July 6: The Hartford Circus Fire

  What began as an innocent day at the circus ended in one of the worst fire disasters in U.S. history, today in 1944. In early July of that year, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had set up one of their largest “Big Top” tents in a field in Hartford’s North End…

July 5: Connecticut’s Other (for 177 Years) State Capitol

  From 1701 through 1878, the Colony (and later State) of Connecticut had not one, but two capital cities: Hartford and New Haven. During these 177 years of shared governance, each co-capital built a series of State Houses to host the Connecticut General Assembly, which would meet in Hartford and New Haven on alternating years….

June 21: “Poor Judgment” Costs a Governor His Job

  “I acknowledge that my poor judgment brought us here,” said John Rowland to a sea of reporters standing on the back lawn of the Connecticut Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. The date was June 21, 2004, and Rowland was announcing his resignation amid a federal corruption investigation and impeachment inquiry. His Lieutenant Governor, M. Jodi…

June 18: Crowds Bloom at America’s Oldest Municipal Rose Garden

  For over a hundred years, crowds of visitors have flocked to Connecticut’s Elizabeth Park in June to see the thousands of roses in bloom in the park’s historic Rose Garden. One peak example of this annual pilgrimage occurred today in 1933, when nearly 15,000 people in one day — some from as far away…

June 16: The Liberty Bell’s Whistle-Stop Tour of Connecticut

  Today in 1903, just after 6:00 p.m., one of the most iconic symbols of American freedom — the Liberty Bell — arrived in Connecticut. Over the next 24 hours, it would visit five Connecticut cities and towns, giving tens of thousands of Connecticans a chance to see and be seen in its presence, before…

June 8: The Man Whose Songs the Soldiers Sang Dies in Hartford

  Henry Clay Work, one of the most popular songwriters of the Civil War era, died today in 1884 at age 51, while in Hartford visiting his mother. Work, who composed such still-sung songs as “Marching Through Georgia” and “Kingdom Coming” (you know the tune), was born in Middletown in 1832 into an activist family…

June 5: Mandatory “Registration Day” for Service in the Great War.

  The United States’ entry into World War I on April 6, 1917 marked the end of a long period of military non-intervention, resulting in a scramble to recruit men to fill the ranks of America’s army and navy to fight the enemy in Europe. After a national volunteer recruitment drive only attracted a fraction…

June 1: America’s First Public Art Museum

Today in 1842, Connecticut governor Chauncey Cleveland signed an act formally incorporating the Wadsworth Atheneum, creating the first public art museum in the United States. Construction immediately began on the iconic, castle-like building in Hartford that remains the centerpiece and most recognizable feature of the Atheneum campus, and the institution officially opened two years later,…

May 31: Rev. Thomas Hooker Declares “the People” the Foundation of Government

  To many students of Connecticut history and colonial America, Thomas Hooker is considered the “founding father” of Connecticut. A Puritan minister who journeyed from England to Holland to Massachusetts in search of a place where he could preach his message of reformed Christianity free from persecution, Hooker served with distinction as the first established…

May 20: A “Man’s Education” at a Female Seminary

  Today in 1823, the first classes were held at the Hartford Female Seminary, a revolutionary new school for girls founded by author and education pioneer Catharine Beecher. Born into the wealthy and influential Beecher family in 1800, Catharine Beecher wholly devoted herself to advancing the education and betterment of young women after her fiancé died…

May 13: The Automobile’s Electric Future Debuts — in 1897

Today in 1897, outside his factory in Hartford, successful bicycle manufacturer Albert Augustus Pope unveiled what he considered to be the future of the automobile industry: the battery-powered Columbia Motor Carriage. It was the first demonstration of a mass-produced electric car in American history. A photocopy of the May 14, 1897 coverage of the Columbia…

May 12: She Won More Oscars Than Any Other Actor.

  Meryl Streep won three. So did Daniel Day Lewis and Jack Nicholson. But though she never attended a prize show to accept any of them in person, this actor from Hartford, born today in 1907, won four Oscars during her film career, more than any other actor. Katharine Hepburn, who retained close ties to…