Connecticut has long, storied gun history

Connecticut has been a hub for weapons and ordnance production for generations. But the state's long relationship with guns has come under scrutiny since Adam Lanza massacred 20 elementary school students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
State residents carry contradictory attitudes toward guns. As voters, they have backed Connecticut lawmakers adopting some of the tightest statewide gun restrictions in the nation.
Yet mourners at last Thursday's funeral for Benjamin Wheeler, 6, broke into applause at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown when the Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd said the killings had been carried out by an "enraged, sick young man with access to weapons that should never, ever be in a home."
The state's economy has long been strengthened by the arms industry. And a pro-gun culture flourishes across vast stretches of the state where hunting and fishing remain popular.
"We are known as the land of steady habits," says Walter Woodward, the state historian and a professor at the University of Connecticut. "Our steadiest habit has been our ability to embrace contradictions."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., reflects Connecticut's complex relationship with firearms. The former state attorney general and U.S. attorney favors banning military-style assault rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines for civilians at the same time that he works to sustain the state's multimillion-dollar arms manufacturing industry.
"We need to take real, strong serious action to stop gun violence," says Blumenthal, who favors stricter background checks and stronger enforcement of existing laws. "But my stand on preventing gun violence is in no way antithetical to responsible gun manufacturers."
Fast-moving rivers, iron ore and canny Yankee ingenuity enabled the state to forge a world-renowned firearms industry that began on the benches of artisans in the 1700s and continues today in state-of-the-art factories.
Early gunsmiths such as Eli Whitney transformed a decentralized industry into an economic powerhouse with water-driven production of interchangeable parts and assembly-line output that served as cornerstones of the American industrial revolution.
Samuel Colt's masterful marketing of his revolvers to the Texas Rangers in the 1840s helped put the Hartford-based gunsmith on the map with handguns that helped settle the West - and countless scores.
Eliphalet Remington Jr., who made his first rifle in Ilion, N.Y., in 1816, later opened a munitions factory in Bridgeport, where inventor John Browning contributed to the success of Remington Arms Co., before the firm began moving operations out of state in the 1970s.
Oliver Winchester, the New Haven-based gunsmith who engineered the repeating rifle in 1854, mass produced the lever-action weapon after the Civil War that enabled soldiers to seize and hold Indian territory and become known as the "Gun that Won the West."
Connecticut's economic reliance on defense contracts and the gun industry remains strong amid anti-firearms sentiment arising in the wake of the school shooting.
Connecticut's gun manufacturing industry directly employs 2,899 workers, earning $224 million a year and producing $967 million in weapons and ammunition, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an organization representing gun manufacturers.
Stewart M. Powell and Gary Martin are Hearst Newspapers staff writers.

November 1940. Children sledding, Jewett City, Connecticut

Men outside of a beer parlor in Jewett City, Connecticut

Conn. researcher can swing fates of tribes


WATERBURY, Conn. — He has been disparaged as a document-hunting hit man, available for hire to snuff out the historical claims of ­Native American tribes.

James P. Lynch says that’s just part of doing business as a self-employed “ethno-historian” who investigates the ancestry of contemporary Indian tribes, often with multimillion dollar ­casino proposals in the balance.

The polarizing researcher, often criticized by academics, has developed a reputation over 20 years as the go-to consultant for those seeking to debunk the historical claims of tribes, specialists say.

Lynch recently jumped into a dispute ­between Massachusetts tribes, by helping the Pocasset Band of Pokanoket Indians of Fall River, combat efforts by the Mashpee Wampanoag to build a casino in Taunton, which the Pocasset say is their historic territory.

The Mashpee, in response, have blasted Lynch as a “hired gun” with questionable credentials.

For Lynch, such a fierce counterattack is a good sign.

“When they start attacking you personally, you know your research has hit home,” said Lynch, 66, who works from his house in Waterbury, about 30 miles southwest of Hartford.

One room of his basement is filled with dozens of his meticulously crafted models of military ships and planes, a lifelong hobby. The adjoining room is stuffed with thousands of ­records on Native American tribes.

For thrills, Lynch roots around old libraries and ­archives. “That moment of ­enlightenment when you learn something new is like a siren’s song,” he said.

He began researching tribal histories seriously in the early 1990s, beginning with the Golden Hill Paugussett in ­Connecticut. The tribe’s wide-ranging land claims at the time threatened the home of Lynch’s mother-in-law. The tribe later blamed Lynch’s “inappropriate research” for the 1996 rejection of its petition for federal acknowledgment, according to a Globe report in 2000. His work on the Golden Hill Paugussett led to more assignments.

“My work has always been word-of-mouth,” he said. “I never really put myself out there.”

He has often been hired by law firms representing municipalities opposing tribal recognition, which is often a first step toward a casino.

Lynch did not come to historical research along the traditional academic career path. He served in the US Navy after high school, from 1964 to 1973, and then studied sociology and anthropology at Southern ­Connecticut State University. He holds a master’s degree in anthropology and ethnohistory from Wesleyan University and participated in a University of Connecticut doctoral program in anthropology and history, but did not finish.

 He worked for heating equipment companies before becoming a full-time consultant and document researcher around 1998. He founded his current firm, Historical Consulting and Research Services, in 2001.

His work often provokes ­angry responses. A commentary Lynch published in March, for instance, which questioned the historical claims of the ­Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, in California, brought a stinging retort from an ­anthropology professor who ­accused Lynch of distortions.

James Axtell, a historian and researcher retired from the ­College of William and Mary, who knows of Lynch, said the rise of tribal casinos has created a new breed of researchers-for-hire. “Lots of people are getting paid to do this stuff,” he said. “You expect them to find what you want. These are not historical researchers hired to find what the truth is.”

A federal judge made a similar point about Lynch in 2009, in a ruling in a federal lawsuit over tax-free tribal cigarette sales in New York. Though Lynch was deemed qualified to testify in the case as an expert witness, the judge noted Lynch’s testimony in 10 cases involving federal recognition by Indian tribes.

“Mr. Lynch found adversely to the tribe’s federal recognition in nine matters in which he was retained by clients opposing tribal recognition,” the judge wrote. “In the one matter in which Mr. Lynch found in favor of tribal recognition, he was ­retained by a client that supported tribal recognition.”

Lynch said he never guarantees his clients the results they want. “One thing I make clear: You get what the facts dictate,” he insisted.

In fact, he said, the most satisfying day of his career came when he discovered a document in Connecticut that ­appeared to bolster the case for federal recognition by the ­Eastern Pequot. “I must admit the temptation to suppress it,” said Lynch, who was working at the time for opponents of tribal recognition. But he said he placed the document in the official record of the case. “That, to me, was a seminal moment that defined whether I was a professional or a client’s hit man.”

The town of Halifax hired Lynch to investigate the ­Mashpee, who in 2007 had ­announced plans to build a ­casino in Middleborough, near Halifax. Lynch produced a report arguing that the Mashpee lacked historical connection to the land and therefore should not be permitted to establish a reservation or a casino at that location.

John Bruno, former Halifax selectman, said the board did not direct Lynch toward any predetermined conclusion, though local opposition to a ­casino was well known. He thought Lynch did a good job with the research. “He does a lot of work with primary source documents,” said Bruno. “He seemed to know what he was talking about.”

In the current dispute between Massachusetts tribes, Lynch wrote that the Mashpee are not linked historically to the land in Taunton where the tribe has proposed a casino.

“Historically, the lands in question were those belonging to the historic Pokanoket tribe,” with which the Cape Cod-based Mashpee were not associated, he wrote. He accuses the ­Mashpee of seeking to “distort the historical realities of Southeastern Massachusetts” for the sake of gambling profits.

Lynch said he agreed to help the Pocasset for free because the tribe was “on the verge of getting screwed.” He said he may be paid “down the road” if the tribe builds a successful economic development project, be it a casino or something else.

The Mashpee, in response, say Lynch is the one warping history.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Lynch has gained a reputation throughout the country as a hired gun who will come up with reasons to deny Indian tribes their sovereign right to land as long as the price is right,” Cedric Cromwell, the Mashpee Wampanoag chairman, said in a statement.

“Throughout our quest for federal recognition, and now an initial reservation, those with a financial motivation to deny us our rights have paid so-called experts to refute our history and our identity as Mashpee Wampanoag people. Every step of the way, the evidence has supported our proud history, and we are confident that the outcome will be the same in this case.”

The US Department of the Interior must sort out the dueling portraits of Mashpee Wampanoag history in rendering a decision on whether to take the Taunton land into trust for the Mashpee, a necessary step before the tribe may open a casino.

The Pocasset have pushed since August for the state gambling commission to review Lynch’s research. The commission has the authority to seek bids for a commercial casino in Southeastern Massachusetts if it believes no tribes will be able to build a casino in the region.

Stephen Crosby, the commission’s chairman, is aware of Lynch’s research, but said it is too soon to consider whether the Mashpee will be successful.

In the meantime, Lynch hopes his latest work will provoke the Mashpee to produce fresh research in an attempt to refute him.

“If you’ve got cards,” he dared the tribe, “it’s time to put them on the table.”

Allyn House, Hartford, Conn.Circa 1908.

Quinnipiac To Open Museum With World's Largest Collection Of Irish Potato Famine Art, Artifacts

 A University President's Passion To Tell The "Great Hunger" Story; A Bagel Magnate's Backing

By KATHLEEN MEGAN, The Hartford Courant

8:40 p.m. EDT, September 17, 2012


— Since he was a child, Quinnipiac University President John Lahey had heard about the tragic Irish potato famine.

But it wasn't until he served as grand marshal of New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1997 that he researched the subject and developed a passion so strong that the university will soon open its own museum on the famine.

"You know, I grew up in an Irish neighborhood, and I was told about this, but the story was more or less that it was the Irish fault for being dependent on the potato. They were lazy or whatever," said Lahey, who grew up in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. "That was the British story that they wanted us to believe so they were not held accountable."

What he learned in his research convinced Lahey that the 19th century tragedy was avoidable – that policies of the British left the Irish starving when there were alternative food supplies in the country.

Certain that this was a story that needed to be told, Lahey delivered speeches on the subject often during 1997 — the year he was grand marshal and also the 150th anniversary of the famine. His outrage persuaded bagel magnate Murray Lender, then vice chairman of Qunnipiac's trustees, who saw parallels in the lives of the Jews and the Irish, of the need to inform people about the famine and he offered to help.

A decade and a half later, Quinnipiac will open "Ireland's Great Hunger Museum" or, in Irish, "Museam An Ghorta Mór," in Hamden on Oct. 11. The museum will be dedicated in an invitation-only ceremony on Sept. 28, but in the previous week, there will be several public lectures at Quinnipiac, including a Sept. 25 talk by Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, an Irish national political party.

Lahey said the 4,750 square-foot museum will be home to the largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials related to the Irish famine. While the university is covering the cost to buy and renovate the museum — which Quinnipiac isn't disclosing — the Lender family contributed to the purchase of the collection.

Niamh O'Sullivan, who is a professor emeritus of visual culture with the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, is the inaugural curator; Grace Brady, who worked as an administrator for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will start as executive director on Wednesday.

"This is the only museum anywhere in the world dedicated to Irish art on the Great Hunger," Lahey said. "There is nothing like this in Ireland. The educational piece is that this was an avoidable tragedy."

Christopher Cahill, executive director of the American Irish Historical Society, said it's a "great concept" that the university has focused on "a single, but extremely complicated historical event that is almost as central to the history of the United States as it is to the history of Ireland.

"If you look at the impact of the Great Hunger on the U.S., it's incredibly transformative," he said. "There certainly are specialized collections in various libraries, but this is a kind of a different way of organizing a collection around a single historical event."

The collection focuses on the famine years from 1845-52, when blight destroyed almost all of Ireland's potato crops. That crop loss, paired with the British government's "callous disregard for human rights" as Lahey said — others have called it indifference — led to the deaths of more than a million Irish men, women and children. More than 2 million left Ireland with a massive influx into to the U.S., reducing Ireland's population from 8 million to just over 4 million.

Scholars and historians disagree on the British government's intent during the famine years, though it's clear that British policies proved devastating. "Was it a crime?" asked Lahey. "I would say it was a human rights abuse. … It was certainly a human rights violation."

In 1997, then newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair issued an apology for the famine, calling it "a defining event in the history of Ireland and Britain. ... Those who governed in London at the time failed their people through standing by while a crop failure turned into a massive human tragedy.

Lender Family Support Launches Collection

On a visit last week to the soft-gray stucco museum that was built in 1890 as a library, Lahey paces and talks effusively, describing his travels, visiting galleries and looking for works of art that focus on the famine years.

Not much famine-related artwork was produced during the years of the blight, Lahey said, because there were not many who could pay for it and the few who could "didn't want the starving Irish hanging on the wall in some Irish manor."

It was a significant donation from the Lender family, Lahey said, that launched Quinnipiac's collection of famine-related art, artifacts, original documents and other resources, which is housed in the Lender Family Special Collection room in the university's library on the campus, and now needs more space.

Murray Lender passed away earlier this year, but his brother Marvin said that when the brothers heard about the details of the famine from Lahey, "We couldn't help but compare the history, particularly the potato famine, to some of the experiences of the Jewish people over the years."

On the tour, Lahey points to a space in the museum where a chilling painting called "Burying the Child," by Lilian Lucy Davidson, will hang. In its place last week was a copy of the painting — a placeholder until the museum is completed. But even a copy tells the story of the famine in dark, devastating tones.

Though he has a doctorate in philosophy, Lahey sounds like an art history major. A painting called the "Irish Peasant Children," Lahey said, symbolizes the "three faces of Ireland": the beauty of a young girl, the wildness of an unkempt youth, and a third youth, who iappears to be more sinister.

Also particularly moving are Statistic I and Statistic II, sculptures by Rowan Gillespie, that present the names of hundreds of Irish immigrants who died of disease in quarantine camps on Staten Island.

In his quarter century at Quinnipiac's helm, Lahey is known for sweeping change: during his tenure the university has more than quadrupled its enrollment to 8,500 students; and has had added two new campuses, a law school, and next year, a medical school.

But it's clear as Lahey walks through the museum, pointing out highlights, including space where schoolchildren will be able to watch videos on the famine, that he worries about the details.

Bradford P. Collins, the exhibit designer, corrals Lahey for a moment to get his input on the size of type for a gallery wall. The sizes differ by only a 32nd of an inch, but it's enough to discuss. "Let's go with the bigger," Lahey concludes. "I think I can read it better from a distance.''

It was Lahey's decision to put pavers in the parking lot, rather than blacktop. And he wanted the museum sign to sit squarely in front, rather than at 90 degrees to the road, to differentiate it from the retail outlets along Whitney Avenue.

"I see the big picture … but small things are important too," Lahey says. "When you think of the great universities, many of them have art collections and galleries: Boston College, Yale. ... We think this is part of our gift to the community in a way. .. In time, Quinnipiac will become the place to do Great Hunger-related research."

A weeklong program of cultural events and lectures will begin on Sept. 25. It will culminate with an invitation-only dedication on Sept 28. The museum, at 3011 Whitney Ave. in Hamden, will open to the public on Oct. 11. The museum is free.


Henry Shelton Sanford

Henry Shelton Sanford was born in Woodbury, Connecticut into an old New England family.  His mother was Nancy Bateman Shelton.  (Shelton Connecticut is named for one of her family members, Edward N. Shelton, founder of the Ousatonic Water Power Company)

Sanford’s father Nehemiah Curtis Sanford, a self-made millionaire who earned his fortune through the manufacturing of brass tacks.  He was also a founder of Birmingham (Ansonia) Connecticut and a direct descendant of Thomas Wells, Governor of the Connecticut Colony.  (The only person in Connecticut's history to hold all four top offices: governor, deputy governor, treasurer, and secretary.) and served in the Connecticut Senate for the 16th District.

Sanford began was the United States Secretary of the American legation to St. Petersburg, then Frankfurt and later, Paris. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him as Minister to Belgium in 1861.

Sanford coordinated northern secret service operations during the Civil War, arranged for the purchase of war materials for the Union in Europe, and delivered a message from Secretary of State William H. Steward to Giuseppe Garibaldi, offering the Italian patriot a Union command.

After the War, he bought an orange grove in St. Augustine, Florida, from John Hay, who had been one of President Lincoln's secretaries and later served as U.S. Secretary of State. It was the beginning of a Sanford’s large investment in the St. Augustine area.

In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Sanford as his Minister to Spain but his Senate confirmation was tabled because, although Sanford wanted the post, he didn’t want to live in Spain.

The following year, 1870, Sanford paid $18,400 to former Confederate General Joseph Finegan to acquire his extensive land holdings along Lake Monroe and founded the city of Sanford, Florida.

He also had extensive holdings in the Congo and Belgian King Leopold II used Sanford to convince Henry Morton Stanley to explore the Congo basin for Belgium in 1878. He then hired Sanford in 1883 as his envoy to the United States to try to gain American recognition for his colony in Congo.

Sanford died at Healing Springs, Virginia on May 21, 1891. He is buried in Long Hill Cemetery, Shelton, Connecticut.