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 12: England’s Most Famous Detective Was Born in Hartford

  A scion of one of Connecticut’s oldest and most prominent families, world-famous actor and playwright William Hooker Gillette, was born in Hartford in 1853. Drawn early to the theater arts, he left the city at the age of 20 to seek his fortune as an actor and stage producer. He met with moderate success…

February 8: Defending the West from the Worst

  A descendant of the Puritan Joseph Wadsworth who protected his colony’s charter by hiding it in the legendary Charter Oak, Elijah Wadsworth would also be tasked with saving his people’s government. Not from a takeover, however, but from a British invasion. And not in Connecticut, but in in the part of Ohio once owned…

February 2: The World’s First Two-Sided Building

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 Life…

February 1: The Man Who Made the First Map of the United States.

  Abel Buell was a man able to do just about anything, just not very well. At various times a convicted counterfeiter, goldsmith, engraver, armsmaker, inventor, textile manufacturer, packet boat proprietor, auctioneer, privateer, mint master, mapmaker, and husband to four wives, Buel spent most of his 81 years pursuing a seemingly limitless array of schemes…

January 19: Connecticut’s First African-American Woman Pharmacist

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of 11 children born to Willis James, a former slave who had successfully escaped from a Virginia plantation via the Underground Railroad. As a child, Anna’s family moved from Hartford to Old Saybrook, where she graduated high school and, as…

January 18: Where Were You When the Roof Caved In?

  At 4:19am on January 18, 1978, downtown Hartford narrowly missed being the site of one of the deadliest disasters in American history when the entire roof of the Hartford Civic Center arena — covering an area of nearly 2.5 acres and weighing 1,400 tons — suddenly collapsed onto a coliseum of 10,000 empty seats….

January 17: Hartford Takes an Electrifying Gamble, and then Gambles Again.

  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,…

January 14: Chain-Reaction Tragedy at the Hazardville Gunpowder Mill

The community of Hazardville, Connecticut unintentionally lived up to its name today 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 Hazard Powder…

January 13: Charles Nelson Reilly, Actor and Hartford Circus Fire Survivor

  Born today in 1931, Charles Nelson Reilly was a Tony-Award-winning actor, comedian, and beloved TV personality best known for his appearances as a campy character actor on countless game shows, sitcoms, and movies in the 1960s through the 1980s. Later in life, he focused more on directing and voice acting, and after his death…