March 5, 1836: “God Created Men and Sam Colt Made Them Equal!” (Old West Adage)

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A Brief History

On March 5, 1836, Samuel Colt formed Patent Arms Manufacturing, the forerunner of Colt’s Firearms Manufacturing Company which in turn became today’s Colt’s Manufacturing Company.  (For a companion list for this article, please see our list of “The Top 10 Famous Pistols.”)

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find the reason for the founding of this company was the invention and patenting of the revolver, a pistol with a revolving cylinder that can fire 6 times in rapid succession (originally 5 times, later changed to 6) compared to the single shot pistols of the time.

Colt’s Paterson revolver, named after Paterson, New Jersey where the factory was located, was not history’s first attempt at a revolving firearm, but was certainly the first successful and useful model.

Through aggressive marketing, fierce protection of his patents, and perhaps even bribery (he was known to make gifts of guns to potential customers) Colt made enough money that when he died in 1862 he had about $15 million dollars, around one thousandth of the GNP of the United States.  That would be somewhere around $17 billion today!

Previous attempts at revolving guns were hampered by the flintlock ignition system of firearms.  Once the percussion cap was introduced Colt invented his pistol that would safely fire one cylinder at a time without accidentally igniting all the cylinders, which was catastrophic to the guy holding the gun!

Unfortunately, Colt’s success and successful defense of his patents did have cracked consequences!  Colt was unwilling to upgrade his invention to fire metallic case cartridges and stifled any bright ideas from his engineers and workers to protect his investment.  Eventually, Smith & Wesson produced revolvers with a bored through cylinder that were loaded with metal cartridges (like we have today) instead of muzzle loaded cap and ball ammunition.

Colt was an inventor of more than just guns, and also made insulated telegraph wire and improved batteries for telegraphy.  He even demonstrated underwater mines to the US Navy, successfully sinking a target ship, but did not get a contract because then congressman John Q. Adams opposed such a weapon as “unchristian” being a stealthy weapon not fielded face to face.  That is cracked!

Colt also had some cracked morals, and did not hesitate to sell guns to the North and the South leading up to the Civil War.  He had no aversion to slavery, and only intense condemnation in the press painting him as a disloyal Confederate sympathizer made him change his mind about establishing a factory in the South.  He also sold guns to both sides in any military conflict that he could.   He was in it for the money!  Well, that and apparently demon slaying…

Sam Colt died in 1862, reportedly of gout, the final cracked part of this history!  His name still graces the company making Colt firearms and his name is so synonymous with the revolver that in French, “revolver” is Le Colt!

Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.

  • percynjpn

    Thank God for Samuel Colt – and the Second Amendment!

  • Bricker

    The right to bear arms is very important in this country and Colt helped to make this possible. It is not guns that kill people,but people that kill people.

  • Robert Aventino

    I think this was a good short story about Samuel Colt. I never knew his story until reading this. I feel he was a businessman just trying to make a living while helping people protect themselves back then and now. People shouldn’t of bashed him for selling to both the north and the south. He was jus trying to make a dollar not kill people intentionally.

  • Jessica Savage

    It interesting to read that Colt didn’t take recommendations and ideas from his employees and engineers. Especially when Smith & Wesson came, you would think he would want to update his gun to make it stand a better chance against the other company.

  • Bricker

    Colt was quite a profiteer and really knew how to make money, especially in the Civil War. He probably should have listened to his employees more, though. He probably would have made a lot more money.

  • Gabriel M

    Colt had a passion and used it.

  • Natalyn B

    I think this was an interesting article. It was different for me to read about someone I knew very little of.

  • Alexandra Bull

    I loved reading about the evolution of Colt’s revolver and how it came about. I’m a firm supporter of the Second Amendment, so I found this article very interesting.

  • Holly Damron

    Colt was clearly an innovative, successful businessman, but was perhaps far too focused on making money to realize the effects the creation of this technology.

  • Alexandria McDole

    Colt was very smart and made an awesome thing that made him very successful.

    AM

  • Nathan

    I actually own a revolver, so it was pretty cool to read the history of how they came about. This guy seems to be kind of a ruthless businessman though, selling guns to both sides. Had he sold his revolvers to only one side, though, that side could have dominated the side that didn’t have revolvers because they were so much more advanced than other weaponry of the time.

    N.W.

  • G Wise

    Great tie in with supernatural lol, but it is crazy that colt seemed to be just in it for the money. GW

  • Madison Galloway

    I had never know the background of the revolver until reading this. Colt seemed to be a very intelligent man, especially to come up with this invention on his own and make it so successful. The revolvers were very advanced inventions for this time. Very interesting.

  • Tessa Baker

    Its interesting that he also sold guns to both sides in any military conflict, he truly must have been in it for the money.

  • Jacob Pflugfelder

    Imagine if he only sold the colts to the South. Imagine the different outcome of the war.

  • Parker Stricklen

    Samuel Colt made quite the profit selling his inventions to both sides.

  • Erica wheaton

    I have heard of the colt revolver before but never knew the history behind how they became so famous.

  • Kyle Puhl

    I did not know that he also made insulated telegraph wire and improved batteries for telegraphy. I thought that Colt only dealt with guns

  • lukas Biglin

    I have known about his famous history in the gun world but
    knew nothing about his other inventions.

  • Ashley Perry

    I think that it in interesting that he sold the guns to both sides, not just one.

  • Derek Reynolds

    i think its cool how guns were sold to both sides

  • Colin Williams

    The
    Colt revolver is one of the most iconic guns in American history and I had no
    idea Sam Colt had inventions other than guns

  • Madeline Bowen

    I found it interesting that the guns that were made were sold to both sides and not bias.

  • Emmaline K

    Curious how the invention was a revolving cylinder that could originally fire five shots, a hefty upgrade in comparison to the single shot pistols of the time. I would expect a jump from one shots to two shots, but to invent it for five is impressive!

  • Amber Moore

    The point that spoke to me most in this article was when John Quincy Adams opposed Colt’s underwater mines. He believed them to be immoral because the enemy wouldn’t have knowledge of it being used on them until it was too late. How a gentleman treats his enemies speaks volumes about his character.

  • Danielle

    It is interesting to me that Colt was all about money but would not listen to anyone’s suggestions or make any attempt to improve revolvers that could possibly bring in more money.

  • Sarah G

    It is interesting to read how his company has developed into the big corporation it is today.

  • Meghan R

    I was unaware that Colt also made insulated telegraph wire and batteries.

  • Ahmed Alnassar

    I think he should have listened to others ideas, and i think it was wrong of him in a moral way to sell guns to both sides in any war.but i was surprised to learn he did not only invent the revolver, but also other things.

  • KC

    This was eye- opening to how big his company grew and how greedy he was.

  • Diana N

    Interesting. Normally a greedy person would be interested in new modifications that would bring in more money.

  • Raquel F

    I never knew that Colt’s Paterson revolver was that first successful model. I think it was unintelligent of him to not listen to any of the ideas his engineers and workers had about upgrading the gun.

  • Yasser Alkhayal

    It is amazing experience that by this period he created this powerful gun. He could expand and develop his vision and skills along with his business by listening to the individuals around Colt.

  • Morgan

    Colt really knew how to make as much money with as little material.

  • Nicole Z

    I never knew the background of the revolver until reading this. Thought it was very interesting that he sold guns to both sides.

  • Austin Miko

    It was very interesting to learn that he sold guns to both sides.

  • Amber Pope

    If Colt was in it for just the money, it seems illogical that he would not attempt to upgrade the weapon. I think there was probably more to the story than just that. It’s interesting that Adams did not want the underwater mines due to Christian values, especially since that line of warfare was eventually adapted anyways.

  • Erika Grumbach

    It’s interesting how he was very concerned about the amount of money he was making but wouldn’t listen to his engineers to make the weapon better to make more money.

  • Brett Nagy

    This article is interesting. Funny to see that he sold to both sides. On a side note my mom owns a revolver. That’s a big gun for a little woman!

  • Sabrina Peelman

    I think he might have just been too proud to update his weapon even though he would have made more money

  • Colton M

    I think Colt was the base for modern weaponry today.

  • Casey Holtmann

    I think Colt is an American hero. Although he was stubborn he is the father of modern weaponry.

  • JW

    It looks like Colt was one of the first American war profiteers.

  • Brandon

    One of the best war manufacturers/gun makers in American history

  • Andrew R

    I love the quote in the title of this article. Colt knew what he was doing.

  • Mikayla Hutchings

    It is crazy that Colt was worth one thousandth of the GNP of the United States!! I guess it makes sense that the only way to earn all that money was through some form of greed. I also found it surprising that he sold guns to both sides. Even though it seems like he was greedy, he was indeed smart and helped pave way for modern weaponry.

  • Maria Ndini

    Colt was definitely a smart man and one that I am sure many gun loves/ makers appreciate today. His wealth was insanely big just from making and selling guns. I guess the gun industry has always been bigger than I thought it was. His other inventions were also really important and successful. His improved batteries for telegraphy I am sure helped a lot in telegraphy’s evolution as well.

  • Ellen Liebenguth

    I appreciate Colt’s innovation and invention, but I don’t think he is someone I necessarily admire. He was obviously in it for the money and would sell to any military conflict possible. In a way, men like Colt only fuel more fighting. Colt may have held one thousandth of the United States GNP, but I don’t think I like the way he got there.

  • Claire Fraser

    It is crazy to think that Colt made 17 billion dollars by the time he died from his invention. He would be more admirable if he supplied guns to the side he supported. By him supplying guns to both the north and the south, it shows that he was a greedy businessman.

  • Frank F.

    Sam Colt was a true business man of his time and he had no loyalty to one side and would sell to anyone how wants his product. You do not generate 17 billion dollars in todays dollar by doing what people think is the right thing. Businessmen are in business to make money and colt was sure good at doing just that.

  • Morgan price

    I never knew Sam Colt invented the first revolver. It’s a pity he was so opposed to listening to his engineers when they wanted to update the gun to metal cylinders. He would have probably made even more money had he listened! It seems Colt was only loyal to money since he supplied both the south and north with guns during the civil war.

  • Mark Baniewicz

    Colt earning the equivalent of $17 billion today is insane! It is too bad that he did not listen to his engineers and workers’ ideas. Perhaps if he did he could have continued to stay on time of the firearms industry. Still, his accomplishment was revolutionary and surely changed the world forever.

  • Nicholas Mog

    Colt earned a fortune back in the 19th century. His product was revolutionary, and he was solely in business for the money. He sold guns both to the North and the South leading up to the Civil War, which proved that he was in the business for the money.

  • Mike Andelbradt

    17 Billion! What an insane amount of money. And to think how much more he would have made if he was willing to update his products.

  • Alexandra

    I find it interesting that he sold guns to both sides during the civil war. As greedy as that may be, it was definitely fair! Better that than to only one side, then they would have been at an extreme advantage. Not surprising that the guy who patented the revolver died a multimillionaire.

  • Amanda Lopuchovsky

    To read this article in today’s environment is a bit strange. With so many issues involving the right to bear arms and gun sales, it is interesting to hear the story of one of the inventors of pistols. To me, it is a bit disheartening that he would sell guns to both the North and South.

  • Daniel Cora

    The year 1836 was not that long ago, and it is interesting to see how far we have come with gun technology. The pistol seems so simplistic in today’s age with the kind of weapons that are used in war.

  • Hannah Grazia

    That is amazing that Colt had the equivalent of 17 billions dollars today! Also, the fact that he could have made more by updating his product is unbelievable. I found it interesting that he sold guns to both sides of the Civil War. I do understand why though. It definitely helped him by making more money because he sold to more people.

  • Sarah

    Colt was a true business man! In it for the money! Pretty cool he has a french word named after him!

  • Lauren Synek

    Colt was the first to be able to create a successful version of the revolver that shot multiple rounds at a time instead of just one. This was a huge change back in 1836 because at the time you could only shoot a single round successfully from a gun. Colt’s name is still known today in the gun community.

  • Alexander Correa

    Colt was rolling in the money from these guns, he probably did not care who won the civil war! All that money from selling to both the north and the south was enough for him that’s all he cared about.

  • Brandon Simpson

    Colt is another inventor who paved the way for the things we use to protect us today. Can only imagine how much money he gained from selling both to the north and south.

  • Erin Kochan

    Colt was a smart man to protect his patents. He then received the recognition he deserves for inventing the revolver.

  • Peyton Elliott

    What a great invention. His great ideas sure did pay off, it said he had around $15 million when he passed! He was also smart enough to seek guns to both sides during the civil war, I’m sure that made his profits soar through the roof.

  • Joshua Dzurko

    Colt was a brilliant inventor who shaped the way guns were made for generations after. While it is questionable who he sold his guns to, it is undeniable the effectiveness of what his guns brought to the fight. He definitely deserves his recognition today.

  • Christina Hickey

    In today’s world Colt with by beyond rich with having 17 billion dollars for his invention of the revolver. Even then when it was worth 15 million, it was still a good amount of money. It is also interesting that he did other inventions beside the gun.

  • Dana Roman

    Colt was both a great inventor and a great businessman. He paved the path for the development of guns and in the process made a pretty good chunk of change.

  • Robert Kratman

    Great guy, should have been more open to new ideas though. Could have been worth much more than he was.

  • Matt Grazia

    Amazing that he was able to make that much money without being open to new ideas. Imagine where he would have been if he attempted different things with this gun. Overall very cool story of how Colt revolutionized the world of guns.

  • Matt E.

    He overprotected his investment by not being more receptive to his engineers’ ideas. The product can improve without continuous trial and error. True entrepreneurs are always striving to make their products and processes better.

  • Nikos Nacopoulos

    $15 million in the 1800s? Imagine how much more that is worth today! It is surprising that the New Jersey native was even willing to sell guns to the Confederates just for the profit.

  • Joe Leary

    Colt is a great inventor and influenced the gun industry to what it is today.

  • MM

    It’s crazy to think that Colt would have 17 billion dollars in todays time all from gun manufacturing. His influences on not only guns but other products such as the telegraph wire and improved batteries for the telegraph are also quit interesting.

  • SR

    It’s amazing how much money he had in the 1800s, just think of how much all that money would be in todays time!

  • Allison Lester

    I find it ironic how Colt was “in it for the money” and then died from gout. He may have been a little too caught up in it all (karma?). Regardless of if he was or not, I still believe he was a successful inventor with good ideas to further himself in the business world. -Allison Lester

  • ah

    I was surprised by how much money he had. wow. He was smart but in the same time. he invented the worst ideas in my opinion because of how it is being used.

  • BS

    I wonder why it changed from 5 shots to 6. Was it a mechanical issue? Or did 6 just sound cooler? Colt was clearly a successful inventor, so he probably had some reasoning behind it.

  • JT Siurek

    Colt started the modern gun movement, no longer did people have to deal with the muskets and the multiple minutes of reloading. This for the most part was reliable and paved the way for inventors to create some of the modern technology and weaponry that is around today.

  • Tim Burris

    colt sold to both sides during the civil war and he made weapons the killed more people faster I kind of think he was a bad guy.

  • LF

    I think Mr.colt used the war to his advatage, there are still arms dealers today that would do the same.

  • TC

    Colt clearly invented the Paterson revolver at the right time, I think he was smart to sell to both sides and use the war as his basis for selling, although it is easy to think negatively of him providing weapons for both sides.

  • Kayla Fox

    I never knew that Colt’s Paterson revolver was the first successful model. I don’t think it was his best choice to not listen to any of the ideas his engineers and workers had about upgrading the gun. He could have definitely benefited from them.

  • Kody

    Colt was a great businessman! He was smart enough to sell his revolver to both sides in the Civil war.

  • jo

    The revolver changed the game in war having more rounds then a single shot gun.

  • Jacob Oswalt

    It was cool that the revolver was successful but it had definitely changed the war in a negative way.

  • AA

    I wonder how many attempts it took him to figure out how to fire one bullet at a time, instead of having them all go off at once.

  • EK

    The fact that Colt was into demon slaying was quite intriguing to say the least!

  • AM

    I found this article very interesting. i did not know much about the history of firearms. I can’t believe Samuel Colt would not listen to other people’s ideas. This would have made him even more wealthy.

  • CM

    I think its really cool how Colt made the first revolver. Very cool!

  • VV

    I never knew that Colt also made insulated telegraph wire and improved batteries for telegraphy. Thats pretty cool.

  • PW

    I wonder what the underwater mines demonstration was like. I’m not so sure what that is but it seems neat!

  • Samantha Didion

    I also did not know what Colt invented more than the revolver. I also wonder why he wanted to make the revolver in the first place.

  • ahb

    a great idea and effort but i think he made one of the worst tools because of how it is used now a day.

  • ES

    He has a lot of money and that surprised me.

  • Katelyn Sowers

    I think it’s really cool how he was just in it for the money and therefore would sell to either side of the military or the north or the south because that shows he had no discrimination over who could buy his product.

  • lm

    It is shocking to see how much money he had! I did not know much about the guy before this article, found it very interesting.

  • SG

    War changed after they were able to shoot more than one round . It is also crazy how much money he had when he died.

  • MT

    17 Billion in today’s money is a massive amount. Its incredible to see how much he made.

  • David Birkbeck

    I did not know revolvers originally shot five shots.

  • Kelynn Heckman

    He made a crazy amount of money

  • Elizabeth Bon

    Guns bring in a ton of money these days I didn’t realize how profitable they were back then. I was surprised about the revolver only firing five shots, I never knew that. We still have some guns around today that are a single ball shot and cap like muzzle loaders, my husband enjoys deer hunting this way.

  • Dakota Zimmerman

    15 million dollars! Knowing a gun that could be used so effectively became so profitable. Yet this handgun wasn’t used for hunting but protection in an untamed time

  • Lori Caudill

    I had no idea that guns were that profitable in the 1800’s. As many do now, Colt chose money over morals.

  • Lydia Ott

    To make $15 million in the 1800s is astonishing and shows exactly how successful he was during his lifetime. If they would have accepted his invention of underwater mines imagine how much more money he would have made! Also, as soon as I saw Samuel Colts name I thought of the show Supernatural and was surprised that they mentioned it in the article and even had a clip of the show.

  • Ben McClay

    Making around one thousandth of the gross national product is really very high! I had no idea that just one person could make this much money, especially in the 1800s! One thing that really drew my attention is when the article said that he used, “fierce protection of patents and bribery.” The fact that he used bribery may be a reason of why he was able to sell so many guns.

    • Audrey Manahan

      I like how you have made a point of one thousandth of the gross national product actually being very high. It seems small to us, but when you attribute it to such a large scale you are really able to see how much money that really is.

  • Shannon Read

    I enjoyed reading this article. I had no prior knowledge of any of this information. I found it interesting that he sold both to the north and south. The amount of money that he made even when he died is an amazing accomplishment. It did amaze me that he was not willing to budge on upgrading his invention.

  • Audrey Manahan

    I enjoyed reading this article, and thinking about how much the invention of guns has influenced our society. No matter your stand on gun control it is plain to see that the booming industry of fire arm sales has made an impact on our economy. With the huge profits from the makers of these guns it is easy to see how much Americans value purchasing firearms.

  • Taylor Young

    After reading this article, I was amazed at how successful Colt was in the 1800s to earn one thousandth of the GNP. Even though that seems like a small portion, that’s huge! I enjoyed this article because I did not know the history of guns before but the invention of them was a huge accomplishment!

  • Jennifer Maurer

    What a cool old adage and what a testament to the ingenuity of Sam Colt. I didn’t take it that Colt sacrificed his morals, per se. I think it was merely a different time. People bartered, traded, etc. That was common practice and Sam Colt was protecting his invention the best way he knew how.

  • Diana Minich

    I found the article interesting since I do not know anything about guns. Sam Colt was a fascinating character and I guess he felt you can never have too much money. Money and morals are usually not synonymous. I think Sam Colt was smart, ambitious, and an outstanding inventor.

  • Natalie antonio

    I found this article interesting because most of the people I know who have guns only use them for hunting. I thought it was especially interesting because Sam Colt did not really have morals for whom he was selling his products to.

  • Brandon Wagner

    The part of the reading that stood out to me the most was that Colt’s inventions led him to have $15 million, the equivalent to $17 billion today, when he died. I would like to invent something and be worth a couple billion dollars someday.

  • Shuling He

    Colt’s inventions were so cracked. I don’t have any knowledge about guns but $15 million that he made at that time was really huge amount. And I also admire him because he was not only invented guns but also made insulated telegraph wire and improved batteries for telegraphy.

  • Jingshan Jiang

    Every inventor should be respected by people. Colt as a inventor was very successful at that time. He made about $15 million by inventing a gun. It was a huge amount of money.

  • Kala Strong

    I had previous knowledge that Colt did event the guns, But had no idea about the other things he invented. I thought the invention of the underwater mines used for the Navy was intriguing.

  • Rose Jepson

    Sam Colt was undoubtedly in it for the money, especially since he was selling his guns to both the North and the South at a very critical time of war between the two sides. That was a very bold move, but it seemed to work out well for him if he was making $15 million dollars in the year 1862.

  • Jordin Vidmar

    The fact that Colt was able to make $15 million in the 1800s is astonishing. He was obviously a smart business man. I do not know much about the history of weaponry or firearms, so this article was very interesting to me. It’s defintley a different kind of history lesson!

  • Alyssa Hanes

    Colt was incredible and brilliant man. He created several different inventions other than just guns including insulated telegraph lines and improved telegraphy batteries. He also did some work with the advancement of the US Navy, which is huge! I cannot believe he made $15 million dollar way back in the year 1862, that would be $17 million today!

    • zack

      thats billion with a B

  • Daina Thomas

    Colt was definitely double sided selling guns to the North and the South and he didn’t care. He made 15 million dollars all the way back then which is amazing.

  • Keagan Frey

    I do believe that Colt had made a major break through in weaponry. I also cannot blame him for selling to both the North and the South because he was trying to make the most money that he could. I mean as long as both sides had the same weaponry there really was not a disadvantage on either side.

  • Lessie Parish

    I am impressed that he made 15 million dollars then because that is still a lot of money now! I would have sold to both sides too. He was a very smart man.

  • Kristin Fellure

    I did not know that the Colt was the first gun to have the ability to fire more than one round. It is interesting that he did not sell his guns only to the side he agreed with during the civil war. I also like how they actually included the information on how the Colt revolver was involved with supernatural.

  • MP

    Colt didn’t hold back when he sold both the North and the South guns, making a boat load of money.

  • Travis Tarnowski

    That is very interesting to me that when he passed away he had about $15 million, which is about $17 Billion today!

    • Azia

      That’s amazing!

  • Breanna Beckley

    it is amazing that he was able to make $15 million in 1862!

  • Azia

    “Demon slaying” that’s interesting. Hahaha

  • GF

    I’m not one to ever be interested in guns, but it is pretty cool that the Colt was the first to be able to fire more than one round. I would have never known he worked with insulated telegraph wire and improved batteries for telegraphy.

  • Michaela Ping

    It’s strange to me that Colt didn’t seem interested in upgrading his gun when it would have made him even more money.

  • Hunter Music

    I was completely unaware that Colt was the first revolving gun inventor. Colt had to be an extremely intelligent individual to also develop underwater mines during his time, I wonder who finally found that this type of weaponry would be tactical for the U.S. to protect itself during war.

  • Alexis Dykes

    I personally think that Sam Colt was a genius for capitalizing on weaknesses of his audience (firearm consumers), as this contributed to his success until his demise. I would, however, condemn him for repressing the ideas of his engineers. This lapse in judgement could be seen as an opportunity missed for Colt, but it did not stop the industrialization of firearms for future developers like Smith & Wesson.

  • Abeer Bin

    I think i didn’t like any company that can make any material that can kill people

    • dieter

      I guess you don’t like baseball because bats have been used to kill people…I guess you don’t like car companies since muslim terrorists use cars and trucks to kill people…etc.

      • Marquis Woods

        I don’t understand how muslims were brought into this

  • KS

    It was rather daring of him to sell weapons to both the North and the South. I wonder if both sides knew he was supplying weapons to each other. Either the North and the South had no choice, but to do business with him or I would think they would have issues with him supplying weapons to each other’s enemies. Colt supplying weapons to the enemy basically makes HIM an enemy as well.

  • Holly Fongheiser

    This was an interesting read! I was curious about Colt guns.

  • Abdulaziz

    Colt is an extraordinary innovator and affected the firearm business to what it is today.

  • Dani McBride

    I was surprised to see that Colt had $15 million saved up when he passed away! I also found it interesting that Colt had several other inventions beside the gun, which I had never known before. These other inventions were the insulation of telegraph wires and improved batteries for telegraphy.