April 22: Noah Webster Calls for Environmental Sustainability – in 1817!

  On this day in 1817, Noah Webster’s visionary essay on environmental sustainability, which he modestly titled “Domestic Consumption,” was published on the front page of the Connecticut Courant.  Born in what is now West Hartford, Connecticut and a graduate of Yale College, Webster is best known to history as the creator of the first American…

April 13: Eli Terry, Revolutionary Inventor and Clockmaker

  Eli Terry, the man who revolutionized clock manufacturing and whose timepieces have been featured in millions of American homes, was born in South Windsor (then a part of East Windsor), Connecticut on this day in 1772. Terry was a mechanical engineering prodigy who set his ambitions into motion at an early age, apprenticing himself…

April 10: David Humphreys Brings the Sheep That Shaped New England

  Have a merino wool scarf or sweater that you absolutely love? You can probably thank Connecticut native David Humphreys for that. David Humphreys, born in Derby in 1752, was one of the most accomplished Connecticut men of the Early Republic.  A Yale graduate, he served under General Israel Putnam in the Revolutionary War and,…

April 3: The Sewing Machine Patent Wars

  Inventor and longtime Connecticut resident Elias Howe Jr. may not have invented the first sewing machine, but he was the first person to obtain a U.S. patent for one in 1846.  Howe’s success in patenting his novel “lockstitch” sewing machine, which was the first to feature the automatic thread feed that remains a crucial…

March 27: Staffordville Dam Burst Causes Cascading Chaos

  During the second half of the nineteenth century, as more and more mills and factories popped up along the banks of the Willimantic River’s northern branch in eastern Connecticut, a number of factory owners banded together to form the Stafford (or Staffordville) Reservoir Company with the aim of regulating the flow of water that…

February 26: The Rise and Fall of Manchester’s Silk Industry

  Of all the many factories and diverse industries that sprang up across Connecticut during the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, one of the longest-lasting was the silk-spinning industry, which coalesced around the Cheney Brothers silk mills in the town of Manchester. Opening their first silk-processing mill in 1838, the Cheney brothers sought…

February 14: A Towering Monument to Connecticut Industry

  In the rural town of East Canaan there stands a curious rectangular tower along the banks of the Blackberry River, constructed of massive slabs of marble, forty feet high and thirty feet wide at its base.  The tower is the last surviving example of the 19th century blast furnaces that were once common across…

February 4: Colt Firearms Factory Destroyed By Fire

    On the morning of February 4, 1864, just after 8:00am, the loud, sharp, incessant tones of a steam whistle pierced the air in Hartford, alerting city residents to danger.  As men and women rushed toward the source of the noise in the city’s south end, they were shocked to find the massive East…

January 31: Danbury’s Kohanza Dam Bursts

  In 1860, residents living in Danbury, Connecticut banded together to build a large, earthen dam to create a reservoir that would provide a steady water supply for the town’s steadily-increasing population and burgeoning factories.  A few years later, they built a second dam about a mile downriver, and the structures became known as the…

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 in the…

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…

September 24: Connecticut’s Last Whaling Voyage

  In the 19th century, New London, Connecticut was one of the busiest whaling hubs in the entire world, outranked only by Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Whale oil was a crucial and versatile resource that played a huge role in powering the Industrial Revolution, serving as both fuel for lamps and as a lubricant…