Historic Heywood Chair & Iver Johnson Complex

Iver Johnson Factory
In an Historic Inventory completed in the late 1990s, Turk, Tracy and Larry Architects found the Iver Johnson factory complex on River Street eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. "The Italianate and Second Empire brick mill buildings, and wood framed accessory buildings although individually owned, are still used as industrial buildings and retain a sense of their historic function. The Walter Heywood Chair Co. and the Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works buildings possess a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, workmanship, feeling and materials....The building was the primary manufacturing facility for the Walter Heywood Chair and Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works companies continuously from the construction of the first mill buildings and the office building in 1870 until 1973." In 1975 the heirs of Iver Johnson sold Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works.

A brief history from Frank Morrison
Provided in response to two Iver Johnson gun questions on the Fitchburg-home town list service
Iver Johnson (1841-1895) was a Norwegian gunsmith who immigrated to Worcester, MA, during the Civil War. He was an inventor and entrepreneur, and was issued and assigned a number of patents for handguns. He first made pepperbox type handguns for Allen and Wheelock. After the Civil War revolver type personal weapons became popular, and he developed and manufactured these and diverse products that could be produced by his machinery. After 1871 he worked in partnership with Martin Bye, buying him out in 1882/3. The firm moved to Fitchburg in 1891/2, becoming the Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works in 1894. After Iver's death in 1895 the operation was run by his sons.

The company's goods were marketed through the J. P. Lovell Co. of Boston.

Iver Johnson and Co. first manufactured single barrel shotguns (10 and 12 gage) in Worcester, MA, but discontinued this just before the company moved to Fitchburg, 1892. In Fitchburg the manufacture was resumed, of a single barrel hammer shotgun, the "Side Snap," said to be the first single breech loading gun ever made with the hammer set in the center of the tang on the frame. It was furnished in plain steel or with twist Damascus barrel, frame and fittings nickel plated. The company manufactured both single and double barrel shotguns until the end of WWII, thereafter only single barrel shotguns.

A semi-hammerless single shot, 12 gauge only, was made from 1885 to 1910. A breech loading single barrel hammerless side snap, cocked by the act of breaking down barrels to load, from 1886 to 1894. And a semi-hammerless with locking bolt operated with a "ring" journaled in the trigger guard directly in front of the trigger, 12 gauge only from 1899 to 1910.

The new "Champion" single barrel, model 36, in 12, 16, and 20 gauge was introduced 1909, 410 in 1916. And in 1927 a "Supertrap" 12/32 double hammerless ventilated top rib with recoil pad, ivory sights and beaver tail for end.

Moved to New Jersey
The Fitchburg operation removed to New Jersey in 1971, and was located in Jacksonville, Arkansas as late as 1991, still producing some form of hand gun.

There were many different styles of guns produced. After 1894 the firm used the term "safety automatic revolver" to market its offering. After 1908 the "Hammer the Hammer" safety hammer and hammerless revolvers were sold.

The company was also a leading manufacturer of bicycles.