July 13: Legislator P.T. Barnum Speaks While His Museum Burns

  On this day 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…

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…

June 17: Windsor’s “Murder Factory” Story Kills at the Box Office

  Today in Connecticut history, the Broadway comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace,” based on one of Connecticut’s most infamous true crime tales, wrapped up its wildly successful New York run after over 1,400 shows. The unlikely inspiration for “Arsenic and Old Lace,” written by Joseph Kesserling in 1939, was the story of Amy Archer-Gilligan, a…

June 8: Civil War Composer Henry Clay Work Dies at 51 in Hartford

  Henry Clay Work, one of the most popular songwriters of the Civil War era, died today in 1884 at age 51, while in Hartford visiting his mother. Work, who composed such still-sung songs as “Marching Through Georgia” and “Kingdom Coming” (you know the tune), was born in Middletown in 1832 into an activist family…

May 12: Katharine Hepburn born in Hartford

  Today in 1907, film star Katherine Hepburn was born in Hartford.  Widely considered to be one of the greatest film and theater actresses in American history, Hepburn holds the record for the most Academy Awards ever won by an actor or actress (four) and starred in over 80 feature films, TV shows, and stage…

May 7: Edwin Land, Inventor & Founder of Polaroid

  Today in 1909, Edwin Land, a self-taught inventor and co-founder of Polaroid who revolutionized the way the world experienced photography, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After graduating from the Norwich Free Academy in southeastern Connecticut (which later named their library after their famous alumnus), Land attended Harvard University for one year before dropping out…

May 4: Hudson River School Artist Frederic Edwin Church born in Hartford

  On this day in 1826, iconic American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church was born in Hartford, Connecticut.  The internationally-renowned artist’s Connecticut roots ran deep: He was a direct descendant of one of the original English Puritans who settled Hartford under the leadership of Thomas Hooker, and Frederic’s father was a prominent silversmith and later…

April 21: Mark Twain, American Author & Satirist, dies in Redding

  On this day in 1910, Mark Twain, one of America’s most famous authors and Connecticut’s most famous residents, died at his home in Redding, Connecticut. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, he grew up in Missouri and traveled extensively, working as a newspaper reporter and fiction writer, until settling with his family in 1871 in the…

April 18: A Deadly Boxing Match in Waterbury

  Even though it had been a documented pastime for millennia, amateur (or “Olympic-style”) boxing experienced a popular renaissance in the United States during the turn of the twentieth century, thanks to celebrity heavyweights like John L. Sullivan and the inclusion of the sport in the 1904 Olympic games.  During the early twentieth century, amateur…

February 21: The World’s First “Phone Book”

  Thanks to Connecticut inventor and innovator George Coy, the city of New Haven can lay claim to a number of “firsts” related to the early development and adaptation of the telephone.  Not even two years after Alexander Graham Bell first patented the revolutionary communication device, Coy and his company had implemented a number of…

February 12: Sherlock Holmes’ “Farewell Tour”

  A scion of one of Connecticut’s oldest and most prominent families, world-famous actor and playwright William Hooker Gillette was born in Hartford in 1853.  He left Hartford at the age of 20 to seek his fame and fortune as an actor and stage producer and met with moderate success until 1899, when he landed…

February 11: Charles Dickens visits New Haven

  On the evening of February 7, 1842, three words spread throughout 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…