Colt's repeating firearms, 1851.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate from the 'Official Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of the Great Exhibition 1851'. The Great Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in May-October 1851 was conceived by Prince Albert to showcase Britain's technological achievements and demonstrate its industrial and economic superiority to the rest of the world. Amongst the exhibits were the repeating firearms devised by Samuel Colt (1814-1862). Colt's weapons revolutionised warfare as the bullets were loaded into a revolving cylinder enabling multiple shots to be fired without having to reload after each shot. Although the repeating pistol, or revolver, was initially slow to gain acceptance, the US Army ordered a large quantity in 1847, and Colt's busines boomed.