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…

February 18: The Wiffle Ball Hits a Big Home Run

  One summer evening in 1953, David N. Mullany, a father, former college baseball player, and recently laid off salesman, was watching his son attempt to play baseball with his friends in the backyard of their Fairfield, Connecticut home when a curious idea came to him. The boys were playing with a broomstick and perforated…

January 29: Time Runs Out for Seth Thomas, American Clockmaker

    While Connecticut has been home to many of the greatest names in American clock manufacturing, few have achieved more household recognition than Seth Thomas, whose name is emblazoned on countless clock faces throughout the world. Born in Wolcott, Connecticut in 1785, young Seth received little formal education, instead gaining hands-on experience, as a…

January 24: A. C. Gilbert, the Greatest Generation’s Toymaker

Today in 1961, A. C. “A. Co.” Gilbert, the man whose hands-on-learning toys were the foundation of the American toy industry during the first half of the twentieth century, died at age 76. A gifted athlete and pole-vaulting gold medalist at the 1908 London Olympics, Gilbert was also a talented illusionist who financed his Yale…

January 10: Legendary Arms Maker Samuel Colt Dies at 47

  Today in 1862, gunmaker Samuel Colt died in Hartford. Though he was just 47 years old, Colt died one of the richest men in the United States. He also left a legacy of manufacturing and innovation that changed the face of Hartford, and  whose impact was felt from Connecticut to the Western American frontier…

January 5: Ezra Warner Invents the Can Opener

  In the early 1800s, responding to Napoleon’s request to find a more efficient way to feed his armies in the field, French inventor Nicholas Appert discovered that heating food stored in glass jars would sterilize it, keeping it safe to eat for long periods of time. Shortly thereafter, Englishman Peter Durand invented a similar…

December 19: A Stitch in Time Pays Off for Connecticut Inventor

  While the Industrial Revolution forever changed the way Americans manufactured, bought, and sold everyday goods, fewer inventions had a larger impact on home life for American families than the sewing machine. While there had been several experimental and industrial models of sewing machines in existence since the earliest years of the 19th century, smaller…

December 11: The World’s First Jet-Powered Helicopter

  Today in 1951, aerospace engineer Charles H. Kaman’s modified K-225 helicopter took its first test flight in Bloomfield, Connecticut, changing the future of helicopter aviation forever. As the first helicopter to use a jet engine to power its drive shaft, the K-225 demonstrated a way to make helicopters  fly faster and higher, with less…