Elegant Deadliness, Guns, Blood and Art

The Gun That Won The West.

We are going to continue here with our responses to the new exhibition at the Autry Museum, Out West, of homosexual and transgender cowboys and girls. It sure got our juices flowing.

Every once in a while over the years the local art museum The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art mounts a showing of the treasures of Sam and Elizabeth Colt.  We are sure that many of our readers know that Colt was the manufacturer of the Colt revolving rifle, the Colt 45 and the most famous of all the Colt Peacemaker. Here is just a wee bit of history and of course a bit of our own spice, questions,sarcasm and takes on it.

The Colt .45 was designed by Samuel Colt (1814-1862). His revolving breech pistol patented in England in 1835-36 was one of the standard small arms of the world in the last half of the 19th century.

colt revolving breech

The Republic of Texas was one of the earliest customers of a New England gun maker, Samuel Colt. Colt had invented a fragile .36 caliber five-shot revolver, a weapon Hays and his men used with deadly effect in defense of the Texas frontier. No longer would his men have to pause in battle to reload single-shot pistols and rifles while the Indians continued firing arrows. Colt built his reputation on the use of his weapons by the Texas Rangers. One of Hays’ men, Samuel H. Walker, made some suggestions for improving the pistol that Colt adopted during the Mexican War. The new weapon, the five-pound frontier equivalent of a nuclear bomb, was called the Walker Colt. The Patterson model was used effectively by the Texas Rangers during the state’s fight for independence from Mexico.

“The pistols which you made…have been in use by the ‘Texas Rangers’ for three years…[and are]the only good improvement I have ever seen…[In the] summer of 1844, Col. J.C.Hayes, with fifteen men, fought about 80 Comanche…Without your pistols we should not have had the confidence to undertake such daring adventures”
–Samuel Walker, 1846

Samuel Walker

Sam Walker


In 1855, Colt built the world’s largest private armory in Hartford, Connecticut. The single-action Peacemaker model Army revolver introduced in 1873 became the most famous sidearm of the West.

The Colt Peacemaker was a 45 caliber gun manufactured for the first time in 1873 and became know as the “gun that won the west.” The Colt Revolvers became know as the great equalizer because they could be loaded and fired by anyone. The first was the Colt Single Action Army revolver which was one of the most prevalent firearms in the American West during the end of the 19th century. The Colt Model 1873 is also the only revolver from that era still in production by its original maker. And the model’s other name – the “Peacemaker” – came from a nickname given to Colonel Colt (in 1847). Colts guns were also used during the Second Seminole War in Florida between the years of 1836 and 1839. During this war many of the officers and men purchased revolvers and modern rifles from Samuel Colt, then traveling in Florida as a salesman of his own company. In 1847, Captain Samuel Walker and the Texas Rangers, who had acquired some of the first Colt revolvers produced during the Seminole War, ordered an additional 1,000 revolvers to use in the Mexican-American War


Colt didn’t seem to mind to sell weapons to both sides during war as during the Crimean War (1854-1856 his weapons were used by both sides.

Crimean War

The Crimean War (October 1853–February 1856) was fought between the Russian Empire on one side and an alliance of the British Empire  France, the  Ottoman Empire , and the Kingdom of Sardarnia on the other. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining Ottoman Empire. Most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula, but there were smaller campaigns in western Turkey, the Baltic Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the White Sea.

Nor did Mr. Colt think it wrong to arm the South on one hand and the north on the other.

(1) NARRATOR: With the onset of the Civil War,. Sam Colt’s company was about to meet its greatest success. Colt himself, like many industrialists of his day who did business with the South, was anti-abolitionist. He vigorously marketed guns to both North and South before the outbreak of war. He was once again hugely controversial.

SLOTKIN: He was shipping weapons South because he was being paid for weapons South and there was an opportunity to make a sale. That kind of almost amoral willingness to deal the instruments of death to both sides as long as there’s a demand for weapons is something that really becomes marked later in the century where Colt is selling weapons to both sides in European wars, continental wars, Asian wars.

“It is generally understood that Colt’s establishment…[is] incessantly occupied…in making arms for the Southern States…to be used in waging war against the United States…Treason…consists either of levying war upon the United States…or ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemies,’ as is done daily, constantly and by contract, by individuals in Connecticut…”
–The New York Times, 1861.



From Queerartist files.

This written work was first published when the Wadsworth Museum of Art held their first showing of Sam and Elizabeth: The Legend and Legacy of The Colt Empire.

Blood red Blood

Blood red blood splattered on this page.

Only the poets blood far removed from the dead.

Blood red blood a reminder blood

splattered in the war, on the prairies and the plain.

Splattered on the world red blood.

Spilled the murdered work of war blood.

Holes flowing blood, red blood.

All the precious pretties, all the lovely lovelies can not cover

Blood Red Blood

On Blood you built this beauty blood.

North, South, East West

Trickle, to rivers to oceans blood.

All the treasures from others blood.

Flowing blood, oh say can you see blood.

Blue, white, and scarlet hypocrisy blood.

Tat a tat tat, bang, bang, bang.

Ourblood flow blood.

Sounds upon the winds they come

Howling, sobbing, crying, bleeding blood.

Mother, father, sister, brother, baby wailing blood.

Red’s Blood, St. Petersburg blood, workers blood.

Bloody blood.

Long march blood.

The gun that won the west blood

Now the buffalos gone blood

Rivers of blood, set my people free blood.

Missing hand, foot, arm blood, ripped open blood.

Bound for glory blood.

Blood is nice when it remains in its container doing its job.

Poets recite, dancer’s dance, painters paint and singers sing.

Their life blood excites us, unties us, in beauty living blood.

But now they say it’s time to praise Colt blood.

Good blood, lovely blood, such beauty blood.

So very many someone’s, something had to die.

Life exchanged for art treasures blood.

All these lovelies blood fine art from far and wide.

All this finest can not erase the blood, red blood.

It’s okay, see all the beauty blood.

This is history, please excuse it then, red blood

Bound to repeat it blood, full of blood.

Dead, dead, dead, let’s talk dead

Red, red, red, let’s talk blood.

How can all this beauty still it shine smeared with blood.

Bought with blood.

Blood is nice when it remains in its container

Doing it’s job

Exciting and delighting us.

Elegant Deadliness

At the time of the 2nd exhibition of the Colt legacy the Hartford Courant praised the Colt Legacy and remarked, “The Colt Story is about so much more than firearms,” we responded.

 Letters, The Courant

285 Broad Street, Hartford Ct.

Evidently the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Hartford Courant find it necessary to scrape the bottom of a gun barrel to dredge up a rationale for putting on a display of elegant deadlines. The Courant’s editorial on October 1 stated, “The Colt Story is about so much more than firearms.” We answer, yes but let us get one thing straight there would be no Colt story, bequests or an exhibition if it were not for the guns and the bloodshed that built that empire. All the pretty art and all the stories can not cover or wash the blood away.

Most important to ask but forgotten in this current discussion is how many women, children, men and animals had to lose their lives for this accumulation of wealth and for our 21st century entertainment in the form of disinfecting and celebrating Samuel and Elizabeth Colt?

Obviously lessons remain unlearned, the revolver still turns, and the mistakes of the past are repeated and applauded.


What can buckets of blood buy?  Tell me of just some of the things.

 The Colt Memorial

“The Colt Memorial, designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris, was constructed in 1906 as part of the Wadsworth Atheneum complex of buildings. It connects the original structure of 1844 to the Morgan Memorial. Like the Church of the Good Shepherd, it was donated by Elizabeth Colt to house the many art objects she had given to the museum. It is in a Gothic style and features diamond pane windows, which match the original Atheneum building’s Gothic Revival style, and a medieval-style oriel window.”

The Blue Dome of the Colt Factory.


Elizabeth Hart Jarvis married Sam Colt in June 1856. In January 1862, Sam Colt died, leaving his widow one of the wealthiest women in America. She inherited today’s equivalent of $200 million. Colt became the sole owner of Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Co. Elizabeth Colt was a prolific art patron, philanthropist and institution builder in Hartford. After Sam’s death, she built the Church of the Good Shepherd in his and their children’s memory. With her only son’s death in 1894, she built the Caldwell Colt Memorial House next to the Church of the Good Shepherd. It would serve as a parish house and memorial hall. Elizabeth Jarvis Colt died in 1905 at the age of 79. She also left $50,000 to the Wadsworth Atheneum to build the Colt Memorial at the Wadsworth Atheneum to house the one-thousand-plus objects that she left to the museum. (1)

Armsmear, 1857 the Colt Home, Wethersfield Ave. Hartford Ct.

sam colt


Samuel Colt

Arms designed by Samuel Colt (1814-1862) are immediately identifiable by their artistic design-simplicity of form, elegant line and eye-catching finishes meant to reflect light and attract customers Colt’s personal collection of arms that was in his office at this death in 1862 are now divided between the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Museum of Connecticut History.

(**)Frederic Edwin Church, Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica. Colt Bequest

The Atheneum attracted many significant bequests, the largest and most important of which were from Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt (the widow of Samuel Colt, the industrialist and founder of the famous gun company that bore his name) The Colt collection comprised not only 19th-century American paintings and sculptures but also Samuel Colt’s personal collection of firearms, edged weapons, and armor from around the world.

Further Study Notes:

Black Seminoles: The Christmas Eve Freedom Fighters. article about the Christmas Eve Battle of Okeehobee Flordia when Seminole and Africans threw back the advance of the U.S army. Published over at Kasama project December 26, 2009.

For a wonderful article written by Steve Thorton of 1199, “Don’t Glorify Colt: Samuel Colt’s Legacy Is Tarnished By His Support For Slavery And His Treatment of His Own Workers,” click Here.

Sam and Elizabeth: The Legend and Legacy of Colt’s Empire, from Antiques on Line. September 1996-1997

The Manhole Cover Project: A Gun Legacy. The Manhole Cover Project (1996-97) was organized to provide a contemporary counterpoint to Sam and Elizabeth: Legend and Legacy of Colt’s Empire, an exhibition of artworks collected by Hartford gun manufacturer Samuel Colt. The Manhole Cover Project by artist Bradley McCallum was a collaborative public art project that responded to Hartford’s past and also attempted to gain perspective on the current problem of gun violence in the city.

See also: McCallum Tarry: Manhole Cover Project: A Gun Legacy. Click

mccallumtarry.com – Manhole Cover Project: A Gun Legacy 1996   (Project photos and a brief description)

mccallumtarry.com – Project Description

The Manhole Cover Project: A Gun Legacy, by James Rondeau, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Wadsworth Atheneum of Art, 1996.

(1)Colt Legend and Legacy: A conversation with Curators, William Hosely, Karen Blanchfield and Kenneth Simon.

Samuel Colt: Warts and All, Hartford Courant Editorial, October 1, 2006.

Compass Rose Design–used by Colt when exhibiting guns. Guns from the collection doanted to the Wadsworth by Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt.

“For me and others I talked to during my visit, however, the highlight of the exhibit was a display of Colt firearms mounted on a wall, not under glass, in a compass rose design used by Colt at exhibitions (see photo below). The firearms were donated by Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt who had collected the display of firearms that were in production at the time of her husband’s death. Enhancing the impressiveness of the display was the fact that each firearm was in mint condition. Included in the display were new model rifle muskets, new and old model belt pistols with an attachable breech, new and old model pocket pistols, and new model holster and police pistols. ”

(**)  By the 19th century, industry was changing forever the way people lived. Many of the forests in the Old World had been cut and burned, machinery ran on coal, and most people in England lived in urban areas rather than on farms. The New World was not to be left behind—there, too, cities were expanding, forests were leveled, and human domination of the natural world was America’s Manifest Destiny, a goal ordained by God. Ironically, during this time an appreciation for the beauties of nature, captured by landscape painters and photographers, took hold of the public imagination. Americans bragged about the grandeur of their trees, even as they cut them down. …America the Beautiful,Masterworks of the 19th century.

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