Born in Hartford, Connecticut on 19 July 1814, Samuel Colt was only 11 years old when he became indentured to a farm in Glastonbury, Connecticut. However, he was also given the opportunity to attend school which challenged his imagination. In particular, one book at school not only fascinated him, but put Samuel Colt on the path toward his destiny. While reading The Compendium of Knowledge, a scientific encyclopedia, young Sam learned about inventors, including Robert Fulton, and gunpowder. But it wasn’t until he went to sea in 1832 that Sam first conceived the revolver. During his first voyage, Sam observed that no matter which way the ship’s wheel was turned, its spokes always came in direct contact with a clutch that could be set to hold it. And so it was that a ship’s wheel inspired Samuel Colt to design a pistol with a revolving cylinder that would contain several bullets yet be fired through a single barrel. By the time that sea voyage ended, he’d carved the prototype for his revolver out of wood.
The 1853 Colt Third Model Dragoon (pictured) was donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by George and Butonne Repaire in 1995, and is considered one of Colt’s finest guns, and one of a select few featuring gold-inlaid engraving. The gold inlay features a bust of George Washington on the cylinder. The arms of the United States are also featured on the frame. The mate to this particular pistol is housed at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, and was a gift to Czar Nicholas I by Samuel Colt. The Metropolitan’s gun was presented by Colt to Sultan Abdulmecid I of Turkey.