Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1814, Samuel “Sam” Colt was an innovator and inventor, single-minded, energetic to the point of hyperactivity, and the very epitome of a self-made man – of which there were a great many in 19th century America. At the age of seven years, his mother died. She was the daughter of a fairly well-to-do family; his father was a farmer turned minor industrialist, having gone into the business of manufacturing textiles with the aid of his in-laws. When Sam was eleven, his father went bankrupt. While the senior Colt attempted to regain his economic footing, Sam and his five brothers and sisters were farmed out to relatives and neighbors. Sam was apprenticed to a farmer, with the understanding that he attended school regularly. Which Sam Colt did, but likely did not learn anything beyond what he was really interested in – his handwriting was lamentable and his spelling a matter best left unmentioned. But he read widely and voraciously; his favorite was a then-popular scientific encyclopedia called the Compendium of Knowledge, and sometime in his early teens he resolved to be an inventor. At fifteen, he left school and went to work in his father’s mill, a splendid venue for tinkering – and indulging in a taste for showing off. On July 4th, 1829, he gained a degree of local notoriety by blowing up a raft in a local shallow pond, detonating a large quantity of gunpowder with a galvanic cell which he had built himself. He had advertised the event beforehand, by having handbills printed and distributed – so there was a substantial crowd gathered for the show. But the raft with the battery and gunpowder on it had drifted from position – and the resulting mighty blast showered the crowd with mud.