Before Europeans arrive in what is now Connecticut, the area is home to thousands of Native Americans of various Algonquin tribes, including the Pequot and the Mohicans. The Native Americans give the state its name: Connecticut comes from the Native American word Quinatucquet, meaning "beside the long tidal river."
1600–1638 EARLY EUROPEAN EXPLORATION
Dutch navigator Adriaen Block is the first European to arrive in Connecticut.
The Dutch West India Company regularly trades furs at the site of modern Hartford.
Dutch traders purchase land from the Pequot and make a permanent settlement.
The Plymouth Colony sends William Holmes to establish a trading post at Windsor.
As a result of trade, the Dutch spread smallpox to Native Americans, The Native population is drastically reduced from more than 8,000 to less than 2,000.
Pequot War begins. The Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies, together with native allies, fight with the Pequot tribe over fur trade and wampum rights. Captain John Mason leads the settlers to defeat the Native Americans in the Mystic Massacre in what is now southeastern Connecticut. Hundreds of Pequot men, women, and children are killed. The war ends in 1638, with the Pequot virtually eliminated, either in battle or by being sold to the slave trade.
(March 3) The English establish the River Colony, what comes to be known as the Connecticut Colony, as a haven for Puritan noblemen.
Reverend Thomas Hooker travels from Massachusetts to Connecticut with a group of colonists. They establish the town of Hartford, which becomes a center for government and trade.
A group of Puritan colonists leave Massachusetts to start the New Haven Colony.
1639–1699 CONNECTICUT COLONY
The first constitution is adopted, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, establishing a representative government.
The first governor, John Haynes, is chosen.
Connecticut joins in forming the New England Confederation.
The Connecticut Colony absorbs the Saybrook Colony
The first municipal library in America is built in New Haven, which at the time is still separate from the Connecticut Colony.
The Connecticut Colony absorbs the New Haven Colony.
Governor John Winthrop travels to England and returns with a Royal Charter from Charles II giving the colony legal self-governing status.
King Philip's War begins, pitting colonists and their native allies against the native King Metacom (King Philip in English). Officially ending one year later when Connecticut troops kill Metacom at Mount Hope in Rhode Island, battles rage north of Connecticut until a 1678 treaty. Proportionately, it is one of the bloodiest wars in American history.
King Charles II appoints Sir Edmund Andros royal governor of the Dominion of New England. Andros asserts his appointment supersedes the 1662 charter issuing self-governance.
(October) Andros and his troops arrive in Connecticut and demands the colonists relinquish the charter. According to legend, Captain Wadsworth of Hartford hides the charter in a large oak tree (the now-famous "Charter Oak") and Andros moves on to Boston.
(May 9) After the Glorious Revolution in England and Andros subsequent exile from the colonies, the charter is officially restored.
1700–1776 PRE-REVOLUTIONARY ERA
Collegiate School (later known as Yale University) is authorized by the General Assembly, becoming the third university in the U.S.
Copper is discovered in Simsbury, and soon there are copper mines across Connecticut. Copper coins would be made in Connecticut beginning in 1737.
The first steel mill in America is operated in Simsbury. The steel and blast furnace industry prosper in Connecticut.
The Hartford Courant, the oldest American newspaper in continuous publication, releases its first edition.
Richard Smith opens the Scoville Memorial Library, stocking it with 200 books he purchased in London. It is the first free public library, although Smith charges fees for any damages—at the time, this mostly consists of wax drippings from patrons reading by candlelight.
Connecticut's territorial disputes with northern Pennsylvania result in open warfare between the two colonies. Battles would continue until 1778.
The Connecticut Colony (along with Rhode Island) prohibits further importation of slaves.
1775–1790 REVOLUTIONARY CONNECTICUT
News of the uprising at Lexington, Massachusetts, leads several thousand militiamen to leave Connecticut for Massachusetts.
(June 18) On behalf of Connecticut, Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott sign the Declaration of Independence.
Young patriot Nathan Hale is captured while spying on the British for General Washington and later executed. A statue of Hale is currently displayed at the State Capital Building.
Danbury, an important military depot for American Revolutionary armies, is burned and looted in April by the British.
British forces under Benedict Arnold land at New London. They capture Fort Griswold and burn many buildings in town. It is the only major Revolutionary battle fought in Connecticut.
A Connecticut meeting of 10 Anglican clergy leads to the beginning of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.
First American law school is established in Litchfield.
Connecticut relinquishes Westmoreland County to Pennsylvania.
An act is passed giving emancipation to all African-Americans born after March 1784.
The "Connecticut Compromise," proposed by Oliver Ellsworth, William Samuel Johnson, and Roger Sherman, settles the issue of representation in the new Congress. In the Senate, all states would be represented equally. In the House of Representatives, states would be represented based on population. This compromise becomes part of the U.S. Constitution.
(January 9) Connecticut becomes the 5th state after ratifying the Constitution.
(July) A Pennsylvania attack on Connecticut results in the death of 150 settlers.
1790–1859 POST-REVOLUTIONARY CONNECTICUT
Inventor Eli Whitney begins manufacturing his cotton gins in New Haven. The cotton gin would revolutionize the economy of the South. Whitney patents his invention the following year.
Eli Whitney begins manufacturing weapons, leading to Connecticut's nickname "the arsenal of democracy." Middletown would the major supplier of pistols to the U.S. government during the War of 1812.
The brass industry begins in Waterbury, eventually becoming one of the state's most successful industries.
Connecticut native Noah Webster publishes the first abbreviated version of his dictionary of American English. The full version is published in 1828.
(May 15) Mary Kies of South Killingly is the first woman to receive a U.S. patent, for a method of weaving straw with silk.
Connecticut residents, such as Leonard Bacon and Harriet Beecher Stowe, become active in the abolitionist movement. Farmington and Middletown are stops along the Underground Railroad, an informal network of secret routes and safe houses for fleeing slaves.
The War of 1812 between the U.S. and the British Empire begins. It is unpopular in Connecticut due to severe export restrictions imposed by the American Embargo and British blockade.
Federalist leaders from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont hold the Hartford Convention in Hartford, Connecticut. The leaders secretly adopt amendments regarding potential succession, which post-war are accused of being treasonous. The Federalist Party is disgraced and disbands in most places after the end of the War of 1812.
(April 15) Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet establishes the world's first school for the deaf and hard of hearing in West Hartford.
A new constitution is adopted. It is the country's first written piece of legislation to separate church and state and give equality to all religions.
The first Connecticut railroad incorporates as the Boston, Norwich, and New London lines.
Hartford native Samuel Colt receives an American patent for the revolver. Colt weapons are the first in the world with interchangeable parts.
Slaves rebel aboard the ship Amistad along the coast of Cuba. The Africans are later apprehended by the U.S. Navy and taken to Connecticut (where slavery is still technically legal). The case goes before the U.S. Supreme Court, where it is decided that the international slave trade has been abolished and the Africans are free.
Jews gain the right to worship publicly in Connecticut.
Dr. Horace Wells, an American dentist, uses the first patient anesthesia in Hartford. He pioneers the use of nitrous oxide in dentistry.
The Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, the first life insurance company, is chartered in Connecticut. Connecticut would eventually be home to so many insurance companies it would become known as the "Insurance State."
Slavery is officially abolished in Connecticut.
1860–1900 THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION ERAS
(March 5) Lincoln speaks out against slavery in front of an enthusiastic audience in Hartford.
Yale University awards the first Ph.D. degrees in the U.S.
The Civil War begins. Fifty-five thousand Connecticut men, including two African-American regiments, serve in the Union army. Connecticut also plays a prominent role in weapons manufacturing.
Edward Alexander Bouchet becomes the first African American to earn a Ph.D. when he receives on from Yale University.
The first telephone exchange takes place in Bridgeport. The following year, New Haven residents are the first in the world to subscribe to telephone service.
The first U.S.-made bicycles are manufactured in Hartford, setting off a countrywide bicycling craze. Bicycle culture is still an important part of Hartford life.
Elizabeth Deering Hanscom becomes the first American woman to earn Ph.D. when she receives one from Yale University. She later becomes a professor of American literature at Smith College.
The Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford begins manufacturing electric vehicles. The company eventually abandoned the automobile industry in 1915.
1900–1929 EARLY 20TH CENTURY
Connecticut factories attract European immigrants, mainly from Italy, Poland, and Eastern Europe. Connecticut's population is nearly 30 percent immigrant by 1910.
The U.S. enters World War I. Approximately 67,000 Connecticut men serve. Munitions becomes the most prosperous industry in Connecticut.
The Frisbee is invented when Yale students discover empty pie plates from Mrs. Frisbee's Pies in Bridgeport can easily sail across the New Haven Green.
(September 14) Connecticut becomes the 37th state to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. However, the act is essentially symbolic: enough states had ratified the amendment by August 18 to pass it.
The Ku Klux Klan enjoys a brief period of popularity in Connecticut with a peak membership of 25,000. The Klan has since disappeared from the state.
1930–1950 THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II
(March) A combination of heavy rain and melting snow cause extensive greatest recorded disaster along the Connecticut River, making 430,000 people homeless and causing over $500 million in damage.
Connecticut becomes the first state to issue permanent license plates for cars.
Connecticut doesn't ratify the Bill of Rights until 1939, when, along with Georgia and Massachusetts, it's urged to do so to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its passing by Congress.
The U.S. enters World War II. Approximately 210,000 Connecticut men serve in the war.
The General Assembly establishes the Inter-Racial Commission, the nation's first statutory civil rights agency.
Fair Employment Practices Act is adopted, outlawing job discrimination.
1950–2009 MODERN CONNECTICUT
The Nautilus, the world's first atomic-powered submarine, is launched at Groton.
The 129-mile Connecticut Turnpike opens. Tolls are originally collected along the route, but the state stops taking tolls in 1985.
A booming job market gives Connecticut the highest per capita income in the U.S.
Ella Grasso becomes the first female elected governor in Connecticut.
Hartford becomes the first city in America to elect an African-American woman as mayor when Carrie Saxon Perry wins office.
The Foxwood Casino, owned by the previously near-decimated Pequot, is completed. Its enormous revenue will make the Pequot Reservation one of the wealthiest in the country. Successful gambling businesses shift the state's economy away from manufacturing to entertainment.
Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman becomes the first Jewish person on a major party's presidential ticket when he runs for vice-president alongside presidential nominee Al Gore.
(April) Connecticut passes a law in April granting all rights of marriage to same-sex couples, although it requires that such unions be called "civil unions."
(April) Connecticut becomes the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.
Click to enlarge an image
1614: Block's map of his voyage
1634: Pequot War
1635: Wethersfield Cove, Hartford County, Present Day Photo
1639: John Haynes, 1st Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
1643: United Colonies of New England
1662: John Winthrop Governor of Connecticut
1675: War between colonists and "King Philip"
1687: Sir Edmund Andros, Governor of the Dominion of New England
1687: The Charter Oak, from a postcard
1776: Samuel Huntington, 3rd Governor of Connecticut
1776: Nathan Hale postage stamp
1781: Classical drawing of Fort Griswold by Benedict Arnold
1787: Oliver Ellsworth, United States Senator from Connecticut
1793: Cotton Gin Inventor Eli Whitney
1793: A cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum