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A History of the Browning Family

12 February 2014
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In my search to learn more about this town I love, I kept stumbling on familiar names. Eccles, Peery, Browning… Browning? Wait… that caught my interest, Browning? Aren’t those firearms? Turns out, I had much to learn about the huge role Ogden played in the development of American firearms; and the role Browning firearms played in building Ogden City.

In 1855 John Moses Browning was born in Ogden, Utah to Jonathan Browning the first; a Mormon pioneer who opened his gunsmith in Ogden in 1852. My eye was caught by a beautiful old brick house with a small plaque out front on a walk one day, and I was fascinated to see that I live only a block and a half away from the John Moses Browning House (505 27th street). How cool is that? John worked in his father's shop and learned the trade directly from him. His grandfather was also a gunsmith. He was taught engineering and fabrication by the best, it seems, and designed his first gun out of spare parts from the shop at age 13 as a present for his brother's birthday. At age 24, he was awarded his first patent for the single shot rifle. The single shot rifle was a revolution in hunting weapons and, with his brothers assistance, John established his arms factory to begin producing the rifles for an eager clientele.

In 1883, seeing Johns success, the Winchester General Manager, Mr. T.G. Bennett, traveled to Ogden, Utah Territory and formed a partnership with Browning that lasted nineteen years and changed the course of firearm development and design. As part of the transaction, the Single Shot is sold to Winchester, and Mr. Bennett is assured of first rights on a new repeater. The Single Shot becomes the Winchester Model 1885. Browning and Winchester worked together until 1897, when John decided to begin asking for a cut of the sale of the guns. Winchester and Remington Arms both rejected the offer, so he looked overseas. Fabrique Nationale de Herstal and Browning forged a partnership that produced the Browning Auto-5, which stayed in production until 1998.

Another notable Browning design is the M1911 pistol, a single action semi automatic handgun that was standard issue side arm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985. The 1911 is still carried by some US forces and was widely used in WWI, WW2, The Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In total, the United State procured around 2.7 MILLION 1911′s. In March 2011, the 100th year birthday of M1911 production, the state of Utah designated the M1911 as the “official firearm of Utah” to honor John Browning.

John Browning is called America's Gunmaker, and there is no doubt about that, but it’s pretty impressive he is also a true, born in Ogden, “hometown hero”. In fact, four generations of Brownings have contributed to firearms and the city. Over 31 of Brownings designs are still in production today, as are 7 of his cartridges (bullets). John M. Browning holds an astounding 128 American gun patents. Even today, Browning's guns are the most copied in the world. John passed his skills unto his own son, Val Browning, and Val continued in his footsteps. Val Browning was a graduate of Ogden High School in 1913, and later studied law and engineering at Cornell University. Val served as a lieutenant in the United States Army, and later became the manager of manufacturing at Browning Belgium, but returned to Utah in 1935 to become President of Browning Arms Company. Val A. Browning passed away in Ogden in 1994, a well-known and respected Utah industrialist and philanthropist.

Did you know there are even “Browning Apartments”? They certainly don’t have all the prestige they did when new, but the Browning Apartments located at 2707 Washington Ave were built by George Emmet Browning, son of Jonathan Browning and Ogden City Mayor 1926-1927. In 1916 the Ogden Standard Examiner declared the Browning Apartments “one of the most modern apartments in the state…every practical device for convenience and comfort has been included for the benefit of the tenants.” Some of these modern comforts included sun parlors, a laundry room in the basement, rear garages, a complete heating system, vacuum cleaning service and stoves that are ever-lit. They have a twin building on 27th street and Jefferson Ave, built by brother Samuel, also an Ogden City Mayor from 1918 to 1919.

Learn more about John Moses Browning and his family by visiting the John M. Browning Firearms Museum located in Ogden's own Union Station!

2501 Wall Ave, Ogden Utah 84401
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am - 5pm
(801) 393-9890

Admission grants you access to all 4 museums in Union Station: The Utah State Railroad Museum, John M. Browning Firearms Museum, Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum, Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Purchase your tickets at the Ticket Window in the Lobby.
Child (3-12) $3.00
Student (13-17) $4.00
Adult (18-61) $5.00
Senior (62+) $4.00
Family Day Pass $15.00 – Admits 2 adults and up to 8 children