January 14: Tragedy at the Hazardville Gunpowder Mill

The community of Hazardville, Connecticut unintentionally lived up to its name on this day in 1913, when an errant spark of unknown origin caused a deadly chain reaction of four massive explosions at the Hazard Powder Company. Situated on the banks of the Scantic River in the southern half of the town of Enfield, the…

January 12: Mary Townsend Seymour, Civil Rights Champion

  Born in Hartford in 1873, lifelong civil rights activist Mary Townsend lost both her parents at the age of 15, and was adopted into the family of local black activist and Civil War veteran Lloyd Seymour. A few years later, she married one of his sons, Frederick Seymour, and the newlyweds settled in the…

January 10: Legendary Arms Maker Samuel Colt Dies at 47

  Today in 1862, gunmaker Samuel Colt died in Hartford. Though he was just 47 years old, Colt died one of the richest men in the United States. He also left a legacy of manufacturing and innovation that changed the face of Hartford, and  whose impact was felt from Connecticut to the Western American frontier…

January 6: The Inaugural Ball That Didn’t Happen

  Long known as “the Land of Steady Habits,” Connecticut is home to scores of political and cultural traditions that span generations, including many that stretch back into the colonial era. One such tradition has been the Inaugural Ball, a ceremony filled with plenty of pomp and circumstance thrown for newly elected governors by the…

January 5: Ezra Warner Invents the Can Opener

  In the early 1800s, responding to Napoleon’s request to find a more efficient way to feed his armies in the field, French inventor Nicholas Appert discovered that heating food stored in glass jars would sterilize it, keeping it safe to eat for long periods of time. Shortly thereafter, Englishman Peter Durand invented a similar…

December 31: Middletown’s Nathan Starr Arms the Nation

  As a major in the Continental Army, Nathan Starr forged and repaired weapons as part of his service during the Revolutionary War. After the war was over, Starr returned to his hometown of Middletown, Connecticut, and made a living manufacturing blades of a different sort: mostly agricultural tools like scythes for local farmers. In…

December 26: Connecticut’s “Crowbar Governor”

  One of Connecticut’s most accomplished citizens — and governors — also had one of the state’s most unusual nicknames. Morgan G. Bulkeley — Civil War veteran, financier, insurance executive, 1st president of baseball’s National League, and strong-arm politician — earned himself the nickname “the Crowbar Governor,” while serving in that office in 1891.” Bulkeley…

December 8: “The Learned Blacksmith” . . . & Pacifist

  Elihu Burritt, a self-educated lecturer who was arguably the most famous pacifist of the 19th century, was born in New Britain, Connecticut today in 1810. As the 10th  child of a shoemaker, young Elihu (rhymes with “Tell-a-Few”) was unable to devote much time to schooling; as a teenager, he apprenticed himself to a local…

November 23: Connecticut’s First African-American Civil War Regiment

  In late May of 1863, nearly six months after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that all black men and women in slave-holding Confederate states were free, the Federal government created the Bureau of Colored Troops, effectively authorizing the use of black troops throughout the Union Army. While some Northern states quickly raised their…

November 12: A Presidential Celebration Draws a Huge Crowd in Middletown

  November 12, 1909 was a momentous day for the city of Middletown, as thousands of cheering, flag-waving residents lined the streets to enjoy a day full of pomp and circumstance and an evening full of dancing and fireworks. The Hartford Courant covered every detail of the day’s festivities in a breathless, three-page spread under…

October 18: Abolitionist John Brown Captured at Harper’s Ferry

  Connecticut-born radical abolitionist John Brown was already a nationally polarizing figure by the time he staged his infamous raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859. Born in Torrington in 1800, Brown’s adult life was characterized by failed business ventures, repeated moves across the country, and an increasingly fanatical devotion to…