history

Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his most resonant and famous line during his presidential inauguration speech of 1933: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It was resonant because he was being defiant, and optimistic, in the face of the Great Depression — and it was famous because it was broadcast live, to the entire nation, on the relatively new medium of radio.

Mind Meal / Wikimedia Commons

You're about to meet a very special guy. There's a good chance you already know him, if you were in the generational cohort whose lives were enriched by Schoolhouse Rock. More than any other person, Bob Dorough put his unique musical stamp on that show and its offerings. But Bob Dorough is so much more.

The Sporty Katharine Hepburn

Sep 5, 2014
Courtesy of the Judy Samelson Collection. / The Connecticut Historical Society

Katharine Hepburn relished wearing slacks at a time when most women would never consider such a clothing item as an every-day element of their wardrobes. Although Hepburn’s choices were unusual at the time, the idea of sportswear was becoming more and more popular. American designers began creating clothing made from knits with the primary purpose being comfort, practicality, and ease of movement.  Pants were designed but not widely adopted outside the home, until  Hepburn along with some of her more liberal minded contemporaries made pants chic.

Vincent Oneppo

Willie Ruff, the celebrated French horn player and double bassist, venerable Yale School of Music professor, founder/director of Yale’s prestigious Duke Ellington Fellowship Program, award-winning author, documentarian, historian, linguist, ethnomusicologist, and voracious autodidact, is a man of so many intricate, smoothly running, coolly calibrated cerebral parts that he is, indeed, one of the jazz world’s true Renaissance figures.

What can yesterday's weather tell us about how the climate is changing today? That's what an army of volunteers looking at old ships' logs is trying to answer through the Old Weather project.

One of those volunteers — or citizen scientists, as the project calls them — is Kathy Wendolkowski of Gaithersburg, Md.

Tadson Bussey/flickr creative commons

A chair… letter… diary… clock… coin… jewel… car… house… meat grinder… what makes a family heirloom have powerful meaning, even if it has little monetary value? That question will be answered when you read The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin.

Bringing up a Star: the Hepburn Family of Hartford

Aug 29, 2014
Houghton Collection / Courtesy of Katharine Houghton and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT

In addition to being a well-known actress and a fashion icon, Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) was also known for being outspoken and fiercely independent. Her outlook on life was influenced by her remarkable parents who valued speaking one’s mind and acting boldly.

American Woolen Company

In 1894, a new national holiday was created -- a day when American workers could retreat from harsh work conditions and long hours to spend some time with family and friends. The holiday was called Labor Day.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Legendary American folk singer/activist Woody Guthrie, is best known for his classic song, "This Land is Your Land." All of his music gives voice to a restless and profoundly American search for freedom: artistically, politically, and personally.

LitchfieldBZ / YouTube

The state of Connecticut has sold the historic former Litchfield County jail to a real estate investor for $130,000. 

A 9,000-Pound Alarm: The Hartford Fire Bell

Aug 22, 2014
Connecticut Historical Society collection, gift of the Hartford Board of Fire Commissioners, 1931.14.0

Visitors to the Connecticut Historical Society might notice a massive bronze bell resting quietly outside at the corner of the Asylum Street parking lot. This behemoth weighs more than four tons, and once played a very loud role in the city. From 1881 to 1921, it towered over the headquarters of the Hartford Fire Department at 43 Pearl Street, warning residents of fire and sending firefighters out to save lives.

TV's longest-running science fiction program is about to get a new hero ... sort of.

The illegal trade in ivory from African elephants has tripled in the past 15 years, to the extent that biologists fear for the creatures' future existence.

Curtis Veeder’s Other House

Aug 15, 2014
Will Conard-Malley

While Curtis Veeder’s house at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford has been preserved as the home of the Connecticut Historical Society, that structure was not Veeder’s only house. About 1911, he acquired a large tract of land straddling the town line between Bloomfield and Simsbury on Talcott Mountain, just down the ridge from Heublein Tower. There, he built a cottage that he called Penwood. The land that was once his today is Penwood State Park.

University of Connecticut

Residents of Deep River were awakened by an earthquake this week. The 2.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded at about 3:09 am Thursday morning. Residents said they heard a loud boom, and their houses briefly shook. No injuries or damage were reported.

According to the U.S. Geological survey, the earthquake's epicenter was located in the southwest section of Deep River, in an part of the state known for frequent seismic activity.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

In August of 1814, the tiny village of Stonington scored an unlikely military victory by repelling the might of the British Navy. This weekend, the town celebrated the bicentennial of that extraordinary battle.

The Connecticut Historical Society, 2001.75.

The Carmina Burana, a medieval collection of poetry, illustrating the fate of man through life, was set to music by the German composer Carl Orff and was first performed at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1937.  Following the Second World War, Ernst Uthoff, a German refuge, created a ballet based on the work for the Chilean National Ballet, which he founded. The production toured throughout South America, and appeared New York’s Lincoln Center in 1962.

Crime fiction writer Lawrence Block lives in New York's West Village, in a stately art deco building overlooking Abingdon Square. He bought an apartment there decades before actress Jennifer Aniston did. (She sold hers shortly thereafter.) Block is 76, silver-haired and keen-eyed; and in his pastel shirt and khakis, he looks decidedly more Hamptons than downtown.

Tonynetone / Creative Commons

It's been 40 years since former President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency over Watergate. But, the story of Watergate is almost impossible to tell. It's too big and too murky. It's full of files that were burned and a tape that was erased. It's full of characters named McCord and Magruder and Mitchell, who are hard to keep track of. With each passing year, it becomes more of an inert thing and less of a breathing, wriggling, writhing creature.  

Yale University

How do you give an eye exam to a creature that's been extinct for hundreds of millions of years? First, you need a fossil -- a really well-preserved fossil.

Putting History on the Map

Aug 1, 2014
Drawn by James Wadsworth. Engraved by Thomas Kensett, 1806. / The Connecticut Historical Society, 2012.312.1.

All maps are historical.  They represent specific moments in time and very quickly become out of date as new towns are incorporated, new canals or railroads or highways are built.  Some maps, however, are not only historical, but deliberately retrospective.  They represent a time other than the time in which they were made, sometimes a time within the living memory of the mapmaker, sometimes an historic era long past.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Can you ever make sense of a whole decade? That's what the National Geographic Channel tries to do with its three-part documentary on the '90s. So we get Bill Clinton, the building of the internet, Waco, O.J., the Oklahoma City bombing, Prozac, Starbucks, Tanya Harding, Kurt Loder, In Living Color, Rodney King and Reginald Denny, Anna Nicole Smith, the rise of SUVs and NMA, the fall of the Walkman and Tamagotchis, the Great Gretzky... This is starting to sound like a Billy Joel song.

Every summer thousands of interns flood the offices of Capitol Hill. One of their primary duties is to give constituents tours of the famous buildings. They parade visitors from the rotunda to statuary hall, offering stories and anecdotes.

But while these intern tours provide a great deal of information, they are sometimes a little short on actual history.

Strictly a First Class Theater

Jul 25, 2014
Connecticut historical Society, 1964.106.0dt

Late 19th and early 20th century Hartford offered the public many theater and concert venues to choose from, but if one wanted to see the newest shows from New York, there was really one place to go: the Parsons Theatre on Prospect Street. Parsons Theatre was to turn-of-the-20th-century Hartford what the Bushnell is today.

Tadson Bussey/flickr creative commons

A chair… letter… diary… clock… coin… jewel… car… house… meat grinder… what makes a family heirloom have powerful meaning, even if it has little monetary value? That question will be answered when you read The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin.

Mistress of the Veeder House

Jul 18, 2014
Connecticut Historical Society, 2010.161.0.

On August 9, 1962, the Hartford Public High School flag was flown at half-staff in tribute to Mrs. Louise Stutz Veeder, a former teacher, who had just died at the age of eighty-eight.  

Louise Stutz was born in Lucerne Switzerland in 1874 and grew up in Switzerland and Germany.  After studies at the University of Lausanne and in Leipzig, Germany, she emigrated to the United States in 1896 at the age of twenty-two.  For the next twelve years, she taught French and German at Hartford Public High School.  She became a naturalized United States citizen in 1905.

MomentCaptured1 / Creative Commons

Two snapshots: The first from the publication American Bazaar, right after the German World Cup win. "In the city of Leipzig, a solitary car scuttled along, with the flag attached to the roof. Waving the flag has yet to catch on. Jan Hoffman, who works in Frankfurt, was in New York when 9/11 happened.  'I had never seen so many flags in my life. Here, there are hardly any, although we won football's greatest tournament.

Reconstruction Art by Liz Bradford

An extinct species of bird just discovered may have had the largest wingspan ever. The animal lived 25 million years ago and was found buried at an airport.

Scandal in the Beecher Family

Jul 11, 2014
Mathew Brady, 1860s. / The Connecticut Historical Society, 2014.100.15.

The story reads like a soap opera. In 1870, Theodore Tilton accused his wife of being unfaithful to him with the popular preacher Henry Ward Beecher, and Elizabeth Tilton confessed. After her confession, she spoke with the Reverend Beecher and said that she hoped the confession would help to mend her relationship with her husband by restoring trust. Beecher implored her to take back her confession and restore his good name. Elizabeth retracted her confession, but after speaking with her husband a second time, she retracted her retraction the very same night.

Propound / Creative Commons

On July 6, 1944, a circus tent in the North End of Hartford caught fire. The tent covered three blocks. It was gone in six minutes. 

Roughly 170 people died. You'll understand my imprecision as we go along. Five employees of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and served minimal prison sentences. One of them, James Haley, was so unscarred by this that he later served for 24 years in Congress.

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