Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America

Scribner. May 2020. 448p. ISBN 9781501166389. $30. BIOG
Author and journalist Rasenberger (The Brilliant Disaster; America, 1908) provides a welcome biography on the life of Samuel Colt (1814-1862), inventor of the Colt patent revolver and an innovator of the American system of manufacturing. The 19th century industrial revolution, rapid territorial expansion, and societal fracturing provide the historical backdrop to analyze the radical, and now iconic, Colt revolver with its tremendous increase of personal firepower used for both good and evil. Seeking to clarify previous conflicting biographical accounts, Rasenberger thoroughly documents his events from archival sources, though he places access to these in separate websites instead of within the book. Attention focuses on the details of Colt’s life and the development of his firearms business rather than detailing each model of gun produced.
VERDICT Colt’s powerful personality drives the narrative, showing his brilliant showmanship, family connections, occasional legerdemain, and aggressive political lobbying to force his business dream into a commercial success. No hagiography, this work is as much a non-judgmental history of the development of American gun culture as it is of Samuel Colt himself.

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