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” Takes It’s Last Breath On Broadway

  Today in 1944, a Broadway comedy based on one of Connecticut’s most infamous true crime tales wrapped up a wildly successful, multiyear 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 twice-widowed caretaker who ran…

June 8: The Man Whose Songs the Soldiers Sang Dies 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: She Won More Oscars Than Any Other Actor.

  Meryl Streep won three. So did Daniel Day Lewis and Jack Nicholson. But though she never attended a prize show to accept any of them in person, this actor from Hartford, born today in 1907, won four Oscars during her film career, more than any other actor. Katharine Hepburn, who retained close ties to…

May 7: A Developing Story

  For more than a century after practical photography was invented in 1839, all photographers had to wait to see the pictures they had taken until the images had gone through a lengthy, chemical developing process. The man who was to change all that, Edward Land, was born in Bridgeport today in 1909. Land, a…

May 4: Landscape Art for an Industrializing America

  Today in 1826, iconic American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church was born in Hartford. The internationally famed artist’s Connecticut roots ran deep: he was a direct descendant of one of the original English Puritans who settled Hartford with Rev. Thomas Hooker. His father, a prominent silversmith, also became a director of Hartford’s Aetna Insurance…

April 21: Rumors of His Death Were NOT Greatly Exaggerated

  Today in 1910, Mark Twain, one of America’s most famous authors and Connecticut’s most famous residents, died at his home in Redding. 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 wealthy “Nook Farm”…

April 18: The Punch That Killed

  A popular pastime for millennia, amateur (or “Olympic-style”) boxing experienced a 20th-century renaissance in the United States, thanks to celebrity heavyweights like John L. Sullivan and the inclusion of the sport in the 1904 Olympic games. During the early 1900s, amateur boxing matches were common in Connecticut cities. One infamous example of an amateur…

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…

February 21: The World’s First Telephone Directory

  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 of the telephone. Within two years after Alexander Graham Bell first patented the revolutionary communication device, Coy and his company had implemented a number of innovations — like…

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…