The following material is from Francis Barnard (ca. 1616–1698) and his Descendants, A Genealogical Study, Part A, by Walther M. Barnard, Version of 09 August 2009, pages 396–399. Used with permission.
John Mahlon Marlin: Another Strong Connection
to Firearms Manufacturing
Walther M. Barnard, Fredonia, NY 14063
Among some of the foremost names in American firearm manufacturing are Browning, Colt, Marlin, Remington, Savage, Smith & Wesson, and Winchester. The founders of at least two of these firms are blood relatives of descendants of Elder John Strong and Abigail Ford through Abigail’s mother, Elizabeth Chard. Eliphalet Remington, Jr. (1793–1861) descended from Elizabeth Chard and her first husband, Aaron Cooke, and Samuel Colt (1814–1862) descended from Elizabeth and her second husband, Thomas Ford. Both were identified as notable kin in an article published by the SFAA Newsletter in October 2000. Their lines of ascent are given in Gary Boyd Roberts’ “The New England Ancestry of H.R.H. The Princess of Wales” (reproduced in Genealogies of Connecticut Families, Vol. III, on Family Tree Maker CD #179 Family History: Connecticut Genealogies #1, 1600s-1800s).
John Mahlon Marlin (1836–1901), founder, president and treasurer of The Marlin Firearms Co., of New Haven, CT is now identified as the husband of a 5th great granddaughter of Elder John Strong, making him a notable spouse of kin. Marlin married Martha Susan Moore8 (Susan A. Barnard7 + Henry Bacon Moore; Samuel Barnard6 + Keziah Thrall; Samuel Barnard5 + Roxana Barnard [first cousin]; Francis Barnard4 + Lucretia Pinney; Joseph Barnard Jr.3 + Abigail Griswold; Joseph Barnard Sr.+ Sarah Strong2; Elder John Strong1 + Abigail Ford).
John Mahlon Marlin was born 6 May 1836 at Suffield, Hartford Co., CT, son of Mahlon and Jennette (Bradford) Marlin. He married Martha Susan Moore on 27 May 1862 in the Rainbow section of Windsor, CT, and ultimately died 1 July 1901 at New Haven, CT. Two sons, Mahlon Henry, born 23 July 1864, and John Howard, born 21 Sept. 1876, lived to maturity. A third son, Burton Lewis, born 14 May 1867, died 12 April 1869, and daughter Jennette Bradford, born 14 May 1867, died 12 April 1869, per Moore, Horace L., 1903, Andrew Moore of Poquonock and Windsor, Conn., and His Descendants: Journal Publishing Co., Lawrence, KS, p. 176.
A history of the Marlin Firearms Co. posted at http://www.marlinfirearms.com on the Internet notes that John M. Marlin served his apprenticeship as a tool and die maker, worked at the Colt plant in Hartford during the Civil War, and, in 1870, hung out his own sign on State Street in New Haven and began manufacturing a line of revolvers, pistols and derringers, the start of one of the industry’s largest operations. His philosophy was to manufacture better products than his competitors, and he showed a fierce pride in the guns that bore his name. Marlin rifles are renowned for design longevity and manufacturing quality: Models 39 and 336, originally introduced as Models 1891 and 1893 respectively, are the oldest shoulder arm designs in the world still being produced and still mirror the original designs. Today Marlin (under ownership of the Kenna family) is the largest manufacturer of .22 rifles in America.
Marlin produced Ballard rifles, one of the period’s finest single shot rifles, in both target and hunting styles from 1875 until about 1890, in calibers ranging from .22 to .50. The Ballard was preferred by many of America’s top marksmen at a time when target shooting was a popular national pastime.
A team of outstanding inventors joined Marlin in New Haven. They developed the Marlin Model 1881, a rugged repeating lever rifle first offered in .45/70 Govt. It was the most powerful repeating rifle made, and an instant success. The U.S. Army provided a ready market for it. Hunters in the West demanded it.
To circumvent the problems of undependable ammunition and top ejection leaving the shooter vulnerable when a cartridge burst and drove gases into the action, Marlin in 1889 introduced the world’s first side ejecting, solid-top receiver, which he called the “Marlin Safety”–probably his most lasting improvement. The combination of side ejection and solid-top receivers permits correct scope mounting, low and centered over the bore, and results in a stronger action.
In 1893, Marlin produced a new action for Marlin .32/40 and .38/55 cartridges. When the .30/30 introduced smokeless powder, he added that caliber. Re-designed and re-designated Model 336 in 1948, it is currently one of the country’s premier deer rifles, and well over three million have been made since the original 1893 was introduced.
Marlin guns, especially the Model 1897 lever action .22 repeater, have been the favorites of many exhibition shooters. Annie Oakley, Frank E. Miller, Capt. A.H. Hardy, Mr. and Mrs. Gus Peret and Tom Mix were among sharpshooters who traveled the world over and demonstrated their skills before millions of people.
Marlin introduced a very popular pump shotgun in 1898 featuring an exposed (outside) hammer. The gun was favored by exhibition shooters. Using two Marlin shotguns, one at each shoulder, Frank Miller, of the “Cheyenne Frontier Days Wild West Show”, used to break two targets at the same instant.
When John Marlin died in 1901, his two surviving sons took over the business and began a diversification program. They bought the Ideal Manufacturing Company, which was sold in 1925 to Lyman. Other products in 1916 were a combination shoehorn-buttonhook, decoy anchors and handcuffs. With World War I in progress, a New York syndicate bought the company in 1915 and renamed it the Marlin Rockwell Corporation. The firm made machine guns for the U.S. and its allies and became one of the largest machine gun producers in the world.
In 1924 the firearms operation was purchased by lawyer Frank Kenna, and the Marlin Firearms Company has been owned by the Kenna family ever since. Kenna reintroduced several of the models famous before World War I and in 1936 established the Marlin razor blade business. After 100 years of operation in New Haven, the company opened its second century with a move in 1969 to a new, more efficient plant with modern equipment in North Haven, Connecticut.
John Marlin was a pioneer. He built a mighty business based on manufacturing quality, good design and a practical approach to marketing. The company he founded still remains dedicated to those same principles (so says the company propaganda!).