Elizabeth Colt (1826 – 1905)
Born in 1826, Elizabeth Hart Jarvis was the first child born to William and Elizabeth Miller Hart Jarvis. Mr. Jarvis was a prominent Episcopal minister, and Mrs. Jarvis was from an extremely prominent family that included several Rhode Island royal governors and military leaders as well as wealth from involvement in the West Indie’s trade.
In 1856, Elizabeth married Samuel Colt who had invented the Colt revolver and established Colt Armory in Hartford. Their marriage came to an end in 1862 when Sam died at the age of 47. In the five years that they were married, Elizabeth was pregnant five times. The first two children died in infancy and at the time of Sam’s death, Elizabeth had a three-year-old son, sickly two-month-old daughter, and was pregnant with her fifth child. Ten days after Sam died, the sickly two-month-old died and the following July, Elizabeth gave birth to her final child who was stillborn. Of her five children, only her son Caldwell survived into adulthood.
Once Sam died, Elizabeth was one of the richest women in the country. According to William Hosley in his 1996 publication Colt: The Making of an American Legend, “At thirty-five she inherited an industrial empire and fortune worth today’s equivalent of about $200 million.” Although she was not President of the company, Elizabeth managed Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company from behind the scenes after Sam’s death. When the armory burned to the ground, it was Elizabeth who had insured the building beforehand and managed its reconstruction, including making it fireproof and recreating the blue onion dome that was destroyed in the fire. While running a multi-million dollar business, Elizabeth was a prominent philanthropist and patron of the arts.
Her son Caldwell Hart Colt died in 1894. It was at this time that Elizabeth had Sam and their four young children disinterred from their private burial site at their Armsmear estate and had them reinterred at Cedar Hill Cemetery in their large lot on Section 2. In 1901, Elizabeth sold Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company. The original factory property is now part of the Coltsville Historic District. Elizabeth died in 1905 and following her death Armsmear was converted into a home for widows of Episcopalian ministers and other women of good character. The remaining 140 acres of the property was designated as Colt Park.
Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt. Accessed at http://www.cwhf.org/browse_hall/hall/people/Colt.php in August 2010.
Hosley, William. Colt: The Making of an American Legend. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996.
Lead-Her-ship. Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt: Hartford’s Greatest Giver. Accessed at http://www.lead-her-ship.com/tag/elizabeth-hart-jarvis-colt/ in August 2010.
Photo Credit: Colt Memorial, Cedar Hill Cemetery