Before there could be peace in Texas, there had to be a “Peacemaker”, the Colt .45 caliber Peacemaker. It is hard to imagine a Texas without Samuel Colt’s most famous revolver, the Colt Single Action Army .45 caliber handgun, the “Peacemaker”. Yet Sam Colt never held a Peacemaker in his hands. It was developed 11 years after his death in 1862.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Samuel’s mother Sarah Colt died of tuberculosis when Sam was only six. His father, Christopher Colt remarried two years later and at the age of eleven, Samuel was indentured to a farmer in Glastonbury. There he immersed himself in the Compendium of Knowledge, a scientific encyclopedia which he greatly preferred to his Bible studies. Enthralled with the aspects of gunpowder and stories of people doing things the world felt impossible became driving motivations for young Samuel. He returned at age 15 to work at his father’s textile plant in Ware, Massachusetts. There he had access to tools and materials, he used in developing pyrotechnics. He became known for his 4th of July fireworks, blowing up a raft at Ware Pond and was sent packing to boarding school as a result. However, at boarding school, he got into even more trouble. To the amusement of his classmates, he started a fire that ended his schooling. Upset with his son, his father sent young Samuel off to Calcutta on board the brig Corvo to apprentice as a seaman. It was on this voyage that Sam at the age of sixteen noticed that regardless of how the ship’s wheel was spun, each spoke came in direct line with the clutch that could be set to hold it. This concept became the basis for his revolving fixed barrel repeating handgun. Samuel carved a wooden prototype while still aboard the Corvo and upon his return home convinced his father to back him. The senior Colt financed two guns, a rifle and a pistol. The pistol blew up but the rifle worked surprisingly well. Despite the results, Sam’s father refused to finance any further development.
Samuel Colt who would not be stopped by no money went on the road with the knowledge he obtained from one of the chemist working at the textile mill about nitrous oxide, “laughing gas”. He billed himself as “the Celebrated Dr. Coult of New-York, London, and Calcutta”. He raised money and at the same time developed his skills as a speaker. Finally, three years later he received some backing from a friend of his father, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth. Ellsworth just happened to also be superintendent of the US Patent Office and he advised Samuel to seek patents abroad. So Samuel went to England and France and secured patents there and in the U.S. Ironically, the U.S. patent was given to Colt on February 25, 1836, on the third day of the siege of the Battle of the Alamo.
Colt’s first 5-shot repeater handgun was sold to the Republic of Texas Navy and it became known as the Navy Colt. Its speed and efficiency did not go unseen by the military or the Texas Rangers. Capt. John Coffee Hayes soon equipped his Rangers with these handguns which proved invaluable against Indian attacks and outlaws. Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers traveled to New York City in search of Colt. He requested new revolvers that would hold 6 shots instead of 5, have enough power to kill either a man or a horse with a single shot and be quicker to reload. These became the Walker Colt handguns and eventually the “Peacemakers”. What do you know about Texas?