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…

April 5: P.T. Barnum Elected Mayor of Bridgeport – Not His Greatest Show

  Today in 1875, Phineas T. Barnum was elected Mayor of Bridgeport, at the age of 64. Though internationally acclaimed as an entertainment impresario and well respected as a politician at the state level, Barnum’s short mayoral tenure was not the greatest showing for a man still remembered as one of America’s most successful entertainers,…

March 31: The First Statewide Aerial Photography Survey in the US

  In 1933, Connecticut Governor Wilbur L. Cross, determined to move forward with infrastructure improvements in spite of budget constraints caused by the Great Depression, presented the State Planning Board with a formal request for an aerial photographic survey of the entire state. Governor Cross reasoned that a detailed set of photographs would be an…

March 22: Seeing Connecticut in a Completely Different Light

  Today in 1816, master American artist and internationally acclaimed landscape painter John Frederick Kensett was born in Cheshire, Connecticut to Thomas Kensett, an English-born engraver, and Elizabeth Daggett Kensett, his Connecticut-born wife. Displaying an early aptitude for art, John was working in his father’s engraving studio by age 12, honing his keen eye for…

March 5: Candidate Abraham Lincoln “Wakes Up” Hartford

  Today in 1860, sectional tensions over slavery and its expansion into the country’s newly formed states and territories was nearing the breaking point. It was a crucial election year, and members of the nation’s political parties were actively trying to decide who would be their standard bearers in the upcoming presidential campaign. For the…

February 13: A Greenwich Girl with Great Hair Ices Olympic Gold

  Today in 1976, a 19-year-old ice skater born in Greenwich captivated audiences worldwide with her masterful, gold-medal-winning performance at the 1976 Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Her near perfect routine would catapult her to international stardom and, along with a unique hair style that created a national craze, also set Dorothy Hamill on a…

February 11: England’s Greatest Novelist Speed-Visits New Haven

  On the evening of February 11, 1842, three words spread through the streets of New Haven like wildfire, causing crowds of people to rush toward the city’s downtown Toutine Hotel: “Dickens has come!” Just before 8:00pm that night, Charles Dickens had arrived at the city’s Union Station, traveling by rail from Hartford. The man…

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, as a…

January 19: Connecticut’s First African-American Woman Pharmacist

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of 11 children born to Willis James, a former slave who had successfully escaped from a Virginia plantation via the Underground Railroad. As a child, Anna’s family moved from Hartford to Old Saybrook, where she graduated high school and, as…

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 making…

December 30: A Mutiny at “Connecticut’s Valley Forge”

  When Americans think of the hardships faced by starving, shivering Continental Army troops during the harsh winters of the Revolutionary War, the infamous winter encampment of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania of 1777–1778 usually comes to mind. What few realize, however, is that the eastern division of the Continental Army under the command of General Israel…