Samuel Colt


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Arms, Art, and Invention

Herbert G. Houze; Edited by Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser; With essays and entries by Carolyn C. Cooper and Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser

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The fascinating story of the American inventor and manufacturer who perfected the revolver

Samuel Colt (1814–1862) first patented his “Colt” revolver in 1835 and thereby redefined the architecture of handguns. This stunning book is the first to present in detail the evolution of his most famous invention and to document the unsurpassed Colt firearms collections held by the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Colt designed his revolvers with an artistic sensibility––paying particular attention to form and beauty and juxtaposing colors and finishes to heighten the visual effects. He was also one of the first American manufacturers to secure celebrity endorsements and to commission paintings by renowned artists like George Catlin to promote his arms. Colt’s standards for excellence, industrial foresight, and quest for market domination are explored in light of primary documents that reveal his constant battles to protect his patents.

Essays discuss Colt’s personal collection of historic firearms as well as the memorial collection of Colt-manufactured firearms, the relationship between art and commerce as they pertain to the inventor’s career, and his international celebrity. Richly illustrated and beautifully produced, this volume presents the artistry of the firearms that Colt worked so diligently to perfect––as well as his promotional abilities that made a tremendous impact on American culture.

Published in association with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Exhibition Schedule:

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford (opens September 20, 2006)

Herbert G. Houze is an expert on Samuel Colt and firearms and has published extensively on the topic, including Colt Presentations from the Factory Ledgers 1856–1869. Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser is Krieble Curator of American Painting and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, and author of numerous books on American art. Carolyn C. Cooper, a historian of technology, is research affiliate in Yale University's Economics Department and author of Shaping America.


Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford (opens September 20, 2006)

"The firearm is here viewed as an admirable relationship between art and commerce. Author Herbert G. Houze presents an in-depth look into the history of Samuel Colt and his lifelong quest for the 'perfect' revolver. Handsomely produced and beautifully presented, this book is designed to please the aesthetic eye."—Art Times

"This remarkable book visually documents the history of Colt's guns, from the wooden models he carved while working as a sailor in 1831 to the 'New Model Police Pistol' produced in 1862, the year he died."—Art & Auction

"...a brilliantly executed, if unusual catalogue, remarkable for its swarthy delve into the opening of the American frontier by a duplictious yet wholly engaging chancer."---Lucy Davies, The Daily Telegraph

"Excellent. . . . A fine study that makes a significant contribution to the literature. For anyone who wishes to learn about Colt, his firearms, and his advanced marketing methods, this is a very good starting point."—Merritt Roe Smith, Technology and Culture
ISBN: 9780300111330
Publication Date: June 28, 2006
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
272 pages, 12 x 9 3/4
330 color illus.
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