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inventor of the revolver
Samuel Colt was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 19, 1814, the son of a prosperous textile manufacturer and merchant. He attended the local school while working in his father's textile mill, and was from an early age fascinated with the machinery that filled the mill. As a youngster he particularly enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked, especially his father's firearms. At the age of 15 he decided he wanted a little adventure and signed onto a ship bound for India. Legend says that he came up with the idea of a gun with a revolving cylinder while aboard that ship, either by watching the ship's wheel or by careful observation of how the ship's capstan worked, depending on which legend you prefer.
Returning to the United States in 1832, Colt immediately set to work on his idea. He secured a European patent in 1835, and, on February 25, 1836, received a U.S. patent for a pistol that featured a revolving cartridge cylinder which automatically advanced one chamber when the gun was cocked. Later that same year he established the Paterson Arms Manufacturing company in Paterson, New Jersey, to mass produce the gun. Unfortunately, the military, which Colt hoped would be a principal buyer, was slow to accept the revolver, and he was forced to sell his patent rights and close the factory in 1842.
Undaunted by the failure of his business, Colt immediately set his mind to working on other projects, including an early underwater mine and the first underwater telegraph cable.
Colt's firearms business got a major "shot in the arm" thanks to the Mexican-American War and the country's growing expansion into the West. In 1847, the U.S. Army placed an order for a sizable quantity of Colt's revolvers. Colt immediately resecured his patent rights and built a factory, within which Colt easily filled the order. Before long the Colt Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company had become one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. In 1855, Colt completed the largest arms manufacturing facility in the world, in his hometown of Hartford. Built with the assistance of Eli Whitney, Jr., son of the well-known inventor Eli Whitney, this factory featured such innovative concepts as the use of interchangeable parts, production lines, and advanced precision machinery.
Colt's revolver had finally made him a very wealthy man, but he would be unable to enjoy that wealth for long. He died in Hartford, Connecticut, on January 10, 1862, leaving the day-to-day operations of the company to his wife, Elizabeth, whom he had married just six years earlier.
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This page was last updated on April 26, 2017.