11. Museum of Connecticut History, Colt Collection, Hartford, CT ±1,500 firearms, ±200 on display (13%). Established in 1957

Museum of Connecticut History, Colt Collection Exterior
Museum of Connecticut History, Colt Collection Case


Colt Co. gave their factory reference collection of 1,250 guns to form the Colt Collection in the Museum of Connecticut History, complementing the E.H.J. Colt Firearms Collection in the Wadsworth Atheneum. It includes examples of prototypes, production guns, embellished pieces, cutaways, and guns of Colt’s competitors. In the past sixty years, the collection has increased to cover Colt’s history in both artifacts and archival design drawings, and includes Colonel Colt’s military uniform and the gilded rampant Colt that mounted the factory dome.

The Museum also displays guns produced in the nineteenth century by the twenty-six different gun makers who did business in Connecticut. A rare salesman’s suitcase-display shows all the components of an M1 Carbine made in 1945 by the Underwood Typewriter Company. The collection does not include contemporary firearms currently being produced in Connecticut.

Thirteen tabletop display cases exhibit Colt guns according to type, and permit very close inspection of the rich history of both stock and embellished Colts. Each case has a generous number of guns, the texts are plentiful and well-written, and displays may include original colored patent drawings, catalogs, instructions, ammunition and Ormsby’s cylinder die of a Stagecoach Holdup.

Highlights include a pre-Paterson ‘John Pearson’ revolver, a presentation Third Model Dragoon engraved and decorated by Gustav Young, and a case containing an 1855 Side Hammer revolving pistol and rifle presented to E.K. Root, their inventor.

The environment and atmosphere within the museum feels very private and unhurried for such an important collection. The curators are well-informed and have laid out the collection in a simple way that has no distraction from digital graphics. The two parts of the exhibit, of Colt and other Connecticut arms makers, will satisfy both the specialist and the casual visitor, who will see the social dimension of firearm culture.

Houze, H.G., Samuel Colt: Arms, Art, and Invention, New Haven, (2006)