TABLE OF CONTENTS


Overview of the Collection

Historical Note

Scope and Content

Arrangement

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

Other Finding Aid

Container List

Series 1. Portraits

Series 2. Factory Views

Series 3. Exterior Views

Series 4. Interior Views

Series 5. Events

Series 6. Promotional Material

Series 7. Firearms

Series 8. Miscellaneous

Oversize


PG 460, Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company Collection

Inventory

Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library staff.

Copyright © 2007 by the Connecticut State Library


Overview of the Collection

Repository: Connecticut State Library
Creator: Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company
Title: Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company collection
Dates: circa 1864-1961
Quantity: 5.5 cubic feet
Abstract: The collection consists primarily of photographs depicting company administrators and employees, the Colt's armory in Hartford and other Colt-related properties, events, promotional material, and firearms.
Identification: PG460
Accession: T001863
Language: The records are in English.

Historical Note

Samuel Colt (1814-1862) received U.S. Patent No. 138 in 1836 for the first revolving cylinder pistol and along with other investors founded the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey. Due to small sales that business closed in September of 1842. Still, Colt guns proved popular during the Mexican War and with the Texas Rangers. General Zachary Taylor, who was commanding troops in Texas in 1846, wanted 1000 Colt revolvers. Samuel Colt made an agreement with Eli Whitney, Jr., the Connecticut contractor for Army muskets, to manufacture the guns. In 1847 Colt borrowed money from his banker cousin Elisha Colt and other Hartford businessmen to lease a factory on Pearl Street in Hartford, where he adapted the system of interchangeable parts to the mass production of guns. In 1851 Colt's exhibited guns at London's Crystal Palace Exposition and two years later opened a branch there that operated until 1857. The Colt's factory in Hartford manufactured 3,000 Dragoon pistols by the end of 1850, first at the Pearl Street location and then on Grove Lane.

In 1851 Samuel Colt bought property in Hartford's South Meadows where he built the Colt's Armory that was completed in August of 1855. The Armory was topped with an onion-shaped blue dome on which stood a rampant colt cast from bronze. Samuel Colt died unexpectedly in January of 1862. A fire in February of 1864 destroyed one half of the Armory and the office. Some suspected that Confederates started the fire. The armory had been running at full capacity to supply the Union army with guns, its total wartime production totaling 378,000 revolvers and 114,000 muskets. Samuel Colt's widow Elizabeth ordered the Armory rebuilt exactly as it was. Construction was completed in 1867. In 1901 Mrs. Colt sold the company to Armstrong & Schirmer, a New York financial house. A holding company was formed in New York State although the Armory was still known as Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company.

Colt's produced the first machine gun, the Gatling, in 1867. Dr. R.J. Gatling invented the gun first fired at Confederate troops in 1862. Gatling later moved to Hartford after improving the desgin. Colt's entered into association with John Moses and Matt Browning in 1891 to manufacture their machine gun. In 1895 John Browning test fired his first automatic pistol for Colt's. The Brownings reached a settlement with Colt in 1903 that gave the company all the benefits of the automatic pistol and automatic machine gun patents. The company also obtained rights to the English Vickers-Maxim automatic machine gun, giving it control over all machine gun production in the world. In 1911 Colt's gave Fabrique Nationale of Liege an exclusive license to sell Browning's automatic pistol in Europe, outside of England. Soon after the United States entered World War I, John Moses Browning returned to Colt's and developed more powerful machine guns than his earlier inventions. In addition to machine guns, pistols were also in demand. The Army had adopted the Colt .45 as its standard sidearm in 1911. During the war Colt's produced 425,000 automatic pistols, 151,700 revolvers, 13,000 Maxim-Vickers machine guns and 10,000 new Brownings.

After the war Colt's diversified into manufacturing other products and established divisions for dishwashers, electrical, and plastics. Colt's production dropped during the early years of the Depression but improved starting in 1933. However, on March 13, 1935 over a thousand workers walked off the job to begin a strike that lasted thirteen weeks. The company experienced further catastrophe when the Flood of 1936 and Hurricane of 1938 damaged the armory. Despite increasing output at the start of World War II and winning the Army-Navy "E" award for outstanding production in 1942, Colt's began to experience financial losses starting in July of 1943 due in part to its failure to adopt modern manufacturing techniques, resulting in layoffs. Control of the company changed hands a few times and eventually became a subsidiary of Penn-Texas. That holding company collapsed in 1958 and what remained became the holding company Fairbanks Whitney. By 1960 manufacturing operations moved from Hartford to West Hartford.

Presidents of Colt's through 1969:

Samuel Colt, 1855-1862
Elisa K. Root, 1862-1865
Richard Jarvis, 1865-1901
John Hall, 1901-1902
Lewis C. Grover, 1902-1909
William C. Skinner, 1909-1911
Col. Charles L.F. Robinson, 1911-1916
William C. Skinner, 1916-1921
Samuel M. Stone, 1921-1944
Graham H. Anthony, 1944-1949
B. Franklin Conner, 1949-1955
Chester Bland, 1955-1958
Fred A. Roff, Jr., 1958-1962
David C. Scott, 1962-1963
Paul A. Benke, 1963-1969

Source: Ellsworth S. Grant, The Colt Armory: A History of Colt's Manufacturing Company, Inc., (Lincoln, R.I.: Mowbray Publishing, 1982).

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Scope and Content

The collection consistes primarily of photographs depicting company administrators and employees, the Colt armory in Hartford and other Colt-related properties, events, promotional material, and firearms.

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Arrangement

Series 1. Portraits includes administrators, employees, other individuals, employee groups, other groups, visitors, and celebrity visitors.

Series 2. Factory Views includes office and museum, shop area, factory exterior, fire of 1864, and floods of 1936 and 1938.

Series 3. Exterior Views includes Armory House, Armsmear, Colt Park, Charter Oak Park, Old Grove Street Office, Paterson Factory, London Armory, construction of a restaurant and storehouse, and a monument at Main Street Cemetery.

Series 4. Interior Views include trade showrooms.

Series 5. Events include the Army-Navy E banner presentation, audograph presentation, bridge dedication parade, hobby show, defense rally, GAR convention, gun shows, Philadelphia Exhibition of 1926, various shooting matches and tournaments, and the strike of 1935.

Series 6. Promotional Material include advertisements, photographs of celebrities, movie promotional material and stills, paintings and prints, and television memorabilia.

Series 7. Firearms include gatling guns, machine guns, pistols and revolvers, rifles, powder flasks, design drawings, Arms Division developments, proving station, and firearm collections.

Series 8. Miscellaneous include mostly subject matter unrelated to Colt firearms.

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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

See the Rules and Procedures for Researchers Using Archival Records and Secured Collections policy.

Restrictions on Use

See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.

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Related Material

PG400 Hartford collection. See "HARTFORD - INDUSTRIES - COLT'S".

PG440 Collins photograph collection. Album 3 consists entirely of views of the factory during and after the the 1936 and 1938 floods.

RG103 Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co. records.

Also see the Research Guide to Materials about Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company.

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Index Terms

Persons:

Bland, Chester
Browning, John M.
Coles, Charles H.
Colt, Mary Goodwin
Colt, Samuel Caldwell
Colt, Samuel, 1814-1862
Connor, Franklin B.
Connor, Franklin B.
Contral, George
Courtney, Robert
Dimick, Stephen B.
Ehbets, Carl
Fitzgerald, Edward
Fitzgerald, J.H.
Franklin, W.B.
Grover, Lewis G.
Jarvis, R.W.H.
Mason, William
Messler, Albert
Moore, Frederick T.
Nichols, Frank C.
Philips, Dwight G.
Porter, George R.
Robinson, Charles L.
Roff, Fred A., Jr.
Root, Elisha King
Skinner, William C.
Stevens, Edwin W.
Stone, Samuel M.
Ulrich, Arthur L.
Williams, Edwin H.

Subjects:

Colt firearms
Colt revolver
Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co.
Firearms
Floods--Connecticut--Hartford
Gatling guns
Machine-guns
Pistols
Revolvers
Rifles
Shooting contests

Places:

Hartford (Conn.)

Document Types:

Advertisements
Design drawings
Negatives (photographic)
Photographs
Sketches

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

The collection was included in the Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company business archives and museum presented to the Connecticut State Library in 1957. The collection grew over the years through the donations of a number of people associated with Colt's.

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Other Finding Aid

A detail listing of items in this collection is available in History and Genealogy Reference.

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Container List

Series 1. Portraits
Box Folder
Administrators 1 1-3
Includes Chester Bland, Samuel Colt, Franklin B. Connor, Stephen B. Dimick, W.B. Franklin, Lewis G. Grover, R.W.H. Jarvis, Frederick T. Moore, Frank C. Nichols, Charles L. Robinson, Fred A. Roff, Jr., Elisha King Root, William C. Skinner, and Samuel M. Stone.
Employees 4-9
Includes John M. Browning, Charles H. Coles, Robert Courtney, George Contral, Carl Ehbets, Edward Fitzgerald, J.H. Fitzgerald, William Mason, Albert Messler, Dwight G. Philips, George R. Porter, Edwin W. Stevens, Arhur L. Ulrich, and Edwin H. Williams.
Other Individuals 10-11
Includes Samuel Caldwell Colt, nephew of Samuel Colt, and Mary Goodwin Colt among others.
Employee Groups 2 1-4
Includes the Bicycle Club, Bowling Banquet Outing, Electircal Division, Fifty-year Club, Banquet of Foremen, Male Chorus, Seth Parker Singing School, Shopmate Reunion, Twenty-five-year Club, Twenty-five-year to Fifty-year employees, among others.
Other Groups 5
Visitors 6
Celebrity Visitors 7
Includes Gen. Douglas MacArther, Richard Nixon, James Stewart.
Series 2. Factory Views
Items relating to the Colt armory in Hartford, Conn.
Box Folder
Offices and Museum 3 1
Shop Area 2
Equipment 3
Factory Exterior 4
Fire of 1864 5
Flood of 1936 6
Flood of 1938 7
Series 3. Exterior Views
Includes mainly Colt related properties other than the main armory in Hartford, Conn.
Box Folder
Armory House 4 1
Armsear, Colt Park, and Charter Oak Park 2
Old Grove Street Office 3
Patterson Factory 4
London Armory 5
Construction of restaurant and storehouse 6
Monument at Main Street Cemetery 7
Other exterior views 8
Series 4. Interior Views
Interior views of non-Colt owned properties.
Box Folder
Trade showrooms 4 9
Other interior views 10
Series 5. Events
Box Folder
Army-Navy E banner presentation, 1942 November 18 4 11
Audograph presentation, 1954 April 5 12
Bridge dedication parade, 1908 October 7 13
Colt's Hobby Show, 1939 14
Defense rally, 1941 December 9 5 1
GAR convention, 1899 2
Gun shows, 1938-1960 3
Philadelphia Exhibition, 1926 4
Shooting matches, circa 1890-1920, 1954, 1959 5-7
State Police Tournament, circa 1954 8
Strike of 1935, 1935 March 9
Includes photographs taken by the company during the srike.
White House Police Tournament, 1960 October 10
Series 6. Promotional Material
Box Folder
Advertisements 6 1
Celebrities 2
Movie promotional material 3
For "Colt .45" movie.
Movie stills, "Carbine Williams" 4
Movie stills, "Colt .45" 5
Movie stills, "Montana" 6
Paintings and prints 7
Television memorabilia 8
Series 7. Firearms
Box Folder
Gatling guns 7 1-2
Machine guns 3-8
Machine guns 8 1
Pistols and revolvers 9 1-8
Rifles 10 1
Powder flasks 2
Design drawings 3
Arms Division developments 4
Proving Station 5
Collections 6
Series 8. Miscellaneous
Box Folder
10 7
Oversize
Oversize items from the various series listed above 11