The Colt revolver became so popular in the 1800s that many people refered to a revolver, an early pistol, as a Colt.  Many people probably think that Samuel Colt created the first revolver.  However, he never claimed to have created the revolver, he just made it easier to use and patented his idea so he held the monopoly on revolvers for years.  But who was Samuel Colt?

He was born in 1814 in Connecticut to a farmer turned businessman and the daughter of a Revolutionary War soldier.  Although his mother died when he was young, one of his first playthings was her father’s old pistol.  When he was eleven years old he was introduced to a scientific encyclopedia that changed his life.  As he read about inventors creating things that were considered impossible, he dreamed of doing the same.  He became interested in guns and gunpowder.  At fifteen years old he used the encyclopedia to create underwater explosives for a fourth of July celebration.  A few years later an accident with his explosives got him kicked out of boarding school and he returned home to work in his father’s textile plant.  After learning a little about the gears and inner makings of the machines there, he went or was sent to sea (I found conflicting stories on this).  While learning to be a sailor he discovered a way to make the revolver automatically turn to the next hole in the rotating cylinder. At that time the revolver had to be hand rotated and often the person had to work to get the hole lined up correctly.  Leaving the sea behind, Colt got a loan and worked with a gunmaker to create a prototype of his improved revolver.  In 1835 he was granted a patent for his gun in England and a year later he patented his design ideas in the United States.

He set up a corporation to get the funding to create his gun.  Few Colt-Paterson revolvers were sold due to an economic depression and the huge difference between Colt’s gun and the established revolver.  The soldiers would have had to be retrained to work on the new gun and had to partially disassemble the gun to reload it.  Although the gun was well received, a law saying that militias couldn’t use a gun not in-use somewhere in the military meant the small militias couldn’t buy the guns and there were a lot of steps to take for the military to buy the guns.  The Seminole War in Florida led to some guns being sold but the new gun needed more training and curious soldiers took the guns apart but couldn’t put them together again.  The difficulties meant that the larger army regiments and other states felt no need to buy the new and confusing guns.  Colt also had a habit of using company money to provide rich meals and drinks to potential customers believing that the extra drink would mean more contracts.

In 1843 the company went bankrupt and Colt had to stop creating guns.  He turned back to his early fascination with explosives and worked out a way to create a powerful underwater explosive remote triggered by an underwater cable he created.  Unable to sell the idea to the Navy as John Quincy Adams deemed it “not fair and honest warfare”, Samuel Colt looked for another way to use his ideas.  Samuel Morse and Colt came up with using Colts underwater cables to further the reach of Morse’s telegraph system and Morse used a battery idea Colt created for his mines to add distance to the telegraph system.

Colt’s next idea was to create gunpowder in tinfoil instead of paper that quickly spoiled the gunpowder if it got wet.  The military was unsure of how useful it would be and ordered more for testing, eventually ordering enough for Colt to look back at his gun business.  As he tried to create a better design to market, Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers met him to order a thousand guns with a few changes.  The captain wanted a gun that would fire six shots instead of the regular five shots, was easier to reload, and had to have the power to kill a horse or person in a single shot.  This new gun funded a new company for his guns and his innovative marketing ideas, combined with his ever improving design made him one of the richest men in American when he died in 1862.

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