Middletown's Own Elizabeth Jarvis managed Colt Firearms for 40 Years

Elizabeth Jarvis, a Connecticut Women's Hall of Famer, was born and raised on Washington Street in Middletown owned and managed Colt Firearms for more than 40 years.

Middletown can claim a significant role in the running of Colt Firearms in the person of Elizabeth Jarvis Colt, who ran the eponymous and world's largest Hartford firearms company for 40 years.

The Jarvis-Hotchkiss House, 138-140 Washington Street in Middletown, is a late Greek Revival building constructed around 1838. The house was acquired by the Rev. William Jarvis, rector of Christ Church, in 1853. On June 6, 1856, his daughter Elizabeth married Samuel Colt at the Episcopal Church in Middletown. The wedding reception of Elizabeth Jarvis and Samuel Colt took place at Washington Street home.

Samuel Colt died in 1862 and at the age of 47, Elizabeth Colt inherited several million dollars and a controlling interest in Colt’s Patent Arms Manufacturing Company, the largest armory in the world. At the time of her husband’s death, she had two young children and was pregnant with another. In the year following her husband’s death, she would lose both her fourth and fifth children, leaving her with only one son, Caldwell Colt.

In 1864, Confederate sympathizers set fire to the Colt factory, burning it to the ground. Elizabeth chose to rebuild, paying special attention to fire-proofing and adding a second story as well as recreating the iconic blue onion dome that had been destroyed. She continued to maintain tight control of the Colt factory for most of the 43 years she outlived her husband.

Elizabeth used both her position and wealth to play a leading role in countless Connecticut religious, social, art, and charitable organizations. She helped found and presided over the Union for Home Work, the Hartford Decorative Arts Society, the Connecticut Society of the Colonial Dames of America, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church, and the Hartford Soldiers’ Aid Society.

She is credited with raising more than $1 million (the equivalent of $43 million today) in a two-week period for the Hartford Soldiers’ Aid Society and with organizing Connecticut’s first Suffragette Convention in 1869. To honor her late husband, Elizabeth built the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1869.

Elizabeth died in Hartford in 1905. In her will, Elizabeth Colt bequeathed 1,000 pieces of art to the . Her collection was one of New England’s finest private art collections. She also gave that museum $50,000 to build a new wing, the first American municipal museum wing bearing the name of a woman patron.

She also donated the grounds of the Colt estate to the city of Hartford for use as a park and designated that the house itself be used as a home for female dependents of Episcopal clergy.

In 1997, she was inducted in the Connecticut Women's Hall Of Fame. She is buried along with her husband and children in Hartford’s historic Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Information provided by Historical Buildings of Connecticut, CT History.org, Lead-HER-Ship website, Connecticut Women's Hall Of Fame.

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