Connecticut is the southernmost state in the region of the United States known as New England. Connecticut is also often grouped into the area known as the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the south. Its capital city is Hartford, and its most populous city is Bridgeport. The state is named after the Connecticut River, a major U.S. river that approximately bisects the state. The word is derived from various anglicized spellings of an Algonquian word for "long tidal river."
Connecticut is the third smallest state by area, the 29th most populous, and the fourth most densely populated of the 50 United States. Called the Constitution State, the Nutmeg State, the Provisions State, and the Land of Steady Habits. It was influential in the development of the federal government of the United States. Much of southern and western Connecticut (along with the majority of the state's population) is part of the New York metropolitan area: three of Connecticut's eight counties are statistically included in the New York City combined statistical area, which is widely referred to as the Tri-State area. Connecticut's center of population is in Cheshire, New Haven County, which is also located within the Tri-State area.
Connecticut's first European settlers were Dutch. They established a small, short-lived settlement in present-day Hartford at the confluence of the Park and Connecticut rivers, called Huys de Goede Hoop. Initially, half of Connecticut was a part of the Dutch colony, New Netherland, which included much of the land between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers. The first major settlements were established in the 1630s by England. Thomas Hooker led a band of followers overland from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and founded what would become the Connecticut Colony; other settlers from Massachusetts founded the Saybrook Colony and the New Haven Colony. The Connecticut and New Haven Colonies established documents of Fundamental Orders, considered the first constitutions in North America. In 1662, the three colonies were merged under a royal charter, making Connecticut a crown colony. This colony was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution.
The Connecticut River, Thames River, and ports along Long Island Sound have given Connecticut a strong tradition, which continues today. The state also has a long history of hosting the financial-services industry, including insurance companies in Hartford and hedge funds in Fairfield County. As of the 2010 Census, Connecticut features the highest per-capita income, Human Development Index (0.962), and median household income in the United States. Although it is a wealthy state by most measures, the income gap between its urban and suburban areas is unusually wide.
Exploration and early settlement
The name Connecticut is derived from anglicized versions of the Algonquian word that has been translated as "long tidal river" and "upon the long river." The Connecticut region was inhabited by multiple Native American tribes prior to European settlement and colonization, including the Mohegans, the Pequots, and the Paugusetts. The first European explorer in Connecticut was the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block. After he explored this region in 1614, Dutch fur traders sailed up the Connecticut River (then known by the Dutch as Versche Rivier – "Fresh River") and built a fort at Dutch Point in what is present-day Hartford, which they called "House of Hope".
John Winthrop, then of Massachusetts, received a commission to create a new colony at Old Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River in 1635. This was the first of three distinct colonies that later would be combined to make up Connecticut. Saybrook Colony was a direct challenge to Dutch claims. The colony was not more than a small outpost and never matured. In 1644, the Saybrook Colony merged itself into the Connecticut Colony.
The first English settlers came in 1633 and settled at Windsor, and then at Wethersfield the following year. However, the main body of settlers came in one large group in 1636. The settlers were Puritans from Massachusetts, led by Thomas Hooker. Hooker had been prominent in England and was a professor of theology at Cambridge. He was also an important political writer and made a significant contribution to Constitutional theory. He broke with the political leadership in Massachusetts, and, just as Roger Williams created a new polity in Rhode Island, Hooker and his cohort did the same and established the Connecticut Colony at Hartford in 1636. This was the second of the three colonies. The third colony was founded in March 1638. New Haven Colony (originally known as the Quinnipiack Colony) was established by John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton, and others at New Haven. The New Haven Colony had its own constitution, "The Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony," which was signed on June 4, 1639.
Because the Dutch were outnumbered by the flood of English settlers from Massachusetts, they left their fort in 1654.
Neither the establishment of the Connecticut Colony or the Quinnipiack Colony was carried out with the sanction of the English Crown, and they were independent political entities. They naturally were presumptively English, but in a legal sense, they were only secessionist outposts of Massachusetts Bay. In 1662, Winthrop took advantage of this void in political affairs and obtained in England the charter by which the colonies of Connecticut and Quinnipiack were united from the newly restored Charles II, who granted liberal political terms. Although Winthrop's charter favored the Connecticut colony, New Haven remained a seat of government with Hartford until after the American Revolution.
The Pequot War marked the first major clash between European settlers and Native Americans in New England. With the Pequot people reacting with increasing aggression to European settlers encroaching on their territory, settlers responded in 1636 with a raid on a Pequot village on Block Island. The Pequots laid siege to Saybrook Colony's garrison that autumn, then in the spring of 1637 raided Wethersfield. Colonists there declared war on the Pequots, organized a band of militia and Native Americans, and attacked a Pequot village on the Mystic River, with death toll estimates ranging between 300 and 700 Pequots. After suffering another major loss at a battle in Fairfield, the Pequots asked for a truce and peace terms.
Connecticut developed a conservative elite that would dominate colonial affairs in the years leading up to the American Revolution. The forces of liberalism and democracy emerged slowly, encouraged by the entrepreneurship of the business community, and the new religious freedom stimulated by the First Great Awakening.
With the establishment of Yale College in 1701, Connecticut had an important institution to educate clergy and civil leaders. Just as Yale dominated Connecticut's intellectual life, the Congregational church dominated religious life in the colony, and by extension, town affairs in many parts.
The western boundaries of Connecticut have been subject to change over time. According to the Hartford Treaty with the Dutch, signed on September 19, 1650, but never ratified by the British, the western boundary of Connecticut ran north from Greenwich Bay for a distance of 20 miles "provided the said line come not within [16 km] of Hudson River. This agreement was observed by both sides until war erupted between England and The Netherlands in 1652. No other limits were found. Conflict over uncertain colonial limits continued until the Duke of York captured New Netherland in 1664." On the other hand, Connecticut's original Charter in 1662 granted it all the land to the "South Sea," i.e. the Pacific Ocean. Most colonial royal grants were for long east-west strips. Connecticut took its grant seriously, and established a ninth county between the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, named Westmoreland County. This resulted in the brief Pennamite Wars with Pennsylvania.
The American Revolution
In 1775, in the wake of the clashes between British regulars and Massachusetts militia at Lexington and Concord, Connecticut's legislature authorized the outfitting of six new regiments, with some 1,200 Connecticut troops on hand at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775.
Getting word in 1777 of Continental Army supplies in Danbury, the British landed an expeditionary force of some 2,000 troops in Westport, who marched to Danbury and destroyed much of the depot along with homes in Danbury. On the return march, Continental Army troops and militia led by General David Wooster and General Benedict Arnold engaged the British at Ridgefield in 1777.
For the winter of 1778–79, General George Washington decided to split the Continental Army into three divisions encircling New York City, where British General Sir Henry Clinton had taken up winter quarters. Major General Israel Putnam chose Redding as the winter encampment quarters for some 3,000 regulars and militia under his command. The Redding encampment allowed Putnam's soldiers to guard the replenished supply depot in Danbury and support any operations along Long Island Sound and the Hudson River Valley. Some of the men were veterans of the winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania the previous winter. Soldiers at the Redding camp endured supply shortages, cold temperatures and significant snow, with some historians dubbing the encampment "Connecticut's Valley Forge."
The state was also the launching site for a number of raids against Long Island orchestrated by Samuel Holden Parsons and Benjamin Tallmadge, and provided men and material for the war effort, especially to Washington's army outside New York City. General William Tryon raided the Connecticut coast in July 1779, focusing on New Haven, Norwalk, and Fairfield. New London and Groton Heights were raided in September 1781 by Arnold, who at that point had turned to the British.
Early National Period and Industrial Revolution
On January 9, 1788, Connecticut ratified the U.S. Constitution, becoming the fifth state.
Connecticut prospered during the era following the American Revolution, as mills and textile factories were built and seaports flourished from trade and fisheries.
In 1786, Connecticut ceded territory to the U.S. government that became part of the Northwest Territory. Connecticut retained land extending across the northern part of present-day Ohio, called the Connecticut Western Reserve. The Western Reserve section was settled largely by people from Connecticut, and they brought Connecticut place names to Ohio. Agreements with Pennsylvania and New York extinguished the land claims by Connecticut within its neighbors, creating the Connecticut Panhandle. Connecticut ceded the Western Reserve in 1800 to the federal government, which brought the state to its present boundaries other than minor adjustments with Massachusetts.
The British blockade during the War of 1812 hurt exports, and bolstered the influence of Federalists who opposed the war. The cessation of imports from Britain stimulated the construction of factories to manufacture textiles and machinery. Due in part to the inventions of Eli Whitney and other early innovators of the Industrial Revolution, Connecticut would come to be recognized as a major center for manufacturing.
The state was known for its political conservatism, typified by its Federalist party and the Yale College of Timothy Dwight. The foremost intellectuals were Dwight and Noah Webster, who compiled his great dictionary in New Haven. Religious tensions polarized the state, as the established Congregational Church, in alliance with the Federalists, tried to maintain its grip on power. The failure of the Hartford Convention in 1814 hurt the Federalist cause, with the Republican Party gaining control in 1817.
Having been governed under the "Fundamental Orders" since 1639, Connecticut adopted in 1818 a new constitution.
Civil War era
Connecticut manufacturers played a major role in supplying the Union forces with weapons and supplies during the Civil War. The state furnished 55,000 men. They were formed into thirty full regiments of infantry, including two in the U.S. Colored Troops, with several Connecticut men becoming generals. The Navy attracted 250 officers and 2100 men, and Gideon Welles was Secretary of the Navy. James H. Ward of Hartford was the first U.S. Naval Officer killed in the Civil War. Connecticut casualties included 2088 killed in combat, 2801 dying from disease, and 689 dying in Confederate prison camps.
A surge of national unity in 1861 brought thousands flocking to the colors from every town and city. However as the war became a crusade to end slavery, many Democrats (especially Irish Catholics) pulled back. The Democrats took a peace position and included many Copperheads willing to let the South secede. The intensely fought 1863 election for governor was narrowly won by the Republicans.
Second Industrial Revolution
Connecticut's extensive industry, dense population, flat terrain, and wealth encouraged the construction of railroads, starting in 1839. By 1840, 102 miles of line were in operation, growing to 402 in 1850 and 601 in 1860.
The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, called the New Haven or "The Consolidated," became the dominant Connecticut railroad company after 1872. Starting in the 1890s J. P. Morgan began financing the major New England railroads, and dividing territory so they would not compete. The New Haven purchased 50 smaller companies, including steamship lines, and built a network of light rails (electrified trolleys) that provided inter-urban transportation for all of southern New England. By 1912, the New Haven operated over 2000 miles of track, and 120,000 employees.
In 1875, the first telephone exchange in the world was established in New Haven.
World War I
When World War I broke out in 1914, Connecticut became a major supplier of weaponry to the U.S. military; by 1918, 80% of the state's industries were producing goods for the war effort. Remington Arms in Bridgeport produced half the small-arms cartridges used by the U.S. Army; with other major suppliers including Winchester in New Haven and Colt in Hartford.
Connecticut was also an important U.S. Navy supplier, with Electric Boat receiving orders for 85 submarines, Lake Torpedo Boat building more than 20 subs, and the Groton Iron Works building freighters. On June 21, 1916, the U.S. Navy made Groton the site for its East Coast submarine base and school.
The state enthusiastically supported the American war effort in 1917 and 1918, with large purchases of war bonds and a further expansion of war industry, and emphasis on increasing food production in the farms. Thousands of state, local, and volunteer groups mobilized for the war effort, and were coordinated by the Connecticut State Council of Defense. Manufacturers wrestled with manpower shortages; with American Brass and Manufacturing running at half capacity, the federal government agreed to furlough soldiers to join the Waterbury company.
In 1919, Henry Roraback started the Connecticut Light & Power Co., which would grow to become the state's dominant electric utility.
In 1925, Frederick Rentschler spurred the creation of Pratt & Whitney in Hartford to develop engines for aircraft; the company would become an important military supplier in World War II and in time one of the three major manufacturers of jet engines in the world.
On September 21, 1938, the most destructive storm in New England history struck eastern Connecticut, killing hundreds of people. The eye of the "Long Island Express" passed just west of New Haven and devastated the Connecticut shoreline between Old Saybrook and Stonington, which lacked the partial protection provided by Long Island, N.Y. to points west from the full force of wind and waves. The hurricane caused extensive damage to infrastructure, homes, and businesses. In New London, a 500-foot sailing ship was driven into a warehouse complex, causing a major fire. Heavy rainfall caused the Connecticut River to flood downtown Hartford and East Hartford. An estimated 50,000 trees fell onto roadways.
World War II
The advent of Lend-Lease in support of Britain helped lift Connecticut from the Great Depression, with the state a major production center for weaponry and supplies used in World War II. Connecticut manufactured 4.1 percent of total U.S. military armaments produced during World War II, ranking ninth among the 48 states, with major factories including Colt for firearms, Pratt & Whitney for aircraft engines, Chance Vought for fighter planes, Hamilton Standard for propellers, and Electric Boat for submarines and PT boats. In Bridgeport, General Electric would produce a significant new weapon to counter opposing tanks: the bazooka.
On May 13, 1940, Igor Sikorsky made an untethered flight of what was the first practical helicopter. While the helicopter would see only limited use in World War II, future military production would make Sikorsky Aircraft's Stratford plant Connecticut's largest single manufacturing site by the start of the 21st century.
Post-World War II economic expansion
While Connecticut saw the loss of some wartime factories following the end of hostilities, the state shared in a general post-war expansion that included the construction of highways, resulting in middle-class growth in suburban areas.
In 1965, Connecticut ratified its current constitution, replacing the document that had served since 1818.
In 1974 Connecticut elected as governor Democrat Ella T. Grasso, who became the first woman in any state to be elected governor in her own right.
Late 20th century
Connecticut's dependence on the defense industry posed an economic challenge at the end of the Cold War. The resulting budget crisis helped elect Lowell Weicker as governor on a third-party ticket in 1990. Weicker's remedy, a state income tax, proved effective in balancing the budget but politically unpopular, and Weicker did not run for a second term.
In 1992, initial construction was completed on Foxwoods Casino at the Mashantucket Pequots reservation in eastern Connecticut, which would become the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere. Mohegan Sun would follow four years later.
Early 21st century
In August 2000, presidential candidate Al Gore chose as his running mate Senator Joe Lieberman, marking the first time a major party presidential ticket included someone of the Jewish faith. Gore and Lieberman fell five votes short of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the Electoral College.
In 2004, Republican Governor John G. Rowland resigned during a corruption investigation, later pleading guilty to federal charges.
In 2011 and 2012, Connecticut was hit by three major storms in the space of just over 14 months, with all three causing extensive property damage and electric outages. Hurricane Irene struck Connecticut August 28 with the storm blamed for the deaths of three residents. Damage totaled $235 million, including 20 houses that were destroyed in East Haven. Two months later in late October, the so-called "Halloween nor'easter" dropped extensive snow onto trees in Connecticut that still had foliage, resulting in a significant numbers of snapped branches and trunks that damaged property and power lines, with some areas not seeing electricity restored for 11 days. Hurricane Sandy had tropical storm-force winds when it reached Connecticut October 29, 2012, with four deaths blamed on the storm. Sandy's winds drove storm surges into coastal streets, toppled trees, and cut power to 98 percent of homes and businesses en route to more than $360 million in damage.
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children and 6 staff, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Connecticut, and then killed himself. The massacre would spur renewed efforts by activists for tighter laws on gun ownership nationally.
Note: Connecticut was one of the 13 original States. Apart from claims to territory in the West, relinquished by 1800, its boundaries have remained substantially unchanged; small cessions to Massachusetts were made shortly after 1800. Census coverage included all of Connecticut from 1790 on.
Births, Marriages, and Deaths
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