John M. Marlin was born in Connecticut in 1836, and served his apprenticeship as a tool and die maker. During the Civil War, he worked at the Colt plant in Hartford, and in 1870 hung out his sign on State Street, New Haven, manufacturing his own line of revolvers and derringers.
The outstanding team of inventors he was able to attract developed breakthrough and enduring models, such as Models 1891 and 1893. Today known as Models 39 and 336 respectively, they are the oldest shoulder arm designs in the world still being produced. The lever action 22 repeater (now Model 39) even became the favorite of many exhibition shooters, including the great Annie Oakley.