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Samuel Colt

Date of birth : 1814-07-19
Date of death : 1862-01-10
Birthplace : Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-09-30

Samuel Colt was an American inventor, born on the 19th of July 1814 at Hartford, Connecticut, where his father had a manufactory of silks and woollens. At the age of ten he left school for the factory, and at fourteen, then being in a boarding school at Amherst, Massachusetts, he made a runaway voyage to India, during which (in 1829) he constructed a wooden model, still existing, of what was afterwards to be the revolver. On his return he learned chemistry from his father's bleaching and dyeing manager, and under the assumed name "Dr. Coult" traveled over the United States and Canada lecturing on that science. The profits of two years of this work enabled him to continue his researches and experiments.

In 1835, having perfected a six-barrelled rotating breech, he visited Europe, and patented his inventions in London and Paris, securing the American right on his return; and the same year he founded at Paterson, New Jersey, the Patent Arms Company, for the manufacture of his revolvers only. As early as 1837 revolvers were successfully used by United States troops, under Lt. Col. William S. Harney, in fighting against the Seminole Indians in Florida. Colt's scheme, however, did not succeed; the arms were not generally appreciated; and in 1842 the company became insolvent. No revolvers were made for five years, and none were to be had when General Zachary Taylor wrote for a supply from the seat of war in Mexico. In 1847 the United States government ordered 1000 from the inventor; but before these could be produced he had to construct a new model, for a pistol of the company's make could nowhere be found. This commission was the beginning of an immense business.

The little armory at Whitneyville (New Haven, Connecticut), where the order for Mexico was executed, was soon exchanged for larger workshops at Hartford. These in their turn gave place (1852) to the enormous factory of the Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company, doubled in 1861, on the banks of the Connecticut river, within the city limits of Hartford, where so many millions of revolvers with all their appendages have been manufactured. From there was sent, for the Russian and English governments, to Tula and Enfield, the whole of the elaborate machinery devised by Colt for the manufacture of his pistols. Colt introduced and patented a number of improvements in his revolver, and also invented a submarine battery for harbor defense. He died at Hartford on the 10th of January 1862.

Colt later purchased a large tract of land beside the Connecticut River, where he built a larger factory called the Colt Armory, a manor that he called Armsmear, and employee housing. He established a ten-hour day for employees, installed washing stations in the factory, mandated a one-hour lunch break, and built the Charter Oak Hall, a club where employees could enjoy games, newspapers, and discussion rooms. On June 5, 1856, Colt married Elizabeth Jarvis, the daughter of the Reverend William Jarvis, who lived just downriver from Hartford.

At the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, Colt-who had called himself "Colonel"-was actually commissioned a Colonel by the state of Connecticut on May 16, 1861, in the 1st Regiment Colts Revolving Rifles of Connecticut armed with the Colt revolving rifle. However the unit never took the field and Colt was discharged on June 20, 1861. Samuel Colt died in Hartford in 1862 and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery. At the time of his death, Colt's estate, which he left to his wife and son, was estimated to be valued at around $15,000,000. His professional responsibilities were turned over to his brother-in-law, Richard Jarvis.


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