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#147 Sam Colt: The Six-Shooter That Changed America
October 5th, 2020 | E147

Show Notes

[00:00:01] - Sam Colt embodied the America of his time. He was big brash, voracious, imaginative, and possessed extraordinary drive and energy. He was a classic disruptor who not only invented a world-changing product but produced it and sold it in world-changing ways. 

[00:01:59] - He had solved one of the great technological challenges of the early 19th century. 

[00:02:36] - He was rich at 21. Poor at 31. Then rich again at 41. 

[00:07:10] - Sam Colt solved a 400-year-old problem. The guns of 1830 were essentially what they had been in 1430.

[00:07:53] - There's a financial panic in 1819. This is a very important part in the life of Sam Colt. It may explain why he was such a hard worker, ruthless, and determined. The panic of 1819 bankrupts his family. 

[00:10:48] - What kind of person would do this voluntarily? He was set to embark on a 17,000-mile voyage across the Atlantic, around the horn of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, and to the city of Calcutta. Honeymoon was not quite the word to describe a 17,000-mile voyage to Calcutta in 1830. 

[00:13:57] - He bridled at being under any authority other than his own. His dogma was the gospel of self-determination. “It is better to be the head of a louse than the tail of a lion.” 

[00:14:19] - Self-determination took deep root in my heart and to has been the mark that has and shall control my destiny. 

[00:16:14] - Every cut of the jackknife an act of quiet vengeance not only against those who had flogged him but against the nameless forces that had snatched away his childhood with financial ruin and death. 

[00:19:58] - He saw a nation brimming with industry and ingenuity and hope. And at the same time, anxiety, fear, and brutality

[00:20:55] - Nights went to [selling] nitrous oxide, days to improving his gun. 

[00:22:31] - This description of the book sold me on buying it: Brilliantly told, Revolver brings the brazenly ambitious and profoundly innovative industrialist and leader Samuel Colt to vivid life. In the space of his forty-seven years, he seemingly lived five lives: he traveled, womanized, drank prodigiously, smuggled guns to Russia, bribed politicians, and supplied the Union Army with the guns they needed to win the Civil War. Colt lived during an age of promise and progress but also of slavery, corruption, and unbridled greed, and he not only helped to create this America, he completely embodied it. By the time he died in 1862 in Hartford, Connecticut, he was one of the most famous men in nation and one of the richest.

[00:27:19] - But more important than Roswell’s money would be the contacts he helped Sam cultivate in coming months, and more important still would be the encouragement Roswell gave to the young entrepreneur. 

[00:30:46] - Why guns were the first mass-produced product in America: But the government was not in the business of sewing or telling time; it very much was in the business of preparing for war, even if there were no wars to be fought just then. As a result, guns were among the first, and by far the most important, mass-produced items in the United States. Because the government was the main buyer of guns, it dictated how the guns were made. And it had a deep interest in solving problems of gun manufacturing. 

[00:37:23] - I’m amazed at how much life Sam Colt fit into 47 short years.

[00:38:43] - One of the main takeaways of the book is Everything sucks. I’m moving forward anyways. 

[00:38:58] - His refusal to admit defeat would appear almost delusional at times. 

[00:39:34] - The paradox of Sam Colt: One half of Sam Colt was the buncoing fabulist, the walking bonfire of other people’s money, the drinker and carouser; the other half was a truly gifted inventor. 

[00:42:20] - If you are in a great market, the market will pull the product out of you. 

[00:48:52] - Sam Colt is extreme. This is him admonishing his younger brother for not being ambitious enough: Don’t for the sake of your own good name think again of being a subordinate. You had better blow out your brains at once & manure an honest man’s ground with your carcass than to hang your ambition on so low a peg.

[00:49:15] - The anger and frustration was real, and his desire to be his own master and master of others was sincere. 

[00:52:27] - I've spent the last 10 years of my life without profit in perfecting military inventions. How many people are willing to work this hard and not give up after a decade? 

[00:54:17] - The opening of a new market: [Sam] Walker had done a great deal for Colt in the weeks since they began exchanging letters in November. Most important, he had single-handedly persuaded the Ordnance Department to contravene its long-standing objection to Colt’s pistols. 

[00:57:40] - After his first business fails, he is determined to control his second attempt: “I am working on my own hook and have sole control and management of my business. No longer subject to the whims of a pack of dam fools styling themselves a board of directors. 

[01:07:19] - He was metabolically wired for productivity. He is, without exception, the hardest working man that I know of. 

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