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 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…

May 9: The Rural Roots of the Controversial Abolitionist John Brown.

  Today in 1800, the abolitionist John Brown was born in a humble saltbox house on a farm in Torrington, Connecticut. One of the most controversial figures in United States antebellum history, Brown was, and still is, a polarizing figure. Some see him as a social justice visionary, prepared to do whatever was needed to…

April 25: Oliver Winchester Aims for Success in The Rifle Industry.

    In early 1857, businessman Oliver Winchester bought controlling interest in a struggling Connecticut firearms company from two inventors named Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson. With access to machine tools, raw materials, and a number of valuable patents — especially rights to the Henry Repeating Rifle, the world’s first multiple-round-firing longarm — Winchester formed…

April 16: Frederick Douglass & Social Media in Hartford, 1864

    Carte-de-visite photographs were the hot social media of the mid-nineteenth century. These small portrait photographs, mounted on cards, were some of the first such images to be commercially reproduced, and they created a craze for collectible photographs. People collected carte-de-visite portraits of family, friends and celebrities and then mounted them in photograph albums….

March 17: A Forgotten Civil War Hero, Statesman, and Patriot.

  A Civil War general who served in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Siege of Petersburg, and other notable campaigns, Connecticut’s Joseph R. Hawley was, during his lifetime, one of Connecticut’s most distinguished and celebrated citizens. A graduate of Hamilton College in New York, Hawley had a gift for both writing and public…

March 5: Abraham Lincoln “Wakes Up” Hartford

  Today in 1860, sectional tensions over slavery and its expansion into the country’s newly formed states and territories was nearing the breaking point. It was a crucial election year, and members of the nation’s political parties were actively trying to decide who would be their standard bearers in the upcoming presidential campaign. For the…

March 3: The Connecticut Man Who Helped America Strut Her Stuff

  The United States of America’s first century was marked by incredible growth in nearly every possible way, propelled by the forces of westward expansion, immigration, and the Industrial Revolution. As the 100th anniversary of the nation’s 1776 founding approached, a proposal came before Congress to celebrate America’s emergence as one of the world’s great…