February 1: The Man Who Made the First Map of the United States.

  Abel Buell was a man able to do just about anything, just not very well. At various times a convicted counterfeiter, goldsmith, engraver, armsmaker, inventor, textile manufacturer, packet boat proprietor, auctioneer, privateer, mint master, mapmaker, and husband to four wives, Buel spent most of his 81 years pursuing a seemingly limitless array of schemes…

January 24: Total Eclipse Brings State to a Standstill

  In the chilly winter of 1925, Connecticut found itself in the rare and remarkable position of being the nation’s prime viewing spot for a total eclipse of the sun. All along the path of totality, which in the United States swept from Niagara Falls to Montauk Point, millions suspended their regular activities to experience…

January 12: Yale Body Snatching Triggers Week of Rioting in New Haven

  Early Monday morning,  January 12, 1824, Dr. Jonathan Knight, the first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at the not-yet-fifteen-year-old Yale School of Medicine, was visited at his home by two men: a prominent local attorney and the village constable of West Haven. They had come on official business, armed with a search warrant, to…

January 8: Eli Whitney’s Best Idea Comes Home

  Eli Whitney, who died today in 1825, is best known for his invention of the cotton gin. But Whitney also left a lasting legacy on American manufacturing and society through his creation of the first “manufacturing community” in America, the factory village in southeast Hamden still known as Whitneyville.  Whitney’s manufactory was designed not…

January 1: March 25th Is No Longer New Year’s Day

Today in 1752, Connecticans woke up to the realization that January first was, and henceforward always would be, New Year’s Day.  The year before, and for 597 years before that,  both in Old and New England,  New Year’s Day had  fallen on March 25th. Facing a year that began in mid-winter wasn’t the only calendar…

December 25: On Christmas Morning, Mark Twain Is Troubled By a Pandemic

  December 25th, 1871 found Samuel Clemens – better known as Mark Twain – far from home, lonely for his wife and son, ruminating on Christmas, and deeply worried about a pandemic. The 36-year-old author and humorist was in Chicago, in the middle of a grueling four-and-a half-month, 76-performance lecture tour that would prove one…

November 20: A Fire, A Fiery Lady & A Hungry Lion

    On November 20, 1887, fire raged through the winter quarters of Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth. The five-acre compound in what is now Bridgeport’s Went Field Park housed circus animals, staff and equipment during the chilly off-season. Unfortunately, if there was anything to be said about the nineteenth-century circus, it’s that…

November 10: Unusual Funeral Ends Connecticut’s Tong Wars

  In the late 19th century and early 20th century, as Chinese immigrants flocked to American shores in increasing numbers, insular Chinese-American communities known as “Chinatowns” sprang up in large coastal cities like San Francisco and New York. Here, recent immigrants could more freely speak their native language and observe Chinese customs while adapting to…

July 23: Abby Smith and Her Cows Go Viral –– in 1874

  Today in 1879, Abigail “Abby” Hadassah Smith, — who achieved instant national fame at  age 76 because of the way she responded to the man who took her cows —  passed away at her home in Glastonbury. Born into a prominent activist Glastonbury family, Smith and her four sisters were educated from birth to…