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.