Hancock County

350 N Main | Nauvoo, IL

Jonathan Browning was an American inventor and gunmaker, born in Tennessee. He initially earned his living as a blacksmith, later transitioning to a gunsmith. While living in Quincy between 1834 and 1842, Browning invented a “sliding breech” repeating rifle also called a Harmonica gun. The success of the Harmonica produced many orders. It is estimated that each gun took two weeks to make, selling at $24 apiece. With his local prominence in Quincy, Browning was elected the justice of the peace. He came to know a young lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln, who was an overnight guest in his home on at least two occasions. In 1843 Browning moved to Nauvoo, IL, and joined the Mormon community there, where he established a gun shop. Guns produced by Browning during these times were labeled “Holiness to the Lord-Our Preservation”. As was common in the Mormon community at that time, Browning was a polygamist, having taken three wives. He fathered 19 children; prominent among them was the gun designer, John Moses Browning, one of the most important figures in the development of modern automatic and semiautomatic firearms.