Henry Marcus Quackenbush was born in Herkimer, New York on April 27, 1847. As a child he differed from his scholarly brother and sister in that he much preferred to tinker with mechanical components than to read or study. He began an apprenticeship with the gun maker Remington Arms at age 14 where he acquired the skills of an expert metalworker and gunmaker. By 1867, he had begun inventing and marketing devices on his own, including his first successful creation, the extension ladder. He sold the patent for this invention for $500.
In 1871, Quackenbush set out to found his own company, establishing the H. M. Quackenbush Co., a metal working and gun shop. He created an air pistol that set him on a path of success when demand for it rose beyond is expectations. He sold the patents for the gun to Pope Brothers of Boston, who managed its manufacture and sale.
Subsequently, the H. M. Quackenbush company manufactured numerous products, ranging from rifles and sport firearms to kitchen gadgets and seafood tools. In 1876, Quackenbush designed the very popular .22 caliber Safety Rifle. In the 1880's, he began mass production of "gallery guns" and the Quackenbush name appeared in shooting galleries across the country.
One of Quackenbush’s most famous and most successful inventions came in 1878, when he created the first nutcracker and nutpick. In 1913, he patented the spring-jointed nutcracker, a nickel-plated, solid steel nutcracker with four picks. Nearly 200 million of these nutcrackers have been sold worldwide since then. The company shipped a record 3.6 million nutcrackers in 1976.
The Quackenbush company ceased production of guns in the 1930's, continuing only to make nutpicks and nutcrackers. In 1933, Quackenbush died. The following year his business was incorporated in New York as H. M. Quackenbush Inc. and the company moved into a new phase of success, run by Quackenbush family members. It was instrumental in manufacturing supplies during WWII, including bullet cores, shell casings and other screw machine products.
In 1979, H. M. Quackenbush Inc. acquired the assets of Utica Plating Co. Marketing and distribution of nutcrackers and related products transferred to M. E. Heuck Co., Cincinnati, OH, leaving metal finishing as primary line of business. The enterprise became the HMQ Metal Finishing Group LLC in 1998. In 2005, the company closed and its assets were acquired by plating service, Whyco Finishing Technologies.