Kathleen J. Hoyt
44 Years at Colt’s, 1965-2009
Colt Historian, 1988-2009
~ February 29, 2012 ~
For decades Kathy Hoyt helped innumerable writers and collectors in their research on Colt firearms. When the sad news of Kathy’s death reached this writer, it was from her collaborator on The Official Record of the Colt Single Action Army Revolver 1873-1895, Carol Wilkerson. Carol and her late husband Don, and myself, were among the luckiest to know Kathy, since we were in touch with her on so many occasions, over the years.
Kathy having played such a key role in the 1993 and 2008 editions of The Book of Colt Firearms, as well as in its companion volume, The Blue Book Pocket Guide for Colt’s Dates of Manufacture, Steve Fjestad asked that I pen a tribute to her memory. When that was completed, on mentioning that Blue Book Publications would post this on their blog, Anne Brockinton Lee and Bob Lee requested that a version of this blog be posted on that of Yellowstone Press.
Kathy had been extremely helpful in our 600-page, two volume work, Magnificent Colts™ Selections from the Robert M. Lee Collection – so much so that her business card is published in the book, as well as photographs of her in the accompanying DVD. We will treasure the time we spent with her and with husband Dave, not only at Colt’s in June 2009, but during a memorable lunch that day at their favorite nearby pub. The photographs enclosed show us in the Colt boardroom, with Kathy proudly holding her stunning new book, and with General William Keys and Bob and Anne Brockinton Lee together. Another photo shows Kathy and Dave Hoyt together, only weeks before her retirement.
These images were taken by Douglas Sandberg, who accompanied the Lees and I on that two week tour throughout Coltsville and other Colt sites in Hartford, the Tony Galazan Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Co., Douglas Donnelly’s USFA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Department of Arms and Armor, the S & W factory and the home of Roy and Jean Jinks, the Paterson Museum and the nearby Colt factory ruins, and visiting with Colt Chairman Donald Zilkha, preparatory to his preface to Magnificent Colts™.
and is also available on their website.
Honored as the first woman to be appointed as historian for any American gunmaker, Kathleen J. Hoyt not only knew her subject thoroughly, but came from three generations of Colt employees, including her father, her grandfather, and two brothers. This exceptional history of service was recognized in the Colt company’s memorial tribute,
Kathy had 44 years of a rich and remarkable history with Colt’s. Her grandfather, Martin Guinan and her father, Frank retired from Colt after each working 32 years. Her brothers, Tom and Fran contributed 32 years for a family total of 140 years.
Joining Colt’s in 1965, Kathy became secretary and assistant to Al deJohn, in the department soon to be known as the Custom Shop. As Manager, Al deJohn often remarked on how fortunate Colt’s was to have Kathy Guinan as his valued assistant. The successful evolution of the Custom Shop owed a great deal to Al and to Kathy, a formidable team.
Born in Hartford, and a graduate of Northwest Catholic High School, West Hartford (class of 1965), Kathy furthered her studies at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. There was never any doubt in Kathy’s mind that the venerated Colt company was the place where she would carve out her career, part of the team who make the legendary firearms universally recognized as “The Blue Chips of Gun Collecting.”
In 1988, Kathy succeeded Marty Huber as Historian, who in turn had been successor to Ron Wagner. The hallowed significance of the original Colt factory shipping ledgers has played a role in each Historian’s position of rank and respect within the firearms community. The title of Colt Historian dates back to over a century, with the original holder of that position – then also known as Curator of the Colt Museum – Arthur L. Ulrich.
Not only did Kathy continue the traditions of her predecessors, she collaborated with Don and Carol Wilkerson in creating a masterpiece of research and writing: The Official Record of the Colt Single Action Army Revolver 1873-1895. That unique work of reference was published at the time of Kathy’s retirement, in 2009, and is a significant part of her legacy at Colt’s.
Further, Kathy had assisted innumerable writers over the years in their articles and books. She had also been helpful to an array of students, historians, and collectors in answering their endless inquiries. With her many connections to past employees, and her networking with other historians and researchers, Kathy proved relentless in getting answers, including for increasing numbers of television directors, producers and “talking heads.”
As Historian there was never a time when Kathy wasn’t eager to be helpful. Over the years Kathy had become the best known of all employees at the Colt factory. But she was also fortunate in having her husband Dave, himself keen on firearms, employed at the company, presently as Sr. Systems Analyst IT Department. It was always a pleasure to see them whether at the factory, at a gun show like those of Wallace Beinfeld in Las Vegas, or at their favorite restaurants near the Colt factory.
Having joined Colt’s in April 1964, as a management trainee, the writer had the pleasure of meeting Kathy when she was hired at the company in 1965. Over the years there were many opportunities to watch her career evolve. And when writing my 2003 book, Silk and Steel Women at Arms, Kathy was a perfect choice to be featured. To quote from page 133, on the subject of male chauvinism:
On many occasions I would be told by callers that they did not want to talk to a woman and to put a man on the phone! As time progressed and especially with repeat customers they began to recognize that I would not make a promise I could not keep and they began to trust me, and eventually to seek me out…
The two-page Silk and Steel tribute to Kathy covered many aspects of her decades at Colt’s, including:
[Kathy] has appeared in the History Channel series Tales of the Gun, and coordinates Colt’s contacts with the several arms collectors associations, both around the country and worldwide. She has assisted in research work for the National Firearms Museum, and served on the Committee for the Preservation of the Rampant Colt Statue, now housed at the Raymond Baldwin Museum of Connecticut History…
Kathy was especially proud of her key role as a founding director of the Elizabeth Colt Legacy Foundation. She took an active part in this organization and had been inspired by Mrs. Colt’s civic and business leadership and many kindnesses.
All who knew Kathy appreciated her diligence and dedication, her knowledge and experience, and her loyalty and friendship. The collecting fraternity, the company and Kathy are pleased with Kathy’s successor – Beverly Jean Haynes – who was not only selected for the position, but trained by Kathy. Both ladies had worked together for years, with Beverly previously holding the title of Archivist. It is Beverly who continues to carry on the tradition of all of the company’s historians to date: A.L. Ulrich, Harold Hart, Charles H. Coles, Ronald Wagner, Martin Huber and Kathleen J. Hoyt.
Truly there is no more important source of information on Colt arms than the factory’s own records – Mecca to all. We were fortunate for 21 years to have Kathy Hoyt in charge of maintaining those records, and making the contents available to collectors and historians the world over.
As we bid Kathy a fond farewell, we will treasure her in our memories forever as our beloved ally in collecting, researching and writing on the magical world of Colonel Colt, the company he founded, and their firearms, venerated for their artistry and craftsmanship, history, mechanics, and romance.
March 5th 2012