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Definition: Connecticut from The Macquarie Dictionary

a state in the north-eastern United States. 12~973 km2 HartfordAbbrev.: Conn.


Summary Article: Connecticut from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

State in New England, USA, bordered to the north by Massachusetts, to the east by Rhode Island, to the west and southwest by New York State, and to the south by Long Island Sound on the Atlantic Ocean; area 12,548 sq km/4,845 sq mi; population (2010) 3,570,097; capital Hartford. It was nicknamed the Constitution State after the Fundamental Orders of 1638 under which it was originally governed, regarded as a forerunner of American constitutionalism. Connecticut is the third smallest state in the USA, roughly rectangular in shape, with a narrow strip of land in the southwest projecting westwards to within 19 km/12 mi of New York City; New York's Long and Fishers islands lie opposite Connecticut in Long Island Sound. The Connecticut River crosses the centre of the state, and the Pawcatuck River forms part of the state boundary with Rhode Island. The state is the centre of the US insurance industry, and is also a manufacturer of military technology. Its largest city is Bridgeport; other major cities and metropolitan areas are New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, Norwalk, and Danbury. One of the original Thirteen Colonies, Connecticut ratified the US Constitution in 1788, becoming the fifth state in the Union.

Physical Connecticut has long, warm summers and cold winters, particularly in the northwest. There are five main land areas: the Taconic Mountains section, the western New England Upland, the Connecticut Valley, the eastern New England Upland, and a narrow coastal lowland.

The Taconic Mountains form highlands in the northwest and central region, rising to Frissell Point, at 726 m/2,380 ft the highest point in the state. The western part of the state is rolling upland and the central part of the state is traversed by the south-flowing Connecticut River and its valley. The region features basalt ridges, including Hanging Hills, Mount Lamentation, and Talcott Mountain (91–180 m/300–600 ft). Eastern Connecticut is heavily wooded, with small valleys and low hills. Ash, beech, birch, elm, hemlock, hickory, maple, oak, and pine trees flourish in this part of the state. Connecticut's state flower is the mountain laurel, often known as ivy, and dogwood trees are also common. Smaller game birds and animals, such as foxes, hares, minks, muskrats, otters, and rabbits, freshwater ducks, partridges, and ring-necked pheasants live in Connecticut's forests. Orioles, sparrows, thrushes, and warblers are also widely found.

Connecticut's Atlantic coastline extends for 995 km/618 mi and includes the harbours of Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London. Long Island extends into Connecticut's shoreland area, protecting it from storms and high winds. Long Island Sound is a breeding ground for clams, menhaden, lobsters, and oysters. Of the several small islands off the Connecticut coast, the largest is Mason Island near Mystic. Other islands include the Norwalk Islands off Norwalk, and the Thimbles near Branford. The Connecticut River is the largest in the state. Other rivers include the Housatonic River and its chief tributaries, the Naugatuck and Shepaug; and the Thames and the Quinebaug rivers. There are over 1,000 small lakes, the largest of which is Lake Candlewood, an artificial reservoir. Shad and trout are among the plentiful game fish in the state.

Features Connecticut is renowned for its fine colonial buildings, found in almost every town. The oldest state buildings are Whitfield House, in Guilford, begun in 1639; the Nathan Hale Homestead in South Coventry and the Nathan Hale Schoolhouses; Putnam Cottage in Greenwich; the Buttolph-Williams House and Webb House in Wethersfield; the Noah Webster House in West Hartford, birthplace of the author of the American Dictionary; Glebe House in Woodbury; Cheney Homestead in Manchester; and the Old State House in Hartford.

Historic towns include Litchfield village, Stonington, and Old Lyme, with the Florence Griswold House Museum (1817), the former home of the Old Lyme Art Colony. The Prudence Crandall School in Canterbury was New England's first school for black girls, founded in 1833, and is now a museum. The Baldwin Museum of Connecticut History, Hartford, has a collection of Connecticut-made historic Colt revolvers. Connecticut's literary heritage is celebrated at the Mark Twain Mansion in Hartford and a nearby cottage where Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the late 1800s, and at Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, the summer home of playwright Eugene O'Neill. Other historic sites include Yale University, New Haven (1701), Trinity College, Hartford (1823), and Wesleyan University (1831). Seymour was the first planned factory town in the USA.

Connecticut's coast is rich in seafaring history. The Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea, a replica of a 19th-century shipbuilding town, is the largest maritime museum in the USA. Also in Mystic is Marinelife Aquarium with dolphins, sea lions, and whales, seals, sea lions, and penguins. The US Naval submarine base at Groton contains the Nautilus memorial, commemorating the world's first submarine. The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk preserves the maritime culture and marine life of Long Island Sound. The US Coastguard Academy is situated in New London.

Culture As part of the region of New England, Connecticut is associated with a culture of an old American elite, as well as with a manufacturing blue-collar culture of mostly Scots and Irish-American origin. The blessing of the fleet in Stonington in early July and the ancient Fife and Drum Corps muster and parade in Deep River reflect aspects of Connecticut's strongly traditional New England culture.

Connecticut's wealth of cultural resources has a long history. The Yale University Art Gallery is the oldest university art museum in the USA and includes the Yale Center for British Art. Yale's Peabody Museum is world renowned for its natural history exhibitions. Stratford was home to the historic American Shakespeare Theatre, which closed to the public in 1989. The Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea has historic ships and photographs, while the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol displays timepieces made in the 1700s and 1800s.

Connecticut's mountains have many ski resorts and host the US Eastern Ski Jumping Championships in Salisbury in February. Connecticut's country life traditions are reflected in Fairfield's Dogwood Festival, while its fishing and coastal traditions are celebrated in the May Lobster Weekend in Mystic and the Norwalk Oyster Festival. The state has a reputation for fine antiques; the Farmington Antiques Weekend is held in June and the New Haven Antiques Show is held in autumn. Other regional festivals include the July Jazz Festival in New Haven and the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Festival in Moodus, as well as an annual Riverfest in Hartford and East Hartford. Southwestern Connecticut is the home of many commuters who work in New York City, and many urban dwellers from both New York and Boston enjoy camping and seaside breaks in Connecticut.

GovernmentConnecticut's state constitution The constitution was adopted in 1965, replacing an earlier constitution adopted in 1818. Connecticut was governed under Fundamental Orders of 1638 and 1639, arguably the first written constitution in history, until it adopted a royal charter in 1662 which became the constitution of 1818. The text of the Fundamental Orders is on permanent display at the Museum of Connecticut History, situated in the State Library in Hartford. In 1955 the Connecticut legislature approved new laws giving voters direct control over choosing candidates for state elections. In 1964 a federal court ruled against Connecticut's 327-year-old system for electing state legislators.

Structure of state government The legislative general assembly consists of a 36-member Senate and a 151-member House of Representatives. Senators and representatives serve two-year terms. Connecticut has seven electoral votes in presidential elections. The state sends seven members to Congress: five representatives and two senators. The state has seven electoral votes in presidential elections. The governor of Connecticut is elected to a four-year term and may be re-elected any number of times. Democrat Daniel Malloy took the governorship in January 2011.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state and the only general trial court with seven Supreme Court justices. High court judges are nominated by the governor and appointed to serve eight-year terms.

Connecticut is divided into 169 towns, many of which use the town-meeting form of government. Towns are divided into boroughs, which operate a form of government independent of the town government; and cities, which mainly operate as a city and town unit known as a city government and use either a mayor-council or council-manager form of rule. All Connecticut cities operate under state charters and are able to adopt home rule. Connecticut and Rhode Island are the only US states that do not have county governments.

Economy Connecticut is the national leader in the insurance industry, based in Hartford, and finance and property are the key service industry sectors. Greenwich is a major centre for hedge funds. Connecticut is also a major producer of military technology, including helicopters, jet engines, and nuclear submarines, and guns and ammunition. Metalworking and steel are long-established regional manufacturing industries and Connecticut continues its traditional specialization in optical instruments, watches, clocks, silverware, and locks. Other significant state products include crushed stone, sand, and gravel; tobacco and dairy produce, poultry, and market-garden produce; and fish and shellfish, both reared in fish farms and caught offshore. Tourism and its related hospitality industries are also significant.

HistoryEarly inhabitants and colonial settlement Connecticut's first inhabitants were American Indian tribes from the Algonquian-speaking peoples, of whom the Pequot was the most powerful. Other Algonquian speakers in the area included the Mohegan, Uncas, Niantic, Paugussett, Quinnipiac, Saukiog, Siwanog, Tunxis, and Wangunk.

The Connecticut River attracted early European settlement and a flourishing trade developed with American Indians. Dutch navigator Adriaen Block was the first European to record the area in 1614, and in 1633 Dutch colonists built a trading post near modern Hartford. Puritan colonists of mainly English origin settled in New London, Saybrook, Wethersfield, and Hartford. Wethersfield and Windsor united in 1636 to form the Connecticut Colony (also known as the River Colony), which continued to grow throughout the 17th century. The Pequot were hostile to colonial settlement and conducted frequent, violent raids. In May 1637 the English settlers, led mainly by Captain John Mason and assisted by Mohegan and Narragansett warriors, attacked Pequot settlements on the Mystic River, sparking the Pequot War. The war pushed the main body of the Pequot out of Connecticut and destroyed the resistance of those remaining, many of whom were enslaved by the Mohegans or English.

In 1638 Thomas Hooker, a Congregational minister and chief founder of the town of Hartford, advocated a written constitution known as the Fundamental Orders. It gave voters the right to elect government officials and marked an early phase in the colonists' move to independence. Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor were all governed under the Fundamental Orders from 1639. In 1662, the Connecticut Colony obtained a royal charter from Charles II of England and was awarded land, including the New Haven Colony, and the region rapidly gained an autonomous identity as a burgeoning state.

Early industrialization Although most colonials were farmers, manufacturing developed early in Connecticut, with clockmaking, shipbuilding, silversmithing, and export trade all flourishing. It is thought that North American door-to-door salesmanship may have originated here with the notorious Yankee peddlers, who sold their products from small carts house to house and gained a reputation as business tricksters.

During the 1670s Connecticut was subject to attacks from the New England colonies. The English governor Edmund Andros arrived in Hartford in 1687 and attempted to claim Connecticut's charter but, according to folk history, he was defeated by the cunning of the Connecticut people when they hid the charter in a large oak tree, later named the Charter Oak, which remains one of the most significant Colonial symbols. Connecticut remained an important centre for religious debate and was the focal point of the 1740s Great Awakening. During the period of the 18th-century Enlightenment, Connecticut opened the first public library, Yale University, and the first law school, in Litchfield, and pioneered the first US English dictionary, compiled by Noah Webster.

American Revolution and statehood A series of unpopular tax laws introduced by English governors caused unrest across the Thirteen Colonies. In 1766 Connecticut governor Thomas Fitch refused to reject the Stamp Act (1765), an imposition of taxes on the American colonies through which the British hoped to cover the cost of their defence. This frustrated many in the state, and on 14 June 1776 Connecticut passed a resolution in favour of independence and on 4 July the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence; signatories were Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott. On 9 July 1778 Connecticut ratified the Confederation, the forerunner of the US Constitution. Governor Jonathan Trumbull and Nathan Hale rank as the most celebrated Connecticut patriots from the American Revolution era. Connecticut became known as the ‘Provision State’ during the war, supplying beef, salt, flour, and gunpowder to American troops. Connecticut's coast was also particularly vulnerable to British attack and five major British assaults were resisted by the Continental Army between 1777 and 1781.

After the American Revolution, Connecticut was mainly in favour of federalist powers and strong national government. The Connecticut Constitutional Convention in 1787 played a strong role in the Great Compromise, sometimes known as the Connecticut Compromise, which established the principle of two houses in government. Connecticut ratified the US Constitution on 9 January 1788, becoming the fifth state to join the Union.

19th-century manufacturing boom Connecticut was one of the earliest states to industrialize, and by the 19th century textile production and metalwork were booming. Several key inventors of the industrial age were based in Connecticut, including Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; Eli Terry, the first mass producer of clocks; Samuel Colt; Richard Gatling, inventor of the rapid fire gun, and Charles Goodyear. Machine guns, bicycles, cigars, copper coins, nuts and bolts, pins and needles, silk thread, and rubber shoes were some of the many items pioneered here.

During the 19th century there was a mass influx of Canadian and Irish immigrants, particularly following the Irish famines of 1845 and after, and many worked in the growing factories, shipbuilding yards, and textile mills. In 1848 slavery was abolished in Connecticut. The author Harriet Beecher Stowe, a Connecticut resident, published Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852. Connecticut was a strongly Unionist state and, in the main, abhorred slavery. During the Civil War it provided a large number of men to Union forces, and produced arms, munitions, and other military needs. The state founded many modern-day practices in the insurance industry, providing marine, fire, life, accident, casualty, and health insurance. In 1877 the world's first telephone exchange opened in New Haven.

20th-century innovation In 1910 the US Coastguard Academy was moved to New London, with the US Navy opening a submarine base in nearby Groton in 1917. Some of the nation's largest munitions factories operated in Connecticut during World War I, and Connecticut produced aeroplane engines, propellers, shell cases, and submarines during World War II. In 1948 Connecticut manufactured the first colour television. In 1954 the first nuclear submarine was launched in Groton. Spacecraft and technology became important in the 1960s, and nuclear energy and missile production became increasingly important to the state's economy. The state prospered during the military build-up of the final decade of the Cold War in the 1980s.

Contemporary Connecticut Two popular casinos were built during the 1990s by American Indian nations: Foxwoods on a Pequot reservation in 1992 and Mohegan Sun on Mohegan land in 1994. Both generate enormous income for the state. ESPN, a popular cable television sports channel, has been based in Connecticut since 1979. Fairfield County, in Southwestern Connecticut, is home to some of the most affluent communities in the USA.

Politically, the state is socially liberal but fiscally conservative, with voters favouring Democrat candidates in the presidential elections from 1992 and dominating the state legislature.

Famous peoplethe arts Noah Webster (1758–1843), lexicographer; P T Barnum (1810–1891), circus showman; Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896), abolitionist author; Charles Ives (1874–1954), composer; Wallace Stevens (1879–1955), poet; Katharine Hepburn (1909–2003), actor; Eugene O'Neill (1888–1953), playwright

science Eli Terry (1772–1852), clock manufacturer; Seth Thomas (1785–1859), clock manufacturer; Charles Goodyear (1800–1860), inventor; Samuel Colt (1814–1816), gunsmith; John Enders (1897–1905), Nobel Prize-winning virologist; Edwin Herbert Land (1909–1991), inventor of the Polaroid camera; Barbara McClintock (1902–1992), Nobel Prize-winning geneticist; Alfred Gilman (1941– ), Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist

economics Elizur Wright (1804–1885), abolitionist and insurance reformer; J P Morgan (1813–1917), financier and investment banker

politics and law Thomas Hooker (1586–1647), founder of Connecticut's first constitution; Jonathan Trumbull (1710–1785), American Revolutionary leader; Ethan Allen (1738–1789), American Revolutionary soldier; Benedict Arnold (1741–1801), American Revolutionary general; Nathan Hale (1755–1776), American Revolutionary hero; John Brown (1800–1859), abolitionist; Ralph Nader (1934– ), attorney and political activist; George W Bush (1946– ), 43rd president of the USA.

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