jen kollar
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Marlin Firearms Factory
North Haven, CT - 2005

The front lobby of Marlin Firearms looks like a hunting lodge rather than a factory. Protruding from wood-paneled walls are mule deer, whitetail deer, caribou, and moose. A wild turkey and snow goose are also stuffed and mounted, and feather fans are framed behind glass. An unusually large red stag (a trophy from an employee’s recent hunting expedition in Argentina) hangs above the fireplace, and a black bear stands upright in the corner. Paintings on the walls depict cowboys, wagon trains, and scenes from America’s wild west.

John. M. Marlin founded the company in 1870. A ladies’ purse-sized pistol was one of his first products. Subsequent models had names like Lucky Deluxe, Never Miss, Victor, and Little Joker. Matchbooks, razors, decoy anchors, handcuffs, reloading wagons, baby carriages and combination shoe-horn button-hooks were manufactured to survive hard times. Preservation of the company’s history is extensive. William Brophy wrote an impressive book nearly 700 pages in length about Marlin, earning him the title of official historian of the company. He also helped charter the Marlin Firearms Collectors Association. The company’s guns, smaller products, documents and even ads, fetch a fine sum among the nostalgic collectors of American memorabilia.

Appearing prominently in Marlin’s past are the major characters from America’s frontier days. At the turn of the century, Wild West shows and exhibition shooters captured public attention and earned legendary status. The company created special commemorative and limited edition rifles for famous people. Some of these rare guns were elaborately decorated with silver, pearl, ivory and rosewood inlay, and ornate engravings. Frank Miller could nail two targets at once with a shotgun on each shoulder. Annie Oakley was known for firing twenty-five shots in twenty-seven seconds from a twelve-yard distance. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody traveled as a sharpshooter with Cody’s circus, and Tom Mix traveled with his own Wild West Show, later becoming a cowboy hero in silent films. These celebrities each received special presentation rifles built for them by Marlin.

Behind all the nostalgia is a factory that is one of the New Haven area’s largest employers. Today, Marlin Firearms specializes in sporting rifles. While they continue to manufacture the older, classic western designs, the company has added contemporary models. A variety of sleek, new minimal designs are offered in wood, camouflage laminate, and black and chrome finishes. Marlin produces a quarter million guns per year, and is the largest supplier of .22 caliber rifles in America.
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