January 24: A. C. Gilbert, the Greatest Generation’s Toymaker

  Today in 1961, A. C. “A. Co.” Gilbert, the man whose hands-on-learning toys were the foundation of the American toy industry during the first half of the twentieth-century, died at age 76. A gifted athlete and pole-vaulting gold-medalist at the 1908 London Olympics, Gilbert was also a talented illusionist who financed his Yale medical…

January 16: Yale Breaks Graduate Students’ Grading Strike

    On this day in 1996, graduate student teachers at Yale University finally turned in final grades for the classes they taught during the previous semester — a deceptively simple action that ended what had become an incredibly tense standoff over teacher compensation and labor rights that was closely watched by students and university…

January 1: The Spy “Queen” Who Triggered the Red Scare of the 1950s

  Today in 1908, one of the most high-profile American-born Soviet spies of the 20th century was born in New Milford, Connecticut. Elizabeth Bentley was born to a middle-class family — a dry-goods sellers and a schoolteacher — and by several accounts was a clever and intellectually bright young women who seemed to have trouble…

December 13: New Haven’s Shubert Theatre Dodges the Wrecking Ball

  New Haven’s iconic Shubert Theatre, which earned the nickname “Birthplace of the Nation’s Greatest Hits” after decades of distinctive dramatic debuts, first opened its doors in December 1914. It was the second theater built by the Shubert Organization, a family-run theater management business, and was patterned after the original Shubert Theatre in New York…

December 9: Jim Morrison Arrested in New Haven

  On this night in 1967, The Doors, a psychedelic rock band, were scheduled to headline a show at the New Haven Arena. What should have been an ordinary night of music and revelry turned into something more memorable for everyone who attended, thanks to the antics of Doors lead singer and frontman Jim Morrison….

December 5: America’s First Law School’s First Hire

  As a professor at the first law school established in the United States, Connecticut legal luminary James Gould helped educate some of the most important legal minds in early 19th century America.  Gould was born in Branford, Connecticut today in 1770. His parents initially doubted his promise as a scholar because of his exceptionally…

November 23: Connecticut’s First African-American Civil War Regiment

  In late May of 1863, nearly six months after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that all black men and women in slave-holding Confederate states were free, the Federal government created the Bureau of Colored Troops, effectively authorizing the use of black troops throughout the Union Army. While some Northern states quickly raised their…

November 14: Paul Sperry Invents the Boat Shoe

  Today in 1939, New Haven-born sailor-turned-shoemaker Paul Sperry received a patent for one of the most famous and enduring pieces of American footwear: the Sperry Top-Sider, or “boat shoe.” Born in 1895, Sperry’s life revolved around the sea; growing up along the Connecticut coast, he developed a lifelong love for sailing at an early…

November 9: The First Person Buried in New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery

  In the 1790s, a deadly epidemic of yellow fever swept throughout the eastern United States, hitting densely-populated urban centers like New Haven especially hard. As fever-related fatalities multiplied, the burying grounds located behind the churches on the New Haven green — which had been in operation for nearly 150 years at that point —…