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…

December 8: “The Learned Blacksmith”

  Elihu Burritt, a self-educated lecturer who was arguably the most famous pacifist of the 19th century, was born in New Britain, Connecticut on this day in 1810.  As the tenth 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…

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…

October 16: Ebenezer Bassett, America’s First African-American Diplomat

  On this day in 1833, Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born near Litchfield, Connecticut to free black parents who held prominent roles in Connecticut’s free black community.  Bassett’s father was a businessman who had served as one of Connecticut’s Black Governors — an honorary leadership role in the state’s black community — and his…

October 15: From Connecticut Governor to Russian Ambassador

  On this day in 1853, Thomas H. Seymour, one of Connecticut’s most accomplished — and controversial — 19th century politicians, resigned his role as Governor in order to accept his nomination by President Franklin Pierce to become the United States’ next minister to Russia.  It was the latest in a long list of prestigious…

September 25: Remembering the Civil War’s Pivotal “Petersburg Express”

  The Siege of Petersburg was one of the most significant military campaigns of the final year of the Civil War.  From June 1864 to March 1865, Union troops continuously besieged and harassed the Confederate railroad hub city of Petersburg, Virginia and surrounding environs in hopes of depleting both the Confederate Army and its nearby…