Samuel Colt Passports are American History

Colt, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, is known as one of the greatest inventors and industrialists of the nineteenth century. He amassed a fortune manufacturing his well-known revolvers in Hartford and selling them in the United States and abroad. I stumbled upon a small batch of documents that includes four of Samuel Colt’s passports.

Two of the passports were issued in 1849 (one from the US Legation in England and the other from the Legation in France), the third in 1851, and the fourth in 1855. The 1849 and 1851 passports issued in England are written in French. By 1855, however, the Legation in England was issuing the documents in English. We can see on the English version of the 1855 passport that Colt was traveling with a servant. Apparently, servants did not warrant their own passports.

Only the 1851 passport contains a description of Colt’s physical appearance (in French). All four are attached to leather, pocket-sized wallets with Colt’s name engraved in gold. Sometimes the stamps from each country were applied to the pages of the wallet. Other times, they were put directly on the passport.

According to the passports, Colt traveled to France, Belgium, Germany, Prussia, and Austria. An 1856 passport, separated from its wallet and included with the political papers, indicates he also traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia. This should come as little surprise to those who have traveled Interstate 91 through Hartford and seen the Colt Armory, complete with its Russian-style onion dome.

Click the preview to see a full-size picture of his 1855 passport. (Source: Connecticut Historical Society)