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Dates of Our Lives

Historic dates in 360-plus years of area business


Business New Haven
Priscilla Searles
April 24, 1638 - A group of English merchants and 500 followers, led by John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, arrive on the banks of the Quinnipiac River with the goal of establishing a Christian community and commercial empire. The new settlement is called “Quinnipiak,” later New Haven.

1638 - The Quinnipiac Indians settle on a reservation, reportedly the first one in the New World, on New Haven's East Shore.

1639 - A settlement is established in what is now known as Bridgeport, on land purchased from the Paugusett Indians. It is called Pequonnock or “broken ground” because of the nearby rolling hills.

1640 - New Haven's first meeting house, a 50-foot-square building with a tower and turret, is completed in the marketplace. It will be abandoned in 1668 because of deterioration attributed to its poor construction.

1641 - New Haven has a population of 350 householders, 250 children and 200 servants.

October 27, 1643 - The New Haven Jurisdiction, also known as the New Haven Colony, is formed to codify and define the expanding territory which now encompasses six towns: New Haven, Branford, Milford, Guilford, Stamford and Southold, Long Island.

January 15, 1646 - In hopes of opening trade with England, residents of New Haven fill a “Great Shippe” with local goods. The ship sets sail from New Haven Harbor carrying one-fifth of the colony's wealth and 70 of its citizens, never to be seen again.

June 1648 - A vision of the “Great Shippe” appears in the clouds over New Haven Harbor, convincing residents that the ship was gone forever.

January 7, 1665 - New Haven surrenders its status as a colony, joining the Connecticut Colony.

1674 - Waterbury is founded as Mattatuck Plantation by 31 families from Farmington.

1701 - New Haven becomes the co-capital of the colony with Hartford.

1701 - What today is Yale University is founded when ten Connecticut Congregationalist clergymen meet in Branford, each contributing a gift of books for the “founding of a Colledge in this colony.” The college, christened the Collegiate School, was originally located in Killingworth (now Clinton) in the residence of the Reverend Abraham Pierson, the first rector. The school will move several times seeking a permanent home. In 1716 the school moves to New Haven. Funds from Elihu Yale in 1718 are used to complete the first college building and in the benefactor's honor the name is changed to Yale College.

1736 - Long Wharf is built in the New Haven Harbor, extending approximately 400 feet from the shore. By 1820 it will reach a length of 3,500 feet.

1756 - The British Government establishes a Custom House at New Haven.

April 22, 1775 - Captain Benedict Arnold, a member of the Governor's Second Company of Foot Guards, parades his troops on the New Haven Green, demanding the keys to the powderhouse. The keys are handed over and Arnold and his Foot Guards march off to seek independence for the new nation. Later, Arnold will become the Revolutionary War's most infamous traitor.

1775 - David Bushnell invents the forerunner of submarine during his senior year at Yale. Called the Turtle, the one-man wooden barrel-like craft is the first submersible used for military purposes. Employed during the American Revolution against British warships, the vessel is powered by hand-turned screws. It is able to approach ships partially submerged and attach an explosive charge to the target's hull with an external screw-like device. The craft itself works but the armament device is unsuccessful. A year later Bushnell devises the idea of floating mines, called a “squadron of kegs.”

July 5, 1779 - On the third anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1,500 British troops land at Savin Rock and 1,500 on New Haven's East Shore. Black Rock Fort, located at the mouth of New Haven Harbor, is under attack by naval bombardment. Nineteen men on duty at the fort attempt to defend the city. The two pincers of British soldiers converge on the New Haven Green, withdrawing two days later to sail to Fairfield.

1784 - The Connecticut General Assembly grants New Haven a city charter, paring it down to its present shape by also granting charters to East Haven, North Haven, Hamden and Woodbridge, which become incorporated as separate towns.

1784 - John E. Bassett establishes a hardware store in New Haven. The company will remain in business until 1968.

1787 - Seventeen years before Fulton's Clermont, John Fitch builds a 45-foot boat equipped with a steam engine and sails it from New Haven for 40 miles at the speed of four miles per hour.

1788 - The first publication in America to give medical information to physicians, surgeons and hospitals is published by the New Haven Medical Society.

1789 - In an attempt to encourage the production of silk in this country, Yale College President Benjamin Stiles wears a silk clergyman's gown to commencement, made from silk worms grown in mulberry trees planted in New Haven. In one year Connecticut produces 10,000 pounds of raw silk.

1790 - The first U.S. Census enumerates 4,484 people living in New Haven, including 76 slaves, 2,234 free white women, 2,053 free white men and 121 “all other free.”

1790 - Grilley Brothers of Waterbury becomes the first company to produce pewter or tin buttons.

1794 - Eli Whitney of New Haven receives a patent for his cotton gin making cotton crops economically profitable by eliminating the thousands of hours required to pick the seeds from the cotton by hand. Although it transforms the South into a cotton empire, making many rich, so many manufacturers ignore Whitney's patent that he never makes any money on this invention.

1794 - The New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the second founded in the U.S., is formed to protect and advance mercantile interests.

1796 - Tomlinson's Bridge is built across the mouth of the Quinnipiac River, connecting Fair Haven and New Haven.

1796 - The sealer Neptune, owned by Ebenezer Townsend, arrives home after a three-year voyage to Canton, China, where 80,000 skins were sold. It is the most successful voyage to sail to China from New Haven - $76,000 in duties alone are paid to U.S. coffers.

1798 - A government contract in hand, Eli Whitney opens the Whitneyville Armory at Mill Rock (present-day Hamden) producing firearms using assembly-line techniques that permit higher-volume manufacture than ever before. Although Whitney's development of the assembly line is questionable, his guns are the first to be manufactured with interchangeable parts.

1802 - Abel Porter of Waterbury founds a brass company which becomes the first to make brass by direct fusion of copper and zinc, and the first to commercially make gilt buttons. The company will later become Scovill Manufacturing.

1806 - General David Humphreys of Seymour builds the first large and successful woolen mill in the United States.

1807 - Ashbil Griswold opens a shop in Meriden, becoming one of its first manufacturers of pewterware. After undergoing several changes in name and ownership it will become the International Silver Co.

1810 - James Brewster opens the Brewster Carriage Co. at the corner of Elm and High streets in New Haven, giving America carriages a style of their own and helping New Haven enter the Industrial Age.

1812 - Joseph Barber begins publication of the Columbian Register, which in 1875 will change its name to the New Haven Evening Register.

1812 - Aaron Benedict of Waterbury founds a brass-rolling business, later to become Benedict & Burham Manufacturing.

1813 - The invention of steel fishhooks by Eb Jenks of New Haven will contribute greatly to developing the American fishing industry and remain in use today.

1813 - The first course in pediatric medicine in the U.S. is offered in New Haven.

1820 - New Havener Ithiel Town designs the truss bridge. Characterized as the bridge that can be built by the mile and cut off by the yard, Town's truss bridge is simple, practical and possible to construct by those who lack his engineering ability. A brilliant architect, Town receives a $1-per-foot royalty on all truss bridges built in the country.

1822 - The Connecticut Steamboat Co. is formed in New Haven, carrying passengers and goods between New Haven and New York. In 1884 the company will be renamed the New Haven Steamboat Co.

1826 - Yale-New Haven Hospital, organized as the General Hospital Society of Connecticut, becomes the first hospital in the state.

1828 - The first covering of cloth buttons by machinery is done by Daniel and Jopseh Hayden of Waterbury.

1833 - A group of New Haven men obtain a charter from the state of Connecticut for a railroad from New Haven to Hartford. The rails for this line, Connecticut's first, are imported from England.

1835 - The tinder box becomes outdated when New Haven's Sanford & Beecher devise the first sulfur matches, also developing a match-making machine. Once a luxury, matches become affordable for nearly all.

1835 - Pioneers in the manufacture of hardware for homes and factories, Blake Brothers of Westville make the first mortised locks for doors and chests, replacing the old box lock.

1836 - Bridgeport is incorporated as a city.

1836 - Samuel Colt invents the automatic revolver at the Whitneyville Armory.

1836 - Holmes & Hotchkiss of Waterbury become the first company to successfully manufacture hooks and eyes.

1838 - The Blake Brothers of New Haven patent casters which attach to bedsteads, making practicable space-saving rollaway beds.

1839 - The perfection of the process of vulcanizing rubber by New Havener Charles Goodyear, though discovered quite by accident, is the culmination of a long series of experiments by which Goodyear sought a means to prevent India rubber from melting and decomposing. His invention breaths new life into the American rubber industry.

1839 - The U.S. Navy captures the Spanish schooner Amistad with 53 Mendi captives, including Cinqué. The Africans are imprisoned in New Haven while awaiting trail for murder and mutiny.

1843 - Taking full advantage of Goodyear's vulcanized rubber, L. Candee & Co. is the first to manufacture rubber overshoes and boots.

1844 - The New York & New Haven Railroad is chartered, making its inaugural run to New York on Christmas Day of 1845.

1845 - Chauncey Jerome opens a clock factory in New Haven after his Bristol factory burns. Credited with “the greatest and most far-reaching contribution to the clock industry in Connecticut - that of the substitution of brass works for wooden works,” Jerome would later serve of mayor of New Haven.

April 1845 - Elias Howe Jr. invents the first viable sewing machine in the world, revolutionizing the clothing industry and freeing women from the task of making clothing for their families by hand. Howe would set up the Howe Machine Co. at Howe and Kossuth streets in Bridgeport.

1849 - If one wanted to keep food from spoiling before now, you had to hope you still had some ice cut from lakes during the winter. New Haven engineer Alexander Catlin Twining invents an artificial ice-making machine, making ice available year round.

1849 - The Humphreysville Copper Co., later the New Haven Copper Co., is founded with initial capital stock of $40,000. The smelting and sulfuric acid manufactory, located on the East Shore of New Haven Harbor, will cause numerous ore-laden schooners to dock at the new East Shore wharf. The company will later move to the shores of the Naugatuck River in Seymour, where it remains in operation to this day.

1851-- The first brass spinning is invented by Hiram Washington Hayden of Waterbury.

1852 - The Meriden Britannia Co., a manufacturer of pewter, is founded. In 1898 it will become part of the International Silver Co.

1852 - Edward Malley rents a small building on Chapel Street in New Haven for $75 a year, establishing a retail store that would carry his name for 132 years.

1853 - The American Brass Association, the first trade association in America, is formed in Waterbury.

1853 - Orchardist W.W. Lyman of Meriden invents the first airtight canning jar with a spring-fastened top.

1856 - Sand was the most practical way to dry ink until Joseph Parker produced blotting paper at the West Rock Paper Mill in New Haven. Small quantities of a similar paper were available from England. The same year he devises up with a formula for blotting paper, he also manufactures the first tissue paper made in America. The company is also credited with perfecting tissue paper for making newspaper mats.

1858 - Placed in a New Haven town commission charged with laying two miles of macadam pavement on Whalley Avenue in New Haven, Eli Whitney Blake observes the waste of labor in producing the crushed stone for the road. His answer is the stone-crusher, which takes the largest of the stones and crushes them to the required size, using two upright steel jaws that close with a force of 27,000 pounds per square inch. The development of the stone-crusher helps to fuel an increase in American industrial productivity, an improved highway system and gives birth to what has been called “The Age of Concrete.”

1858 - The first can-opener is patented by Ezra J. Warner of Waterbury.

1860 - New Havener Isaac Strouse pioneers the American corset industry. He is the first to make sewn corsets with steel stays. Two years later Max Adler begins an association with Strouse and the two form the Strouse Adler Co.

1860 - New Havener Philos P. Blake develops the corkscrew, a simple machine that nevertheless is difficult to use on wooden stoppers. As cork becomes more popular the corkscrew earns broad acceptance.

1860 - New Haven has 216 manufactories employing approximately 4,900 men and 3,100 women. One-quarter of these workers are engaged in the manufacture of carriages.

1863 - Joseph H. Smith advertises “painless” dentistry. The first use of anesthesia at the dentist's office is so popular that in one month Smith pulls more than 1,000 molars.

1864 - Joseph Bradford Sargent opens a manufacturing plant at Water, Wallace and Hamilton streets in New Haven. The hardware company becomes known for its production of locks, expanding later into builder's hardware and in Sargent's time, producing 60,000 different items.

1867 - Charles Hervey Townshend - sea captain, author and historian - proves that seed oysters adhere to discarded oyster shells by conducting experiments in the moat at Fort Nathan Hale on New Haven's East Shore. The discovery gives New Haven's economy a major boost: By the turn of the century the city will produce 12.5 percent of the nation's total output of oysters and seed oysters.

1868 - New Havener Alvin J. Fellows develops the spring tape measure, a tape measure enclosed in a circular case with a spring lock holding the tape at any desired point.

1867 - Edward R. Ives moves his Ives Manufacturing Co. from Plymouth (Connecticut) to Bridgeport. The toy company introduces clockwork toys in 1870 and is the first to produce trains that run on tracks - and the first in the nation to produce “O” gauge electric trains. A victim of financial difficulties, Ives Manufacturing would go into bankruptcy in 1928.

1871 - William Frisbie opens a small baking operation at 147 Kossuth Street in Bridgeport. The company will later expand into other markets, including New Haven, where Yale students soon discover the felicitous aerodynamic characteristics of Frisbie pie plates.

1873 - Georgeanna Woolsey Bacon establishes the Connecticut Training School for Nurses at New Haven Hospital.

1873 - Doctors Lucien G. and I. DeVer Warner come up with a corset designed to fit a women's body, unlike the Victorian undergarments which “tied” her in and Warner Brother, later Warnaco, is born. The company's first Bridgeport plant, built in 1876, is located on Atlantic Street.

1874 - New Havener Henry Palmelee invents the sprinkler. Developed to help mitigate the very real danger of fire in commercial buildings, it consists of a perforated head with a valve held closed by a heavy spring made of a low fusing material.

1874 - The Monumental Bronze Co. is founded at the corner of Barnum and Hallett streets on Bridgeport's East Side. Partners M.A. Richardson and C.J. Willard produce a bronze monument covered with a pure zinc that is strong enough to withstand the ravages of time and weather.

1874 - The Board of Trade (today the Bridgeport Regional Business Council) is formed as a quasi-governmental agency to promote the business interests of a city that is evolving to an industrial-based economy.

1875 - Phineas Taylor Barnum is elected mayor of Bridgeport. He serves a single one-year term. Barnum, who owned four homes in Bridgeport, houses his renowned circus in the city during the winter.

1875 - The first agricultural station in America is established in New Haven by the state of Connecticut for the purpose of developing sprays to protect crops against insects.

1876 - Acme Shear opens on Barnum Avenue in Bridgeport, producing butter dishes, cutlery and cast shears. By 1946 it will become the largest manufacturer in the world of shears, scissors and surgical items. In 1996 the company will move its U.S. operations to Freemont, N.C.

January 15, 1878 - The manager of a New Haven telegraph office, George C. Coy is sufficiently inspired by Alexander Graham Bell's demonstration of the telephone in New Haven to organize his own telephone business. Designing his own machines, he founds the Southern New England Telephone Co. on January 15, 1878 with crude and often unreliable equipment. The wooden telephone switchboard requires six separate connections and disconnections to complete a single call.

1886 - The invention of steel spectacles by J. E. Spencer & Co. of New Haven gives Americans a less expensive version of a product already available in Europe.

1888 - The Winchester Arms Co. buys the Whitney Arms Co. in Whitneyville, becoming the largest employer in the city for many years. The company will later become a division of the Olin Corp.

1890 - Yale graduate Henry H. Sprague founds the Sprague Meter Co. in Bridgeport. Realizing the need for a device that can accurately measure gas used in domestic and industrial applications, Sprague pioneers the development of a gas meter suitable for measuring both manufactured and natural gas.

1892 - George C. Smith of the Bradley Smith Candy Co. in New Haven puts sticks into balls of candy. Thus is born the lollipop.

1899 - The Locomobile Co. of America is founded in Bridgeport, pioneering in the development of steam, gasoline and electric automobiles.

1899 - The New Haven Electric Light Co. joins with the Bridgeport Electric Light Co. to form the United Illuminating Co.

1900 - James Petries of New Haven invents the automobile self-starter. Previously automobiles carried 72 pounds of batteries to get the engine started. The self-starter has a magneto attached to the flywheel to create a spark.

1905 - Singer Manufacturing takes over the Bridgeport-based Wilson Sewing Machine Co., concentrating its Bridgeport plant production on industrial-use machinery. By the 1950s Singer will be producing 4,000 varieties of family and industrial machines for a worldwide market.

1905 - Figures were added and subtracted by hand until New Havener Fred Carroll devises a computing machine that can add and subtract, printing out tabulations on rolls of paper.

1907 - The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth found the Hospital of Saint Raphael, located in a house on Chapel Street in New Haven.

1907 - Alfred Carleton Gilbert begins manufacturing set of magic tricks under the name “Mysto Magic.” Six years later he would introduce the Erector Set. In 1916, with annual sales exceeding $1 million, Gilbert would change his firm's corporate identity to A.C. Gilbert.

1913 - A group of New Haven businessmen organize the Employees Association of New Haven County - later the Manufacturers Association of New Haven County Inc. - for the purpose of providing an exchange of ideas and information to help businesses and the community progress and prosper.

1913 - Thomas Osborn identifies vitamin A, which is chemically produced at the Connecticut Agricultural Station in New Haven.

1916 - The first double-hybrid corn in America is developed at the Connecticut Agricultural Station in New Haven.

1917 - The first for-women-only golf tournament in Connecticut takes place in Waterbury.

1934 - The Eastern Color Printing Co. of Waterbury produces the first periodical newsstand comic book, Famous Funnies.

1940 - The New Haven Terminal is established as a warehouse for goods, before long developing into one of the largest docking, storage and transpiration centers for petroleum, chemicals and metals in the Northeast.

1949 - William H. Swell Jr. and William Glen develop a prototype of the heart-lung machine at Yale-New Haven Hospital. A major breakthrough in modern medicine, this bypass equipment allows physicians to perform delicate operations directly on the heart while blood flow proceeds normally.

- Priscilla Searles

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