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What is the early history of the Colt Firearms Company?

It was the year 1832. At the United States Patent Office in Washington, William P. Elliott listened patiently to a tall, eager youth of eighteen. Enthusiastically the lad explained drawings of his invention and displayed a crude pistol which operated on a novel revolving principle.

When advised that he should first file a caveat and then develop a perfect model, the lad Samuel Colt by name was far from discouraged. He was determined to return soon with everything necessary!

Laughing Gas (Nitrous Oxide) has built few fortunes, but it did serve here to help young Sam Colt along a few of those first hard miles on the road to success. Billed as Dr. Coult, Sam traveled to New Orleans, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Albany, Quebec anywhere he could find a paying audience to witness his sensational demonstrations of the gas effects, and thus provide the funds necessary to finance his firearms endeavors. Nearly three years slipped by as Sam barnstormed around the country, but at the same time, Sam was working hard at redesigning his firearm models. He finally succeeded in having some pistols and rifles made up by Baltimore gunsmiths.

Then Sam Colt was on the high seas bound for England, regarded by many on that day as "The Mother Country." Here on December 18, 1835, the first Colt patent was issued. A copy of this interesting document is preserved at the Colt Museum in Hartford.

The English patent (number 6909) described Colt's invention, in part, as follows: "The mode of causing the breech piece to rotate is by a lifter and ratchet motion, and locking it during discharge by a key. A shield (frame plate) is used to protect the lock from wet smoke, and fouling. The axis of the percussion hole is in line with the axis of the chamber."

Many have wondered why Sam Colt secured his first patent in Europe. There were probably several good reasons. A peculiarity of the English patent law would have denied Colt protection in England if he patented his invention first in the United States. Furthermore, you will recall that Mr. E. H. Collier, a Bostonian who found little encouragement in America, went to England, and his revolving Flint locks were quickly accepted there. Sam's motives were explained somewhat in the following excerpt from an 1838 issue of Spirit of The Times:

"When Mr. Colt was in Paris, and proceeding concerning the impression that Europe was the most desirable field for profit to the inventor, the clouds arose, threatening to burst in a storm of war between France and our United States. His views changed instantly. In such a crisis, he would not give his enviable facilities to his country's foe. He decided to waive all considerations of private interest, for the public good of his beloved native land, and forthwith returned to offer his discovery at Washington, to sustain our side in the expected conflict. But he had scarcely arrived there, when the news of the mediation of England for the adjustment of the difficulties, met him; and his patriotic ambition to serve his country was foiled before he had a chance of even disclosing it."

This incident, and Sam's loyalty to his native land, may have been the determining factors that brought the manufacture of Colt firearms to Paterson, U. S. A., rather than at some address in England, Belgium, or France.

Young Sam, arriving home from Europe, hurried down to Washington. On February 25, 1836, he was granted his first firearms patent. This instrument and patent number 1304, dated August 29, 1839, protected the basic principles of all Colt revolving arms made at Paterson, N. J.

The basic principles. were, in brief:
  • 1. Centrally placed nipples or tubes at the rear of the cyclin are sometimes referred to as a rotating breech or receiver.
  • 2. Each nipple is isolated by partitions to prevent simultaneous discharge.
  • 3. Rotating the cylinder by an act of cocking the hammer.
  • 4. Locking the cylinder in proper adjustment at the moment of discharge, and unlocking it by lifting the hammer when cocking.
These were Colt's main claims. They were defended successfully throughout, as in the famous Massachusetts Arms Co. trial, and until the patents expired in 1857.

Ambitious Sam Colt first claimed invention of the percussion tube (nipple) designed with an aperture "funnel shaped, to freely admit the fire . . . and concentrating it as it enters the chambers." Later, however, he filed a disclaimer, stating that, while he was an original inventor of the system, he may not have been the first to use it. A nipple with four shoulders to engage the applying wrench, and of a size suited to No. 9 percussion caps, was the design used in Paterson pistols.

A New Inventive Era

Multi shot firearms, such as the English flintlock "Pepperboxes" and Collier's flintlock revolver, were handicapped by the system of their ignition. But the percussion cap gave impetus to a new inventive era. The evolution is very interesting, and especially well portrayed in Hand Cannon To Automatic by Herschel C. Logan.
Experimental pistols. All are associated with Paterson except the third pistol, which is an evolutionary model from which "Walker" pistols were developed. Colt Co. collection.

Hot on the heels of Colt came Barton and Benjamin Darling with a revolving "pepperbox" which they patented on April 13, 1836. Allen followed in 1837, Nichols & Childs in 1838, and many others including the ambitious Mighill Nutting.

"Pepperbox" patents gave Colt his most serious competition, for these pistols sold at an average of $10 each, whereas Paterson pistols, we are told in old advertisements, retailed at $25 to $100, depending 6n the type and decoration. Some were sold at a reduced bargain price of $16.00.

John Ehlers, in an advertisement of 1845 featuring Colt's pistols, warned his readers, "Great impositions have been lately practiced on the public by representing and selling the six barrel or self cocking pistol as Colt's Patent Pistol. Please note that in deference to popular practice in 1 %. 1836 43, I use the word "pistol" in referring to Colt's early repeating small arms, rather than the more modern term "revolver."

Experimental Models

The Main Street shop of Anson Chase in Hartford produced the first (and faulty) specimen pistols on the Colt system in 1831 32. Chase, a locksmith and gunsmith, was assisted in the work by Wm. H. Rowe, who received the magnificent sum of $1.25 per day for his labors.

A more competent workman, John Pearson of Balti, was engaged in 1834, and "a one man factory" was started, to manufacture sample firearms of Colt pattern. Pearson received the magnificent sum of $10 for a sixty hour week. In 1835, Fred H. Brash was engaged to assist Pearson, and Frederick Hanson is also believed to have worked on some of the Colt models.

Mr. Charles Winthrop Sawyer (Firearms In American History Vol. 2) asserted that Frederick Hanson of Baltimore assisted Pearson in producing the "Promotion Model" Colt pistol illustrated herein, and that "it was handsomely stocked and richly engraved by Richard B. Henshaw of Green St., New York City." There is evidence that this is true. Mr. Sawyer estimated that a total of approximately six pistols and two rifles were made before the more extensive experiments were undertaken at Paterson. Probably more than that were produced. An exact number cannot be accurately judged, neither is it especially important.

Considerable experimentation did take place both at Baltimore and Paterson, we do know. A few of these models have been preserved and can be seen now in the Colt collection at the Connecticut State Library and at Hart Ford's Wadsworth Atheneum, where Samuel Colt's collection is housed.

It was a big jump forward from the experimental models to the stream lined Paterson pistols first put in production, as exemplified by the pistol with the 'I" serial number on pages 30 and 31.

Samuel Colt’s Contribution

We are dealing here with the works, rather than the personality of Samuel Colt, and will limit comment to those matters bearing directly on the manufacture and sale of firearms, except for a few words.

The quotations that follow, published in 1838, contain a few views on the Colt career that I have not found elsewhere in the writings of Colt historians:
"Very few mechanical improvements within the last few years, have excited a greater degree of interest than the patent Firearms of Mr. Colt, and still fewer are there, likely to be productive of results so important. As some history of the original invention, and the progressive improvement made upon it, will be new to many of our readers, and interesting to all, we have no hesitancy in devoting to it all the space at our command. The annexed extract is from a communication in the Journal of the American Institute:

"The thought of the repeating arms originated with a citizen of Connecticut, Samuel Colt; at the time of its first dawning upon him, a mere boy; for even now, he is not over four and twenty.

"Mr. Colt happened to be near the scene of a sanguinary insurrection of negro slaves, in the southern district of Virginia. He was startled to think against what fearful odds be in one shot, when opposed to multitudes, even though multitudes of the unarmed? The master and his family were certain to be massacred. Was there no way, thought Mr. Colt, of enabling the planter to repose in peace? no longer to feel that to be attacked, was to be at once and inevitably destroyed? that no resistance could avail, were the negroes once spirited up to revolt? As yet he knew little of mechanics; in firearms, he was aware of nothing more efficient than the ordinary double barrelled pistol and fowling piece. But even loading and reloading these, involved a most perilous loss of time: Could no mode be hit upon of obviating the danger of such delay?

"The boy's ingenuity was from that moment on the alert. He meditated in secret; and after repeated trials, he affected a movement of six distinct barrels on an arbor running through their center, in such a manner that by every operation of cocking the lock, a loaded barrel would be brought to a line with the hammer, and there held firm until discharged.

Presently he found That the Weapon was complex, and would be cumbersome. He was determined to make the scheme known when he could bring it into a form more simple, and more manageable. Plan upon plan hurried his fancy onward until it was wearied with the rapid variety of its conceptions. But the delight of invention, so fascinating to the projector, at length gave way to the soberness of calculation. "While in this state of mind, he had to travel through a part of the country in which the protection of firearms was indispensable and had no weapon but his six barrel pistol. On one occasion this did him such valuable service, that his mind again involuntarily reverted to its earliest ambition. He suddenly asked himself, 'Why may there not as well be only one barrel and one lock, and between them a rotary receiver for the charges? Could this point be gained, the weapon would be compact and light enough. It would be scarcely heavier than an ordinary single one. Then would there remain nothing to be desired:
In these buildings, backed against the Passaic River at Paterson, N. J., the first Colt patent pistols and rifles were manufactured by Patent Arms Mfg. Co. Pen sketch by Chas. F. Sawyer, from the library of Raymond L. J. Riling.

"He plodded on unremittingly till he effected his object. No person was entrusted with his secret. His first rude efforts, especially at the time when he had intended to ban don the undertaking, had leaked out; and other persons had wrought upon the hint, and with feeble and unavailable imitations, had puffed themselves into notice. But Mr. Colt felt satisfied that the imperfectness of the copy would prevent it from doing him an ultimate injury, and he was resolved to profit by experience, and keep his final improvements to himself, until his right to the entire discovery should be secured to him by patent abroad, as well as at home. He did not even disclose his patent to his father, till he had laid his plan to depart. He went to Europe. He became favorably known at the patent offices, and placed his interest beyond dispute, under the protection of the laws of the various countries which he visited. "Spirit of the Times. History records of Samuel Colt that he contributed very effective weapons to the arsenals of America and Revitalized the manufacture of firearms throughout the world. In so doing, he gave profitable employment to thousands and amassed a fortune for himself and his family. Colt's ambition was stronger than his body, which, prey to arthritis, was laid to rest in 1862. The "incredible career" of Samuel Colt ended before he could complete his 48th year.

Being human, Sam Colt made mistakes. I believe that those who read this book will share my opinion that no con constructive purpose would be served here by invading the intimate privacy of the Colt family life. Let us relegate reports of unwise conduct to entombment with the man who is now helpless to defend himself. Samuel Colt's industry has provided a great wealth of enjoyment for American arms collectors. An urge to enter the romantic realm of "Coltianna" sooner or later comes to every student of firearms.

Wheels Begin To Turn

Eighteen hundred and thirty six was a busy year for the 22 year old Hartford inventor. Patents were granted; a stock company of New York and New Jersey capitalists organized; a factory site engaged at Paterson, N. J.; experiments with machinery and models were undertaken. And by the autumn, a small number of Colt's patent repeating firearms were on the workbenches. "The Patent Arms Manufacturing Company" was granted a New Jersey charter on March 5, 1836, which charter was amended twice in 1839. Elias B. D. Ogden (later judge) was named President, and Colt's cousin, Dudley Selden, was appointed Secretary and General Manager. John Ehlers, of New York City, an important stockholder, later became very prominent in the affairs of the Company. !I son pistols, this Baltimore made specimen is yed to prospective investors, when the Patent oriented. Known as the "Promotion Model. "was appointed Secretary and General Manager. John Ehlers, of New York City, an important stockholder, later became very prominent in the affairs of the Company.

The Old Gun Mill

Perched above the turbulent Passaic River, just off of Van Houten Street, is a spot well known to the historically minded citizens of Paterson. Here, in "the old gun mill," was cradled not only the first successful repeating firearms of America but the silk industry as well! Particularly enlightening is The History of Industrial Paterson by L. R. Trumbull, printed in Paterson, in 1882. From 'this we quote, "Under these auspices (The Patent Arms M'g. Co.) the Gun Mill proper was erected after the manufacture of the patent arms had been experimentally carried on for a short time in an obscure mill then standing. When finished the mill was, especially for that day, a very fine structure, about 100 x 40 feet, four stories high with an attic. On the spire that surmounted the bell tower was a vane very elaborately made in the design of a finished gun, and in front of the mill was a fence, each picket being a wooden gun, and the whole was beautifully painted. There were several small buildings attached to the mill proper, and over the raceway was an office in which Henry B. Crosby, then one of the most skilled workmen, slept for several years."

Compared to modern factories, or the later Colt Hart Ford buildings, this factory building was neither large nor imposing. Historic and valuable firearms were fabricated here, however, and it served its purpose well. Having studied the methods of Eli Whitney and Springfield Armory, especially about interchangeable parts, Colt planned to employ machinery for as much of his work as possible. Sam's ambitions were restrained somewhat by limited funds, and the unsympathetic attitude of his Cousin Dudley, general manager of the Company. The arms were fabricated "part by hand and part by machinery." A rather good uniformity was achieved, however.

Jack Rohan says that Thomas Lawton of Baltimore was engaged as foreman of the Paterson factory, but Trumbull asserts that Pliny Lawton of Ware, Mass, was "superintendent of the works." Records at the Connecticut Historical Society favor Pliny Lawton. Henry B. Crosby was brought in from Springfield, Mass, where he had been working on fine machinery, to head the lock department. Philip Rafferty also is known to have been employed, as well as Fred Hanson, later a famous gunsmith on Prospect St., Paterson, A. Pulhamus, and Ira Leonard. H. Barrett Crosby, a grandson of Henry B. Crosby, was interviewed by the author, and the Crosby association with the Paterson factory was fully confirmed. We learn through Trumbull, that, "Many of the revolvers and guns finished here were, of almost oriental magnificence. Some of the arms were intended for foreign countries, presents being sent to Princes, Governments, and distinguished men the world over."

Up Stairs A Silk Mill

The upper portion of the gun mill was occupied by Messrs. Murray and Ryle for about two years while the Patent Arms M'g. Co. made pistols below. It seems probable that the first silk machinery was brought from Hartford in the year 1838 by Christopher Colt, brother of Samuel. In a very short time, however, this undertaking was abandoned. In 1840 Mr. Murray took possession and put Mr. Ryle in full charge. It is claimed for Paterson that here occurred the first successful manufacture of silk in the United States.

Work Begins 1836

Occupied primarily with organization, the Patent Arms M'g. Co. produced but little in 1836, and not much reference can be found as to any arms made in that year. In a lecture before the Institution of Civil Engineers in London some years later, however, Colt referred to the sketch of an early type eight shot rifle, which he said was made in 1836. The early endeavors appear to have favored rifles.
An old photograph of Paterson, N. J, showing, at far right, the factory where Colt patent firearms were first made. The sketch below provides a frontal view and was copied from an illustration in an old issue of "Paterson Evening News. "President Andrew Jackson (1829 1837) was in the White House and Sam promptly called to show his wares to the old soldier, and to present him with a fine specimen, probably the first "Presentation Colt" of record.

A Government Trial 1837

Sam's hard plugging in Washington finally resulted in a trial being arranged for Colt's invention before the board of Army ordnance officers at West Point, N. Y. The First firearms of his design submitted for government trial were revolving muskets. They failed to impress the ordnance officers, who gave them an unfavorable report, suggesting, "their advance tags are counterbalanced by the complexity of construction and consequent greater liability to derangement and accidents. "Writing June 1, 1840, in defense of another trial, Colt stated, "The arms submitted in 1837 ... were the first arms ever made on my principle, and were got up in a great hurry. Consequently, the arms were imperfect and easily gotten out of order."

A Government Order 1838

Although we are reserving for PART V the data about Paterson made long arms, it is important to the sequence of events to include some mention of them here. In February 1838, Sam departed for Florida, where the warring Seminole Indians were giving the United States Army serious difficulties. In Colonel William S. Harney, Sam found a staunch friend and the first Army officer to successfully champion Colt's arms. Because of Col. Harney's favorable recommendations, General Thomas S. Jesup purchased from Colt fifty revolving rifles, eight shot patterns, of various calibers, for $125.00 each. Some Paterson pistols were sold to officers of Jesup's command. Mal G. J. Rains, active in the Seminole campaign, later praised the rifles as follows: "This weapon, eight times as efficient in the fire as the musket is unequaled by any in the service. "Back in New York, rifles appeared to be getting the greater attention, also. At the American Institute of the City of New York for the Encouragement of Science and Invention, Colt's rifle won a gold medal in 1837. At that time his pistol was brushed aside with this brief comment: "Revolving chambered pistols best fit only for military uses." Again in 1838, Colt's rifle won the Institute's award. An exhibition of Colt's eight shot rifles was held at the Battery, New York City, on February 19, 1838. At that time, Dick & Holmes, agents, offered Colt rifles for sale at $150.00 each. In times when a large glass of beer, costing 50 cents, brought with it a free lunch, $150.00 was not exactly a paltry sum!

The Texas Navy 1839

Important events, heretofore somewhat obscure, occurred in 1839, and we find the first sale of Colt pistols for naval use. In Texas John Fuller, representing Colt, had interested Memicum Hunt (Secretary of the Navy Department), Col. Geo. W. Hockley (Armory Officer), and others in Colt's arms. This led to an order for 180 carbines and 180 pistols, Aware of the difficulty of initiating the government to entertain the idea of any change lathe implements of warfare ideas spurred palsy the necessities of actual service. Mr. Colt. resolved, to look additively to the spirit of the pinta enterprise for giving efficacy to his invention:

He obtained a charter from the legislature of New Jersey, for a Patent Armeldensfimuring Company, with a capital of three hundred theusmadviallars. Mesta & lass has been taken by several of our wealthiest citizens. An armory is already boat at Paterson, K .1. When its arrangements are complete, this armory will employ five hundred artisans. Upwards of one hundred are now constantly at work there, not only during the entire day but even through a portion of the night.

Alibis recent fair of the `Arun= Institute. specimens of these, ingenious weepers, were exhibited in public for the first time. They attracted universal ad. mimosa. A committee of loaned sud practical mechanics pronounced upon their merits. After the most rigid scrutiny, they were accorded the highest and unqualified praise. The inventor was elected a member of the Institute. He was also presented with the greeting distinctive in the power of the Institute to bestow a solder medal.

To give readers a better understanding of the principle upon which these Firearms are constructed, the following diagram is submitted of a Pistol, which is manufactured and acts upon the same principle as the Riau, with the exception. that the Cocked Rifle acts horizontally and is concealed beneath the Sight:

`The perillas = preside Ai tidal in three detached partials, as
  • A—The stock, including the Hamm attack, and the Cylinder on which the Receiver B revolves and to wk.& the Barrel C is fastened.
  • B—the Receiver et Chamber, prepared for five charges.
  • C—the Buret, climb. 'is fastened to the Cylinder, on which the Iteceiv. er, re evolves; to the left of the letter Oels. fite wedge, which fastens the Barrel to the Cylinder." '
The loiter piste, Dr promotes the Pistol Complete, cocked ready for firing. When discharged, the triad, by tarring. maybe closed into the Stock; the act of cocking throw the Triggered, mad turns the Receiver one charge each time. B represents the inverted sod or the Receiver, adjoining the. Barrel, The five black dots denote the Chambers for damn, and the •white ring (enclosing the letter E) the lade or aperture dames which the Cylinder runs:

Presents the inverted cad of die Receiver, neat the Hammer. the small white dots denoting the Conn on each percussion Cape are placed.

A later additional purchase by. Texas may be indicated by old records which recite litigation as to payment.

Edward Ward Moore, after several years in the United States Naval Service, resigned in 1839 and accepted the appointment of "Post Captain Commanding," with courtesy rank of Commodore, to the Navy of the Republic of Texas.

Commodore Moore wasted no time; he got busy outfitting his ships in the port of Baltimore (a city closely allied with the fortunes of Sam Colt). Here it was, no doubt, that Moore contacted Sam in nearby Washington, and discussed the arms concerning which he later testified:
"The Texas volunteers of war were armed with Colt's pistols and carbines, which were on very frequent occasions exposed in boats and bad weather, and I unhesitatingly assert that they are as little injured by exposure to the weather as the common musket or ship's pistol. "The Colt pistols, used by the Texas Rangers before annexation, were all supplied from the navy after they had been in constant use upward of four years; and I know some of these arms that have been in constant use for nine years, and are still good.

"I have seen the recently improved model (Walker) which has several alterations, or rather improvements, which make it a better arm than those I had in use in the Texas Navy, which were among the first manufactured by the inventor."

It is not difficult to understand why Colt later honored the Texas Navy and his friend Moore with an Ormsby en engraving, symbolizing their victorious May 16, 1843 engagement with the Mexican fleet. This ship scene decorated the cylinders of subsequent Navy and Army (Model 1860) revolvers made at Hartford.

Jack Hays, a famous Texas Ranger, and soldier, having obtained some of the Texas Navy pistols, is credited with their most spectacular use against the Indians (Comanches). Leading fifteen men armed with CoIt's Paterson pistols, he is reported to have routed eighty redskins, killing forty two of them.

Improved Patents

The most important of the Colt patents, insofar as actual Paterson manufacture is concerned, is number 1304, dated August 29, 1839. This patent records the improvements brought about by experimentation at Paterson, mostly before the start of any actual production. No production pistols have been found of the 1836 patent design, whereas the earliest Paterson pistols produced conform to the drawings of 1839. Pistols of the 1839 pattern were certainly in actual production before the dating of the patent. Pistols of belt size in the 1839 pattern are shown in the 1838 illustration. The shoulder arm with exposed hammer, a system used in Paterson shotguns and six shot carbines, made its debut in this patent.


One of the earliest printed illustrations of Colt pistols. Two grip designs are shown. The text is enlightening; more will be quoted on page 300.

Among other things, Colt claimed, "the mouths of the chambers and the (rear) end of the barrel have their edges chamfered or beveled. In all guns of this description, there is necessarily a lateral discharge between the receiver and barrel, and this lateral discharge may endanger the ignition of the powder in the loaded chambers not in contact with the barrel; but the ignited matter, by coming in contact with the beveled edges as it crosses said chamber, is effectively reflected off, and does not enter them. The beveling of the barrel is intended merely to prevent cutting the ball in its passage from the chambers."

Loading Made Easier

The author has been particularly interested in Colt accessories and has assembled many different molds, flasks, etc. A fine starting point in this accessory story is Colt's Paterson flask, mold, capper, and loading tool, described in the 1839 patent. The loading tool was a most important feature in this period of development and embodied ideas which soon led to the attachment of a permanent loading lever on rifles and pistols.

Indications of a screw hole and plunger channel, such as required for permanent attachment of a loading lever, are drawn in the sketch appearing on page 2. There is no explanation in the patent text; only the unattached lever tool is featured. This drawing indicates, however, that the attached lever was being considered.

Writing of Colt rifles to Hon. J. R. Poinsett, Secretary of War, July 30, 1840, Captain G. T. Rains suggested the following, "In conclusion permit me to say that a bayonet would be an advantageous appendage to this arm; and the lever rammer, which can be easily prefixed, would add to its efficiency."

The first reference to a permanently attached loading lever coming to my notice appeared late in 1840 in connection with naval trials and is as follows, "The ramrod, or, more properly, the lever, has now been ingeniously fitted permanent to Colt's carbine, and facilitates in a great degree the loading. This is an important improvement, and the liability to drop the lever is now obviated."

This improvement was truly important in reloading, for instead of a loose frame, barrel, wedge, cylinder, lever, and loading components, the pistol or rifle could be kept completely assembled with only the components to be juggled!

"Mr. Henry B. Crosby," says Trumbull, "is accredited with the honor of adjusting the first lock used on the patent arms, and also of fixing on Colt's revolver the first ramrod lever attachment ever placed on a pistol."

As late as 1843, John Ehlers advertised "Colt's Repeating pistols, with the latest improvement," and illustrated the pocket model with an attached loading lever. Hence, it seems more proper to date models with attached loading levers later than 1839, all the evidence considered. A loose loading tool did make its appearance in the 1839 patent, but, in considering models designed for the permanently attached loading levers, 1840 appears more exact.

Compared are the relative sizes of Colt's 1849 pocket model made at Hartford and the 1840 pocket model made by Patent Arms Mfg. Co. at Paterson, N. J.

Not only the accessories, but the ammunition as well held Colt's attention prominently in 1839, and he devoted considerable time toward perfecting a waterproof foil cartridge.

Another U. S. Trail 1840

Colt persuaded the War Department to try out his carbines and the United States Navy to test his firearms, both pistols and rifles, in 1840. In the Navy trials pistols are mentioned for the first time in an official government report, and it is believed that this was the first time they were officially demonstrated.

Again the reports of the board members were mostly unfavorable but tempered by some small encouragement in these words, "The undersigned would not, however, wish to be understood as condemning altogether the use of these arms on board ship; on the contrary, they are decidedly of opinion that every vessel of war should be supplied with a sufficient number of these rifles and pistols for arming boat expeditions."

A Senate report, printed in 1851, provided considerable information concerning the Paterson Colt period. Here it is learned that the Navy, late in 1840, undertook further experiments with Colt firearms, at Governor's Island, N. Y. This report was somewhat more favorable than previous findings, but still qualified and conservative.

"Texas Paterson"

About this time Sam urged the sale of pistols and rifles to some Texas buyers at cost. He felt that this would introduce them in some quantity and stimulate a lively demand. The Texas frontier, with active skirmishing involving the Texans with Indians and Mexicans, was a good proving ground for the new "Five Shooter" pistols, and for repeating rifles.

Commodore Moore's testimony, previously quoted, would designate 1843 as the approximate year in which the Texas Rangers obtained their pistols from the Texas Navy.

"Texas Paterson" is a popular phrase among collectors. The model favored by Texans was principally of .36 caliber, with a large grip. In old records, several frontiersmen, such as Maj. Carlton referred to them as "Colt's pistols of the largest size."

Very little profit certainly accrued to the Patent Arms M'g. Co. from Texas sales, regardless of the date and manner in which the arms were introduced. But the "Texas Paterson" laurels gathered on this frontier helped materially to bring profitable orders to Colt later at Hart Ford, via Whitneyville.

In 1854 Sam said, "I did not make any money until lately; I made none in America until my arms were employed in the Service, by the energy of the people who first went to Florida, next to Texas, in the wars with the Indians, and finally to Mexico; that completed the reputation of my arm so far as America is concerned."

The Capt. Sam H. Walker papers of 1846 enumerate, in U. S. custody in Texas, various pistols, carbines, flasks, bullet molds, percussion priming boxes, and screwdrivers, all of Colt's patent.

Beginning Of The End

A long series of disagreements between the reckless showman, Sam Colt, and his conservative cousin, Dudley Selden, contributed to Dudley's resignation as Secretary and Manager of the Patent Arms M'g. Co. John Ehlers succeeded Dudley Selden, and Ehler's name put in an appearance for the first time in Doggett's New York Business directory, 1840 41, as follows: "Ehlers, John, Patent firearms, 155 Broadway."

Possibly as the result of the 1840 trials at New York, the United States Ordnance Department took a more favorable attitude toward Colt's firearms, and ordered one hundred repeating carbines on March 2, 1841, and another sixty on the following July 23rd. The price was $45 each, quite a reduction from the $125 paid for Colt ring lever rifles in Florida several years before.

The Shadow Lengthens

This token of governmental patronage meant little, however, in preventing the collapse of the Paterson venture, for it came much too late. Many causes contributed to the failure.

During President Martin Van Buren's administration (1837 41) a near panic gripped the Nation. Money was scarce. We were at peace; no urgent need for armaments. The comparatively high cost of Colt's arms, in a depressed market, was a very serious handicap.

Youthful Sam Colt's ideas were extravagant and revolutionary; his financial accountings were slipshod. This was directly opposed to the meticulous New England conservatism of cousin Dudley Selden. Internal friction in the company's affairs was constant. Sam was 100% correct in his belief that he could not succeed without governmental patronage. Assiduously he sought the ear of those with political influence. Concerning Sam's Washington efforts, Cousin Dudley complained, "You use money as if it were drawn from an inexhaustible mine. I have no belief in undertaking to raise the character of your gun by old Madeira.

"By its very nature, Sam's contract with the Patent Arms M'g. Co. caused friction and a division of interests. The Flintlock era was just drawing to a close. Army oldsters were not trustful of Colt's new fangled invention; they wanted more than the expansive aims of a stripling, and their favor came too slowly to keep the Colt ship afloat. Little did Sam Colt and salesman Zabriskie (a distinguished family in northern New Jersey) realize that the arms they were trying so hard to sell would one day bring many times the factory list price to hang in a collector's cabinet!

His Luck Was Bad

Some years ago a similar version of the following story was told by Mr. Crosby's grandson:

"On one occasion, of many like ones, Messrs. Colt and Crosby went to Washington, and with them several men best skilled in the use of the weapon, the object being to give a convincing display of its wonderful power. The men were drawn up in a line at the Capitol, waiting for the command to fire, Mr. Colt and a group of Army officers holding their watches in their hands to note the time, when the carriage of the President drove up. The President stepped out and stood on the Capitol steps. Then the word was given and the arches of the rotunda rang with sharp and continuous detonations.

"The display was a wonderful success, but a most unfortunate and fatal catastrophe spoiled all. The carriage horses of the President, mettlesome animals, were rendered wild with affright at the firing and were soon out of control. They reared and then dashed forward, causing the carriage to strike the gate column with such force that the driver was thrown to a considerable height, whence he fell on an iron railing and was almost instantly killed.

This, it is said, gave the President such a prejudice against the arm that he always opposed its adoption. Disheartened after so many setbacks, Sam considered for a time removal to England and the formation of a Company there. He might have done so, had not an English financier, with whom he negotiated, proved incapable of the needed assistance.

A final parting of the ways between Colt and Ehlers came with the discovery that Ehlers was not crediting Sam properly on royalties due. Sam was through. He engaged competent attorneys, demanded a thorough accounting, and tied the Patent Arms M'g. Co. up in a complicated lawsuit.

Lawsuits And Bankruptcy 1842 to 43

The litigation started by Colt in 1841 lasted five or six years. Ehlers, in 1842, threw the Patent Arms M'g. Co. into bankruptcy, and by late 1843 its affairs had been substantially liquidated.

Years later, in London, Colt stated, "I had to pay $30,000 out of my pocket for this failure." This sounds like one of Sam's "more extravagant" claims. A total loss of many dollars to stockholders and others concerned did accompany the failure, and Sam remarked that the only beneficial result of the venture was gaining experience in making the arms themselves and the machinery required to manufacture them.

John Ehlers acquired a substantial portion of the sold firearms at the factory, and he continued in business (1843 45 at 171 Broadway, and 1845 47 at 2 Barclay St., New York City), and advertised Colt's patent repeating pistols up until 1847. Ehlers sold "50 Boarding pistols, 5 charged each" at $25 apiece to the U. S. Government, making delivery on September 10, 1845. Through the courtesy of Dr. Arthur Woodward, we learn that Ehlers advertised his Paterson firearms in The American Flag, of May 23, 1847, published in Matamoros, Mexico, opposite the present city of Brownsville. Underneath a woodcut picturing a Paterson pistol was the following: "Special permission having been granted to Mr. Ehlers to sell his Colt's Repeating Fire Arms under certain restrictions the officers of the army are respectfully informed that these arms are now for sale at the office of the subscriber (Casa de Don Andres Saldana) on the street leading south, at the southwest corner of the Plaza de Hidalgo. Private soldiers and American citizens can also be accommodated with them, but must first produce written permission, the soldier from the commanding officer, and the citizen from the commander of this city, Col. Davenport." The advertisement further stated that "Colt's Patent Repeating Rifles, Carbines, and Pistols with the latest in improvements of 1844, 1845 and 1846 (apparently Ehler's arms assembled from Paterson parts) are the most complete weapon ever invented perfect in all their parts."

Several incidents of entertaining character were related by Trumbull, in his early book on the history of industrial Paterson, such as:
"When the crisis came, and the Sheriff was expected every moment, about $60,000 worth of magnificent arms was hidden under the coal and elsewhere. Other property, including a portion of the splendid machinery, was also secreted.

"It was just before the grand catastrophe that Mr. Colt, offered a half interest in the patent to John Ryle for $5000. When the crash came, H. B. Crosby was a creditor of the Company for wages due to a considerable amount, and the only way in which he could secure his own was to take about twenty five sets of the different portions of the arm. These he later put together and realized a handsome sum."

Emerging from this maze of trial and tribulation is the important fact that Samuel Colt's patents were restored to him. Edward Dickerson, a New York attorney, is credited with rendering invaluable assistance to Sam in this regard.

This brings to a conclusion the outline of events associated with the manufacture, development, and promotion of Paterson pistols. Further light will be shed on the activities of this era in connection with Colt Paterson shoulder arms.

Gun Collecting — An Interesting and Profitable Hobby

ANTIQUE GUN COLLECTING is a hobby and that, in turn, is defined as "Something in which one takes an absorbing interest"—a hobby is divorced from a man's main vocation. It will repay you as a sanctuary safe from the stress and strain of a distraught world. It will develop your traits of observation, increase your historical knowledge, increase your scientific information and offer a good monetary return.

Typical of the letters received by the writer is the following: "I was on the verge of selling a gun I had bought at an auction for eight dollars until I was told about your book, `American Antique Guns and Their Current Prices.' After looking it up I was able to get $250.00 from a dealer. I do not ordinarily handle guns because I am afraid of them and also because I do not know anything about them. Can you re- fer me to some elementary text that would help me?" The answer to this letter is this series of articles. They will attempt to explain step by step, in plain English the mysteries of guns, the fundamentals of gun collecting, and how to make guns an interesting and profitable addition to your antique business. Once you have mastered these lessons you will find the knowledge is a passport to a world of gun collectors that intensely ride their hobby.

The gun to us is a symbol of the battles we Americans fought for our freedom and its maintenance. Firearms influenced our destiny and are related to our development. Firearm manufacture with the introduc- tion of interchangeable parts and the use of machinery supplied the key- stone of America's industrial development.

Each gun opens a window upon a historic vista. Biography, Science, History are conjured up by fact while the magic of fancy unveils the romance and mystery of the past. Storied guns! Ghosts of the past! That "Kentucky pistol" beaten into shape and created into form by the Pennsylvania village blacksmith and gunsmith was the sidearm of the fur trader as he guided the horse pack caravan laden with merchandise to trade for pelts.

That derringer reposed in the vest pocket of the cotton planter as he faced the professional gambler in a game of cards on the packet as it sailed the Mississippi.

That colt came from the Sheriff's carved holster as he headed the vigilantes for law and order. The oak of those grips came from the famous Connecticut "Charter Oak" that played such an important role in colonial history.

That pair of "dueling pistols" ornate and encased in the velvet-lined box with the accouterments pacified some ruffled pride. That "Smith & Wesson" suggests an officer's sidearm in the War Between the States.

These old pieces have witnessed life and death, love and hate, sorrow and sacrifice, triumph and disaster, and with a kaleidoscope turn the pat- tern is new. They are the mirror of a vanished era and we interpret the reflection terms of our knowledge. America gave to the world the rifle, the derringer, and the revolver. These old and revered weapons were invented for peace and are a noble reminder of the pageant of people that braved unknown dangers, "went West," blazed trails, formed territories, established law and order, pushed back the frontier and created a nation. The revolver was one of the greatest civilizing factors. The march of civilization and its survival is dependent upon firearms though it,be a far cry from the Scripture's record of the use of ingenious machines with power from twisted ropes or of David's sling.

Firearms influenced our destiny and are related to our development. We are a peace-loving people, yet no American has lived to the age of thirty-five without seeing his country at war. The saga of weapons can sustain "an absorbing interest" because it is a brilliant and neglected story of American historic importance with many long and remarkable chapters between the days of the obscure and primitive-tool equipped gunsmith who forged the world's most accurate rifle and our modern huge plants with the finest equipment. ,The United States is the story of the invention of mechanical miracles and astonishing progress. The gun was the genesis of mass production. Mass production gave us industrial su-premacy and now though we have only 7 percent' of the population of the world, we produce 65 percent of the manufactured goods.

Eli Whitney, whom we know for his invention of the cotton gin, also accomplished another feat fully as important. He received a government contract in 1798 to build fifteen thousand flintlock muskets. Each gun until then was an individual forged weapon, made by a single workman. The weapons resembled each other but the parts were not interchange- able. Whitney separated the gun into uniform, standard and interchange- able parts and manufactured the component parts by machinery. That is how mass production was born.

The Remington gun factory, founded in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington, farmer and blacksmith, produced the first breech-loading rifle that gained worldwide acceptance.

Samuel Colt, Connecticut Yankee whose career was fantastic, invented the first practical repeating revolver in 1835.

Oliver Winchester backed the first practical repeating rifle, and also helped finance Horace Smith and Daniel Baird Wesson. They became Smith & Wesson, a synonym for the cartridge revolver.

John M. Browning, a Mormon gunsmith of Ogden, Utah, was one of the greatest and most prolific inventors of firearms.

Behind the names of Eli Whitney, Simeon North, Henry Deringer, Alfred Mordecai, Ethan Allen, Eliphalet Remington, Samuel Colt, Hor- ace Smith, Daniel Baird Wesson and John M. Browning are important and dramatic stories as well as the unsung craftsman.who supplies many fascinating details. Vital to the story of American technical ingenuity, skill and progress is the American method of belt assembly lines and interchangeable parts, contributions by gunsmiths.

Antique Gun Collecting demands knowledge, research and study. The background of a weapon is dependent upon five w's which are: Who made it? Where? When? Why? Worth?

A Paterson Colt was picked up at a junk store for $10.00. Treasures lurk in trash and that old, rusty, junky gun may be a gem. How else could one recognize its worth if not through diligent study? Follow carefully on iGuide our series of articles and you will soon discover that an adventure may be grasped by one who "takes an absorbing interest."

Antique guns are a sound investment—financial probably—but certainly in appreciation of fine craftsmanship with the dividend in pride of possession.

Gun collecting is an educational and profitable hobby. To be a successful collector you must, of course, study your subject. Observation will teach you much. One of the intriguing features of gun 'collecting is the knowledge it brings of the past. Guns are records fog interpreting, visualizing and vitalizing history. The knowledge, of the past helps us to see it as a reality in relation to the present.

Gun collecting is an unusual hobby because it is a source of profit rather than an expense. It also furnishes abundant pleasure and fascinating study. We hope to trace a brief outline of gun collecting in this book. Acquiring a collection of interest and value is a long-term operation. There are many branches to explore with study and experience to master them, but be not deterred, therein is the secret of its interest.