March 14: Eli Whitney Patents the Cotton Gin

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

October 4: The Great Danbury Fair, 1821 – 1981

  Today, when it comes to annual autumn fair traditions, Connecticans have plenty of options to choose from, with dozens of local fairs held within the state and “The Big E” Eastern States Exposition located just over the Massachusetts border in West Springfield.  For over 110 years, however, the Danbury Fair was the biggest agricultural…

September 28: The Seed That Became UCONN Planted at Mansfield

    On this day in 1881, the small agricultural school that would later become the state of Connecticut’s flagship university held its first classes in a former orphanage building located in Mansfield.  The Storrs Agricultural School, consisting of just three faculty members and thirteen students when it first opened, offered young men the opportunity…

September 20: Establishing Connecticut’s Presence at the Big E

  One of the most enduring and beloved examples of New England regionalism is the annual Eastern States Exposition fair, colloquially known as “The Big E.”  Whereas most other states in the U.S. feature their own state fairs in the summer or fall seasons, the Big E represents all six New England states in one…

July 9: “The Year Without a Summer”

  The winters of the early 19th century — the last decades of what the “Little Ice Age” that chilled North America and Europe for centuries — were among the coldest in Connecticut’s recorded history, with salt-water harbors freezing over on a regular basis and blizzards that regularly dumped several feet of snow on the…

April 16: The Grange Movement in Connecticut

  As the United States grew exponentially in size and population over the course of the 19th century, formal social groups and fraternal societies of all kinds sprang up across the country with missions that encompassed lofty themes of patriotism, industry, fellowship, and civic service.  The National Grange of Patrons of Husbandry was one such…

April 10: David Humphreys Brings Merino Sheep to the U.S.

  Have a merino wool scarf or sweater that you absolutely love? You can likely thank Connecticut native David Humphreys for that. David Humphreys, born in Derby in 1752, was one of the most accomplished Connecticut men of the Early Republic.  A Yale graduate, he served under General Israel Putnam in the Revolutionary War and,…