Kossuth and Colt – an appendix to the story of the Hungarian emigration

During his visit in North-America in 1851-52, Kossuth Lajos missed to visit Colt’s factory in Hartford – despite the fact that Colt, one of the wealthiest men of his era in the USA, tried to arrange the meeting. He intended to give a pair of unique, engraved revolvers to the former Hungarian leader. The pair consisted of a 1851 Navy .36 cal revolver and another small-frame revovler in .31 cal.

The gift was planned on two purposes. On the one hand, it would express Sam Colt’s respect to the  famous Hungarian revolutionist. But on the other hand, it would serve to boost Colt’s business. During that time, the Hungarian emigration looked for support in foreign politics and raised founds to continue it’s the independence fight against the Habsburgs. And Colt had the greatest arms production capacity in the world…

It is hard to decide, which intention was stronger – but my opinion is that it was Colt’s interest. He did not follow any moral rules even in his own country, delivering arms to the US Government, so as to the Southern States. He even planned to build a second factory in the South during the ominous years before the Civil War broke out, to make money on the raising armies on booth sides.

Despite that the rendez-vous with Kossuth failed, Colt did not give up his plan to impress the former Hungarian leader with his designs. In 1853 he sended the pair of revolvers to Kossuth’s residence in London and invited him to visit the lately opened Colt Factory London. The purpose of the new plant was to equip the British Army, but it was not success, because the British favoured the Adams revolvers.

And how important was Kossuth’s revolution and idea of freedom for Colt? One have to take into account that it was not only in London where Colt revolvers were manufactured. The licence of the 1851 Navy was also sold to an Austria, where the KKP (Kaiserlich und Königlich Priviligierte Maschinenfabrik, Innsbruck) made revovlers for the KK Navy between 1849-1854. 1200 pieces of belt revolvers were manufactured for the naval force and another 100 for the civil market. So much for the Colt’s devotion to freedom…

Besides, the correspondece of the two great man is an interesting and valuable part of the history of the Hungarian emigration. Here you find the two letter.


Colonel Colt’s letter to Kossuth


London, March 20, 1853

Dear Sir: – Permit me to present you with a box containing specimens of my Patent Repeating Fire-arms, in token of my high regard and esteem.

The arms were made for you at my manufactory in Hartford, Connecticut, when you were traveling in America, and would have been presented to you by a committee of my workmen, had it been our good fortune to have seen you at Hartford in your hasty tour through New England.

I trust, however, that at this late day they will not prove unacceptable, and will be received with the same feeling of good-will with which they are sent. Permit me also to say, that while it would have been the greatest satisfaction to me to have shown you my manufactory of fire-arms in Hartford, it will not less so to have you and any of your friends examine my smaller establishment, just started, at Thames Bank, Pimlico, London, at any time it is your pleasure to fix that purpose.

Believe me, in the mean time, very respectfully,

Your Excellency’s most obedient servant,

Sam. Colt.

Kossuth’s letter to Colonel Colt

London, March 27, 1853

Dear Sir: – You have very agreeably surprised me by your splendid pair of revolvers, which I accept with particular gratification, and beg leave to return you my sincere thanks for your valuable present, as well as for accompanying obliging lines. I was very glad to learn that the practical superiority of your invention has met already such well-deserved appreciation with the Government of the United States. This is equally creditable to the merits of your genius, and to the progressive spirit which seems to be peculiar privilege, and a glorious one indeed, of democratic institutions.

To me your magnificent present, dear Colonel, has a triple value: that of a valuable sympathy, that of artistic-mechanical merit, and that of practical use; since, without indulging in any sanguine fascinations, I dare hope soon tho have occasion to use it, and use it I shall with the conscientious conviction that your genius never could have aided a better cause. From what I know of military art, I confidently believe that the improvements in fire-arms are likely soon to change essentially the adopted tactics; and anticipations of my future duties cannot but increase my interest in matters to which you have so successfully devoted your genius, I am thankful for your inviting me to visit your London establishment, and will avail myself of it at the earliest opportunity. Accept once more, dear Colonel, my sincere thanks, and believe me to be, with distinguished regards and particular consideration,

Your obedient servant,

L. Kossuth




Source: Henry Barnard: Armsmear: The Home, the Arm, and the Armory of Samuel Colt (New York, 1866) 347-348. pg.