August 20: Connecticut Inventor Breaks the Rule of Wind Over Water

  During the Age of Sail, all people who traveled by water did so at the mercy of wind and tide. Too little wind, or wind from the wrong direction, brought delay or disruption to the best-laid plans. Too much wind brought danger, and sometimes even death and destruction. No trip was predictable. When it…

August 19: Back-to-Back Hurricanes Cause Catastrophic Statewide Flooding

  Today in 1955, torrential rains from Hurricane Diane — the second hurricane to hit Connecticut in five days — wreaked flood-borne death and devastation across the state. After Hurricane Connie dumped six inches of water on Connecticut earlier in the week, the 14 – 20 additional inches of rain from Diane proved too much…

August 18: Connecticut Man with a Rifle Enters Lincoln’s Office

  It would be easy to hold up Connecticut inventor Christopher Miner Spencer as an archetype of 19th century Yankee ingenuity: Not only was he a man who spent his whole life tinkering with machinery, filing patents, and aggressively marketing his creations, but as with so many other Connecticut inventors, his innovations changed the course…

August 17: Catherine Flanagan’s Two (Very Different) Trips To Washington

  Today in 1917, 28-year-old Connecticut activist and women’s suffrage advocate Catherine Flanagan was arrested for picketing in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. Flanagan and a small group of fellow suffragists had been picketing for 12 days in the same location, carrying a variety of banners bedecked in purple and gold (the…

August 16: The Bar Unbarred — Connecticut’s First Woman Lawyer

  Today in 1843, Mary Hall was born in Marlborough, Connecticut. Growing up on a farm in antebellum America, when high Victorian culture placed an increasingly stringent emphasis on female domesticity, made her perhaps one of the most unlikely candidates to defy gender norms and become the first woman in Connecticut to be admitted to…

August 15: How Do You Celebrate A Century of Suntans and Sojourns?

On August 15, 2013, the Connecticut State Parks system celebrated its centennial by launching a Summer Outdoor “Sojourn” (a portmanteau of “Summer Outdoor Journey”) that linked the northeast and southwest corners of the state in a single, 195-mile journey. The Sojourn began in Quaddick State Park in Thompson and ended in Sherwood Island State Park…

August 14: Gustave Whitehead Flies, Making Two Wrights Wrong

  Today in 1901, one of the most controversial events in aviation history took place in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Inventor Gustave Whitehead executed a half-mile-long flight in his Flying Machine No. 21 at a height of 50 feet off the ground — over two years before the Wright Brothers made their much more famous flight at…

August 13: A Trusted Patriot Defects to the Redcoats

  During the eight long years of the Revolutionary War, both British and American commanders employed creative and dangerous tactics in the attempt to gather military intelligence that could give their armies a battlefield advantage. One common but highly risky method of obtaining such intelligence was to have a soldier pretend to “defect” to the…

August 12: Gidget Born in Bridgeport

  Today in Connecticut history, actress Deborah Walley was born in Bridgeport in 1941. With nationally famous ice skaters and choreographers Edith and Nathan Walley as her parents, young Deborah caught the show business bug at an early age, performing on the ice with her parents for the first time at the age of three….

August 11: A Piano Maker’s Play to Cut Insurance Rates Nets Him Millions

  As the Industrial Revolution transformed American market towns into industrial cities during the 19th century, the risk of urban fires – always a hazard – sharply increased. This was especially true in the era that preceded the establishment of building and fire codes. In response to the sharp increase in fire-related damage claims in…

August 10: The First Union General to Die in the Civil War

  Today in 1861, Eastford’s Nathaniel Lyon – a little-known figure the day before – instantly became one of the most celebrated figures in the United States when he was shot in the chest at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, making him the first Union General to die in the Civil War. Lyon’s death came as the…

August 9: The Worst Tornado Ever to Hit Connecticut

  On the afternoon of August 9, 1878, the worst tornado ever to touch down in Connecticut roared through Wallingford, wreaking unimaginable destruction across the entire town. In the late 19th century, most Connecticans lived under the impression that the monster tornadoes that annually devastated the Great Plains could never happen in New England. So…