Connecticut is located between New York and Rhode Island and is south of Massachusetts on the eastern seaboard of the United States, and is home to three-and-a-half million people1; roughly 125,000 of whom live in the capital city of Hartford.
What's in a Name?
The native American tribe Algonquin first called the area Connecticut. The name Connecticut in the Algonquian language means 'on the long tidal river'.
Connecticut was the fifth state to ratify the US Constitution, having done so on 9 January, 1788. It is sometimes called the 'Constitution State' because its document of 1639 - the 'Fundamental Orders' - is considered by many to be the first Constitution in North America. It was also delegates from Connecticut who in 1787 devised the plan of how many representatives each state would have in the US Congress, thus profoundly affecting the US Constitution.
Connecticut is also known as the 'nutmeg state' because early Yankee peddlers sold nutmeg from the spice islands, which was used in many Connecticut kitchens. Early Connecticut also had its con men who sold wooden nuggets in place of the spice.
Yet it has earned two more nicknames:
The 'Provisions State' - During the American Revolution, Washington's army obtained food and other provisions from here.
The 'Land of Steady Habits' - Referring to the well-known Yankee traits of thrift, resourcefulness and morality.
- Area - 5544 square miles, of which 4845 are land
- Highest point - Mt Frissel, at 2380ft2
- Coastline - 185 miles
- State bird - Robin
- State flower - Mountain Laurel
- State song - Yankee Doodle
If you are going to Connecticut you might want to see the oldest public art museum in the US, The Wadsworth Atheneum, which is located in Hartford. Other sights include:
- The lighthouse on Sheffield Island
- The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk
- The Mystic seaport
- The Nathan Hale Homestead in Coventry
- The Nautilus Sub Museum in Groton
Also attracting a lot of people in Connecticut are the casinos. These casinos are owned and operated by native Americans, among which are the Pequot, the Schagticoke, and the Mohegan. The Foxwood Resort and Casino in Ledyard has over one square mile of floor space. A high-class facility, it also houses a hotel and museum. A second casino, the Mohegan Sun, also houses a stadium and is home to the professional women's basketball team, the WNBA Connecticut Sun.
The explorer Adriaen Block visited the area in 1614. The first colonists arrived about 20 years later and made treaties with the native Americans. The first Constitution entitled the 'Fundamental Orders' was written in 1639. In 1662 King Charles II of Great Britain granted a Royal Charter. Agents from King James II later tried to seize it and it was hidden in an old oak tree in Hartford. Ever since this tree3 has been known as the Charter Oak.
During the Revolutionary War the British burned the port of Norwalk.
In 1810 the state gave its first charter to an insurance company.
The uniqueness of Hartford's companies lay in building a solid reputation for staying solvent, keeping their promises to pay losses, hanging on in times of disaster, and initiating new forms of insurance.
- Historian Ellworth Grant
During the US Civil War Connecticut lost 20,000 men.
In the 1890s the British banking house of Baring Brothers collapsed. This caused a chain of events leading to an economic downturn where thousands in Connecticut lost their jobs or had to accept pay cuts.
Later, following World War One, 336 foreigners were arrested in Connecticut by the FBI. Charged with violating the Alien Act of 1918 they were jailed for lengthy periods of time (often without a lawyer) and then were tried in deportation hearings not governed by normal judicial procedure, according to Herbert F Janick at Connecticut's Heritage Gateway.
Technology and Innovation
Connecticut has always been a leader in innovation, which is often called Yankee ingenuity. Between 1790 and 1930 Connecticut had more patents (per capita) than any other state in the Union. The first telephone exchange was installed in 1878 and ten years later Harvey Hubbell started a company in Bridgeport that grew to be a major supplier to the young electrical industry. Over the years many other notable firms have maintained a presence in Connecticut.
The Puritans considered it necessary to have a literate populace so that the principles of their faith could be understood. Today there are at least 23 major colleges in Connecticut. Here are a few of them:
Yale University. Located in New Haven, Yale was founded in 1701 by the Congregationalists. It granted its first PhD in 1861 and today is one of the most prestigious universities in the entire US.
Trinity College in Hartford was founded in 1823 by the Espiscopals.
Wesleyan University in Middletown was founded in 1831 by the Methodists.
Also in the mid-1800s, agricultural colleges began to appear. One of these began in 1881 as Storrs Agricultural college; it became Connecticut Agricultural College in 1899, Connecticut State College in 1931 and finally University of Connecticut in 1939. In recent years it has gained a national reputation in athletics.
The average winter temperature is 27°F (-3°C). The average summer temperature is 75°F (24°C). However, a predominant trait is the variability of the weather and it is not uncommon to see temperatures far above and below these numbers. During the course of a winter, Connecticut sees between 35 to 45 inches of snow with more in the mountains and less along the coast.
- Ethan Allen - Patriot
- Nathan Hale - Patriot
- Samuel Colt - Inventor of revolver
- Prudence Crandall - 19th Century black educator
- PT Barnum - Circus master
- Noah Webster - Created the first American dictionary
- Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) - Author
- Eli Whitney - Inventor of cotton gin
- JP Morgan - Financier
- Harvey Hubbell - Inventor of electric switch
- Dr Robert K Jarvik - Created first working artificial heart
- Paul Newman - Actor
Three Interstate highways cross the state of Connecticut. The I-95 runs along the coastline, the I-84 runs parallel through Hartford, and I-91 runs N-S from New Haven to and beyond Hartford toward the Massachusetts turnpike. Another major offshoot from the I-91 is the I-84 which will lead you to the I-90 as well but much closer to Boston.
Connecticut (until recently) has held the dubious honour of having the highest per capita taxation in the US.
Notable Businesses include Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Bayer Corp, the Hartford Insurance and ESPN. These among others help Connecticut strive to be a major player on the world stage with companies engaged in technology, innovation, financial services, and the bioscience and pharmaceutical industries working in stem cell research.
The Blue Laws
The Blue Laws, generally ignored in 21st Century America were once a model for behaviour across the United States. Written in Millford in the 1630s, it is asserted that they were written on blue paper and kept in blue-bound books. They had four main areas:
- Sabbath Regulation - Dealing with laws about commerce on Sunday.
- Family Regulation - Dealing with laws about marriage and child-rearing.
- Sumptuary Laws - Dealing with laws about food, clothing and social station.
- Public Behaviour - Laws dealing with how to behave in public.
Eggs Benedict anyone?
Eggs Benedict was the product of a yachtman's breakfast off the coast of Connecticut. The legend goes that banker and yachtsman EC Benedict inherited a Connecticut fortune and while on his yacht sometime around 1902 he insisted that hollandaise sauce be added to his poached eggs on toast with ham. When guests tried the new delicacy they fell in love with it and named it after its inventor.