Sam Colt Let His Brother Die In Jail To Keep His Teenage Wife A Secret
Samuel Colt's brother John was a prominent New York accounting expert and former riverboat gambler. Did you already guess that this story involves New Orleans? You must be psychic.
John also had a bit of a temper, highlighted in 1841 when he hacked a printer to bits with a hatchet. Now, everyone who ever had to deal with a printer can relate to that frustration, except that in John's case, the printer was a human being named Sam Adams. After the murder, John hid Adams' body in a crate full of salt and tried to have it shipped to New Orleans. But the Crescent City never got its shipment of salted Sam, as the body was discovered before the ship left port.
Charles SuttonSure, make room for the small child to get a good look at a salt-packed corpse. Great parenting, 19th century.
Despite a team of high-priced lawyers (paid with stock in Sam's fledgling gun company), John didn't stand a chance. The jury was quickly convinced that John was a man of ill repute, especially after they found out he had a pregnant teenage mistress, Caroline Henshaw. John was found extremely guilty and sentenced to hang. His last request: to marry Caroline and make her Mrs. Colt. Except that there was no need. She was already Mrs. Colt, as she had married Samuel years before.
Before Caroline was John's girlfriend, she was Sam Colt's wife -- and the child she was pregnant with was in fact the son of Sam. Colt had met and married the 16-year-old on a trip to Europe, but in order to keep his Vegas-style wedding and extramarital child from harming his social standing, he handed her off to John and pretended she never existed. John, both a cheat and a murderer, was somehow still the more honorable of the Colt brothers, so he kept up the lie even when it was used to help get him a death sentence.
After the wedding, John was found dead in his cell, having apparently stabbed himself in the heart with a knife smuggled in by one of the wedding guests (we wonder who), creating one more scandal to divert attention from his famous brother. After John's demise, Caroline and her child were shipped off back to Europe. For the rest of his life, Sam referred to his son as his "nephew" -- as in, he literally put quotation marks around the word every time he wrote it. Thanks to his brother, he managed to take this secret to the grave, but only barely. Right after his death, the young Samuel Colt Jr. (shouldn't the name have given it away?) arrived in the U.S., showed everyone his parents' European marriage certificate, and claimed his massive part of the Colt fortune.