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Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt
Born Elizabeth Hart Jarvis
(1826-10-05)October 5, 1826[1]
Saybrook, Connecticut, United States
Died August 23, 1905(1905-08-23) (aged 78)[2]
Newport, Rhode Island, United States
Occupation Businesswoman, philanthropist
Spouse(s) Samuel Colt
Children Caldwell Hart Colt
Relatives John C. Colt, Richard Jarvis

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

Early life

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]

Marriage to Samuel Colt

She met Samuel Colt in 1851 in Newport, Rhode Island, and the two were married in 1856.[4] The couple resided at Armsmear.[3]

The Colt's had four children. Two died in infancy, a daughter named Elizabeth died at the age of three. One sibling, Caldwell, survived to adulthood, but died of tonsilitis at the age of 34.[4]

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]

At the helm of Colt

Following her husband's death in 1862, she inherited a controlling interest in the manufacturing company (worth $3.5 million at the time and closer to $200 million in today's money), and played a key role in rebuilding the main armory following arson in 1864.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

Retirement and death

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][9]

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.[10][11]


  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. 2.0 2.1 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. 3.0 3.1 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. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 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. Smith, Anthony (2 November 2004). 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. "Church of the Good Shepherd and Parish House" (pdf). US Department of the Interior. p. 2. Retrieved December 20, 2011. 
  9. "Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt", Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. Accessed April 30, 2014.
  10. "Program to Highlight Legacy of Elizabeth Colt". 23 February 2010. 
  11. Wertkin, Gerard C. (15 January 2004). Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Routledge. p. 539. ISBN 978-1-135-95614-1. 

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