Samuel Colt [July 19th 1814 to January 10th 1862] was an American inventor and successful industrialist from Hartford, Connecticut, founding Colt's firearms manufacturing company that is known today as Colt's Manufacturing Company making the revolver a mass production.
Mr. Colt's first business venture was producing firearms in Paterson, New Jersey and making underwater mines, which ended in failure; however, his business expanded quickly after 1847 when the Texas Rangers ordered 1,000 revolvers during the American war with Mexico. During the American Civil War, his factory in Hartford, Connecticut supplied sidearms to both the North and South and later used during the settlement of the western frontier. When Colt died in 1862 he was one of the wealthiest men in America.
In 1835, Samuel Colt traveled to the United Kingdom [Great Britain] where previously Elisha Collier, a Bostonian, patented a revolving flintlock that received great popularity by the English. However, English officials were reluctant to administer a patent to Colt; but because his handgun was found to be reliable and was issued his first patent – Number 6909. When he returned to the United States he applied for a US patent for his revolving gun and so granted on February 25th 1836, Number 9430X.
Colt obtained a loan from his cousin, Dudley Selden as well as letters of recommendation, Colt formed a corporation of venture capitalists in April 1836 to bring his idea to market.
Colt never claimed to invent the revolver, however his design was more practical than Collier's revolving flintlock. The invention of the percussion cap made ignition more reliable, faster, and safer than the original flintlock design. He envisioned that his firearms' parts would be interchangeable and made by machine, assembling by hand – the first form of the assembly line, later perfected by Henry Ford.
Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers acquired the first Colt revolvers during the Seminole War, seeing their effectiveness when 15 men defeated a force of 70 Comanche in Texas. Walker wanted a six-shot revolver instead of traditional five-shot; and ordered an initial 1000 to be used by the Rangers in the Mexican-American War. This model Colt is known today as the Walker Colt, named so in honor of the famous leader of the Texas Rangers.
|1851 Navy Colt|
One of the best revolvers he produced was the Colt 1851 Navy Revolver that was used by troops of the North and the South during the American Civil War.
Colt kept his prices down by obtaining large orders, as with the government. He became so preoccupied with marketing and patent protection that he missed a great opportunity to develop his firearms when he did not listen to one of his gunsmiths, Rollin White who had the idea of a bored-through revolver cylinder to allow the use of metallic cartridges in the Colt handguns. Colt actually fired White for his suggestion, so White took the idea to the Colt competitor, Smith & Wesson, who patented the invention and kept Colt from building cartridge firearms for almost 20 years. Despite the drawback of not appreciating his innovative employees, he was the first to make use of the concept of the assembly line.
|Engraved Walker Colt|
Utilizing firearm makers from Bavaria, one of which was an engraver, Gustave Young, the Hartford factory began to produce custom firearms that collectors still covet today. It was during this period that Colt established a London factory that operated for only four years, closed in 1856 with the machinery, tooling, and unfinished guns shipped to Hartford.
Colt, being a strict capitalist, supplied both the North and South with firearms, not viewing the slavery issue as a moral factor. He also supplied firearms to both sides of European conflicts.
Samuel Colt died of gout in Hartford on January 10th 1862, his estate left to his wife and three-year-old son, Caldwell Hart Colt, was valued at $15 million [$350 million in 2009 currency]. His responsibilities was turned over to his brother-in-law Richard Jarvis, but Samuel Caldwell Colt son of his brother, John was also in the Colt's will.
In the first 25 years of manufacturing, the Colt Company produced over 400,000 revolvers. In 2006, Samuel Colt was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Today, the Colt 45 is still famous, the original cartridge revolver as well as the M1911 that was invented and developed by Robert Browning. The M1911 is a single-action semi-automatic pistol that has been copied internationally. Colt and Browning produced several models for the US military.
While the government contract to produce the M16 [civilian “AR”'], the real invention of the rifle now the standard of US Armed Forces and other armed forces internationally was made by the Armalite firearm company.
Firearm makers have produced fake models that have fooled even seasoned collectors. The best reproductions have been produced by Uberti, a distinguished Italian firearm manufacturer [now owned by Beretta] who wanted to recreate pistols, rifles and shotguns of the American Old West.