April 5: P.T. Barnum Elected Mayor of Bridgeport – Not His Greatest Show

  Today in 1875, Phineas T. Barnum was elected Mayor of Bridgeport, at the age of 64. Though internationally acclaimed as an entertainment impresario and well respected as a politician at the state level, Barnum’s short mayoral tenure was not the greatest showing for a man still remembered as one of America’s most successful entertainers,…

April 3: The Sewing Machine Patent Wars

  Inventor and longtime Connecticut resident Elias Howe Jr. may not have invented the first sewing machine, but he was the first person to obtain a U.S. patent for one in 1846. Howe’s success in patenting his novel “lockstitch” sewing machine, which was the first to feature the automatic thread feed that remains a crucial…

April 1: Litchfield-born Author’s Newspaper Story Takes America By Storm

  On this day in 1852, the final installment of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in The National Era, a weekly abolitionist newspaper. Stowe originally envisioned her story, written in the popular sentimental and melodramatic style of her day, as a brief tale that would “paint a word picture of…

March 29: Catholic Immigrants Unite to Protect & Support Each Other, & America

  Late-19th century Connecticut was marked by the growing prevalence of fraternal benefit societies, hostility toward a recent influx of Catholic immigrants from Europe, and dangerous working conditions in factories that left many families fatherless. In response to these societal pressures, Father Michael J. McGivney, the 29-year-old Irish immigrant and assistant pastor of St. Mary’s…

March 27: Dam Bursts in Staffordville Cause Cascading Chaos

  During the second half of the 19th century, as more and more mills and factories popped up along the banks of the Willimantic River’s northern branch in eastern Connecticut, a number of factory owners banded together to form the Stafford (or Staffordville) Reservoir Company with the aim of regulating the flow of water that…

March 24: Joel Barlow, Hartford Wit and American Diplomat

  Joel Barlow, American poet and one of Connecticut’s most ambitious — albeit not always successful — learned men of the late 18th century, was born on this day in 1754 in the western Connecticut town of Redding. As a member of the Yale class of 1778, the bright young man found himself surrounded by…

March 22: Seeing Connecticut in a Completely Different Light

  Today in 1816, master American artist and internationally acclaimed landscape painter John Frederick Kensett was born in Cheshire, Connecticut to Thomas Kensett, an English-born engraver, and Elizabeth Daggett Kensett, his Connecticut-born wife. Displaying an early aptitude for art, John was working in his father’s engraving studio by age 12, honing his keen eye for…

March 17: Connecticut’s Forgotten Civil War Hero, Statesman, and Patriot.

  A Civil War general who served in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Siege of Petersburg, and other notable campaigns, Connecticut’s Joseph R. Hawley was, during his lifetime, one of Connecticut’s most distinguished and celebrated citizens. A graduate of Hamilton College in New York, Hawley had a gift for both writing and public…

March 14: Eli Whitney Patents the Machine He Thought Would Help End Slavery.

  Today in 1794, Eli Whitney, one of Connecticut’s most influential inventors, received a patent for the Cotton Gin, a machine that revolutionized cotton production by optimizing the laborious task of cleaning seeds from raw cotton bolls. Born in Massachusetts in 1765, Eli had exhibited both interest in, and talent at, manufacturing early in life,…

March 12: The “Great White Hurricane” Paralyzes Connecticut.

  When snow started falling across the state in the early hours of March 12, 1888, Connecticut residents thought nothing of it. It wasn’t unusual to have light to moderate snowfall in early March, and the forecast for that day called for “fair weather, followed by rain.” Later that morning, amid moderate snowfall, most Connecticans…

March 9: The Man Who Put the Iron in “Old Ironsides”

  Today in 1798, 25-year-old Isaac Hull, who was destined to become one of the United States’ most famous heroes of the War of 1812, began his distinguished career in the Navy after accepting a commission as a 4th Lieutenant aboard the U.S. frigate Constitution. Born in 1773 in Derby, Connecticut, young Isaac was raised…