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…

January 25: A Building Built for the Battles to Come

  Today in 1940, nearly 3000 people came to East Hartford to go on a three-quarter mile walking tour of a brand new two-million-dollar factory expansion at the Pratt and Whitney Aircraft company. The 280,000 square foot expansion, for which planning had begun the previous February and ground had been broken and construction started only four…

January 24: A. C. Gilbert, the Greatest Generation’s Toymaker

Today in 1961, A. C. “A. Co.” Gilbert, the man whose hands-on-learning toys were the foundation of the American toy industry during the first half of the twentieth century, died at age 76. A gifted athlete and pole-vaulting gold medalist at the 1908 London Olympics, Gilbert was also a talented illusionist who financed his Yale…

November 28: State Librarian Rewrites the Book.

  Today in 1900, Granby native George Seymour Godard was appointed Connecticut’s third State Librarian. The hand-picked choice of his predecessor Charles J. Hoadley, who had died the month before, Godard served as State Librarian for 35 years.  He radically expanded the mission of the state library system, making  it a nationally and internationally acclaimed…

November 19: The International Silver Company Founded in Meriden

  Today in 1898, the International Silver Company, one of Connecticut’s most famous and globally-recognized brands, was formally incorporated in Meriden. The central Connecticut city had already established a national reputation as a leading producer of silver and silver-plated goods by the late 19th century, earning it the nickname “the Silver City.” By 1898, over…

November 18: Samuel Colt’s Murderous Brother John Cheats the Hangman

  Today in 1842, hours after he had married his beautiful mistress and moments before he was to be hanged for murder, gunmaker Samuel Colt’s brother John took his own life with  a six-inch-long Bowie knife in a New York City prison cell. In doing so, he cheated the “sweating, swearing mob” of  400 invited…