October 21: Connecticans Celebrate 400th Anniversary of Columbus’ Arrival

  At a time when immigrants – many from Italy – were pouring into America in numbers that seriously alarmed the “old stock” descendants of the original Puritan settlers, the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s even-then-disputed “discovery” of America proved an ideal time for Connecticans to assess the contributions of newcomers while expressing a common patriotism.  So,…

October 20: Commemorating Thomas Hooker, Founder of Hartford

  On October 20, 1950, a crowd of several hundred Connecticans gathered in front of the Old State House in Hartford to observe the unveiling of a new, eight-foot-tall statue of Thomas Hooker, the Puritan minister and “founding father” of Connecticut who founded the settlement of Hartford in 1636. Born in England in 1586, Thomas…

October 19: Meriden’s “Perfect” Silver Wins First Place

  Today in 1876, the craftsmanship of the silver pieces produced by the Meriden Britannia Company of Meriden, Connecticut found itself in the national spotlight after the New York Times published a glowing write-up of the company’s wares at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.  Noting the “peculiar excellence” of both the company’s highly detailed figural…

October 18: Abolitionist John Brown Captured at Harper’s Ferry

  Connecticut-born radical abolitionist John Brown was already a nationally polarizing figure by the time he staged his infamous raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859.  Born in Torrington in 1800, Brown’s adult life was characterized by failed business ventures, repeated moves across the country, and an increasingly fanatical devotion to…

October 17: Jupiter Hammon, First Published African-American Writer

  Jupiter Hammon, an enslaved man, poet, and devout Christian who became the first published African-American writer, was born on this day in 1711 on the Lloyd family estate on Long Island.   While little is known about the finer details of Hammon’s life, as a boy, young Jupiter was educated alongside the Lloyd family’s…

October 16: Ebenezer Bassett, America’s First African-American Diplomat

  On this day in 1833, Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born near Litchfield, Connecticut to free black parents who held prominent roles in Connecticut’s free black community.  Bassett’s father was a businessman who had served as one of Connecticut’s Black Governors — an honorary leadership role in the state’s black community — and his…

October 15: From Connecticut Governor to Russian Ambassador

  On this day in 1853, Thomas H. Seymour, one of Connecticut’s most accomplished — and controversial — 19th century politicians, resigned his role as Governor in order to accept his nomination by President Franklin Pierce to become the United States’ next minister to Russia.  It was the latest in a long list of prestigious…

October 14: Hartford Shuts Down Over Influenza Fears

  Today in 1918, as a deadly and highly contagious strain of influenza spread throughout Connecticut, Hartford city leaders considered drastic action in order to minimize further public exposure.  To many Americans, the global Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 – 1919 was arguably just as — if not more — terrifying than the First World…

October 13: The Modern-Day “Lolly Pop” is Born in New Haven

  From world-famous pizza to what is likely the world’s first hamburger, the city of New Haven is home to a remarkable amount of American food history.   Among the city’s lesser-known — but no less notable — food-related firsts was the invention of the modern-day lollipop. In 1908, George P. Smith of New Haven’s Bradley…

October 11: Polar Explorer Richard Byrd Tours Connecticut

  In the 1920s and 1930s, few real-life figures captured the American imagination like Richard E. Byrd, the dashing Navy hero and polar explorer who gained international fame after becoming the first man to fly over the North and South poles.  After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and serving with distinction as a Navy…

October 10: “Father of American Civil Engineering” Born in Wethersfield

  Benjamin Wright, the chief engineer behind some of the most famous civil engineering projects in United States history — including the Erie Canal — was born to Grace and Ebenezer Wright of Wethersfield on this day in 1770.   Ebenezer’s accumulated debts had forced young Benjamin to forego most of his formal schooling to take…