May 13: Hartford’s Pope Company Debuts Electric Automobile in 1897

  On this date 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…

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 13: Eli Terry, Revolutionary Inventor and Clockmaker

  Eli Terry, the man who revolutionized clock manufacturing and whose timepieces have been featured 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 Portable Typewriter

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

March 28: Aquaculture 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…

February 26: The Rise and Fall of Manchester’s Silk Industry

  Of all the many factories and diverse industries that sprang up across Connecticut during the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, one of the longest-lasting was the silk-spinning industry, which coalesced around the Cheney Brothers silk mills in the town of Manchester. Opening their first silk-processing mill in 1838, the Cheney brothers sought…

February 14: A Towering Monument to Connecticut Industry

  In the rural town of East Canaan there stands a curious rectangular tower along the banks of the Blackberry River, constructed of massive slabs of marble, forty feet high and thirty feet wide at its base.  The tower is the last surviving example of the 19th century blast furnaces that were once common across…

February 4: Colt Firearms Factory Destroyed By Fire

    On the morning of February 4, 1864, just after 8:00am, the loud, sharp, incessant tones of a steam whistle pierced the air in Hartford, alerting city residents to danger.  As men and women rushed toward the source of the noise in the city’s south end, they were shocked to find the massive East…

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,…

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…