October 17: Jupiter Hammon, First Published African-American Writer

  Jupiter Hammon, an enslaved man, poet, and devout Christian who became the first published African-American writer, was born on this day in 1711 on the Lloyd family estate on Long Island. While little is known about the finer details of Hammon’s life, as a boy, young Jupiter was educated alongside the Lloyd family’s children…

October 16: Ebenezer Bassett, America’s First African-American Diplomat

  On this day in 1833, Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born near Litchfield, Connecticut to free black parents who held prominent roles in Connecticut’s free black community. Bassett’s father was a businessman who had served as one of Connecticut’s Black Governors — an honorary leadership role in the state’s black community — and his…

October 15: From Connecticut Governor to Russian Ambassador

  Today in 1853, Thomas H. Seymour, one of Connecticut’s most accomplished — and controversial — 19th century politicians, resigned as Governor to accept nomination by President Franklin Pierce as the United States’ minister to Russia. It was the latest in a long list of prestigious accomplishments for Seymour, whose popularity was at its peak….

October 14: Hartford Shuts Down Over Influenza Fears

  Today in 1918, as a deadly and highly contagious strain of influenza spread throughout Connecticut, Hartford city leaders considered drastic action in order to minimize further public exposure. To many Americans, the global Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 – 1919 was arguably just as — if not more — terrifying than the First World…

October 13: The Modern-Day “Lolly Pop” is Born in New Haven

  From world-famous pizza to what is likely the world’s first hamburger, the city of New Haven is home to a remarkable amount of American food history. Among the city’s lesser-known — but no less notable — food-related firsts was the invention of the modern-day lollipop. In 1908, George P. Smith of New Haven’s Bradley…

October 11: Polar Explorer Richard Byrd Tours Connecticut

  In the 1920s and 1930s, few real-life figures captured the American imagination like Richard E. Byrd, the dashing Navy hero and polar explorer who gained international fame after becoming the first man to fly over the North and South poles. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and serving with distinction as a Navy…

October 10: “Father of American Civil Engineering” Born in Wethersfield

  Benjamin Wright, the chief engineer behind some of the most famous civil engineering projects in United States history — including the Erie Canal — was born to Grace and Ebenezer Wright of Wethersfield today in 1770. Ebenezer’s accumulated debts had forced young Benjamin to forego most of his formal schooling to take up odd…

October 9: The Hindenburg Flies Over Connecticut

  Today, the name “Hindenburg” is most closely associated with the fiery, disastrous crash that destroyed the famous dirigible in 1937. Before its demise, however, the massive, 800-foot-long German airship was considered the pinnacle of modern aerospace engineering and luxury travel, and often attracted crowds of awe-struck spectators wherever it went. Built over a period…

October 8: Completing the World’s Largest Stone Arch Bridge

  For most of the 19th century, travelers passing between Hartford and East Hartford crossed the Connecticut River over a wooden covered bridge, constructed in 1818 and expanded several times to include additional lanes and, eventually, room for trolleys. In 1895, the entire structure burned down in a spectacular fire that, according to newspapers, some…

October 6: A Civil & High-Profile Presidential Debate in Hartford

  The national spotlight landed on Hartford, Connecticut on the evening of October 6, 1996, as presidential candidates Bob Dole and Bill Clinton held the first presidential debate of the campaign season at the Bushnell Theater.  Thanks in part to the influence of Connecticut senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, the city of Hartford won…