history

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.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Guns have a long history in Connecticut. They've also been the focus of a great deal of recent debate. Both that history and the debate are now at the heart of delicate discussion: how do you plan a birthday party for Sam Colt, the man who made the gun that won the West? 

The Pride of Hartford

Jul 8, 2014
Horace B. Clark Collection / Connecticut Historical Society

The largest artifact in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society is a nine-ton fire engine. When the Clapp & Jones steam pumper was first purchased by the Hartford Fire Department, it was drawn by three big fire horses. In 1914, when the fire department was becoming motorized, the old pumper was fitted with a gas-electric tractor, prolonging its working life. It saw service in major Hartford fires for more than four decades.

New Britain Industrial Museum

New Britain may lose its baseball team to Hartford, another blow to a city that, over the years, has lost many of its jobs, and many of the the iconic brands associated with the city.

Katharine Hepburn, Fenwick and the Hurricane of 1938

Jun 27, 2014
Connecticut Historical Society, 2009.62.5.

Katharine Hepburn’s mother, “Kit” Hepburn, insisted that the Fenwick house would withstand the rising tides and the gale-force winds. After 25 summers spent with the extended Hepburn clan filling the house, it felt like a permanent fixture in their lives, and it remained a touchstone and retreat for daughter Katharine even after her Hollywood career brought her fame and success. Katharine had spent the morning outdoors, pursuing her usual Fenwick activities, playing nine holes of golf and swimming in the swelling surf.

American Chairs, Made in Connecticut

Jun 23, 2014
The Connecticut Historical Society

There is something very American about a Windsor chair. Although its name points to England, where the chair’s style and manufacture emerged in the early 1700s, this immigrant furniture found its way into every American home, from a restful rocker in a small Yankee farm house to the seats of the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

Cedar Hill Cemetery to Celebrate 150th Anniversary

Jun 19, 2014

One of Hartford's Crown Jewels turns 150 years old this year. Cedar Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for the city's most prominent natives, from actress Katharine Hepburn to gun maker Samuel Colt, as well as financier J.P. Morgan, and the founder of anesthesia, Horace Wells.

Emily Stanchfield / Creative Commons

The Second Amendment is just 27 words long, but it has caused more debate than just about anything else in the Constitution. "It’s confusing and self-contradictory and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what its clauses and commas mean," said Michael Waldman, author of the new book The Second Amendment: A Biography. We talk to him about the history and odd syntax of this Amendment and the debate over it that was renewed by the tragedy in Newtown.

The no-hitters just keep coming. That's the case for the Los Angeles Dodgers, as the team's pitchers have thrown two games without giving up a hit in less than a month. Clayton Kershaw used 15 strikeouts to complete the feat Wednesday, matching teammate Josh Beckett's May 25 effort.

Getting the no-hitter was "pretty cool," Kershaw said after throwing 107 pitches in the game.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Maybe you think of the banjo as primarily a bluegrass instrument, but try not to forget that prior to about 1830, it was played pretty much exclusively by African-Americans, and it seems to have as ancestors several African instruments. 

The Friends of the Earth Middle East

A team of Yale Architects is lending their expertise to the first ever peace park in the Middle East.

A Fascination With Magic

Jun 13, 2014
Charles T. Stuart / Connecticut Historical Society. 2007.4.1.88

Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, Doug Henning . . . Albert Walker? The first three names are well-known magicians. But who is Albert Walker?

More than two centuries after one of the ships in British Capt. George Vancouver's flotilla lost an anchor in Puget Sound, a group of amateur divers are convinced the object they've brought to the surface is the very same.

An epic meditation, multimedia outdoor spectacle with lasers, dance, drums, music, sculpture, water, fire, science, technology, climbers, shadows, and projections: Witness the geological, climatic anthropological history of the Stony Creek Quarry as it evolves through ancient history to our projected future. 

J Holt / WNPR

The world's last wooden whaling ship has taken to the water under her own power for the first time in almost 100 years.

Fashion's Changing Silhouettes

Jun 6, 2014
Connecticut Historical Society

Fashion has changed exponentially over the last two centuries.   In the 1860s women wore thickly boned corsets, multiple petticoats, steel hoop skirts and dresses, always dresses.  But between the 1860s and 1960s, women’s fashion shifted from grand hoop skirts to short miniskirts.  

Polish magazine "Znak" / Creative Commons

This week's big anniversaries of the Normandy Beach invasion 70 years ago, and the crackdown in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago have taken away from another important milestone: the 25th anniversary of Polish freedom from Communist rule. 

President Obama marked the anniversary in a speech, but the real reason for his visit was to highlight the success of Poland in the last quarter-century, while vowing NATO support for Ukraine in its struggle for independence from Russian influence. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This summer, we'll be regularly spotlighting sites on the National Register of Historic Places that have some significance to issues of race and culture.

The Montgomery Greyhound Station, Montgomery, Ala.

Courtesy of Jerry Roberts

    

Connecticut's history is well documented throughout Connecticut museums and historic villages, but there's much more  that we have yet to discover, much of it underground. 

Today, we're partnering with Connecticut Explored, Connecticut's history journal, to tell a series of underground stories.                                                                                                                                       

Cashel Man

Jun 3, 2014
TechnoHippyBiker / Creative Commons

Cashel, Ireland, 2,000 B.C.

In ancient Ireland, bogs were sacred
areas; a cool wetland mirage meters
deep of peat during demoralizing
drought. Greenish-brown landscape
of mystery, insufferably slow plant
growth. What must a farmer have
thought as his wife offered a vessel
of golden butter to appease a merciless
deity? He plunges his hand deep into
the bog, brings a handful of drenched
soil to his eyes, squeezes and watches
as his hairy forearms stain a deep rust.

York College ISLGP / Creative Commons

When the great poet Maya Angelou died last Wednesday, we learned about it during a conversation about the death penalty. Maybe you learned about it while reading about deadly violence in Ukraine, or the search for the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. 

Her death was sad news, to be sure. We don’t think we're the only ones who felt forced to step back from the news and consider the beauty and power of words.

This hour, in memory of Maya Angelou’s spirit, we welcome a group of Connecticut poets into our studio to read their work and try to measure the art and power of poetry.

An Unlikely Pair of Portraits

May 30, 2014
The Connecticut Historical Society, 2004.25.1

The lovely lady with the eager look in her eyes is Etha Town, the daughter of Ithiel Town, a New Haven architect, and the inventor of the Town truss, used in covered bridges throughout the nineteenth century. The portrait of his daughter was painted in 1826, the year Etha married William Thompson Peters, a recent Yale graduate. She was 19 years old.

The title of Ta-Nehisi Coates' much-discussed cover story at The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations," might be something of a misnomer.

This month marks the centennial of the American Radio Relay League, the largest ham radio association in the United States. That means it will be a special year for the hundreds who converge annually on W1AW, a small station known as "the mecca of ham radio" in Newington, Conn., to broadcast radio signals across the globe.

This interview was originally broadcast on March 3, 2014.

When America entered World War II, some of Hollywood's most celebrated directors enlisted and risked their lives. But they weren't fighting — they were filming combat.

Bill Hammond / Creative Commons

On May 18, the American Radio Relay League celebrated its 100th anniversary. It's the largest association of ham radio hobbyists in the United States, headquartered in Newington.

A Revolution On Two Wheels: Columbia Bicycles

May 23, 2014
Gift of Aetna / Connecticut Historical Society, 1994.204.3

The return of spring weather has prompted a marked increase in bicycle traffic all over Connecticut. Country roads, city streets, and scenic rail trails are filled with cyclists of all ages. But how many know that Connecticut played a prominent role in developing not just bicycles, but the market for them?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Author Dan Brown has written some of the biggest blockbuster books, from The Da Vinci Code to his latest book, Inferno. He’s coming to Hartford next month to talk with John Dankosky at the Bushnell. This hour, he joins us for a preview of that conversation.

Brad Clift / WNPR

The Mystic River saw history this weekend as the world's last wooden whaling vessel, the Charles W. Morgan, made its way from its longtime home at Mystic Seaport to New London, where its restoration will be completed.

Curtis Veeder Builds His Dream House

May 16, 2014
Connecticut Historical Society

If you visit the Connecticut Historical Society, at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford, you will discover an unusual and intriguing building that was originally built as the home of industrialist Curtis Veeder. Veeder began to plan this house in 1925, and moved in with his wife and two daughters in 1928.  He lived here until his death in 1943. Mrs.Veeder lived in the house until 1950 when she sold it to the Historical Society. It has been adapted for other uses, but it still reflects Curtis Veeder’s personality, talents, and interests.  

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