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  • Writer's pictureT. Logan Metesh

Sam Colt's Laughing Gas

Updated: Apr 30

"Dr. Coult of New York, London and Calcutta"

That's how the up-and-coming firearm inventor billed himself while exhibiting the effects of nitrous oxide in the 1830s. Traveling the country as a "practiced chemist," Colt used the nitrous demonstrations as a way to raise money for the development of his firearms.

In October 1833, an ad appeared in an Albany, NY newspaper announcing Colt's upcoming demonstration at the Albany Museum. The advertised effects of the laughing gas were said to include laughter, singing, dancing, and a "propensity [for] muscular exertion, such as wrestling, boxing, &c." Admission to the limited engagement - three nights only! - was 25 cents.

Samuel Colt, Sam Colt, Colt
Samuel Colt

The 19th century was a different time, to be sure. Claiming to be a doctor while holding no such credentials was risky, but not nearly as risky as it is today. As for the inventive spelling of his last name? Perhaps it was to make him sound more worldly - after all, he did claim to hail from three different continents!

Colt, factory, connecticut
Colt's factory in Connecticut, 1850s.

In the end, it all paid off. Colt eventually hung up his lab coat, took down his medical degree, simplified his spelling, and pursued the endeavor that would make him a household name.

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