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Colt Family Papers

Scope & content

The Colt Family papers document the social, political, and economic history of several generations of one of Rhode Island's most prominent families from 1793 to 1961. The bulk of the eighty linear feet of records cover the period from 1865 to 1912. The physical condition of the papers varies with age and previous storage conditions.

The majority of the papers consist of the personal, business, political, and financial records of Samuel Pomeroy Colt (1852-1921), lawyer, politician, businessman, banker and philanthropist. During his varied political career, Colt served Rhode Island as an aide-de-camp to the governor, as a Representative from Bristol in the state's House of Representatives, as an Assistant Attorney General, Attorney General, and as a candidate for both governor and U.S. senator. Each of these facets of his political career is documented to a greater or lesser extent in the appropriate series.

It was in the world of business, however, that Colt had his greatest impact. In 1886, he founded the Industrial Trust Company and, serving as it president, quickly developed it into the largest banking concern in Rhode Island. A year later Colt was appointed receiver for the small and bankrupt National Rubber Company in Bristol. From that inauspicious beginning, he developed the U.S. Rubber Company (UNIROYAL) and served as its president for seventeen years. The papers document his activities in each of these enterprises. Though the records are incomplete, they are fairly comprehensive and allow one to gain some insight into the skill with which Colt operated in the business world.

Colt's private life is also revealed in the material dealing with various family members and his personal financial activities. The personal financial records reveal a man of immense personal wealth who invested heavily in the stock market and real estate. The personal papers, particularly correspondence with other family members, highlight the many strains and tension within the Colt family.

Other members of the family, through several generations, are also represented in the family papers. Personal and business correspondence of Colt's grandfather and father, both named Christopher, reveal much about mid-nineteenth century business practices. There is correspondence between Christopher Colt, Sr. and Samuel Colt, inventor of the Colt revolver and founder of the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company. The personal and business correspondence of Samuel P. Colt's brothers, Edward and LeBaron, and his son Russell provide insight into the ways in which the family intermingled business and personal affairs. The correspondence of the matriarch of the family, Theodora DeWolf Colt, reveals to some extent the pervasive influence she exercised on her children throughout her long life.

The Colt Family Papers document a fascinating history of a prominent nineteenth and twentieth century Rhode Island family that was active in the social, political, and business environment of the time. The papers also provide research materials on the dynamics of family relationships during this era.