July 9: A Hard Overnight Freeze in “The Year Without a Summer”

  The winters of the early 19th century — the last decades of the “Little Ice Age” that chilled North America and Europe for over five centuries (1300-1850) — were among the coldest in Connecticut’s recorded history. Salt-water harbors froze over months at a time, and blizzards regularly dumped several feet of snow on the…

July 5: Connecticut’s Other (for 177 Years) State Capitol

  From 1701 through 1878, the Colony (and later State) of Connecticut had not one, but two capital cities: Hartford and New Haven. During these 177 years of shared governance, each co-capital built a series of State Houses to host the Connecticut General Assembly, which would meet in Hartford and New Haven on alternating years….

July 4: A Waterway to Prosperity

On July 4, 1825, thousands of Connecticans, surrounding a canal-boat-on-wheels specially created for the occasion, gathered at Salmon Brook Village in Granby for ground-breaking on what was then the largest transportation project in Connecticut history – the Farmington Canal. Governor Oliver Wolcott spoke briefly before digging the ceremonial first shovel of dirt, officially kicking off…

July 2: Connecticut Refuses to Fight for the United States

  It would be a gross understatement to say that the War of 1812 was unpopular in Connecticut. As a region, New England was fiercely opposed to the War of 1812, which the Yankees collectively viewed as a frivolous and economically disastrous war waged by President James Madison against the British Empire. But Connecticut took…

June 27: Prudence Crandall Arrested & Jailed

  In 1831, Prudence Crandall, with the support and approval of the local citizenry, opened the Canterbury Female Boarding School to educate daughters of wealthy Eastern Connecticut families. After a successful inaugural year, Crandall received a request from 20-year-old Sarah Harris, the daughter of a prosperous free African-American farmer and his wife, to attend the…

June 26: Science and Embroidery Unite in Litchfield

  Today in 1767, education pioneer Sarah Pierce was born in Litchfield. Her father died when Sarah was a teenager, and as a result, the family was financially pressed. In response, Sarah’s brother sent her to New York to learn to be a teacher. Having acquired that ability, he thought, she would be able to…

June 24: Born to Fame, and Scandal — Celebrity Minister Henry Ward Beecher

  Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most famous and influential — but also controversial — preachers and orators of 19th-century America, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, today in 1813. Henry was one of several literary giants of the extended Beecher family: his father Lyman was also a notable preacher; his sister Harriet found international…

June 22: Cherokee Leader Elias Boudinot Assassinated

The Cherokee leader Elias Boudinot first came to Connecticut in the 1820s to seek a formal western education at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall. Born as Gallegina Uwati into a prominent Cherokee family in 1802, he was sent north with the permission of tribal elders in hopes that his western education would help the…

June 8: The Man Whose Songs the Soldiers Sang Dies in Hartford

  Henry Clay Work, one of the most popular songwriters of the Civil War era, died today in 1884 at age 51, while in Hartford visiting his mother. Work, who composed such still-sung songs as “Marching Through Georgia” and “Kingdom Coming” (you know the tune), was born in Middletown in 1832 into an activist family…

June 1: America’s First Public Art Museum

Today in 1842, Connecticut governor Chauncey Cleveland signed an act formally incorporating the Wadsworth Atheneum, creating the first public art museum in the United States. Construction immediately began on the iconic, castle-like building in Hartford that remains the centerpiece and most recognizable feature of the Atheneum campus, and the institution officially opened two years later,…

May 27: Organizing the Fight Against a Deadly Enemy

  From the earliest days of Connecticut history, fire posed one of the greatest mortal dangers to Connecticut residents — especially to the English settlers whose homes, barns, fences, and other structures were made of timber and often clustered closely together. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, before the advent of portable water pumps,…