The Life and Legacy Samuel Colt
Colt Firearms span over a century of our history. From the earliest percussion revolvers to .22 caliber automatic pistols for target shooters and sportsmen. The CCA experience encompasses that span of interests. Become a CCA Member today to join in our active discussions around this fascinating heritage!
To learn more about his entrepreneurial start, his fortune with laughing gas, his exploits in Russia, and his many firearm patents, check out the following resources around Samuel Colt:
Samuel Colt: A Timeline of Life Events
July 19, 1814 - January 10, 1862
1814-1829 Age 16-20
1814 Colt's Birth
On July 19, 1814
Samuel Colt is born to Christopher and Sarah Caldwell Colt.
1823 Age 9
Sam’s father marries Olive Seargant who is from a wealthy family on March 12th.
Within a year Sam is sent away from home to live with a farmer in Glastonbury, Massachusetts.
Sam’s sister Margaret dies at the age of seventeen.
1824 Age 10
Sam works in his father’s bleaching and dyeing factory in Ware, Massachusetts.
1829 Age 15
During the summer Sam is caught experimenting with a firearm which is forbidden by the school rules. He decides to leave rather than be expelled.
On July 4
Sam attempts to blow a raft sky high on Ware Pond. The raft moves and only mud is splattered on the spectators which included Elisha K. Root.
Sam’s sister Sarah Ann aged twenty-one commits suicide by swallowing arsenic.
1830-1834 Age 16-20
1830 Age 16
On August 2, Sam sails from Boston on the brig “Corlo” as a plain seaman. He travels to London and then on to Calcutta arriving in early 1831. He is away for one year.
On this journey to London and Calcutta, Sam crafts out of a block of wood a design for a single-action self-cocking mechanism for a multi-shot cylinder by pulling back the hammer to interlock with the cylinder to bring the firing chamber to lock into a direct line with the barrel.
1831 Age 17
On his return to America Sam works for his father’s bleaching and dyeing factory in Ware, Massachusetts.
Sam makes two revolvers from his design. One blows up.
1832 Age 18
Sam learns about nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
He leaves Ware, Massachusetts to make his fortune as a chemist with the pseudonym 'Dr. Coult of New York, London and Calcutta'. He travels to many places, including the Mississippi and Ohio River steamers, with his laughing gas show. He intoxicates as many as twenty thousand people, using himself as a guinea pig up to a thousand times. He charges two shillings per person for the privilege.
Whilst performing in Baltimore Sam hires a skilled gunsmith to manufacture pistols based on his new invention.
In Cincinnati Sam invents pyrotechnics (fireworks) for use in a stage play.
1833 Age 19
Sam files a description of his revolving pistol with the Patent Office. Sam works on perfecting the mechanism for his multi-shot revolver. This is not a unique conception, as Sam knew of the Collier flintlock revolver from many years previous. However, his true aim is to perfect the revolver.
1834 Age 20
John Pearson makes pistols for Samuel Colt in Baltimore.
1835-1845 Age 21-31
1835 Age 21
'Dr. Coult' the pseudonym dies after Sam funds his real dream: firearms. Long live Samuel Colt.
Sam buys his ticket and sails to London via Liverpool and Manchester.
On October 22
Sam registers his rifle patents for 29-30th October. This was completed on the 30th of October at a cost of $600.
He sells one-eighth of interest to Roswell Colt for $2,000 and has a $1,000 loan from Dudley Seldon to finance his trip to London to register his Patents.
By this time John Pearson had made several guns for Sam. He was promoted to foreman at $12.50 a week.
Sam voyages to Edinburgh, Scotland, and Paris, France.
1836 Age 22
Sam returns to America aboard the “Albany” from Le Havre taking thirty-four days.
On February 25
Sam registers Patent 138 for a revolving pistol in Washington.
On March 5
The “Patent Arms Manufacturing Company” is established in Paterson, New Jersey with a capitalization of $230,000.
Texas declares its independence as a Republic with Sam Houston as its President.
1846-1849 Age 32-35
1846 Age 32
Samuel Colt enters his lowest ebb with the failure of his Patent Arms Manufacturing Company, his submarine battery invention for fortifying harbors and rivers, his development of the waterproof cartridge, and his telegraphic enterprise. He acknowledges that he is “as poor as a church mouse”. In desperation, he tries to use his influence to have himself nominated as a Captain in the new regiment of Riflemen that was being formed to enable him to further his military inventions within the army.
Sam writes to Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker who had been a lieutenant colonel of the Texas Rangers asking him about the exploits of the Texas Rangers using his repeating firearms and how his revolver could be adopted by the military for the war against Mexico.
In late November
Walker replies, relating the incident in the summer of 1844 when Colonel J.C. Hays with fifteen men fought about eighty Comanche Indians killing and wounding about half their number. He said, “Without your pistols, we would not have had the confidence to have undertaken such daring adventures”. He continues on to say that “With improvements, I think they can be rendered the most perfect weapon in the World for light mounted troops… The people throughout Texas are anxious to procure your pistols & I doubt not you would find sale for a large number at this time”.
This is music to the ears of Samuel Colt. He has been waiting to hear news like this for quite some time.
On December 7
Walker informs Colt that the Ordinance Department has ordered one thousand of his new repeating pistols to be manufactured within three months with possible further orders if the first contract was completed on time.
1847 Age 33
On January 4
The Colt-Walker contract between Samuel Colt and Samuel H. Walker, Captain U.S. Rifles and acting by authority of the Secretary of War is officially signed and then ratified on the 6th of January by the Secretary of War. This contract calls for the immediate construction of one thousand Colt’s Patent Repeating Pistols with nine-inch rifled barrels, six-shot .44 caliber cylinder with black walnut stocks. The pistols are created at the agreed upon price of $25 per pistol. The first one hundred are to be manufactured and inspected by Walker within three months and the balance with all the necessary accessories to be delivered within five or six months.
The Colt-Walker Dragoon weighs a hefty four pounds nine ounces with a cylinder capacity of fifty-seven grains of black powder which would push a one hundred and forty-grain bullet at 1,500 feet per second. This is unequaled firepower and would not be matched for many decades.
Colt immediately contracts Eli Whitney, Jr. and the Whitneyville Armoury to adapt or manufacture new machinery and tools to produce most of the component parts to make the one thousand revolvers.
By June 18
One hundred of the guns are numbered to their respective companies A, B, C, D, and E, inspected and ready to be issued to troops at the front.
On July 6
Colt completes the one-thousand revolver contract with all the improvements that Captain Walker had suggested. Alongside the military contract, Samuel Colt manufactures another one hundred civilian revolvers to the same specifications that he numbered from 1001 to 1100. These he uses for presentation purposes to influential persons in the political and military arena to promote his new product. Colt is never adverse to rewarding, bribing, and influencing leading individuals to further his business.
Colt finally receives the machinery, tools, and surplus revolver parts from Eli Whitney Jr. as per the contract and agreement that they made the previous January. Samuel Colt now owns the machinery, tools, and equipment with his added experience to start his new factory in Pearl Street, Hartford, Connecticut. He leases two buildings for $275 a year.
Colt also commences the manufacture of the Colt Baby Dragoon. It is 1847 and Sam finally has significant money in his pocket.
The “Walker” was followed by the Improved Holster pistol or Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon which was numbered in the 1101-1340 serial range.
1848 Age 34
The Second Contract Fluck or Pre-First Model Dragoons are manufactured in a serial range from 2216-2515. From 1848 through to 1849 a total of almost 7,000 Colt First Model Dragoon revolvers are manufactured in the serial range from 1341 to 8,000.
1850-1854 Age 36-40
1850 Age 36
The Colt Second Model Dragoon is manufactured between 1850 and 1851. As many as 2700 are produced serial numbered from 8000 to 10700. Also the manufacture of the Colt Model 1851 Navy in .36 caliber commences at the end of 1850.
By this time the transition from the Baby Dragoon to the Colt Model 1849 Pocket is underway across production and sales.
1851 Age 37
Manufacture of the Colt Third Model Dragoon starts in 1851 and continues through to 1860. More than 10,000 are produced with serial numbers from 10700 through to 20000.
Sam sails to England to exhibit at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London.
Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert organizes the largest exhibition in the world to showcase the new technology that was rapidly developing in Great Britain. By the mid-1800s—with an improving road, canal, and railway system—the Industrial Revolution is in full flow.
The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London is selected as the venue for the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations. It is held from May 1st to October 15th, and it is the first international exhibition of manufactured products showcasing the development of many aspects of society: This includes art and design education, international trade and relations, and tourism. The glass and cast-iron structured building which houses more than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world was designed by Joseph Paxton. Within the vast complex, there are 990,000 square feet of exhibition space.
This is without a doubt Samuel Colt’s greatest opportunity to expand his name and business worldwide. He displays more than five hundred repeating firearms. This awesome display of engraved and deluxe arms, alongside his standard production of firearms, is to pre-empt the opening of his London factory which would produce thousands of firearms. He plans to sell throughout the British Empire and beyond, as London will be his gateway to the world.
1852 Age 38
Sam sails back to America after success in London's exhibition. He continues to develop his production of firearms.
1853 Age 39
Colt’s London Factory is established at Thames Bank near Vauxhall Bridge with his sales office located at 1, Spring Garden, Cockspur Street, London.
In Europe, Russia occupies Wallachia and Moldavia. The Turkish Fleet is sunk by the Russians at Sinope.
The 700 Colt Hartford-London Dragoon percussion revolvers are assembled in London from parts manufactured in Hartford. They are numbered from #1 – #700. The manufacture of the Colt Model 1849 London Pocket and Colt Model 1851 London Navy begins at the London factory.
1854 Age 40
The Anglo-French Alliance is formed and the Crimean War begins in March.
On November 11
In the late autumn, Sam makes his first trip to Russia where he establishes talks with the War Department. He presents several gold inlaid engraved revolvers to Czar Nicholas 1, Emperor of all the Russias, at Gatchina near Petersburg. He also continues confidential talks to supply machinery to the National Armoury at Tula and manufacture his firearms. He stays in Russia until at least the 21st of the month.
Colt also presents a gold inlaid engraved Colt Dragoon #12406 to the Sultan of Turkey during this trip.
1855 Age 41
The new Colt Armory with employee housing is completed on a tract of land beside the Connecticut River in Hartford. Sam builds “Armsmear” as his family home.
An illegal shipment of 3,480 revolvers with flasks, molds, and caps is confiscated on their way to Petersburg via Antwerp at Aix-la-Chapelle. Colt is fined $100,000 to cover up the scandal.
The Colt Model 1855 Root percussion revolvers and long-arms, which are developed by Elisha K. Root and Sam Colt, goes into production at the end of the year.
1856 Age 42
On March 30
The Treaty of Paris is signed, officially ending the Crimean war with Russia.
On June 5
Samuel Colt marries Elizabeth Hart Jarvis in Middletown, Connecticut.
During their honeymoon, they travel to Liverpool on the steamer “Baltic”. They spend the month of July in London and then travel to Belgium, Berlin, and Prussia. They sail up the Danube river to the Tyrolean Alps and then embark at Petersburg where they represent the United States at the Coronation of Czar Alexander II of Russia.
After six months of touring, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Colt return home to America.
1857 Age 43
Sam’s estate in 1857 is valued at $793,400 with 20 dwelling houses, 274 acres of land, 4 stores, and $500,000 to include the factory and machinery.
Sam's first son, Samuel Colt Jr., is born on February 24th and died on September 24th aged seven months.
1858 Age 44
On November 24
Sam's second son, Caldwell Hart, is born. He is the only child of Samuel Colt’s family to survive for more than eight months.
Sam makes his third trip to Russia to discuss contracts for firearms and manufacturing equipment.
He receives a snuffbox—decorated with gold and diamonds—from Czar Alexander II.
1860 Age 46
Sam's first daughter, Elizabeth, is born on February 22nd and died on October 17th aged eight months.
The Colt Model 1860 Army percussion revolver begins production in time for the oncoming American Civil War.
1861 Age 47
On April 12
When an attempt is made to resupply Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina, the southern forces open fire and begin the American Civil War.
On April 16
Sam is commissioned a Colonel by the State of Connecticut in the 1st Regiment Colts Revolving Rifles of Connecticut armed with the Colt revolving rifle. The unit is discharged on June 20, just two months later.
Sam's second daughter, Henrietta, is born on May 23rd and died on January 20th, 1862 aged eight months.
Samuel Colt returns from Cuba with an illness diagnosed as gout and inflammatory rheumatism.
Towards the end of the year, the Colt Model 1861 round-barrelled Navy and the Colt 1862 revolver goes into production.
1862 Colt's Death and Legacy
On January 10, 1862
Samuel Colt dies at the age of only forty-seven years at Armsmear in Hartford, Connecticut. The funeral service takes place on the 14th. His body is later moved to the family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery. His estate at the time of his death is estimated to be worth $15,000,000.
Henrietta dies at eight months on the 20th of January, only a few days after her father. And Sam’s other unnamed infant daughter is stillborn on the 25th of July. Caldwell Hart continues as the only living child to carry on the Colt family legacy.
Following Sam's death, Elisha K. Root is elected President of the Colt company to succeed Samuel Colt and continue the firearms production.