Connecticut History

With our partner, The Connecticut Historical Society, WNPR News presents unique and eclectic view of life in Connecticut throughout its history. 

The Connecticut Historical Society is a partner in Connecticut History Online (CHO)  — a digital collection of over 18,000 digital primary sources, together with associated interpretive and educational material. The CHO partner and contributing organizations represent three major communities — libraries, museums, and historical societies — who preserve and make accessible historical collections within the state of Connecticut.

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History
2:57 pm
Sat April 20, 2013

Scraps of History

Mary Pamelia Felt was born in New York City on January 1, 1848, and in 1867 married John Emery Morris of Hartford. She would have remained just another Hartford resident if not for her penchant for clipping newspapers. Her collection of 188 obituary and social scrapbooks were donated to CHS in 1925.  CHS recently digitized and put online her 52 “social” scrapbooks which are filled with clippings about engagements, weddings, divorces, lectures, vacation plans, travels abroad, visits from dignitaries, Thanksgiving proclamations, and descriptions of inaugural balls.

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History
3:48 pm
Fri April 12, 2013

“A NOBLE AND PRECIOUS LIFE”

A handful of maps of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, published in Philadelphia during the early 1850s, bear the name of E. M. Woodford. Edgar M. Woodford was born April 15, 1824,  in Avon, Connecticut, where his family had a farm. Self-taught as a civil engineer, Woodford became county surveyor for the County of Hartford. A nephew recalled his Uncle Edgar as “a great strapping man,” who would come “over the hills with his [surveying] instruments over his shoulder, crying for fear his work would not come out right.”

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History
3:26 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Is Martha Stewart History?

With over thirty books published and millions of magazines devoured by fans eager to organize their homes, prepare delicious meals, and simply be crafty, Martha Stewart has become known as the most successful modern domestic advisor in the United States.  But domestic advice of the kind Stewart doles out in her television appearances, print, and internet publications is not something new.  Domestic advisors have long had a place in America’s kitchens and homes and have been providing women with guidance on how to manage their homes and cook appropriate meals for hundreds of years. 

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History
3:49 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

A Night to Remember

Steam power captivated the popular imagination in the nineteenth century. Regular steam navigation on the Connecticut River dates back to the early 1820s. Hartford and New York were linked by steamers whenever the river was ice free, typically from March through November of each year.

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History
3:42 pm
Sat September 8, 2012

New Connecticut on Lake Erie

If you drive through the area of Ohio still called the Western Reserve today, you will find towns named Norwich, Saybrook, New London, Litchfield, Mansfield and Plymouth. Many of these towns have a town green or square and the ubiquitous white-steepled church common in Connecticut.

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History
3:17 pm
Fri February 24, 2012

A Beautiful and Goodly Tree

When Thomas Hooker and his party reached Hartford in 1636, they would have found majestic elm trees growing in the meadows along the Connecticut River.

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Antarctica
11:55 am
Fri January 27, 2012

Sixty Degrees Below Zero

"What a night - couldn't see my hand in front of my face, so dropped down on all fours and crawled in the direction of the tractor, - just a few feet away mind you, and I just don't know how long it did take me to reach the back door of the tractor which was now half buried in the snowdrift...recorded -60 below." wrote Connecticut native John Henry Von der Wall on September 25, 1934. Von der Wall was a member of an Antarctic expedition led by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. Byrd was the first person to fly over the South Pole and North Pole.

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Veterans in History
10:13 am
Fri May 27, 2011

Hometown Hero

Frank and Bogumita Budleski immigrated from Poland in the early 20th century. Their two children, Frances and Stanley, grew up on the family farm in the Yalesville section of Wallingford. Frances attended Skidmore and New York University and taught and performed music in Wallingford for many years.

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History
10:13 am
Fri May 27, 2011

Hometown Hero

Frank and Bogumita Budleski immigrated from Poland in the early 20th century.  Their two children, Frances and Stanley, grew up on the family farm in the Yalesville section of Wallingford.  Frances attended Skidmore and New York University and taught and performed music in Wallingford for many years.

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Where We Live
11:03 am
Tue May 24, 2011

Preserving the Character of Connecticut

susteph, creative commons

May is “Preservation Month” in Connecticut - and preservationists just celebrated a six-year milestone.

The wide-ranging Community Investment Act was signed into state law in 2005.  It increases investment in the areas that preservationists have shown the most concern about - open space, farmland preservation, historic preservation and affordable housing.

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History
1:55 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Making Connecticut

Simon Raahauge DeSantis, 2010

What is Connecticut’s story? What happened and who’s in it? Ambitious questions, and the Connecticut Historical Society’s new permanent exhibit, Making Connecticut, is the place to go to explore some answers. Opening on May 25, Making Connecticut is the state’s only overview exhibit of Connecticut history. Displaying more than 500 artifacts, clothing items, documents, images, and photographs, it’s about how Connecticut has changed from the 1500s to today, focusing on people, their lives and work, and the world around them.                                        

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History
2:21 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

Hartford’s Great Fire Commissioner

Between 1864 and 1947 the City of Hartford utilized a board of fire commissioners to run its fire department.  These commissioners provided direction to the Fire Chief who transformed the policies of the commissioners into direct action.  The most well-known of all the commissioners was Horace B. Clark. 

Commissioner Clark had more than just an interest in the H.F.D.; he was passionate about it, and he had all of the modern day resources necessary to help serve his passion.  It must have helped greatly that when he decided to marry in 1898, his bride was worth 3 million dollars.

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History
12:13 pm
Fri May 6, 2011

Dear Daughter

"…and I sit down to write to my dear little girl wondering if she is thinking of me as I am of her."

Mary C. Stone letter to Elizabeth Stone, October 22, 1893, Ms 77458. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

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History
1:48 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Something’s Brewing

Arthur R. Newell

Beer connoisseurs believe that the United States is currently in a craft brewing renaissance. The number of microbreweries is at an all-time high and some American beers are considered to be the best in the world. But the history of brewing beer in Connecticut, like other states in America, has had its ups and downs.

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History
8:35 am
Mon April 25, 2011

Spring Is In the Air

If you like these things, then spring must make your heart beat a little faster. But even those of us who would rather not spend a moment planting, weeding, smelling mulch, or standing in line at the garden store, would occasionally like to admire someone else’s garden – or just a pot of well-tended flowers. So, in honor of all gardeners, past and present, the CHS has created a small hallway display of garden-related objects from our collections.

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History
10:07 am
Sat April 16, 2011

News From Lexington

A few days after the initial conflicts between the colonial militia and the British troops in Lexington and Concord, the New Haven printer Amos Doolittle traveled to the scene of the action to interview eye-witnesses and to produce a series of prints depicting the momentous events of April 19, 1775.

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History
2:32 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

A Crop of Trout

Heading for one of Connecticut’s eleven stocked trout parks?

Elijah Chapman Kellogg (1811-1881), artist and partner in the Kellogg brothers’ lithographic firm in Hartford, was an avid sports fisherman and expert angler – and one of the first in America to experiment in artificial fish-breeding.

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History
3:10 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

The Civil War Commences

The American Civil War sesquicentennial begins on April 12, 2011. 150 years ago, on that date, Confederate batteries in Charleston Harbor opened fire on Fort Sumter; the first shots fired in a war that would claim over 600,000 American lives. The State of Connecticut did not falter in its support of the federal government. Over 55,000 young men from Connecticut served in uniform during the war. Connecticut industry supplied the armed forces with firearms from the Colt Firearm Company and many independent contractors produced a plethora of weapons.

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History
4:32 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

Crazy for Flower Quilts

As March gives way to April, it finally becomes clear that spring will come again. But how do we reconcile the impending spring with the chill that still arrives at night?  One time-honored way is to wrap up in a cozy quilt decorated with spring flowers.

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History
11:30 am
Sat March 19, 2011

The Smith Sisters of Glastonbury

Women’s History Month is a fitting time to remember and honor Glastonbury’s Smith sisters.  All five daughters of Hannah and Zephaniah Smith were remarkable, but it was Julia and Abby, who became champions of women’s rights and both local and state celebrities.

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History
10:18 am
Mon March 14, 2011

The Wearing of the Green

A huge influx of Irish immigrants arrived in Connecticut during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, driven by political unrest and economic hardship.  Most of them were Roman Catholics and many of them found work as laborers.  While anti-Irish sentiment was widespread, Hartford’s Kellogg brothers, publishers of thousands of brightly colored popular prints, viewed these new Americans as potential customers.  

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History
2:26 pm
Sat March 5, 2011

“The Great White Hurricane” of 1888

As Connecticut emerges from beneath the record amounts of snow left by a series of storms that started in December and continued into February, residents should temper their relief with caution. For it was in the middle of March that the most massive and destructive snowstorm in New England history struck: the Blizzard of 1888.

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History
10:36 am
Sat February 26, 2011

Petticoats Revealed and Concealed: 1740 to 1840

In 1758, Sarah Halsey spent countless hours quilting a beautiful petticoat.  But why spend so much time on a garment that no one will see?  The term petticoat has evolved over time and began by referring to a skirt when separate from the bodice.  As a result, there are two types of petticoats: under petticoats (unseen) and petticoats (seen).  Sarah Halsey’s petticoat fits into the second category, those meant to be seen.  Everyone she passed could marvel at her skills with needle and thread.

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History
9:56 am
Fri February 18, 2011

Remembering Fredi Washington

The Connecticut Historical Society. 2001.22.16.

Fredericka Carolyn "Fredi" Washington was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1903 and died in Stamford, Connecticut in 1994.  Fredi began her career as a dancer at the Cotton Club in Harlem during the 1920s.  She appeared in Black and Tan, a short film featuring Duke Ellington and his orchestra, in 1929 and went on to career in motion pictures.  She is most famous for her portrayal of Peola in Imitation of Life (1934).  Peola, a light-skinned young African-American woman, chooses to pass as white in order to escape racial discrimination. 

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History
9:21 am
Mon February 14, 2011

Willie Loves Jennie

Connecticut Historical Society

Corporal William L. “Willie” Norton, Company B, 10th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, missed his sweetheart. Jennie E. Annis was home in Buckland (Manchester), Connecticut.  Willie was fighting in the South with the Union Army. The Connecticut Historical Society recently acquired two letters written by Willie to Jennie. The first was written in March 1863 from Island St. Helena, South Carolina, and the second was written from Seabrook Island, South Carolina in July 1863.

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History
2:29 pm
Sat February 5, 2011

The Great Hartford Fire Department

In 1783, many Connecticut residents gathered around the State House on Main Street in Hartford, CT to celebrate the end of the Revolutionary War with a huge bonfire. To everyone’s surprise, some of the burning embers set fire to the roof of the State House.  Although the building survived it was so badly damaged that a new one had to be built leading to the erection of the structure we know as the Old State House today.  

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History
3:42 pm
Sat January 29, 2011

A Sampling of Samplers

Everyone remembers final papers and final exams from their school days, but a final needlework sampler?  The female academies attended by students in the 19th century used samplers as a way to track the progress of student needlework.  Throughout Connecticut, girls (and a few young boys) completed samplers as a way to both practice their stitching and track their progress. 

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History
9:49 am
Sat January 22, 2011

A Pioneering Connecticut Firearm

Connecticut is well-known for its role in the mass-production of firearms through the genius of 19th Century pioneers like Eli Whitney, Simeon North and Samuel Colt. But what came before the Industrial Revolution made its mark? Through the 18th century Connecticut gunsmiths like Benoni Hills of Goshen produced superb fowling long-barreled hunting guns (known as fowling pieces) that served their owners well in peace and in war. These early gunsmiths produced their weapons one at a time, mirroring the craft tradition found in furniture-, clock- and silver-making.

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Historical Diaries
3:07 pm
Fri October 29, 2010

With Needle and Pen

Connecticut Historical Society

How do we know what we know about the daily lives of people in the 18th and 19th centuries? Primarily through their diaries and letters, which make up a large proportion of the research materials at the Connecticut Historical Society.

Women and girls, particularly in the 18th and early 19th centuries, spent a great deal of time either making textiles or sewing textiles to make clothing or utilitarian objects. For example, in May 1784, eighteen year-old Hannah Hadassah Smith wrote in her diary (Ms 1009):

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