Artifact Corner: Colt Revolver

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at one of Frank Hall’s revolvers. We have three revolvers in our collections. Two of them are from the company Smith & Wesson, while this revolver was made by Colt Fire Arms Manufacturing Company. This is a Colt model 1855 side hammer pocket revolver. Frank Hall served as a Chaplain for the New York 16th Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War, but he was a non combatant. As a non combatant, he was never issued a firearm by the army, so we are not sure why he had these weapons. We do know that Frank liked to go camping for long stretches of time in the Adirondacks, so it’s possible that he may have had these for protection? We simply don’t know for sure. Let’s learn a bit more about the Colt fire Arms Manufacturing Company.

In 1836, Samuel Colt founded his first corporation for fire arms manufacture, the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey, Colt’s Patent. The first firearm manufactured at the new Paterson plant, however, was the Colt First Model Ring Lever rifle beginning in 1837. This initial version of the Colt company had a number of problems with manufacturing, which led to many of the weapons produced in this factory to either be unreliable, or simply not work at all. The Army reported many problems with the weapons they purchased, and this iteration of the Colt company ended in 1842. By 1848, Samuel Colt made another attempt at gun manufacturing, and now had a better grasp of how to make a quality product. By 1855 Samuel had created his new and improved company, Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut.

And that’s where our revolver comes into existence. As mentioned earlier, our revolver is a Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer. This was also known as the Colt Root Revolver after engineer Elisha K. Root. It is a cap & ball single-action pocket revolver. This means that there is not a modern bullet loaded into each of the six chambers. In order to use this weapon, you would first measure out the black powder that you would need, load that into the chamber, then you would add the lead ball that will be the projectile you will be firing. There is a built in loading lever on this particular model which acts as a ram rod to press the ball and powder firmly in the chamber. Then you can seal the chambers with beeswax, or a combination of beeswax and tallow, which also helps to lubricate the barrel, and hopefully keep moisture away from the powder. Colt made multiple models of this revolver, and the one we have in our collections was made sometime between 1856 to 1860, based on the serial number on the piece. Colt remained one of the leading manufacturer of firearms for the military and civilian use in the United States, although the company is now no longer and American owned entity. Colt is now owned by a company in Prague, in the Czech Republic.

This revolver is in fantastic condition, but even though it is, it’s not something we would ever try to use. Antique firearms can be dangerous, and if you have a piece that you would like to use, we suggest taking it to a professional for inspection before doing so. Anything made from metal can fatigue, which means that the metal may have small hairline fractures that you might not be able to easily see, making that piece dangerous to operate. So, our three revolvers will remain display pieces. This Colt model 1855 is an interesting look back at cap and ball style revolvers, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,