1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Colt, Samuel

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COLT, SAMUEL (1814–1862), American inventor, was 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 (see Pistol). On his return he learned chemistry from his father’s bleaching and dyeing manager, and under the assumed name “Dr Coult” travelled 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 Lieut.-Colonel 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 armoury 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. Thence 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 harbour defence. He died at Hartford on the 10th of January 1862.