May 9: The Rural Roots of the Controversial Abolitionist John Brown.

  Today in 1800, the abolitionist John Brown was born in a humble saltbox house on a farm in Torrington, Connecticut. One of the most controversial figures in United States antebellum history, Brown was, and still is, a polarizing figure. Some see him as a social justice visionary, prepared to do whatever was needed to…

April 16: Frederick Douglass & Social Media in Hartford, 1864

    Carte-de-visite photographs were the hot social media of the mid-nineteenth century. These small portrait photographs, mounted on cards, were some of the first such images to be commercially reproduced, and they created a craze for collectible photographs. People collected carte-de-visite portraits of family, friends and celebrities and then mounted them in photograph albums….

March 17: A Forgotten Civil War Hero, Statesman, and Patriot.

  A Civil War general who served in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Siege of Petersburg, and other notable campaigns, Connecticut’s Joseph R. Hawley was, during his lifetime, one of Connecticut’s most distinguished and celebrated citizens. A graduate of Hamilton College in New York, Hawley had a gift for both writing and public…

March 14: Eli Whitney Patents the Machine That Would Lead to Civil War

  Today in 1794, Eli Whitney, one of Connecticut’s most influential inventors, received a patent for the cotton gin, a machine that revolutionized cotton production by optimizing the laborious task of cleaning seeds from raw cotton bolls. Born in Massachusetts in 1765, Eli had exhibited both interest in, and talent at, manufacturing early in life,…

March 5: 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…

January 26: The Talented — and Quite Regrettable — Postmaster General

  Today in 1802, Gideon Granger of Suffield took office as the nation’s fourth postmaster general, ushering in a new era for the U.S. postal service — for better and for worse. A Yale graduate, Granger practiced law in his hometown of Suffield and served in the Connecticut General Assembly beginning in 1792. Following an…

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…

October 18: Radical Abolitionist John Brown Captured After Raid At Harper’s Ferry

  Connecticut-born radical abolitionist John Brown was already a nationally polarizing figure by the time he staged his infamous raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859. Born in Torrington in 1800, Brown’s adult life was characterized by failed business ventures, repeated moves across the country, and an increasingly fanatical devotion to…

October 17: America’s First Published African-American Writer

  Jupiter Hammon, an enslaved man, poet, and devout Christian who became the first published African-American writer, was born today 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 and was…

October 16: The United States’ First African-American Diplomat

  Today 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 grandfather was…

August 24: U. S. Navy Intercepts “The Long, Low Black Schooner” Amistad

  In early 1839, Portuguese slave traders captured dozens of native Mende Africans from the territory of modern-day Sierra Leone — technically, in violation of several international treaties — and sold them to two Spaniards in the slave markets of Havana, Cuba. On July 1, while en route to nearby plantations aboard the Spaniards’ schooner…