Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The "Inventor" of the Revolver


To be fair, Samuel Colt never claimed to be what the title of this post implies. Rather the collective mythology of our national consciousness claimed that title for him. The first photo is of his baby, the one that spawned the revolution.
It's the 1836 Colt Paterson, made by the Patent repeating Arms Co. of Paterson New Jersey. The photo is actually of a pistol thought to be a period clone of the real made-by-Colt item, worth $60 to $90K even so. Actually nothing was ever "made" by Colt. He was more of an idea guy. In any case, it's a good-looking, elegant piece of work. I'm using this pic for my wallpaper at the moment. But, it's not the beginning of the revolver story.
The popular, apocryphal, tale summarized at the excellent Patents Pending Blogsite, is that the young Sam had an epiphany at sea. Apparently the lad was a bit of a handful so his dad sent him off for a year "before the mast" at the age of 16. He spent his year sailing from Boston to Calcutta, quit the sea and never looked back. The story is that he was "inspired" by the ship's wheel, a pepper grinder...whatever.
The interesting thing is that, while in London he was reputed to have purchased an example of the second weapon featured, a flintlock revolver made by Elisha H. Collier, late of Boston. The term "flintlock revolver" has to rank some where in the same category as "steam-powered pocket watch" but there it sits. This was obviously an upscale item. What with the inlay work and engraving, one would think this thing beyond the means of a teenage mariner. The fact remains that it, patented in England in 1818 when young Sam was four, is a revolver. The only salient difference seems to be that there was no mechanism for rotating the cylinder. One had to do it by hand. Also the frizzen (the thingie struck by the flint to make the sparks) seems to have some sort on reservoir for priming powder on board to save that tedious bit of the flintlock loading ritual.
The Colonel (he was granted that title by a governor of Connecticut who, after his election, did it to reward Colt for driving him home drunk while on the campaign trail - see, an idea guy), as mentioned, never claimed to have "invented" the revolver. However, he did come up with the idea that the rotation the cylinder would happen in conjunction with the cocking action. Also he, with his colleague, Elisha Root - the real unsung genius of the story, set up some some of the earliest machinery-driven production processes. And he, or rather his company - he was dead by then, came up with the gun my baby is ripped off from, the 1873 single-action-army, AKA "The Peacemaker".
Now, there is an excellent book about the First Special Service Force wherein the Model 1911, the "Colt 45" is described as being named "after its designer". No, no, no, John Moses Browning, Mormon gun genius par excellance did that one as well as many others. Remember that name folks.

6 comments:

Stephen Renico said...

That's a really nice pistol you have there. I also never imagined that there would have been a flintlock revolver. Fascinating stuff!

Oliver Hart-Parr said...

Thanks, Stephen.
The maddening thing is now I find that there's one in the Tower of London made in 1680. The quest continues...

David Stefanini said...

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:

www.americanlegends.blogspot.com

If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.

Thanks,
David

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this might be a good time to check other historical revolvers. Maybe even older.
http://www.miarma.com/miarma-01-01-06-02.php

Best regards,
Hogni in Iceland

Icusbrand said...

Hello, check this out.

http://www.miarma.com/miarma-01-01-06-02.php

Hogni in Iceland

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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