BLANCHFIELD: They were married in 1856. On their
honeymoon they travel all over Russia, they travel all over
Germany, they go to England and they've been more places than
most people of their time. And at that time, in the 1850's,
travel was a pretty exotic thing to do and, of course, when
the Colts traveled, they traveled well. They traveled on the
nicest steamer that existed at the time. And so they're traveling
around, they're bringing back reminders and souvenirs but, also,
examples of the arts and the culture of these places that they're
visiting and they're bringing all this back to Hartford.
HOSLEY: The period between 1856 and 1862 is
the most settled period and the most domestic period in his
life. I mean, he really is already successful. And he loves
his children. He absolutely loved family life. He loved
this mansion. He loved his gardens. And he wanted to smell the
NARRATOR: For all their prosperity and contentment,
the Colts suffered more than their share of human tragedy. During
their five years of marriage they lost two children to illness.
A third was to be stillborn and the two remaining children would
predecease Elizabeth .
For Sam Colt, the success he had craved and
had achieved would ironically contribute to his death at an
early age just after the outbreak of the Civil War.
BLANCHFIELD: He was under a tremendous amount
of stress because he was very successful and he was trying to
build on that success. He was doubling the size of the armory,
and the factory was running 24 hours a day. He had been ill
with gout for a couple of years before that.
HOSLEY: The rumor was always that Sam Colt had
died of syphilis, which is almost certainly not true. I think
the big picture is that Sam Colt died almost of exhaustion clearly
there were natural causes - the gout, rheumatism, that did him
in. This was a guy that was falling apart. His wife - Elizabeth
herself described Sam as never having fully recovered from the
death of his first daughter. I mean, what a fascinating contrast
to the image of the rampant Colt - this macho persona.
NARRATOR: Sam Colt died in January 1862 at the
age of 47. Elizabeth buried him on the grounds of his beloved
Armsmear, next to his two infants.
HOSLEY: Elizabeth, as was the custom of the
day, remained home and watched the funeral from the boudoir
the workmen at the tomb, preparing a last resting place for him.
It seems as if ‘the main spring is broken’ and the
works must run down."
--Elizabeth Colt, 1862
HOSLEY: There was a sense of just shock at the
factory that this guy was so inseparably connected to the company.
He was the company. His persona was mounted on its roof, his
name was over the door. He had built this thing from nothing.
He was lionized as one of the American originals, one of the
great, you know, inventor industrialists of his age. Who would
pick up the reins and carry on?
NARRATOR: By the
time of his death, Samuel Colt had made and sold almost one
million guns, more than anyone before. How would Colt’s
empire, fame and reputation endure after his death?
Elizabeth, his 35-year-old widow, had been married
to Sam or just five and a half years.
HOSLEY: In the
end she is alone and of course one of many reasons why Elizabeth
becomes Hartford’s greatest philanthropist is because she has
no direct heirs to leave the fortune to. But it was also out of
sense of civic love that she does these great things.