September 1: The Root of Connecticut’s Industrial Greatness

  The largely unknown man at the center of Connecticut’s 19th century industrial greatness – Elisha King Root – died in Hartford today in 1865. Root’s machine tool genius first revolutionized axe production in Collinsville and then made the Colt Firearms Company a worldwide icon of precision manufacturing. Born in western Massachusetts in 1808, Root…

August 29: Wind Power for the Prairies

  During the first half of the 19th century, as thousands of Americans journeyed westward in search of new fortunes, necessity became the mother of invention as would-be farmers were forced to adapt to new climates and topographies that were unlike anything they had ever seen before. Since the Great Plains generally lacked the forests…

August 20: Connecticut Inventor Breaks the Rule of Wind Over Water

  During the Age of Sail, all people who traveled by water did so at the mercy of wind and tide. Too little wind, or wind from the wrong direction, brought delay or disruption to the best-laid plans. Too much wind brought danger, and sometimes even death and destruction. No trip was predictable. When it…

August 18: Connecticut Man with a Rifle Enters Lincoln’s Office

  It would be easy to hold up Connecticut inventor Christopher Miner Spencer as an archetype of 19th century Yankee ingenuity: Not only was he was a man who spent his whole life tinkering with machinery, filing patents, aggressively marketing his creations, but like so many other Connecticut inventors, his innovations changed the course of…

August 11: A Piano Maker’s Play to Cut Insurance Rates Nets Him Millions

  As the Industrial Revolution transformed American market towns into industrial cities during the 19th century, the risk of urban fires – always a hazard – sharply increased. This was especially true in the era that preceded the establishment of building and fire codes. In response to the sharp increase in fire-related damage claims in…

July 21: Testing the World’s First Attack Submarine — in 1776

  While Connecticut has been home to an outsized share of American innovators and creative geniuses, few of them have had as long-lasting an impact as David Bushnell, inventor of the Turtle — the world’s first combat submarine. Born in Saybrook in 1740, Bushnell decided at age 30 to sell his share of the family…

July 14: A Measurable Improvement in Tape Measures

  On July 14, 1868, Alvin Fellows of New Haven, Connecticut received a patent for his unique spring-loaded, locking tape measure design. While Fellows certainly wasn’t the first to conceive of using demarcated strips of metal tape as a measuring tool, his unique design featured significant improvements over previous tape measures and was the first…

July 12: The Car of the Future — in 1933

  R. Buckminster Fuller, the inventor, architect, author, and futurist best known for his popularization of the geodesic dome, was one of the most prolific public intellectuals of the early 20th century. In the early 1930s, Fuller coined the word “Dymaxion” — a portmanteau of the words “dynamic,” “maximum,” and “tension” — and applied it…

May 24: The First Steam-Powered Ship to Cross the Atlantic.

  Today in 1819, the Age of Steam knocked on the door of the Age of Sail. Moses and Stevens Rogers of New London began the first steam-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in their hybrid steam-and-sail-powered ship S.S. Savannah. It was a voyage considered so risky, not a single paying passenger could be found…

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 7: A Developing Story

  For more than a century after practical photography was invented in 1839, all photographers had to wait to see the pictures they had taken until the images had gone through a lengthy, chemical developing process. The man who was to change all that, Edward Land, was born in Bridgeport today in 1909. Land, a…

May 5: The First Woman to Receive a U.S. Patent

  Even though the U.S. Patent Act of 1790 allowed American citizens to apply for patents regardless of gender, women were discouraged from doing so due to local coverture laws that made it difficult, if not impossible, for a married woman to own property and titles independently of her husband. But today in 1809, nearly…