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 13: P. T. Barnum’s Greatest Performance Wasn’t on a Stage

  Today in 1865, Connecticut’s Greatest Showman Phineas Taylor “P T” Barnum was as busy as ever – but not on a stage or in a tent. Rather, he was giving an impassioned speech in the Connecticut legislature, where he was serving his first of several terms as a state representative. The seasoned showbiz veteran…

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…

July 11: The Neptune Returns with Astonishing Wealth

Today in 1799, the merchant ship Neptune sailed into New Haven harbor after an absence of two years and eight months with the most lucrative haul of cargo Connecticut had ever seen. Captained by New Haven native Daniel Green, the Neptune set sail in late 1797 with a crew of 45 “young, sturdy, and active”…

July 10: The Worst Tornado Outbreak in Connecticut History

  Today in 1989, the worst recorded tornado outbreak in state history tore through the state, as multiple twisters devastated a historic forest, left behind numerous swaths of destruction, killed two people, and injured hundreds more. Local meteorologists had warned residents about the high potential for severe weather on July 10, 1989, but no one…

July 9: A Hard Overnight Freeze in “The Year Without a Summer”

  The winters of the early 19th century — the last decades of the “Little Ice Age” that chilled North America and Europe for over five centuries (1300-1850) — were among the coldest in Connecticut’s recorded history. Salt-water harbors froze over months at a time, and blizzards regularly dumped several feet of snow on the…

July 8: One of History’s Most Effective — and Terrifying — Sermons.

  In the early 1740s, New England was in the midst of a sweeping religious revival now known as the Great Awakening. Charismatic evangelical ministers traveled from town to town on a mission to invigorate congregations with a renewed sense of Christian piety based on fear of damnation. They were inspired by the internationally famous…

July 7: The Burning and Looting of Fairfield

Throughout the Revolutionary War, Connecticut citizens lived in fear of devastating British raids on shoreline communities. From the British perspective, Connecticut was a nest of rebel activity, both overt and covert. Not only was it home to a government that had early and ardently supported the Patriot cause, its shoreline towns openly gave shelter to…

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….

July 4: A Waterway to Prosperity

On July 4, 1825, thousands of Connecticans, surrounding a canal-boat-on-wheels specially created for the occasion, gathered at Salmon Brook Village in Granby for ground-breaking on what was then the largest transportation project in Connecticut history – the Farmington Canal. Governor Oliver Wolcott spoke briefly before digging the ceremonial first shovel of dirt, officially kicking off…