Made by Samuel Colt (1814–1862, inventor and manufacturer); Decorated by Gustave Young (1827–1895, engraver)
American (Hartford, Conn.)
Steel, brass, gold, walnut
L. 14 in. (35.6 cm)
Gift of George and Butonne Repaire, 1995 (1995.336)
Colt patented the first mass-produced multishot revolving firearms, thereby ensuring his fame as one of America's most successful inventors and entrepreneurs. His standard revolvers were works of precision and reliability highly valued by soldiers and frontiersmen, and his deluxe arms, made for exhibition or presentation, were appreciated for their elegant engraved decoration. The Museum's pistol is one of only a handful of gold-inlaid examples and is considered one of Colt's finest works.
The ornament is the invention of the German-born engraver Gustave Young, whose crisp and elegant scrollwork set the standard for all future American firearms decoration. The gold inlay includes a bust of George Washington, set flush into the cylinder, and the arms of the United States in low relief on the frame. Complementary imagery is found on the mate to this pistol, in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. The pair was separated in 1854, during the Crimean War between Russia and Turkey, when Colt presented one to Czar Nicholas I and the other (which became the Museum's) to Sultan Abdülmecid I. Although intended to promote sales by demonstrating the technical and artistic qualities of Colt's products, the patriotic motifs of these gifts also proudly proclaimed their American origin.