February 26: The Rise and Fall of Manchester’s Silk Industry

  Of all the many factories and diverse industries that sprang up across Connecticut during the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, one of the longest lasting was the silk-spinning industry, which coalesced around the Cheney Brothers silk mills in Manchester. Opening their first silk-processing mill in 1838, the Cheney brothers sought to capitalize…

February 25: Samuel Colt Finally Gets His Shot at Success.

  Today in 1836, Hartford inventor Samuel Colt — after being expelled from school, sailing the seas, and touring as a showman demonstrating the unusual effects of nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas” –received a U.S. patent for the first revolving chamber percussion pistol. This was a dramatically new type of firearm, which would revolutionize the…

February 23: Connecticut Openly Defies a Hated President

  In the early 19th century, Thomas Jefferson, who was elected to two consecutive terms as President of the United States, proved to be a constant thorn in the side of Connecticut’s political leaders. Virtually all the members of Connecticut’s political “Standing Order” were staunch Federalists who vehemently disagreed with Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican political agenda and…

February 22: The Great Ice Storm of 1898

  February 22, 1898 marked the third and final day of one of the worst ice storms ever seen in Connecticut. It was a storm for the ages, that decimated the northwest corner of the state not even ten years after it reeled from the infamous Blizzard of 1888. While the storm brought rain to…

February 21: The World’s First Telephone Directory

  Thanks to Connecticut inventor and innovator George Coy, the city of New Haven can lay claim to a number of “firsts” related to the early development of the telephone. Within two years after Alexander Graham Bell first patented the revolutionary communication device, Coy and his company had implemented a number of innovations — like…

February 20: Patriotic Connecticut Women Organize For “God, Home, and Country”

  Following the centennial of American Independence in 1876, numerous civic organizations and heritage societies sprang up across the United States in response to increased national interest in early American history. In many cases, however, civically inclined women met with frustration when they were barred from joining prominent clubs founded by men. In 1890, after…

February 18: The Wiffle Ball Hits It Out of the Park

  One summer evening in 1953, David N. Mullany, a father, former college baseball player, and recently laid off salesman, was watching his son attempt to play baseball with his friends in the backyard of their Fairfield, Connecticut home when a curious idea came to him. The boys were playing with a broomstick and perforated…

February 17: A Great Hope for Hawaii Dies in Cornwall

  When 25-year-old Henry Opukahaia first set foot in the town of Cornwall, Connecticut in 1817, he carried on his shoulders the far-reaching hopes and dreams of some of Connecticut’s most powerful religious leaders. The charismatic young man, one of the first native Hawaiians to convert to Christianity, was also one of the first students…

February 16: A Founding Father Becomes a Mayor

  In the midst of the American Revolution, one of the most chaotic and turbulent times in the nation’s history, it seems fitting that one of the most even-tempered and widely trusted statesmen would hail from the Land of Steady Habits. That statesman was Roger Sherman, and even though he was a reluctant public speaker,…

February 15: These Congressmen Fought with More Than Words

On February 15, 1798, a weeks-long spat between two fiery politicians turned violent when Connecticut Representative Roger Griswold walked up to Matthew Lyon of Vermont and, on the floor of Congress, began viciously attacking him with his walking stick. Without a moment’s hesitation, Lyon grabbed a nearby pair of iron fireplace tongs and began defending…

February 14: Survivor of A Great Industrial Meltdown

  In the rural town of East Canaan, along the banks of the Blackberry River, there stands a curious rectangular tower. It is constructed of massive slabs of marble and reaches 40 feet high, with walls 30 feet wide at its base. The isolated tower is the last surviving example of the 19th century blast…