August 10: The First Union General to Die in the Civil War

  Today in 1861, Eastford’s Nathaniel Lyon – a little-known figure the day before – instantly became one of the most celebrated figures in the United States when he was shot in the chest at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, making him the first Union General to die in the Civil War. Lyon’s death came as the…

August 1: “Base Ball” in 19th Century Hartford

  The Charter Oak Base Ball Club, founded in the summer of 1862, was the first baseball team to be formed in Hartford. Their stated mission was to “establish on a scientific basis the health-giving and scientific game of Base Ball, and to promote good fellowship among its players.” In the age before national professional…

July 26: The “Wide Awakes” Rally for Abraham Lincoln in Hartford

  1860 proved to be one of the most intense election years in American history, with political tensions over slavery and secession reaching a breaking point. Connecticut’s hotly-contested race for the governor’s seat, pitting Democrat Thomas Seymour against Republican William Buckingham, was viewed as a bellwether for the national presidential election that would take place…

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: New Haven Builds A New State Capitol Building.

  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 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…

June 18: The Flowering of America’s Oldest Municipal Rose Garden

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

June 16: The Liberty Bell Comes to Connecticut

  On this day in 1903, one of the most iconic symbols of American freedom — the Liberty Bell — arrived in Connecticut as part of a multi-state tour. Most Americans today think of the Liberty Bell as a stationary, permanent fixture of Philadelphia; a typical “look but don’t touch” museum piece viewed from behind…

June 8: Civil War Composer Henry Clay Work Dies at 51 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 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 before engaging the enemy in Europe. After a national volunteer recruitment drive only attracted a fraction…

June 1: The Nation’s Oldest Public Art Museum Established

  On this day in 1842, Connecticut governor Chauncey Cleveland signed an act formally incorporating the Wadsworth Atheneum, creating what would become the first and oldest continuously operating public art museum in the United States. Construction immediately began on the iconic, castle-like building that remains the centerpiece and most recognizable feature of the Atheneum campus,…

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 13: Hartford’s Pope Company Debuts Electric Automobile in 1897

  On this date 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. Weighing in at 1800 pounds and reaching a…