The story goes that when working on a sailing ship as a boy of seventeen, the young Samual Colt noticed how the ships wheel was locked into a selected position. This concept somehow fit with the idea of a cylinder with multiple chambers that lined up with the barrel of a handgun. He carved a wooden cylinder, and later built a revolver around it.
When he returned home, he worked for several years on the design of the revolver, and got a patent in 1836. He convinced some financial backers of the potential of the idea, and started a factory in Patterson, New Jersey. The patent figures are shown below.
This gun became known as the Patterson Colt, and had some unique features besides the rotating cylinder. Colt devised caps that go outside the cylinders and send a spark through a tube into each firing cartridge. The caps have a cover to protect them from the elements. A pin connected to the hammer locks the cylinder in place. Thus, when the hammer is pulled back, the next cylinder is locked in place.
The Patterson Colt was a huge hit with a few people, but not enough to keep the company in business. The factory closed its doors in 1942. Some sales of the gun were to the Texas Rangers, which adopted the Patterson Colt as their regular issue firearm.
The gun was reloaded by placing black powder in each chamber, placing a round bullet in each chamber, then using the built in ram lever to press the bullet down the chamber. Then new caps would be placed on the back side of each cylinder. Although a nightmare to reload compared to cartridge guns, it sure beat a single shooter! The Patterson Colt became beloved by the Texas Rangers after saving Ranger's necks in several skirmishes with Indians.