Early years[edit | edit source]
Daniel Baird Wesson (born Worcester, Massachusetts, May 18, 1825 - died August 4, 1906) was the son of Rufus and Betsey (Baird) Wesson. 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.
Daniel Wesson had five sisters and four brothers: Cornelia (b.1810); Edwin (b.1811); Betsy (b.1814); Rufus Jr. (b.1815); Charlotte (b.1819); Jane (b.1823); Franklin (b.1828); Martin (b.unk); and Frances (b.1830).
Wesson was married to Cynthia Maria Hawes, May 26, 1847 in Thompson, Connecticut. The couple had one daughter and three sons: Sarah Janette Wesson Bull (b.1848); Walter Wesson (Smith & Wesson executive, b.1850); Frank Wesson (b.unk); and Joseph Wesson (Smith & Wesson executive, b.unk).
Smith & Wesson[edit | edit source]
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 and Wesson Company. Wesson remained as plant manager for 8 months before rejoining Smith to found the "Smith & Wesson Revolver Company" upon obtaining the licensing of the Rollin White "rear loading cylinder patent.
In 1856 Smith & Wesson began to produce a small revolver designed to fire the Rimfire cartridge they had patented in August of 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 1800’s 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.
Charitable donations[edit | edit source]
In 1900, Daniel Wesson, a strong advocate of homeopathy, founded the Hampden Homeopathic Hospital with a donation of $100,000. The hospital (later known as Wesson Memorial Hospital) was located in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1923 the hospital switched from homeopathy to modern-day medicine.
Death[edit | edit source]
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 Cemetary in Springfield, Massachusetts. His great-grandson Daniel B. Wesson II, (called Dan Wesson) followed the family tradition as gunsmith.
Residences[edit | edit source]
In 1886, Daniel Wesson built a summer home in Northborough, Massachusetts called Wesson Terrace. Now called White Cliffs, it is owned by the La Cava family and is a function facility often used for weddings, wedding showers, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Northborough's Annual Winter Ball, and gatherings for various local associations.
Wesson also lived and worked in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, building hospitals and a home there. In 1966 his Springfield home, owned at the time by the Colony Club, was destroyed by fire.
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 having 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 and 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 for 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.