Connecticut is the third smallest state by area, the 29th most populous, and the fourth most densely populated of the fifty states. It is known as 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 (see Connecticut Compromise). The Connecticut River, Thames River, and ports along Long Island Sound have given Connecticut a strong maritime 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.
The name Connecticut is derived from the Mohegan-Pequot word that has been translated as "long tidal river" and "upon the long river", referring to the Connecticut River. Evidence of human presence in the Connecticut region dates to as much as 10,000 years ago. Stone tools were used for hunting, fishing, and woodworking. Semi-nomadic in lifestyle, these peoples moved seasonally to take advantage of various resources in the area. They shared languages based on Algonquian. The Connecticut region was inhabited by multiple Native American tribes which can be grouped into the Nipmuc, the Sequin or "River Indians" (which included the Tunxis, Schaghticoke, Podunk, Wangunk, Hammonasset, and Quinnipiac), the Mattabesec or "Wappinger Confederacy" and the Pequot-Mohegan. Some of these groups continue to abide in Connecticut, including the Mohegans, the Pequots, and the Paugusetts.
The first European explorer in Connecticut was Dutchman Adriaen Block, who explored the region in 1614. Dutch fur traders then sailed up the Connecticut River, which they called Versche Rivier ("Fresh River"), and built a fort at Dutch Point in Hartford that they named "House of Hope" (Dutch: Huis van Hoop).
The Connecticut Colony was originally a number of separate, smaller settlements at Windsor, Wethersfield, Saybrook, Hartford, and New Haven. The first English settlers came in 1633 and settled at Windsor, and then at Wethersfield the following year.John Winthrop the Younger of Massachusetts received a commission to create Saybrook Colony at the mouth of the Connecticut River in 1635.
The Pequot War marked the first major clash between colonists and Native Americans in New England. The Pequots reacted with increasing aggression to Colonial settlements in their territory—while simultaneously taking lands from the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes. Settlers responded to a murder in 1636 with a raid on a Pequot village on Block Island; the Pequots laid siege to Saybrook Colony's garrison that autumn, then raided Wethersfield in the spring of 1637. Colonists declared war on the Pequots, organized a band of militia and allies from the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes, 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.
The western boundaries of Connecticut have been subject to change over time. The Hartford Treaty with the Dutch was signed on September 19, 1650, but it was never ratified by the British. According to it, the western boundary of Connecticut ran north from Greenwich Bay for a distance of 20 miles (32 km), "provided the said line come not within 10 miles of Hudson River". This agreement was observed by both sides until war erupted between England and The Netherlands in 1652. Conflict continued concerning colonial limits until the Duke of York captured New Netherland in 1664.
Yale College was established in 1701, providing Connecticut with an important institution to educate clergy and civil leaders. The Congregational church dominated religious life in the colony and, by extension, town affairs in many parts.
With more than 600 miles of coastline including along its navigable rivers, Connecticut developed during its colonial years the antecedents of a maritime tradition that would later produce booms in shipbuilding, marine transport, naval support, seafood production, and leisure boating.
Historical records list the Tryall as the first vessel built in Connecticut Colony, in 1649 at a site on the Connecticut River in present-day Wethersfield. In the two decades leading up to 1776 and the American Revolution, Connecticut boatyards launched about 100 sloops, schooners and brigs according to a database of U.S. customs records maintained online by the Mystic Seaport Museum, the largest being the 180-ton Patient Mary launched in New Haven in 1763. Connecticut's first lighthouse was constructed in 1760 at the mouth of the Thames River with the New London Harbor Lighthouse.
In 1777, the British got word of Continental Army supplies in Danbury, and they landed an expeditionary force of some 2,000 troops in Westport. This force then marched to Danbury and destroyed homes and much of the depot. Continental Army troops and militia led by General David Wooster and General Benedict Arnold engaged them on their return march 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 to 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".
At the outset of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress assigned Nathaniel Shaw Jr. of New London as its naval agent in charge of recruiting privateers to seize British vessels as opportunities presented, with nearly 50 operating out of the Thames River which eventually drew the reprisal from the British force led by Arnold.
The state prospered during the era following the American Revolution, as mills and textile factories were built and seaports flourished from trade and fisheries. After Congress established in 1790 the predecessor to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service that would evolve into the U.S. Coast Guard, President Washington assigned Jonathan Maltbie as one of seven masters to enforce customs regulations, with Maltbie monitoring the southern New England coast with a 48-foot cutter sloop named Argus.
In 1786, Connecticut ceded territory to the U.S. government that became part of the Northwest Territory. The state 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.
Connecticut made agreements with Pennsylvania and New York which extinguished the land claims within those states' boundaries and created the Connecticut Panhandle. The state then ceded the Western Reserve in 1800 to the federal government, which brought it to its present boundaries (other than minor adjustments with Massachusetts).
For the first time in 1800, Connecticut shipwrights launched more than 100 vessels in a single year. Over the following decade to the doorstep of renewed hostilities with Britain that sparked the War of 1812, Connecticut boatyards constructed close to 1,000 vessels, the most productive stretch of any decade in the 19th century.
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. Connecticut came to be recognized as a major center for manufacturing, due in part to the inventions of Eli Whitney and other early innovators of the Industrial Revolution.
The war led to the development of fast clippers that helped extend the reach of New England merchants to the Pacific and Indian oceans. The first half of the 19th century saw as well a rapid rise in whaling, with New London emerging as one of the New England industry's three biggest home ports after Nantucket and New Bedford.
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 Congregational Church struggled to maintain traditional viewpoints, in alliance with the Federalists. The failure of the Hartford Convention in 1814 hurt the Federalist cause, with the Democratic-Republican Party gaining control in 1817.
Connecticut had been governed under the "Fundamental Orders" since 1639, but the state adopted a new constitution in 1818.
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, 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 2,100 men, and Glastonbury native 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 2,088 killed in combat, 2,801 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 pro-slavery 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 (164 km) of line were in operation, growing to 402 miles (647 km) in 1850 and 601 miles (967 km) 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. J. P. Morgan began financing the major New England railroads in the 1890s, dividing territory so that 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 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of track with 120,000 employees.
As steam-powered passenger ships proliferated after the Civil War, Noank would produce the two largest built in Connecticut during the 19th century, with the 332-foot wooden steam paddle wheelerRhode Island launched in 1882, and the 345-foot paddle wheeler Connecticut seven years later. Connecticut shipyards would launch more than 165 steam-powered vessels in the 19th century.
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 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, a further expansion of industry, and an emphasis on increasing food production on 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; Waterbury's American Brass and Manufacturing Company was running at half capacity, so the federal government agreed to furlough soldiers to work there.
In 1919, J. Henry Roraback started the Connecticut Light & Power Co. which became 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 became an important military supplier in World WarII and 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 from the full force of wind and waves, even though they had partial protection by Long Island. The hurricane caused extensive damage to infrastructure, homes, and businesses. In New London, a 500-foot (150 m) 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 WarII. Connecticut manufactured 4.1% of total U.S. military armaments produced during the war, 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 produced a significant new weapon to combat tanks: the bazooka.
On May 13, 1940, Igor Sikorsky made an untethered flight of the first practical helicopter. The helicopter saw limited use in World War II, but future military production made Sikorsky Aircraft's Stratford plant Connecticut's largest single manufacturing site by the start of the 21st century.
Post-World War II economic expansion
Connecticut lost some wartime factories following the end of hostilities, but the state shared in a general post-war expansion that included the construction of highways and resulting in middle-class growth in suburban areas.
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 was a state income tax which proved effective in balancing the budget, but only for the short-term. He did not run for a second term, in part because of this politically unpopular move.
In 2000, presidential candidate Al Gore chose Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, marking the first time that 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 the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, 65 state residents were killed, mostly Fairfield County residents who were working in the World Trade Center. In 2004, Republican Governor John G. Rowland resigned during a corruption investigation, later pleading guilty to federal charges. Connecticut was hit by three major storms in just over 14 months in 2011 and 2012, with all three causing extensive property damage and electric outages. Hurricane Irene struck Connecticut August 28, and damage totaled $235 million. Two months later, the "Halloween nor'easter" dropped extensive snow onto trees, resulting in snapped branches and trunks that damaged power lines; some areas were without electricity for 11 days. Hurricane Sandy had tropical storm-force winds when it reached Connecticut October 29, 2012. Sandy's winds drove storm surges into streets and cut power to 98% of homes and businesses, with more than $360 million in damage.
In the summer and fall of 2016, Connecticut experienced a drought in many parts of the state, causing some water-use bans. As of November 15, 2016, 45% of the state was listed at Severe Drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor, including almost all of Hartford and Litchfield counties. All the rest of the state was in Moderate Drought or Severe Drought, including Middlesex, Fairfield, New London, New Haven, Windham, and Tolland counties. This affected the agricultural economy in the state.