February 2: A Building Shaped Like a Boat

  Today in 1961, the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company unveiled plans for a new corporate headquarters building in downtown Hartford, featuring a bold and revolutionary elliptical design unlike anything the city — or the world, for that matter — had seen before. Designed by the famous modernist architect Max Abramovitz, the new Phoenix Mutual…

January 28: The Man Who Connected People to the Telephone

  In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a U.S. Patent for the first practical telephone design, ushering in one of the most revolutionary devices of the late 19th century. The earliest telephones, however, were extremely limited: they allowed for communication between two receivers, but only if they were directly connected by a single wire. It…

January 27: His Idea of Closing Churches Didn’t Have a Prayer

  Willard C. Fisher was one of a handful of early 20th century professors at Middletown’s Wesleyan University who gained national recognition — although in his case through controversy, not his economics lectures. Professor Fisher was a strong-willed man who never hesitated to voice his opinions, regardless of whose sensibilities he might offend. But he…

January 17: Hartford Takes an Electrifying Gamble on a Generator Named “Mary Ann”

  On January 17, 1901, the Hartford Electric Light Company (HELCO) took a major — and somewhat risky — step into the steam-powered future with the delivery of a huge, innovative, first-of-its-kind steam-turbine-powered generator. The massive 90,000-pound machine arrived on a custom-designed railroad car following a long journey from the Westinghouse Machine Company of Pittsburgh,…

October 8: A Bridge That Wouldn’t Burn

  For most of the 19th century, travelers passing between Hartford and East Hartford crossed the Connecticut River over a wooden covered bridge, constructed in 1818 and expanded several times to include additional lanes and, eventually, room for trolleys. In 1895, the entire structure burned down in a spectacular fire that, according to newspapers, some…

September 28: An Ag School with Ambition Planted at Mansfield

  Today in 1881, the small agricultural school that would later become the state of Connecticut’s flagship university held its first classes in a former orphanage building located in Mansfield. The Storrs Agricultural School, consisting of just three faculty members and thirteen students when it first opened, offered young men the opportunity to gain advanced…

July 31: An Electrifying Change in Urban Transportation

  Today in 1900, one of the first electrically powered trolley lines in the United States began service on the three-mile run between Branford and East Haven. It was a relatively short trip that launched major and permanent changes in Connecticut’s urban settlement patterns and lifestyles. The inaugural run of the Branford Electric Railway was…

July 12: The Car of the Future — in 1933

  R. Buckminster Fuller, the inventor, architect, author, and futurist best known for his popularization of the geodesic dome, was one of the most prolific public intellectuals of the early 20th century. In the early 1930s, Fuller coined the word “Dymaxion” — a portmanteau of the words “dynamic,” “maximum,” and “tension” — and applied it…

June 29: In the Middle of a World War, a Vote for History

  Connecticut history made history today in 1943, when Governor Ray Baldwin signed a law setting new standards for citizenship education in Connecticut schools. The new law required that any college or grade school receiving state funding — public or private –had to include a comprehensive study of American history and government in its curriculum….

March 3: The Connecticut Man Who Helped America Strut Her Stuff

  The United States of America’s first century was marked by incredible growth in nearly every possible way, propelled by the forces of westward expansion, immigration, and the Industrial Revolution. As the 100th anniversary of the nation’s 1776 founding approached, a proposal came before Congress to celebrate America’s emergence as one of the world’s great…

February 21: The World’s First Telephone Directory Had Only 50 Names

  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…