Everybody is familiar with Connecticut’s nickname of the “Nutmeg State” and that the state tree is the Charter Oak, but perhaps fewer know that the state bird is the American Robin and the state flower is the Mountain Laurel. But if you dig deeper into Connecticut’s history, you can find hidden gems and some really surprising facts! Impress your friends with these 15 fun facts that you may not have known about Connecticut.
The Connecticut State Insect is the praying mantis, which is unusual as it isn’t even native to North America. In fact, the praying mantis is native to Africa and Europe.
Noah Webster, the author of the first American dictionary was born in West Hartford. While working as a teacher in Connecticut, Webster found that the education system needed reconsideration, so he began writing his own books in American English. The first dictionary was published in 1806 and we know it as the Webster’s Dictionary today. You can even visit the Noah Webster House in West Hartford if you’d like to learn more.
In the mid-1700s, Willimantic faced a severe drought. One evening, townspeople were woken up at night by strange noises that they thought must have been a battle between nearby Native Americans. Yet, when they woke up, they found numerous dead frogs that had died due to the unusually low waters. Frogs have since become a symbol of Willimantic and you can find the Frog Bridge commemorating this history.
Amendments allow for the progression and modernization of the Constitution of the United States. One such amendment, the 18th Amendment, which was passed on Jan. 16, 1919, prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol (Prohibition). Connecticut and its friendly neighboring state to the east, Rhode Island, never ratified the 18th Amendment.
The world’s first nuclear powered submarine was built in Groton at Electric Boat in 1954. President Harry S. Truman laid her keel in 1952, and following completion of construction, First Lady Eisenhower christened her with a bottle of champagne. In 1958, the USS Nautilus reached the North Pole, accomplishing what was thought to be impossible at that time. The USS Nautilus can now be seen at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton.
Connecticut is home to the first publicly funded library in the United State—Scoville Memorial Library. This free public library began when Richard Smith brought 200 books back from London to Salisbury in 1771. Additional books were added to the collection in 1805, when the books were housed in the Town Hall. In the 1890s, money was left to the town of Salisbury by Jonathan Scoville to build a permanent library building to house the ever-growing collection of books. Since that time, the library has been expanded and the collection of books is now over 30,000.
In 1809, Mary Kies of South Killingly, Connecticut was the first woman to receive a patent in the U.S. Her patent was for a unique method of weaving straw with silk to create beautiful hats. This patent came at an important time during the Napoleonic Wars because imports from Europe to the U.S. were stopped. Therefore, fashion items that would normally be imported were no longer available.
Music Vale, the United States’ first music school to be allowed to confer music teaching degrees, was located in the sleepy town of Salem. Music Vale Normal School opened in 1835 by Orramel Whittlesey. Although the schoolhouse burnt down long ago, some exhibits and paintings still exist and are housed at the Salem Historical Society.
B. F. Clyde’s Cider Mill is the only steam powered cider mill in the U.S. and has been family-run since it opened in 1881. You can still enjoy cider and apple treats made at Clyde’s during their opening season from September until December. Tasty highlights include hard cider, apple wine, and hot-from-the-oven apple doughnuts. You can also enjoy apple cider making demonstrations, which take place on Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting.
The Hartford Current began in 1764, before the United States was a nation, and is the United States’ oldest newspaper that is still being published today. The Hartford Current originally began as a weekly newspaper and was started by Thomas Green and his assistant Ebenezer Watson. In 1777, Watson’s wife took over the Hartford Current and became one of the first women publishers in the US. During the Revolutionary War, the Hartford Current was a strong backer of the rebel cause.
Did you know that America’s favorite sandwich was invented in Connecticut? Hamburgers were invented by Louis Lassen in 1900 at Louis’ Lunch. The original hamburger consisted of grilled ground steak formed into a paddy and sandwiched between two slices of toast. You can still eat the original hamburger in the original building (although the building was moved to a new location) at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven.
Orange, Connecticut, is the home of the delicious PEZ candy museum, manufacturer, and the world’s tallest PEZ dispenser. You can learn more than you may ever want to know about the production of PEZ candy and their famous character-shaped dispensers at the PEZ museum.
While pizza in America began in 1905 in New York, Connecticut wasn’t that far behind and is home to some of the oldest pizzerias in the United States. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven (1925), Zuppardi’s Apizza in West Haven (1934), Modern Apizza in New Haven (1934), and Jennie’s Pizzeria in Bridgeport and Monroe (1935) are among the oldest in the country.
We can thank Ezra Warner, a Waterbury native, for his invention of the first U.S. can opener in 1858. After its invention, many grocery stores carried can openers so store clerks could open cans for customers to take home, as most people didn’t have can openers at home.
If you are a fan of preserving your memories in scrapbooks, you’ll be surprised to hear that Mark Twain (the famous author who lived in Hartford) created and patented a scrapbook that had adhesive pre-applied to its pages. To affix your photographs and memories, all you needed to do was moisten the page.