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General Resources | Record Group 103, Records of the Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company | Picture Group 460, Colt's Fire Arms Industry Collection | Related Collections| Institutions With Related Collections
Colt's invention of a gun that would fire multiple shots without reloading
transformed the firearms industry. A native of Hartford,
Connecticut, Colt first opened a firearms factory in Patterson, New Jersey
in 1836. As the Mexican War progressed in the 1840's, demand for Colt's
revolver grew. By 1855, Colt was back in Hartford with a new factory along
the banks of the Connecticut River in an area known as the South Meadows. It
was here that "the gun that won the West," was manufactured.
The renowned Colt Firearms Collection is on permanent display in the Museum of Connecticut History.
Barnard, Henry. Armsmear: The Home, The Arm, and The Armory of Samuel
Colt: A Memorial. New York: Alvord Printers, 1866 [CSL call number
TS 533.3 .C8 C64 1866].
Colt family: History and Genealogy Unit Special Genealogical File, Connecticut State Library [CSL call number SpecGen. File: Colt].
Grant, Ellsworth. The Colt Armory: A History of Colt's Manufacturing Company, Inc. Lincoln, RI: Mowbray Publishers, 1995 [CSL call number TS 534.5 .C6 .G72 1995].
Hosley, William. Colt: The Making of an American Legend. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996 [CSL call number Museum TS 535 .C6 H67 1996].
Rohan, Jack. Yankee Arms Maker: The Incredible Career of Samuel Colt. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935 [CSL call number TS 535 .C6 R6].
Rywell, Martin. Samuel Colt: A Man and an Epoch. Harriman, TN: Pioneer Press, 1952 [CSL call number TS 535 .C6 R9 1952].
Wilson, R. L. The Rampant Colt: The Story of a Trademark. Spencer, IN: T. Haas, 1969 [CSL call number Museum TS 533.2 .W56 1969].
Vertical Files. A "History" vertical file located in the History and Genealogy Unit Reading Room contains newspaper clippings and pamphlets on various Connecticut towns and subjects, including the Colt's Patent Fire Arms Company. See: Hartford - Industry - Colt; Connecticut - Industry - Guns and Weapons. In addition, there is a file on Samuel Colt in the History and Genealogy "Biography" vertical file.
General Resources - Colt Fire Arms
Bady, Donald B. Colt Automatic Pistols, 1896-1955. Beverly
Hills, CA: FADCO Publishing Co., 1956 [CSL call number Museum TS 537 .B3].
Brown, David M. The 36 Calibers of the Colt Single Action Army. Albuquerque, NM: n.p., 1965 [CSL call number Museum TS537 .B78].
Checklist of Manufacturers Catalogs. This list of manufacturers catalogs is cross-referenced by both product name and company name. The list includes catalogs held by institutions other than the State Library and Archives and Museum of Connecticut History. A copy is available at the History and Genealogy Information Desk.
Haven, Charles T. A History of the Colt Revolver, and the Other Arms
Made by Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company From 1836 to 1940.
New York: W. Morrow & Co., 1940 [CSL call number Museum TS 535 .H3].
Serven, James Edsall. Colt Firearms, 1836-1960. Santa Ana, CA: Serven Books, 1960 [CSL call number TS 535. S456 1960].
Wadsworth Atheneum. The Arms Collection of Colonel Colt. Bullville, New York: H. Glass, 1964 [CSL call number Museum NK 6902 .H3 W3].
Wilson, R.L. and Robert Q. Sutherland. The Book of Colt Firearms. Kansas City, MO: n.p.,  [CSL call number Museum TS 534.5 .S92 1971].
Wilson, R. L. The Colt Heritage: The Official History of Colt Firearms, From 1836 to the Present. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979 [CSL call number TS 533.2 .W54 1979].
Wilson, R. L. Colt Pistols, 1836-1976. Dallas, TX: Jackson Arms, 1976 [CSL call number Museum TS 537 .W523 1976].
103, Records of the Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company.
The Connecticut State
Library received the Colt Factory Firearms Collection and a large manuscript
collection from Colt's in 1957. The records cover the period 1810-1980,
though most of the collection falls within the period 1840-1890. The records
include series of financial and accounting records, business correspondence,
orders for arms, tests and reports, production records, and business files.
The records also document many of the company's outside contracted
activities and subsidiaries such as the Gatling Gun Company, London
Armory/Agency, and Union Ferry Company. Records on several of the related
activities are limited to a single item. Not included among the records are
minutes of the board of directors meetings, personnel records, internal
office memoranda, annual reports, and printed financial statements.
While there is much information regarding the operation of the company contained in this collection, it does not contain the sources needed to trace the history of a specific firearm. Such information can only be found in the company's shipping records, which were not part of the 1957 donation, and which Colt's has retained. For a fee, the Archives Department of the Colt's Manufacturing Company Inc. can provide an Archive Letter detailing the history of a specific firearm.
The collection contains handwritten and printed materials, bound volumes, drawings and foreign language material.
Picture Group 460, Colt's Fire Arms Industry Collection. Views of the factories, portraits of employees, inventors, firearms, gun manufacturing equipment, mechanical drawings and advertisements. Also online through the State Library's Digital Collections page.
Archival and Manuscript Resources
Picture Group 400, Hartford Collection.
A collection of approximately 1000 photographs, prints, drawings and negatives of the city of Hartford. Box 3 includes views of Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company.
Picture Group 440, Collins Photograph Albums of Hartford.
Album 3 contains 24 views of the 1938 flood at the Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company and vicinity.
Picture Group 510, James Britton's Notable Men in Connecticut History Portrait Series.
A collection of 84 original crayon portraits by James Britton II which appeared in the Hartford Courant, June-October 1935, as a series entitled "Notable Men in Connecticut History". A drawing of Samuel Colt is included. Use photocopies of these drawings can be found in the PG 510 Register. Ask at the History and Genealogy Unit Information desk.
Record Group 6, Records of the Secretary of the State. See in particular:
RG 6:34. Certificates of Adoption of Trademarks, 1880-1961.
An index to the Certificates of Adoption of Trademarks is available for use in the History and Genealogy Reading Room. The index is arranged alphabetically by product name. The Certificate of Adoption of Trademark of the Rampant Colt can be found in Box 9.
Alvord Letters, 1852-54, 1862, 1863 [CSL call number Main Vault 920 AL98]. 15 letters. See in particular: George Alvord from London, 1852-54, relating to the Colt Factory in London.
Chickering, Samuel G. Letters to Ellis and Emily Chickering, 1862-63, from Samuel G. Chickering working in the Colt Gun Factories in Hartford, and Yonkers, N.Y. [CSL call number Main Vault 920 C432].
Tilley, R. Hammett. [Letter from R.H. Tilley to Mrs. Samuel Colt, in which she agrees to call on her and meet her at the Newport Historical Society...July 1, 1895] [CSL call number Main Vault 920 T46].
The History and Genealogy Unit of the Connecticut State Library holds a number of genealogical indexes to births, marriages, deaths, and burials; federal census records for Connecticut; early land records for all of Connecticut's 169 towns; and probate records for most districts in Connecticut. These indexes are helpful for those researching the Colt family or Colt factory workers.
Maps, Atlases, and City Directories
Researchers should check the State Library
catalog for additional materials,
but a few examples are given below. Maps are helpful for those interested in
the physical location of the Colt Estate and Manufacturing Company. City
directories may include advertisements for Colt's, listings of its officers,
and names of those working in the factory.
Colt, Samuel. Map of Lands and Improvements Upon the South Meadows Belonging to Colonel Samuel Colt, June 4, 1856. This map is among Samuel Colt's probate estate papers. [Hartford Probate District Probate Files, 1641-1880, Colt, I - Cook, J, CSL film number 495, LDS film number 1021226].
City of Hartford, Map of the 4th Ward. A map in color showing an outline of Colt's estate and the Manufacturing Company. [CSL call number History Reference Map Case 912. 7462 H 2593f].
City Directories of the United States. Hartford, CT. 1861/1862-1960. These directories are on microfilm in the History and Genealogy Unit Reading Room. The films are arranged alphabetically by town [CSL call number History Reference F104 .H33 C5].
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Hartford, 1885-1950. Sanborn Maps are helpful for those researching the industrial sections of cities. The Colt Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company is shown on many of the Hartford maps.
The Connecticut State Library holds an extensive collection of Connecticut newspapers. Researchers interested in articles and advertisements on Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company may want to investigate Hartford area newspapers. The Historical Hartford Courant (1764-1922), is available to visitors here at the State Library. If you are a Connecticut resident, you have access to this database from home through iCONN, using a current library card from any Connecticut library. Early American Newspapers, a subscription database to which the State Library, and many public and research libraries around the country subscribe, also contains many issues of the Hartford Courant
Colt's Manufacturing Company, LLC.
Customer Service Department P.O. Box 1868
Hartford, CT, 06144-1868
Fax: (860) 244-1449
Connecticut Historical Society
One Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT, 06105
Tel: (860) 236-5621
Fax: (860) 236-2664
Hartford Public Library
500 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Tel: (860) 695-6300
The Wadsworth Atheneum
600 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Tel: (860) 278-2670
Portrait of Samuel Colt: PG 460, Box A, Portraits, Individuals.
Onion Dome: PG 460, Box B, Views of Factory, Exterior.
Colt's Frontier Six Shooter: PG 460, Box C, Revolvers and Pistols.
Engraved Pistol to Horace Greeley: PG 460, Box C, Revolvers and Pistols.
Map showing Colt's Estate: City Atlas of Hartford, Conn. G.M. Hopkins, Philadelphia, 1880. [CSL call number History Reference Map Case 912.7462 H25h]
Advertisement of Colt's Patent Fire Arms Mfg. Co.: Geer's Hartford Directory, Including West Hartford and East Hartford, Connecticut.....September, 1921.
Hartford Printing Company, 1921-1927 [CSL call number F104 H33 C5].
Prepared by the History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library, 2005, updated Nov. 2009