January 8: Eli Whitney’s Best Idea Comes Home

  Eli Whitney, who died today in 1825, is best known for his invention of the cotton gin. But Whitney also left a lasting legacy on American manufacturing and society through his creation of the first “manufacturing community” in America, the factory village in southeast Hamden still known as Whitneyville. Whitney’s manufactory was designed not…

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 Whaling Industry Sets Sail For Extinction

  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…

September 15: Catastrophe at the Climax Fuse Company.

  Today in 1905, an employee using a hot iron to clear fuse debris from a reeling machine touched off a muffled explosion in the main building of the Climax Fuse factory in Avon. Though the blast was barely heard 300 feet away, the sheets of flame it triggered instantly engulfed the factory, suffocating seven…

June 13: An Old New England Tradition Goes International

  Today in 1914, the people of Manchester turned a time-honored New England tradition on its head.  Rather than celebrating Old Home Days – an annual event held in communities across New England  to  bring  emigrated Yankees back for a visit to their “Old Home” town –  the city celebrated “Homeland Day,” where  Manchester’s foreign-born…

April 22: Noah Webster Foresees Life-Changing Environmental Crisis — in 1817!

  Today 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, and a graduate of Yale, Webster is best known to history as the creator of the first American dictionary in 1806….

April 13: Eli Terry, The Man Who Made Us All Clock-watchers

  Eli Terry, the man who revolutionized clock manufacturing and whose timepieces became featured objects 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: 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 19th 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 Manchester. Opening their first silk-processing mill in 1838, the Cheney brothers sought to capitalize…

February 14: Survivor of A Great Industrial Meltdown

  In the rural town of East Canaan, along the banks of the Blackberry River, there stands a curious rectangular tower. It is constructed of massive slabs of marble and reaches 40 feet high, with walls 30 feet wide at its base. The isolated tower is the last surviving example of the 19th century blast…