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…

March 30: Helicopter Pioneer Igor Sikorsky Arrives in United States

One of Connecticut’s greatest immigrant success stories began today in 1919 when Russian-born Igor Sikorsky first arrived on American shores. While Sikorsky is best known as the inventor of the world’s first practical helicopter and the founder of the Sikorsky Aircraft manufacturing company headquartered in Stratford, he first made a name for himself as a…

March 14: Eli Whitney Patents the Machine He Thought Would Help End Slavery.

  Today in 1794, Eli Whitney, one of Connecticut’s most influential inventors, received a patent for the Cotton Gin, a machine that revolutionized cotton production by optimizing the laborious task of cleaning seeds from raw cotton bolls. Born in Massachusetts in 1765, Eli had exhibited both interest in, and talent at, manufacturing early in life,…

February 25: Samuel Colt Finally Gets His Shot at Success.

  Today in 1836, Hartford inventor Samuel Colt — after being expelled from school, sailing the seas, and touring as a showman demonstrating the unusual effects of nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas” –received a U.S. patent for the first revolving chamber percussion pistol. This was a dramatically new type of firearm which would revolutionize the…

February 21: The World’s First Telephone Directory

  Thanks to Connecticut inventor and innovator George Coy, the city of New Haven can lay claim to a number of “firsts” related to the early development of the telephone. Within two years after Alexander Graham Bell first patented the revolutionary communication device, Coy and his company had implemented a number of innovations — like…