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. A photocopy of the May 14, 1897 coverage of the Columbia…

April 25: A Man Named Winchester Targets The Rifle Industry.

Oliver Fisher Winchester (1810 – 1880)In early 1857, businessman Oliver Winchester bought controlling interest in a struggling Connecticut firearms company from two inventors by the name of 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…

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 to…

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 before…

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…

February 4: Colt Arms Factory Destroyed By Suspicious 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, the…

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 1: PEZ Candy Opens Visitor Center in Orange

  Today, PEZ candy conjures up images of whimsical plastic dispensers full of small, brick-shaped little candies. First invented in Austria in the early 20th century, PEZ candy has quite a storied history — one that visitors can learn for themselves with a visit to the PEZ Visitors Center in Orange, Connecticut, which first opened…