September 24: Connecticut’s Whaling Industry Sets Sail For Extinction

  In the 19th century, New London, Connecticut was one of the busiest whaling hubs in the entire world, outranked only by Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts. Whale oil was a crucial and versatile resource that played a huge role in powering the Industrial Revolution, serving as both fuel for lamps and as a lubricant…

September 15: Catastrophe at the Climax Fuse Company.

  Today in 1905, an employee using a hot iron to clear fuse debris from a reeling machine touched off a muffled explosion in the main building of the Climax Fuse factory in Avon. Though the blast was barely heard 300 feet away, the sheets of flame it triggered instantly engulfed the factory, suffocating seven…

September 1: Connecticut’s Unknown Industrial Genius

  The largely unknown man at the center of Connecticut’s 19th century industrial greatness – Elisha King Root – died in Hartford today in 1865. Root’s machine tool genius first revolutionized axe production in Collinsville and then made the Colt Firearms Company a worldwide icon of precision manufacturing. Born in western Massachusetts in 1808, Root…

May 13: The Automobile’s Electric Future Debuts — in 1897

  Today in 1897, outside his factory in Hartford, successful bicycle manufacturer Albert Augustus Pope unveiled what he considered to be the future of the automobile industry: the battery-powered Columbia Motor Carriage. It was the first demonstration of a mass-produced electric car in American history. Weighing in at 1800 pounds and reaching a top speed…

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 13: Eli Terry, The Man Who Made Us All Clock-watchers

  Eli Terry, the man who revolutionized clock manufacturing and whose timepieces became featured objects in millions of American homes, was born in South Windsor (then a part of East Windsor), Connecticut on this day in 1772. Terry was a mechanical engineering prodigy who set his ambitions into motion at an early age, apprenticing himself…

April 12: Invention of the “Five-Pound Secretary”

  Today in 1892, George Canfield Blickensderfer of Stamford patented the first successful portable typewriter, one of the most transformative examples of Yankee ingenuity ever to come from the Constitution State. Blickensderfer’s machine used a radical, minimalist design that contained up to 90 percent fewer parts than the heavier, more complicated desk typewriters that came…

March 28: The Oyster Industry Comes Out Of Its Shell

  By the time the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries first assigned a resident scientist to study Connecticut’s shellfish industry in the 1920s, Connecticut residents had been harvesting oysters and clams from the waters of Long Island Sound for hundreds of years. Created in the late 19th century, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries’ mission was…

December 31: Cutting-Edge Teamwork Turns A Starr Into A Star

  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…