January 31: A Double Dam Disaster Devastates Danbury

  In 1860, residents living in Danbury, Connecticut banded together to build a large, earthen dam to create a reservoir that would provide a steady water supply for the town’s steadily-increasing population and burgeoning factories.  A few years later, they built a second dam about a mile downriver, and the structures became known as the…

January 30: The Most Successful Rescue Operation in U.S. Military History

  Today  in 1945, Bridgeport native Lt. Col. Henry Mucci led a coalition of U.S. Rangers and Filipino allies in a daring raid deep into heavily occupied enemy territory to rescue over 500 Allied prisoners of war from a Japanese concentration camp. The mission, known as the Raid on Cabanatuan or simply “The Great Raid,”…

January 29: The Clock Stops for Seth Thomas

  While Connecticut has been home to many of the greatest names in American clock manufacturing, few have achieved more household recognition than Seth Thomas, whose name is emblazoned on countless clock faces throughout the world. Born in Wolcott, Connecticut in 1785, young Seth received little formal education, instead gaining hands-on experience, as a teenage…

January 28: The Man Who Connected People to the Telephone

  In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a U.S. Patent for the first practical telephone design, ushering in one of the most revolutionary devices of the late 19th century. The earliest telephones, however, were extremely limited: they allowed for communication between two receivers, but only if they were directly connected by a single wire. It…

January 27: His Idea of Closing Churches Didn’t Have a Prayer

  Willard C. Fisher was one of a handful of early 20th century professors at Middletown’s Wesleyan University who gained national recognition — although in his case through controversy, not his economics lectures. Professor Fisher was a strong-willed man who never hesitated to voice his opinions, regardless of whose sensibilities he might offend. But he…

January 25: A Breath-Taking Building Built for 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…

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

January 23: A Pie in the Sky Idea Takes Off

  In 1871, a Civil War veteran and baker by the name of William Russell Frisbie opened the Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He later built a large factory on the city’s east side to accommodate the growing demand for his pastries. Little did this simple but successful pieman know that one day, several…

January 21: Launching the World’s First Nuclear Submarine

  On January 21, 1954, hundreds of spectators, including General Dynamics employees, military brass, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, and scores of reporters gathered along the banks of the ThamesRiver to witness a momentous occasion. At 10:57a.m., the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, slid off a dry dock at General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut,…

January 20:The Wartime Plane Crash That Named an Airport

  At the start of 1941, though the United States had not yet formally entered World War II, the U.S. military was anxious to shore up defenses along the eastern seaboard, which some considered a vulnerable target for a German attack. Early in the year, the Connecticut General Assembly approved the purchase of 1,700 acres…

January 19: Connecticut’s First African-American Woman Pharmacist

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of 11 children born to Willis James, a former slave who had successfully escaped from a Virginia plantation via the Underground Railroad. As a child, Anna’s family moved from Hartford to Old Saybrook, where she graduated high school and, as…