The Boy Skipper Who Found A Continent

Man’s long search for a continent at the bottom of the world ended on November 18, 1820, when an American barely out of his teens discovered the world’s seventh and last great land mass.

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Company Town



In 1826, 23-year-old Samuel Watkinson Collins, his brother David, and a cousin named William Wells acquired the five-acre site of an old sawmill and gristmill on the Farmington River in South Canton, Connecticut, some 15 miles west of Hartford. They wanted to make axes. Although the ax was the era’s most coveted tool, the ones forged by American smiths were crude. But the Collins Company developed a line of edged tools—and edged weapons—renowned for their quality.

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The Flowers And The Glory

How a highly historic eighteenth- c entury Connecticut house learned to live in harmony with a twentieth-century garden that is the only surviving American design of a great British landscape architect


The Glebe house in Woodbury, Connecticut, is appropriately named. A glebe, from the Latin word gleba , which means “clod of earth,” is a minister’s land endowment; the more fertile it is, the better it will support the pastor and his family. In fact, the earth of this western Connecticut glebe has proved especially fecund. Read more »

Mr. Wadsworth’s Museum

For 150 years a crenelated Gothic Revival castle in Connecticut has housed an art collection that was astonishing for its time—and ours

We tend to identify the first American public display of art with the post-Civil War surge of wealth called the Gilded Age. Conventional wisdom also assumes that our first art museums were born in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia—all of which were eager to assert their cultural hegemony. Read more »

Why Benedict Arnold Did It

To the end of his life America’s most infamous traitor believed he was the hero of the Revolution

Shortly after noon on Thursday, April 20, 1775, a weary postrider swung out of the saddle at Hunt’s Tavern in New Haven, Connecticut, with an urgent message from the Massachusetts Committee of Cor- respondence. At dawn the day before, British light infantry had killed six militiamen on Lexington Green. Anxious New Haven citizens crowded into an emergency town meeting and voted to maintain a policy of neutrality despite Massachusetts’s plea for troops and supplies. Read more »

Revolutionary Village

The little town of Lebanon, Connecticut, played a larger role in the Revolution than Williamsburg, Virginia, did. And it’s all still there.

Natives of eastern Connecticut like to say that except for Boston and Philadelphia, the village of Lebanon stands first in America in Revolutionary importance. While that may sound like typical small-town puffery, the remark contains a large measure of truth. Consider the following categories: Read more »

Collecting History

Wherever you travel in this country, you have a good chance of bringing a piece of the past home with you

I drove twenty thousand miles and got just one real bargain. That was up the Hudson River on a boisterous, wind-scrubbed October day fifteen years ago. My friend Harris is an antiques dealer who at the time was specializing in live steam: elegant old working models of freight locomotives, tugboats, ocean liners. He had spotted a tiny ad buried in the part of The New York Times where they usually herald auctions of kitchen equipment; it announced a live-steam sale that Saturday in Claverack, New York. Harris was jubilant.Read more »

Our Neighbor Mark Twain

The years the famous writer spent in their town were magic to a young boy and his sister.

A year after our arrival in Redding, Connecticut, Mark Twain came there to live. Everybody in town had watched the building of his great house on a wide, more or less level plain, which, on our side of it, rose above a cliff that ran along Knob Crook Brook and its lovely glen. His land had been the sheep pasture of my Great-greatgrandfather Banks and was approached by an ancient stone bridge over the brook and below a steep road that no horse cared to climb.Read more »

The Mystic Vision Of Everett Scholfield

A Connecticut photographer’s record of life in a shipbuilding town

In the mid-nineteenth century, Mystic, Connecticut, was at once identical to all the small seafaring communities that stood on the Eastern seaboard and unique in that it turned out a greater tonnage of sturdy ships than any town of its size in America. It also bred more than its share of great seamen: Dick Brown, who sailed the America when she took the Queen’s cup; Henry Holdredge, who skippered the Black Ball Packets; Joseph Warren Holmes, who rounded the Horn eighty-three times. Read more »

Entertaining Satan

The place is the fledgling community of Windsor, Connecticut: I the time, an autumn day in the year 1651. A group of local I militiamen has assembled for training exercises. They drill in their usual manner through the morning, then pause for rest and refreshment. Several of the younger recruits begin a moment’s horseplay; one of these—a certain Thomas Allen—cocks his musket and inadvertently knocks it against a tree. The weapon fires, and a few yards away a bystander falls heavily to the ground. Read more »