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The Industrial United States 1870-1900


The City of Hartford steamboat after collision with railroad bridge

Steamboat Accident – Today in History: March 29

On March 29, 1876, the steamboat City of Hartford, of…

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St. Anthony Comstock, the Village nuisance

Connecticut and the Comstock Law

The federal Comstock Law of 1873 made it illegal to…

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Dr. Mary Moody sitting on her front porch

Dr. Mary B. Moody Challenges Victorian Mores About Women in Medicine

New Haven resident Dr. Mary Moody the first female graduate of the medical school at the University of Buffalo, and the first female member of the American Association of Anatomists.

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Advertisement for the Horton Mfg. Co.

The Telescoping Fishing Rod – Today in History: March 8

On March 8, 1887, Everett Horton, a Bristol mechanic, patented a fishing rod of telescoping steel tubes.

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View of Wadsworth Street in 1877

The Lives of Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus Told Through their Loving Letters

Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus were two free Black women whose lives intersected in Hartford, Connecticut in the 19th century. Letters written between them imply their relationship was more than friendship.

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Case Paper Mill, circa 1925

Andover Looks Good on Paper

In 1889, Fred Case built a paper mill on the…

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Lounsbury Elected Governor – Today in History: January 4

On January 4th 1899, George Edward Lounsbury was elected the…

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Man wearing a hat with card stating "Bread or Revolution"

How the Wobblies Won Free Speech

Denied the right to free assembly in public spaces, Connecticut workers joined in a larger national movement of civil disobedience.

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Improved Centrifugal Governor

Portland Improves the Steam Engine

Thomas R. Pickering, an engineer, ran a factory power plant…

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Silkworms, Cheney Brothers, Manchester

Connecticut’s Mulberry Craze

In pursuit of silk thread, the state went crazy for mulberry trees.

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Intertwining Family Businesses

Emory Johnson, a farmer from Chatham, Connecticut, moved to East Haddam and operated one of the area’s most successful businesses of the late 19th century.

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Detail from a New York Times article August 11, 1886

The Shoe Box Murder Mystery

On the morning of August 8, 1886, on a walk through the Parker farm district of Wallingford, Edward Terrill and his dog uncovered what appeared to be a box of a dozen shoes that had recently fallen from a cart.

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Monument to Capewell, the inventor of the famous horseshoe nail

Horseshoe Nail Capital of the World – Who Knew?

…that Hartford, famous as the Insurance Capital of the World,…

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Flying Machine patent

Flying High with Early Dirigible

In what would later be described as “the first flight of a man-carrying dirigible in America,” aeronaut Mark Quinlan piloted a machine designed and patented by Charles F. Ritchel.

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Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch, Hartford

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Hartford

Situated in Bushnell Park, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch honors the more than 4,000 Hartford men who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

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The Innumerable Accolades Afforded Dr. William H. Welch

William Welch was a native of Norfolk, Connecticut, and one…

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Offices of HELCO at 266 Pearl Street, Hartford

Let There Be Light: An Early History of the Hartford Electric Light Company

As cities switched from gas lamps to electric lighting, one observer noted that Hartford was “far in the lead of any other city in the world in the use of electricity for light and power per capita.”

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Bursting of the Staffordville Reservoir

Bursting of the Staffordville Reservoir – Today in History: March 27

On March 27, 1877, the Staffordville Reservoir Company’s dam burst,…

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Connecticut’s First Municipal Electric Utility

The first municipal electric plant in Connecticut began operating in the City of South Norwalk in 1892 to provide low-cost electricity for street lighting and, a few years later, for homes and businesses.

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Southern New England Telephone Company Operator School

Connecticut’s First Female Telephone Operator – Today in History: March 24

On March 24, 1879, Marjorie Gray became Connecticut’s first female…

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Leatherman Dies – Today in History: March 20

On March 20, 1889, the Old Leatherman, so called for…

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Lydia Sherman: The Derby Poisoner

Lydia Sherman confessed to killing three husbands and four children, but it is believed that the total number of her victims may be much higher.

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Best remembered for her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” this Hartford author’s larger legacy is a life dedicated to women’s issues and social reform.

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Park Central Hotel disaster

Park Central Hotel Boiler Explosion – Today in History: February 18

In the pre-dawn hours of February 18, 1889, the Park Central Hotel in Hartford was ripped apart by a steam boiler explosion.

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Charles Ethan Porter, Fruit: Apples, Grapes, Peaches, and Pears

Charles Ethan Porter, Portrait of a 19th-Century African American Painter

Charles Ethan Porter was a prolific still life painter in…

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The Boardman Building, New Haven

First Commercial Telephone Exchange – Today in History: January 28

On January 28, 1878, the Boardman Building in New Haven…

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Tariffville Train Wreck

The Tariffville Disaster – Today in History: January 14

On January 14, 1878, at about 10:00 in the evening, a span of the Tariffville Bridge gave way, plunging a Connecticut Western Railroad train into the Farmington River 20 feet below.

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Advertising leaflet for the "Cal" Pistol, J. & E. Stevens Co., Cromwell

Cromwell’s Iron Men Made Toys for Boys and Girls

When John and Elisha Stevens formed the J & E…

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Meriden Britannia Company, West Main Street, Meriden

Meriden’s Silver Lining

Like many towns in central Connecticut that found sustaining an…

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The Chinese Educational Mission Building in Hartford, 1887

Yung Wing’s Dream: The Chinese Educational Mission, 1872-1881

In all, 120 Chinese students came to live and study in New England. When they returned home, they served as diplomats, engineers, naval officers, physicians, educators, administrators, and magistrates.

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German American workers from the buff room

Late 19th-Century Immigration in Connecticut

Immigration to Connecticut in the second half of the 19th…

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Envelope of the Briggs Manufacturing Company

Briggs Manufacturing Drives Voluntown’s 19th-Century Cotton Economy

The Briggs Manufacturing Company was the premier employer in Voluntown,…

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Andover Creamery, 1889

Andover’s Award-Winning Creamery

Started in 1886 by town residents, the Andover Creamery Corporation…

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A worker cutting ivory

Ivory Cutting: The Rise and Decline of a Connecticut Industry

Ivoryton and Deep River boomed in the 1800s, along with the demand for piano parts made of ivory.

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Detail from the map GoodSpeeds Landing

W. J. Squire’s Gill Net Manufactory in East Haddam

In the early 1870s, Wilbur J. Squire (1837-1890) built his…

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P. T. Barnum Dies – Today in History: April 7

On April 7, 1891, P. T. (Phineas Taylor) Barnum died…

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Yale Daily News

Oldest College Daily – Today in History: January 28

On January 28, 1878, the first edition of the Yale…

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Making Self-Government Work, 1888-1905

Connecticut’s ancient system of town-based representation ensured the continuation of small town values and perspectives.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Searching for the Common Good, 1888-1905

Stimulated by immigration and industrialization, Connecticut cities expanded rapidly

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Significant Events & Developments, 1888-1905

Connecticut saw its population of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe swell in the last decades of the 19th century.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Making Self-Government Work, 1866-1887

The late 1800s witnessed significant challenges to Connecticut’s voting and taxation laws.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Searching for the Common Good, 1866-1887

In 1873, the legislature began to look more closely at the problems of Connecticut’s workers.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Significant Events & Developments, 1866-1887

After the Civil War, arms manufacturing kept Connecticut industries busy, but an economic depression in the 1870s drastically changed things.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: The Rise of the Factory, 1866-1887

In the years following the Civil War, Connecticut’s transformation to an urban, industrial state intensified.

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Yale Daily News

Oldest College Daily – Today in History: January 28

On January 28, 1878, the first edition of the Yale…

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Winter: Connecticut Valley by Dwight William Tryon

An Artist’s Life in Hartford: The Early Career of Dwight Tryon

Hartford native Dwight Tryon njoyed a long, successful career as a landscape painter and teacher with studios in New York City and South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

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Middletown, Main Street

Video – When Disaster Struck: King Blizzard

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955. This clip of archival sources and eyewitness accounts paints a vivid picture of how Connecticut residents coped with the monumental storm that hit New England in March of 1888. King Blizzard delivered 20 to 50 inches of snow with drifts of up to 20 feet.

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Blizzard of 1888 - Hartford, corner of Main Street and State Street

Blizzard of 1888 Devastates State

An unexpected and deadly March storm, stretching from Washington, DC, to the Canadian border, buried Connecticut in as much as 50 inches of snow.

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Jewett City, Conn, bird’s-eye map by Lucien R. Burleigh

Map – Bird’s-eye View of Jewett City, 1889

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries panoramic or…

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Hubbell’s Pull-Chain Electrical Light Socket – Today in History: August 11

On August 11, 1896, Bridgeport inventor and industrialist Harvey Hubbell patented…

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Video – Free-for-all Race at Charter Oak Park

A crowd of some 25,000 to 30,000 people turned out to see John R. Gentry compete for a $6,000 purse.

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1893-94 Duryea

Frank Duryea Drives the First Automobile in Connecticut

Frank Duryea was a long-time Madison resident who helped develop…

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Bridgeport, Conn., 1882

A Bird’s-eye View of Bridgeport

The lower perspective of this 1882 example is somewhat atypical of most of the bird’s-eye views of the era, but its emphasis on industrial accomplishment is a hallmark of the genre.

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City of Hartford, Connecticut

Bird’s-eye Views Offer Idealized Portraits of Progress

Panoramic prints of growing cities and towns became popular in the late 1800s as Connecticut transformed from an agricultural to an industrial state.

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Bird's-eye map of Moosup, Conn. Uniondale and Almyville,

A Bird’s-eye View of Moosup

This depiction of a Quinebaug Valley town and its satellite communities—Uniondale and Almyville—records an idealized view of the 19th-century textile boom.

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Yankee Ingenuity: Curtis Veeder, a Mechanical Genius and Shrewd Businessman

Curtis Veeder, born in Pennsylvania, was a machinist with a knack for invention. An avid cyclist, he patented a bicycle seat he sold to the Pope Company, and later invented a cyclometer for measuring distances traveled by bicycles.

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The Danbury Hatters

The origins of Danbury’s hat-making industry date back to the…

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Dedication of the New State Capitol, 1876

New State Capitol 1878

By the 1870s, the State’s practice of having dual capitols…

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New Haven Harbor, US Coast Survey, 1872

Three Young Engineers: Charting New Haven

When the United States Coast Survey set out to compile detailed charts of New Haven Harbor in the 1870s, they hired recent graduates of Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School as assistants.

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The Hartford Wheel Club, Hartford

The League of American Wheelmen and Hartford’s Albert Pope Champion the Good Roads Movement

How the 19th-century cycling craze led to improved roads and paved the way for future federal highway construction.

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View of Winsted, Conn,1877

Bird’s-eye Views of Winsted

As bird’s-eye view maps declined in popularity during the early 20th century, artists incorporated technical advances in hopes of reversing the trend.

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View of East Haddam. Connecticut. And Goodspeed's Landing

A Bird’s-eye View of East Haddam

In 1880, East Haddam was already a popular tourist destination and, despite its small size, boasted two steamboat landings to accommodate visitors.

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Eleanor: The Maltese Port painting by Vincenzo D'Esposito

The Slaters Go Round the World

In 1894, a well-to-do Norwich family set sail from New London on a ship outfitted with Persian rugs, oil paintings, a library with hundreds of titles, and 75 cases of champagne.

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Inventor Charles F. Ritchel

Charles Ritchel and the Dirigible

An entrepreneur’s design for a lighter-than-air vehicle takes flight in the late 1800s and inspires a new state industry.

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