Hartford History

Hartford 'Firsts' and Other Interesting Facts

Compiled by Greg Secord, cofounder of the Hartford Preservation Alliance, with acknowledgment to Wilson H. Faude and Joan W. Friedland, authors of "Connecticut Firsts," which served as the primary source for this list.

Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), the first nationally recognized American architect, completed his first public building, the Old State House, in 1796.

The Old State House is the oldest state house in America.

Hartford was the first city in the United States to erect a building designed for use of the YWCA, in 1867.

The first permanent and triumphal memorial arch in America is the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Bushnell Park in Hartford. Construction started in 1884.

The Bulkeley Bridge, completed in 1905, is the largest stone arch bridge in the world.

Hartford's Commission on the City Plan became the first permanent public planning body in the United States in 1907.

Connecticut's first black congregation was located at the Talcott Street Congregational Church in Hartford. The church was originally called the African Religious Society. The church was built in 1826. It housed fugitive slaves until the end of the Civil War. The church also operated a public school and at the time was the only place black children could learn to read or write.

Laura Wheeler Waring, a black woman born in Hartford in 1887, gained world renown as a portrait artist.

Aetna Life Insurance erected the world's largest colonial-style structure, 660 feet in length, in 1931.

The Phoenix Mutual Insurance Company's headquarters is the world's first two-sided building.

The Hartford Courant is the oldest continually published newspaper in America. The first issue of The Connecticut Courant, as it was called originally, was issued October 29, 1764.

Jupiter Hammond, a Hartford resident and author of "The Kind Master and the Dutiful Servant" was the first published American Black poet, in 1783.

The first children's magazine was published in Hartford under the title The Children's Magazine in 1789.

In 1791, the first law book containing the federal laws of the country was published in Hartford.

Cryptography is the art or process of writing in or deciphering secret codes. The first cryptography book was published in Hartford in 1805.

In 1855 the Aetna Insurance Company initiated the work of educating the public in art by publishing the first chromo poster.

The oldest industrial in-house magazine in the world is Protection, which began in Hartford as the Travelers Record in March 1865.

The first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to a publisher was then-Hartford resident Mark Twain.

The Wadsworth Atheneum was founded in 1842 by Daniel Wadsworth and is America's oldest public art museum.

The collection at Wadsworth Atheneum spans more than 5,000 years.

The Wadsworth Atheneum has the largest art library in Connecticut.

The first photographs used for advertising purposes were group pictures of Civil War generals produced by the Travelers of Hartford in 1883.

In 1647, Alse Young was hung in Hartford on the charge of being a witch. She was the first person in the colonies so charged, convicted, and put to death.

The first Home Missionary Society in America was organized in Hartford in 1798.

The first church services where prayers were offered in sign language were conducted in Hartford in 1817.

In 1966, the first ecumenical Easter sunrise service in America was held on Constitution Plaza.

In 1819, Congress appropriated money for the first school for the deaf in America. It was located in Hartford.

Catherine Beecher, the founder of the Hartford Female Seminary, became the first to teach domestic science and dietetics in America in 1815.

Trinity College was the first college in America to have open admissions, without regard to religious beliefs.

The first teacher's institute was established in Hartford in 1839.

Dr. Norman Morrison, who came to Hartford from Scotland, was the first man to separate the practice of medicine from pharmacy.

Horace Wells discovered nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as a dental anesthetic in Hartford, 1844.

Alpheus and Truman Hanks made the first iron plow castings in America, in Hartford in 1820.

In 1854, Hartford became the first city in the world to vote for the purchase of land with the purpose of creating a public park - Bushnell Park.

The first municipal rose garden in the United States is located in Hartford. The garden was laid out in 1903 in Elizabeth Park.

The first steam-powered road wagon ever constructed was made in Hartford by Dr. Apollos Kinsley, about 1797.

The first successful dirigible flight in the U.S. was made over Hartford on June 11, 1878. It lasted two hours.

The first pneumatic tire for an automobile was manufactured in Hartford.

The birth of the American automobile industry took place in Hartford. The Pope Manufacturing Company, using the best manufacturing methods then known, made Columbia Electric Automobiles. For many years Hartford was the center of the automobile industry

The first time a president of the United States rode in an automobile was on August 22, 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt took a ride in Hartford.

Loaded with Royal Typewriters, the world's first "air truck" left Hartford on August 8, 1927, on a flight to Havana, Cuba. Havana had no airport at the time, so the cargo was delivered from the airplane by parachute.

In 1843, Samuel Colt of Hartford laid a submarine telegraph cable from New York to Coney Island and Fire Island. It was the first cable of its kind to be so laid and operated.

The first automatic coin telephone was patented by William Gray of Hartford in 1889.

The first radio broadcast from a moving aircraft came in 1926. The transmission was picked up on a receiver atop a roof in Hartford and rebroadcast by WTIC.

WDRC became the world's first FM station in 1939.

The first watch made by machinery was the work of James and Henry Pitkin of Hartford in 1838.

Veeder-Root of Hartford developed the first counter to register price and gallons for use on a gasoline pump in 1933.

Amelia Simmons wrote the first American cookbook, and it was published in Hartford in 1796.

On January 8, 1975, Ella Grasso was sworn in as the first woman governor in the U.S. who hadn't inherited the office from her husband.

The first intercollegiate lawn tennis match was held in Hartford, in 1883.

The first woolen mill in America was built in Hartford in 1788 by Jeremiah Wadsworth.

In 1892, G.F. Heublein and Brothers of Hartford revolutionized the beverage industry with creation of the world's first bottled cocktails.

James Goodwin Batterson collected the first insurance premium in America in 1864.

In 1903, the Travelers Insurance Company opened the first insurance school, for the training of its agents.

The Travelers established the first corps of safety engineers.

The Travelers also introduced the first cash-settlement life insurance policy - "$10,000 or your money back" - in 1913.

The Travelers was the first insurer to issue aircraft liability insurance, in 1919.

In 1943, Aetna Life Insurance Company became the first to insure atomic projects.

The Travelers was the first insurance company to establish its own weather research center, in 1956.

In 1958, the Travelers became the first to offer women life insurance at a lower premium than men's, based upon longevity tables and accident statistics.

In Hartford in 1855, A.P. Pitkin recognized the danger of lead poisoning and introduced the first galvanized piping ever used in cities for the distribution of drinking water.

The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company became, in 1866, the first in the world to inspect steam boilers and insure their owners against loss or damage arising from boiler explosions.

In Hartford on May 31, 1638, the Reverend Thomas Hooker delivered a memorable sermon that led to the Fundamental Orders - Connecticut's first written constitution - in 1639. This was also the world's first written constitution for creating a government and served as a prototype for the U.S. Constitution.

In 1826, Pliny Jewell conceived of making leather belting that could be substituted for gears in transmitting water and steam power to machines.

Simultaneously with the Boston Electric Company, the Hartford Electric Company presented the enclosed carbon arc lamp for use in street lighting in 1893.

In 1896, the Hartford Electric Light Company became the first to use a storage battery in connection with a hydraulic electric generating plant, making it possible to supply peak load requirements from water power that otherwise would have gone to waste.

The Hartford Electric Company (HELCO) is credited with being the first to install a three-wire, 60-cycle rotary converter, install feeder cables drawn in ducts, operate alternators successfully at different power plants in parallel, all in 1896.

The first aluminum conductor used commercially in a transmission conductor was used by the Hartford Electric Light Company in 1899.

The Hartford Electric Light Company was the first public utility in America to install a steam turbine driven generator, in 1901.

In 1923, the Hartford Electric Light Company became the first in America to install an experimental mercury turbine.

Apollos Kinsley, who lived in Hartford, invented the following: a type caster for making type, a printing press in three models, three different steam engines, two ship pumps, two brick making machines, a pin making machine, a screw cutter, a new kind of oar, three tobacco cutting machines, a clock, a bullet caster, and a machine for currying leather - all before 1801.

The first saw for cutting ivory was invented by John B. Collins of Hartford in 1822. The saw was used by the Cheney family at Ivoryton.

In 1829, Hudson of Hartford introduced into his paper mill the first fourdrinier machine in the world. The machine marked the first of its kind to produce paper not made by hand or on a cylinder press. Finer grades of paper were now possible.

In 1830, Simon Fairman developed a crude, hand-operated chuck. He received a patent for his invention. His daughter married A.E. Cushman of Hartford, a pattern maker at Colt Fire Arms. Cushman eventually acquired his father-in-law's business and today Cushman Industries continues to produce chucks of the highest quality.

The first American patent for friction matches was issued to Alonzo D. Phillips of Hartford in 1836.

The first electroplating applied to tableware was the work of the Rogers Brothers in Hartford in 1845.

The first commercially manufactured gyroscopes were made in Hartford in 1857. Used to demonstrate the earth's rotation, they continue to be used today as ship stabilizers and guidance systems.

The first brick machine to be installed in America was in Hartford in 1857.

In 1881, George J. Capewell of Hartford perfected a machine that made horseshoe nails. Besides a patent for it, he received international recognition for having the best nails in the world.

In 1906 the first twisted-in-wire brush was invented by Alfred C. Fuller, who established the Fuller Brush Company in Hartford.

In 1951 Professor Vernon Krieble of Trinity College discovered the world's first one-part anaerobic (hardening in the absence of air) adhesive. This revolutionized modern technology. The Loctite Company was formed to manufacture and market this product.

The first battle cruiser was commissioned by the colonies of Hartford and New Haven in 1646, for patrolling Long Island Sound.

In 1768, soldiers and officers from Hartford assembled to accompany Governor Pitkin and members of the General Assembly on Election Day. The escorts became carried away in the festivities, resulting in conduct not befitting the military. The loss to Hartford's pride resulted in a formal petition that on October 1, 1771, led to the establishment of the First Company of the Governor's Guard. It is the oldest military organization in the in the nation in continuous service

The first meeting between General George Washington, commander in chief of the American armies, and the Comte de Rochambeau, Commander in chief of the French armies in America, occurred in September 1780 in Hartford's Meeting House Square (site of the Old State House.)

In 1836, Samuel Colt of Hartford invented and patented the first revolving cylinder for firearms.

The first underwater torpedo operated by electric current, was invented by Samuel Colt of Hartford in 1841.

Christopher Miner Spencer procured a patent for a repeating rifle in 1860.

In 1861, General Nathaniel Lyon became the first Union general to die in the Civil War. His body lay in state in the Old State House.

Richard Jordan Gatling invented the Gatling multiple-firing gun, precursor of the machine gun. The first order by the U.S. Army for Gatling guns was given to the Colt Arms Manufactory of Hartford in 1866.

John M. Browning of Hartford invented the automatic pistol in 1896.

The first successful jump with a nylon parachute was accomplished on June 6, 1942, in Hartford. Nylon chutes are still used by the military today.

The first license for offshore whaling was issued in Hartford in 1647.

The first genealogy of an American family was published in Hartford in 1771. The genealogy was that of Samuel Stebbins and his wife.

The first saddlery business in America was established in 1794 in Hartford by Norman Smith and is still in operation.

Author and Hartford resident Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) patented the first self-pasting scrapbook in 1875.

The first American to serve as president of an international exposition was the Honorable Joseph Roswell Hawley, in 1876.

The Travelers Insurance Company was the first to use match books to advertise in 1898

In 1923 the first public Christmas lighting display was put up in Hartford by the Georgia O. Simmons Co. The light bulbs were dip tinted and strung two feet apart from light pole to pole.

The oldest annual house and garden tour began in Hartford in 1933. Sponsored by the Auxiliary of the Hartford Art School (now part of the University of Hartford), it raised scholarship funds for needy students.

In 1925, Frederick B. Rentschler and his small, dedicated team designed and built the first air-cooled, radial engine for military aircraft. This 425-horsepower engine, weighing less than 650 lbs., had a significant weight advantage over the liquid-cooled engines of the day.  The engine was manufactured by the newly formed Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company, which occupied a four-story building on Capitol Avenue from 1925 to 1929.  This building was formerly used by the Pope-Hartford Automobile Company.


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