September 1: The Root of Connecticut’s Industrial Greatness

  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…

August 29: Wind Power for the Prairies

  During the first half of the 19th century, as thousands of Americans journeyed westward in search of new fortunes, necessity became the mother of invention as would-be farmers were forced to adapt to new climates and topographies that were unlike anything they had ever seen before. Since the Great Plains generally lacked the forests…

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 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 was a man who spent his whole life tinkering with machinery, filing patents, aggressively marketing his creations, but like so many other Connecticut inventors, his innovations changed the course of…

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…

July 21: Testing the World’s First Attack Submarine — in 1776

  While Connecticut has been home to an outsized share of American innovators and creative geniuses, few of them have had as long-lasting an impact as David Bushnell, inventor of the Turtle — the world’s first combat submarine. Born in Saybrook in 1740, Bushnell decided at age 30 to sell his share of the family…

July 14: A Measurable Improvement in Tape Measures

  On July 14, 1868, Alvin Fellows of New Haven, Connecticut received a patent for his unique spring-loaded, locking tape measure design. While Fellows certainly wasn’t the first to conceive of using demarcated strips of metal tape as a measuring tool, his unique design featured significant improvements over previous tape measures and was the first…

May 7: A Developing Story

  For more than a century after practical photography was invented in 1839, all photographers had to wait to see the pictures they had taken until the images had gone through a lengthy, chemical developing process. The man who was to change all that, Edward Land, was born in Bridgeport today in 1909. Land, a…

May 5: The First Woman to Receive a U.S. Patent

  Even though the U.S. Patent Act of 1790 allowed American citizens to apply for patents regardless of gender, women were discouraged from doing so due to local coverture laws that made it difficult, if not impossible, for a married woman to own property and titles independently of her husband. But today in 1809, nearly…

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…

April 3: The Sewing Machine Patent Wars

  Inventor and longtime Connecticut resident Elias Howe Jr. may not have invented the first sewing machine, but he was the first person to obtain a U.S. patent for one in 1846. Howe’s success in patenting his novel “lockstitch” sewing machine, which was the first to feature the automatic thread feed that remains a crucial…