Elizabeth Jarvis Colt

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Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt
Elizabeth and Caldwell Colt by Charles Loring Elliott 1865.jpg
Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt with her son Caldwell, 1865
Elizabeth Hart Jarvis

(1826-10-05)October 5, 1826[1]
Saybrook, Connecticut, United States
DiedAugust 23, 1905(1905-08-23) (aged 78)[2]
Newport, Rhode Island, United States
OccupationBusinesswoman, philanthropist
Spouse(s)Samuel Colt
ChildrenCaldwell Hart Colt
RelativesJohn C. Colt, Richard Jarvis

Elizabeth Jarvis Colt (born Elizabeth Hart Jarvis, October 5, 1826 – August 23, 1905) was the widow and heir of firearms manufacturer Samuel Colt, founder of Colt's Manufacturing Company.

Early life[edit]

Hart Jarvis House, Portland, CT (October 2017).

Elizabeth Hart Jarvis was born in Saybrook, Connecticut to Reverend William Jarvis, an Episcopal Minister, and Elizabeth Jarvis. She was the eldest of five children in an affluent and socially prominent family.[3][4][5] She "grew up in a lovely 1830s Greek Temple Revival house in Portland,"[6] which fell into disrepair and was threatened with demolition, but (as of 2017) may be moved and rehabilitated as part of other area development.[7]

Marriage to Samuel Colt[edit]

She met Samuel Colt in 1851 in Newport, Rhode Island, and the two were married in 1856[4] The couple resided at Armsmear.[3] with Bishop Thomas Church Brownell presiding over the wedding.[8]

The Colts had five children. Two died in infancy; a daughter, named Elizabeth, died at the age of three. In 1861, Samuel Colt died from complications associated with gout and left Elizabeth a pregnant widow. Seven months after his death, the baby was stillborn.[4]Only one child, Caldwell, survived to adulthood, but he drowned at sea at the age of 35.[4][verification needed]

At the helm of Colt[edit]

Following her husband's death in 1862, Mrs. Colt inherited a controlling interest in the manufacturing company (worth $3.5 million at the time, or $95 million, adjusted for inflation to 2021 dollars), and played a key role in rebuilding the main armory following arson in 1864.[9] Her brother, Richard Jarvis took over as president of the company in 1865, following the death of Elisha K. Root, and the two transitioned the company from the end of the American Civil War through the early 20th century, seeing the evolution from percussion revolvers to cartridge revolvers to semiautomatic pistols and machineguns.[10]

Colt served for 22 years as the president of the Union for Home Work, an organization that provided daycare for the children of working mothers. She became the first President of the Hartford Soldiers Aid Society and, in 1869, organized the first Suffragette convention in Connecticut. For these actions, she was dubbed "The First Lady of Hartford".[4]

In 1867, she had an Episcopal church designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter built as a memorial to her husband and the three children they lost. The church's architecture contains guns and gun-smithing tools sculpted in marble to commemorate her husband's life as an arms maker. In 1896, a parish house was built on the site as a memorial to their son, Caldwell, who died in 1894. In 1975, the Church of the Good Shepherd and Parish House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[11]

Retirement and death[edit]

Colt memorial in Cedar Hill Cemetery

She sold her interest in Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1901. She was involved in society life in Hartford, CT and President of the Hartford Women's Auxiliary.[2][12]

Colt died of paralysis in Newport, Rhode Island on August 23, 1905. The Hartford Courant ran a full-page obituary of Colt on the front page of the newspaper the following day, calling her the "First Lady of Connecticut". It was the first time that the newspaper recognized the death of a woman in this manner.[4]

In her will, Elizabeth Colt left a collection of nearly 1,000 objects, artworks, firearms and documents to the Wadsworth Atheneum as well as a fund to build the Colt Memorial. The Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt Memorial Wing was the first American museum wing bearing the name of a woman patron.[13][14]

She is buried along with her husband and children in Hartford's historic Cedar Hill Cemetery.[15]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Phelps, M. William (3 September 2013). The Devil's Right Hand: The Tragic Story of the Colt Family Curse. Lyons Press. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-7627-8846-0.
  2. ^ a b Convention, Episcopal Church. Diocese of Connecticut. (1905). Journal of the Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Connecticut. The Diocese. p. 320.
  3. ^ a b Coller, Jeremy (12 November 2009). Splendidly Unreasonable Inventors: The Lives, Loves, and Deaths of 30 Pioneers Who Changed theWorld. Overlook. pp. 63–65. ISBN 978-1-4683-0615-6.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Boynton, Cynthia Wolfe (4 March 2014). "Elizabeth Colt, First Lady of Hartford". Remarkable Women of Hartford. The History Press. pp. 43–52. ISBN 978-1-62619-320-8.
  5. ^ Bendici, Ray (18 September 2012). Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Connecticut History. Globe Pequot. pp. 157–162. ISBN 978-0-7627-8954-2.
  6. ^ "Portland's Elmcrest Redevelopment Should Keep Historic Homes". www.courant.com. The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Portland, developer hammer out new mixed-use plan for Elmcrest site". www.middletownpress.com. The Middletown Press. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Thomas Church Brownell (1779 – 1865)". Cedar Hill Cemetery Foundation. Cedar Hill Cemetery Foundation. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  9. ^ Smith, Anthony (2002). Machine Gun: The Story of the Men and the Weapon That Changed the Face of War. St. Martin's Press. pp. 52–53. ISBN 978-0-312-93477-4., although the book claims the 2002 value was $200 million
  10. ^ Grant, Ellsworth S. (1982). The Colt legacy: the Colt Armory in Hartford, 1855-1980. Mowbray Co. pp. 22, 58. ISBN 978-0-917218-17-0.
  11. ^ "Church of the Good Shepherd and Parish House" (pdf). US Department of the Interior. p. 2. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  12. ^ "Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt", Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. Accessed April 30, 2014.
  13. ^ "Program to Highlight Legacy of Elizabeth Colt". 23 February 2010.
  14. ^ Wertkin, Gerard C. (15 January 2004). Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Routledge. p. 539. ISBN 978-1-135-95614-1.
  15. ^ "Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame: Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt". www.cwhf.org. Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 23 December 2017.