Little Bits of History

January 4

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 4, 2017


1847: Captain Samuel Walker places an order for the US government. Samuel Colt was a businessman from Hartford, Connecticut. He was indentured to a farmer when he was 11 and there was introduced to a scientific encyclopedia, the Compendium of Knowledge. He was smitten. He loved the articles on Robert Fulton and gunpowder. He learned how scientists had accomplished things once deemed impossible. As he aged, he heard soldiers talking about double barreled shotguns but longed for a gun which could fire five or six times before reloading. Remembering his reading, he decided to create the “impossible gun”. When he was 15, he began working at a textile plant and he now had access to tools. After accidentally setting his school on fire with his inventions, he was sent to learn a seaman’s trade.

He returned to the US and found employment on land and began to produce two guns, a rifle and a pistol. The rifle worked well; the pistol exploded when fired. He needed greater innovations and the money to create them. He traveled the country giving laughing gas (nitrous oxide) demonstrations to raise funds. He was a brilliant speaker and raised both money and his reputation. He finally perfected his design on his revolver and patented the gun. He also applied for British and French patents. He never claimed to have invented the revolver; simply to have greatly improved the former flintlock. His factory began to turn out guns and two years later, had built 1,000 of them. They hadn’t sold any. The law of the time said that state militias could only purchase guns that had been approved by the federal government.

Walker had been a Texas Ranger and had used some of the first guns Colt had produced during the Seminole War. He had seen the effectiveness of the then five-bullet chamber when his 15-man unit was able to defeat a 70-man Comanche unit. The US was now embroiled in the Mexican-American War and Walker went to New York City to seek out Colt and order some more of these wonderful guns. He wanted some changes. He liked the interchangeable parts but wished to have a six-bullet chamber. He also wanted bullets with enough power to bring down a man or a horse with a single shot. Securing Colt’s willingness to upgrade the gun, he placed his order for 1,000 of the improved weapons on this date.

The new design was called the Colt Walker and was manufacture by Eli Whitney Blake, an established arms manufacturer. With the money from this sale and a loan from his banker cousin, colt was able to build his own manufacturing plant at Hartford, his hometown. The first guns produced there had the catchy name of Whitneyville-Hartford-Dragoon and were so popular that the world Colt simply became used to indicate any revolver. The successful use of the Colt revolver during the Mexican-American War led to many soldiers and civilians choosing the Colt for their personal sidearm as well and he became extremely successful. He sold arms to whoever wished to buy them and often sold to both sides of a declared war. In the first 25 years of his business, it is estimated he had manufactured over 400,000 revolvers.

God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal. – Colt Manufacturing slogan

After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military. – William Burroughs

Morality ends where the gun begins. – Ayn Rand

The business end of a six-gun don’t pay no interest. – Ken Alstad

Stick ‘Em Up

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 5, 2013
Samuel Colt

Samuel Colt

March 5, 1836: Samuel Colt makes his first production model of a .34-caliber revolver. Pepper-box weapons predated true revolvers and had a revolving cylinder – each with its own barrel – and one firing mechanism. Snaphance weapons were the next improvement and allowed for a single barrel. These were produced from as early as the 1680s. Elisha Collier patented a flintlock revolver in England in 1818 and that gun was in production in London by 1822. Colt patented his new version of the weapon after being inspired by a capstan winch while aboard ship. The movement of the winch helped him develop a method of movement for the cylinder.

A revolver has several firing chambers arranged in a circular pattern that allows the bullet to be aligned with both the firing mechanism and the barrel. Colt’s gun had six firing chambers or slots for ammunition. They became a favorite in the “Wild West” and “six-shooter” became synonymous with revolver even though other numbers of chambers are possible. Guns are manufactured with as few as five chambers and as many as ten. This depends on the overall size of the gun physically and the caliber of the ammunition – the diameter of the casing that holds the “ingredients” for a bullet.

The time needed for reloading decreased with each improvement. Early revolvers had to be dismantled and the cylinder completely removed, reloaded, and then reassembled. A loading gate was incorporated into the design allowing for one slot access which permitted the owner to get rid of the casing and insert a new bullet, one at a time but without taking the gun apart. Then the top-break method was introduced and a hinge was placed at the bottom front of the cylinder. The next improvement was the swing-out cylinder where the mechanism is mounted on a pivot. Then speed loaders were invented which could load all the chambers in one movement.

Single action shooting means the hammer is cocked by hand and then the trigger is pressed. The human must perform two separate actions for the gun to fire. Double action guns fire with the human pulling the trigger and the gun’s mechanism pulls back the hammer and fires the bullet. Double action guns use a longer trigger pull to make them work and are therefore less accurate than single shot guns.

“The mere possession of a gun is, in itself, an urge to kill, not only by design, but by accident, by madness, by fright, by bravado.” – Chicago Daily News

“You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun.” – Al Capone

“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.” – P. G. Wodehouse

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” – Mao Tse-Tung

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Samuel Colt was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1814. Colt’s mother died when he was seven and his father remarried. By age 11, Sam was indentured to a farmer but he was still able to attend school. He loved learning about science and was particularly fascinated by Robert Fulton and gunpowder. At 15, Sam began working at his father’s textile plant which gave him access to tools, materials, and other workers’ vast store of experience. He got directions from an encyclopedia and managed to build a galvanic cell and advertised that he would create an underwater explosion with the device. He missed his target but managed to create an impressive display with the explosion itself. He eventually founded Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company, still in business but today called Colt’s Manufacturing Company.

Also on this day: The Royal Italian Opera – In 1856, the Royal Italian Opera house burned to the ground.
Boston Massacre – In 1770, five men were killed during a riot in Boston.
Iron Curtain – In 1946, Winston Churchill first publicly used the term “Iron Curtain”.

“Do you feel lucky?”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 25, 2010

1836 Colt Revolver

February 25, 1836: An American patent is granted to Samuel Colt for his Colt revolver. Colt was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1814. His father, who owned a textile mill, taught his son about machinery. At the age of 16, Colt became a sailor. Legend states that while observing a capstan, he came up with the idea for a revolver pistol. Colt received a European patent for his multi-shot pistol in 1835.

This innovative idea was met with resistance, and Colt went out of business for some time. He declared bankruptcy in 1842 and spent four years in litigation. He secured his patent and again went back to producing guns in 1848. Colt created the first industrialized firearm factory. He hired Elisha K. Root, an axe manufacturer of renown, to help get state-of-the-art equipment for making truly interchangeable parts for his guns.

Prior to his revolver’s debut, handguns were loaded singularly, fired, and then reloaded. Colt created a circular chamber holding several bullets that align with the firing mechanism and barrel one bullet at a time. There are single-action guns which require one to pull back the hammer and then press the trigger as well as double-action guns which only require that one pull the trigger.

Colt was not “just” an arms manufacturer. He also worked with explosives and developed the first remote detonation. He developed technology that helped to lay the first underwater telegraph cable. He also popularized nitrous oxide as an anesthetic. He was a Colonel of the Connecticut Regiment during the Civil War.

“God made all Men, Samuel Colt made them equal.” – 19th century saying

‘‘The world is filled with violence. Because criminals carry guns, we decent law-abiding citizens should also have guns. Otherwise they will win and the decent people will lose.’’  – James Earl Jones

“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” – George Washington

“There is no arguing with Johnson; for when his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it” – Oliver Goldsmith

Also on this day, in 1919 Oregon became the first state to impose a gasoline tax.