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.

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.

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