May 9: Radical Abolitionist John Brown Born in Torrington

  On this day in 1800, abolitionist John Brown was born in a humble saltbox house in Torrington, Connecticut. The fourth of eight children, Brown left Torrington at the age of five when his father moved his family to the Western Reserve of Ohio.   As a young man, Brown briefly returned to Connecticut to attend…

April 25: Winchester Takes Aim At The Rifle Industry.

  In early 1857, businessman Oliver Winchester bought a controlling interest in a struggling Connecticut firearms company from two inventors by the name of Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson (who would soon move to Massachusetts to found a second and successful eponymous firearms venture of their own).  With access to machine tools, raw materials, and…

April 1: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” 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.  Written in the popular sentimental and melodramatic style of the mid-19th century, Stowe originally envisioned her story as a brief tale that would “paint a word picture…

March 17: Connecticut Statesman and Civil War Hero Joseph Hawley Dies

  Perhaps best known as a Civil War general who served in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Siege of Petersburg, and other notable engagements, Connecticut’s Joseph R. Hawley proved to be an equally accomplished leader off the battlefield, as one of Connecticut’s foremost statesmen of the late 19th century. A graduate of Hamilton…

March 5: Abraham Lincoln Speaks in Hartford

  In early 1860, sectional tensions between the northern and southern regions of the United States were approaching the breaking point over the topic of slavery and its expansion into the western American territories.  Even though it was a crucial presidential election year, the two major political parties had yet to select their running candidates,…

March 3: Connecticut’s Joseph Hawley Heads America’s First World’s Fair

  As a country, the United States of America’s first hundred years of existence were marked by incredible growth in nearly every possible way, largely defined by the forces of westward expansion, immigration, and the Industrial Revolution it the 19th century.  As the 100th anniversary of the nation’s founding in 1876 approached, a proposal came…

February 10: “General Tom Thumb” Marries “The Queen of Beauty”

  Born in 1838 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, legendary entertainer Charles Sherwood Stratton, a.k.a. “Tom Thumb,” began touring with the internationally famous showman and fellow Connectican P. T. Barnum at the tender age of five.  Stratton had first attracted Barnum’s attention because of his unusually small size — Stratton was a dwarf who never grew taller…

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,…

January 10: Samuel Colt, Legendary Gun Manufacturer, Dies at 47

  Today in 1862, gunmaker Samuel Colt died in Hartford. Though he was only 47 years old, Colt died one of the richest men in the United States and left a legacy of manufacturing and innovation that changed the face of Hartford, Connecticut to the Western American frontier and beyond. Internationally recognized for his formative…

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”

  While the state — and colony — of Connecticut has been helmed by a number of colorful personalities over its long history, few of them can compare to the widely-accomplished Morgan G. Bulkeley: Civil War veteran, financier, insurance executive, baseball enthusiast, and strong-arm politician who earned himself the nickname “the Crowbar Governor” while in…