slowing in the following decades.
In 1873, at the age of 65, Horace Smith decided to retire. DB Wesson bought him out for $200,000 – or the equivalent of $4.2 million today.
In 1898, DB Wesson moved into a newly built mansion at 50 Maple Street in Springfield. Constructed of pink granite with a slate roof and bronze accents, the 3.5-story house cost somewhere between $350,000 and $450,000 to build. Adjusted for inflation, it would cost between $10.6 and $13.6 million to build the same house today.
All told, it cost $4,163.68 ($123,512.38 in inflation-adjusted dollars) to start a company that would go on to become a household name in the firearms business.