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Samuel Colt
Birth: Jul. 19, 1814
Hartford
Hartford County
Connecticut, USA
Death: Jan. 10, 1862
Hartford
Hartford County
Connecticut, USA

Inventor, Industrialist. He is best remembered for developing the legendary Colt .45 caliber Peacemaker six shooter single action revolver, which became synonymous with America's Frontier West. His marketing techniques transformed the firearm from a utilitarian object into a central symbol of American identity. He was the founder of Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company (now known as Colt's Manufacturing Company), becoming one of the first industrialists to successfully mass-produce the revolver by use of the assembly line process along with interchangeable parts, making it commercially viable for the first time. His manufacturing methods were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, his father was a farmer who had moved his family there after becoming a textile businessman. When he was seven years old his mother died of tuberculosis and his father remarried two years later. He began working for a farmer at 11 years old and attended school at the same time, where he became fascinated by the inventions that he read about in the "Compendium of Knowledge," a scientific encyclopedia. In 1829 he started working in his father's textile factory in Ware, Massachusetts and soon began experimenting with explosives and pyrotechnic devices. In 1830 he was sent to boarding school where a July 4th accident caused a fire that ended his schooling and he was signed up to become a seaman. Returning to the US in 1832, he went back to work for his father who agreed to finance the production of two guns, a pistol and a rifle. The pistol failed but the rifle was successful; however, his father refused to contribute any more money to his invention. To come up with money, he embarked on a tour across the US and Canada, demonstrating the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), billing himself as "the Celebrated Dr. Coult of New York, London and Calcutta." When business started to decline, he added fireworks to expand his demonstrations and, coupled with his public speaking skills, his show became a success. He saved enough money to start building guns using proper gunsmiths and traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to start his venture and by 1835 he had perfected a prototype rotating cylinder revolver. Advised by the superintendent of the US Patent office, who was a friend of his father, to first apply for foreign patents, he travelled to England in 1835 and was issued a patent. He then returned to the US and applied for a patent to which he was granted on February 25, 1836. In April of that year he formed the Patent Arms Manufacturing Corporation of Paterson, New Jersey, which ended in failure by the end of the following year due to an economic crisis in the US (the Panic of 1837) which led to poor sales, and was further hampered by his mismanagement and reckless spending. He took his invention on the road in a effort to generate sales through demonstrations in general stores but he was not able to raise enough money he needed to buy the machinery needed to make the required interchangeable parts. He borrowed money from his cousin and travelled to Washington DC, demonstrating his revolver to President Andrew Jackson who approved it, but ultimately failed to obtain a Congressional appropriation for the US military to purchase them. His next attempt at arms making, underwater mines for the US Navy, also failed in 1842 due to lack of US Congressional support. He then turned his attention to perfecting the tinfoil cartridge that he originally designed for use in his revolvers. He made samples of them for the US Army, which resulted in the purchase of a few thousand rounds for further study. In 1843 the US Army ordered 200,000 of the cartridges for use in muskets. Afterward, he decided to concentrate his efforts on manufacturing a waterproof telegraph cable to go along with inventor Samuel F.B. Morse's telegraph, in hopes to raise enough money to resurrect his Patent Arms Manufacturing Company which had closed in 1843 due to poor sales. When this fell through, he devoted his time to improving his earlier revolver design and had a gunsmith in New York build a prototype, submitting it to the War Department as a "holster revolver." In 1846 the American-Mexican War had erupted and a Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers came to New York City, New York in January 1847, looking to buy some of his revolvers (he had previous experience using them during the Seminole War). Walker found him in a gunsmith shop and placed an order for 1,000 revolvers with some requested modifications, which included increasing the chamber capacity from 5-shots to 6. He hired Eli Whitney Blake, an established arms manufacturer to make his guns, which became known as the Colt Walker. The company received a second 1,000 order and with his share of the profits along with a loan from his cousin, he purchased the machinery and tooling from Blake and established his own firearms factory, Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company, at Hartford, Connecticut. More contracts followed and his business expanded rapidly, with new designs and improvements to the revolvers. In 1855 he completed construction of his new Hartford manufacturing plant, which was the largest private arms manufacturing facility in the world. 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, where employees could enjoy games, newspapers, and discussion rooms. However, he ran his plant with a military-like discipline, in which he would fire workers for tardiness, sub-par work or even suggesting improvements to his designs. A few years earlier he had established a firearms factory in London, England but it closed after four years because of poor sales to the British military. Because he was only a private citizen, he could not secure audiences with foreign heads of state to market his revolvers and he persuaded the governor of Connecticut to make him a lieutenant colonel and aide-de-camp in the state militia. With his new rank he toured Europe again, using innovative marketing techniques, including the gift of custom engraved revolvers to high-ranking persons. Beyond building arms, his use of art that depicted his revolvers being used in exotic scenes against Native Americans, wild animals, and bandits, along with celebrity endorsements, self-promotion tactics, and corporate gifts and even bribery to promote his wares, made him a pioneer in the fields of advertising, product placement, and mass marketing. As the Civil War approached, he provided firearms to both the North and the South and had been known to sell weapons to warring parties on both sides of other European conflicts. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he was commissioned a Colonel of the 1st Regiment Colts Revolving Rifles of Connecticut on May 16, 1861; however he was discharged a month later due to health reasons before his unit reached the field. He died of gout seven months later in Hartford, Connecticut at the age of 47. At the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest men in America with an estate valued at around $15 million. During his lifetime and even after his death, he received much criticism for promoting his arms by unscrupulous methods. He vigorously protected his patent rights and his personal vanity would prevent his own company from being able to produce a cartridge firearm until 10 years after his death. In 2006 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Christopher Colt (1780 - 1850)
  Sarah Caldwell Colt (____ - 1821)
 
 Spouse:
  Elizabeth Jarvis Colt (1827 - 1905)
 
 Children:
  Samuel Jarvis Colt (1857 - 1857)*
  Caldwell Hart Colt (1858 - 1894)*
  Elizabeth Jarvis Colt (1860 - 1863)*
  Henrietta Selden Colt (1861 - 1862)*
  Infant Daughter Colt (1862 - 1862)*
 
 Siblings:
  Margaret Collier Colt (1806 - 1825)**
  Sarah Ann Colt (1808 - 1839)**
  John Caldwell Colt (1810 - 1812)**
  John Caldwell Colt (1810 - 1842)**
  Samuel Colt (1814 - 1862)
  Mary Colt (1819 - 1826)**
  Normand Knox Colt (1821 - 1822)**
 
*Calculated relationship
**Half-sibling
 
Burial:
Cedar Hill Cemetery
Hartford
Hartford County
Connecticut, USA
Plot: Section 2, Lot 2
GPS (lat/lon): 41.72206, -72.69924
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 217
Samuel Colt
Added by: M. A.
 
Samuel Colt
Added by: dead-trek.com
 
Samuel Colt
Added by: dead-trek.com
 
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God bless you on Veteran's Day. Rest in Peace.
- Richard S. Barzelogna
 Added: Nov. 5, 2014
God bless you throughout Autumn, the beautiful, fiery season of the Harvest. Rest in Peace.
- Richard S. Barzelogna
 Added: Oct. 8, 2014

- Guardian
 Added: Oct. 2, 2014
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Current ranking for this person: (4.6 after 133 votes)
 

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