After 200+ years, Roger Sherman gets into Hall of Fame


Connecticut schools, parks and buildings have been named for Roger Sherman, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Now, more than two centuries after his death, Sherman has made it into the Connecticut Hall of Fame.
"After 292 years, it's about time," said Lisa Roush, curator of the New Milford Historical Society and Museum.
Roger Sherman, who lived in New Milford, was inducted into the hall last Wednesday.
Sherman's name is now on display in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, joining the likes of Mark Twain, Igor Sikorsky and Katharine Hepburn. 
Also inducted with Sherman were UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma and former UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun.
Though it might seem the honor was long overdue, the Hall of Fame was created just seven years ago.
In 1745, Sherman moved to New Milford from New Fairfield. He became a prominent New Milford landowner, owned a mercantile business near the present Town Hall and surveyed much of Litchfield County, where he extended his personal land holdings.
Sherman was a local politician and became New Milford's representative to the Connecticut Assembly in 1755.
"Never one to stand on the sidelines, Roger Sherman knew that in order to obtain freedom and liberty and to get out from under the yoke of oppression, a revolution was necessary," said state Rep. Cecilia Buck-Taylor, a Republican who represents New Milford.
"Sherman was an early supporter of the American fight against the British. His well-deserved recognition in the Connecticut Hall of Fame acknowledges his prominence in both Connecticut and American history," Buck-Taylor added. 
The nearby town of Sherman is named for him.
Roger Sherman was one of 56 men to sign the Declaration of Independence, and was one of a committee of five to help draft the document. He signed the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution.
The Roger Sherman exhibit in the New Milford Historical Society Museum on Aspetuck Avenue includes duplicate documents, a large diorama and a time line depicting Sherman's work and accomplishments.
It also features a lithograph of John Trumbull's painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, with Sherman standing prominently at the front with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Hancock.
Sherman served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1789 to 1791, then as a U.S. senator from 1791 to 1793, when he died in New Haven at the age of 72.

50 Years Ago: 7 Connecticut Men Died In Worst Ever Submarine Disaster



The USS Thresher, while conducting deep water test dives 200 miles east of Cape Cod, lost power and imploded in 8,400 feet of water. All 129 men aboard were killed instantly.

Powered by a nuclear reactor, the USS Thresher was on the cutting edge of attack submarines at the height of the Cold War in 1963. It bristled with the latest in sonar technology and weapons systems.

The 278-foot long attack sub shaped like a cigar was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire. Its keel was laid down on Jan. 15, 1958, and it was launched on July 9, 1960. At the time it was the fastest and quietest attack submarine in operation; most appropriately, its motto was “Vis Tacita”—silent power.

Its home base was Groton, CT. In should come as no surprise that there were many Connecticut ties to the ill-fated submarine.

The crew of 129, including 17 civilians, left Portsmouth at 8 a.m. on April 8, 1963, and proceeded to a point in the North Atlantic about 200 miles east of Cape Cod for a test dive. While conducting a deep water dive of about 1,000 feet, the Thresher lost its power. Investigators of the disaster believe that a water pipe burst, sending out a stream that affected nearby electrical components. That bursting pipe set off a series of cascading events that caused the sub to sink slowly and irretrievably to a depth where the water pressure on its hull was so extreme that it imploded, killing the crew instantly.

The implosion probably occurred between 1,200 and 1,500 feet. The remains of the Thresher then settled on the bottom at a depth of 8,400 feet, where they were discovered by deep sea explorer Robert Ballard of Old Lyme in 1985 — on the same voyage of exploration that Ballard found the Titanic!

The incident remains the single largest submarine disaster in terms of loss of life in history. The vast majority of the crew had attended submarine school in New London; additionally, many had received training in understanding nuclear reactors from Combustion Engineering.

CE’s marine nuclear propulsion training facility — known as S1C — was in Windsor, CT. Most of the crew had spent time in Windsor to learn about nuclear propulsion in a submarine. (S1C was later called the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory and was eventually decommissioned about 15 years ago.) Also, since the sub’s home base was in Groton, most of the crew lived nearby in various Connecticut communities.

The disaster hit Connecticut especially hard. Among the dead were the Shafer brothers of Groton. Both were graduates of Fitch High School. The older of the Shafer brothers was Benjamin, born in 1926 and a member of the Fitch Class of 1944. A World War II Naval veteran, Ben had a keen interest in electronics, especially radios.

After the war, he took a job as a welder at Electric Boat in 1946. In 1949, he decided to re-enlist in the Navy and became a master electrician’s mate. He was assigned to the Thresher in February of 1961. He left behind his wife, a daughter, three sons, and both of his parents in North Stonington.

The Shafer parents also had to endure the loss of another son on the Thresher —their son, John. John Shafer was a senior electrician’s mate. John had graduated from Fitch in 1947 and had similar interests in electronics as his older brother. John joined the Navy after graduation and was initially assigned to the carrier Roosevelt. John later served on four other submarines before joining his older brother on Sept. 21, 1961. He was survived by four sons as well as his parents, a brother, and three sisters.

The following men with Connecticut ties also perished on the Thresher:

Lt. Robert D. Biederman — A Hartford native and Weaver High grad, Lt. Biederman had just been assigned to the sub three months before the disaster. He was the superintendent for non-nuclear work. Biederman was survived by his wife and four children as well as his mother, four brothers, and three sisters.

Seaman David A. Wasel — A New Britain native, David Wasel graduated from high school there in 1959 and joined the Navy. Six of Wasel’s uncles had served in the military during World War II, so military service was a family tradition. Wasel had been assigned to the Thresher just five weeks before it was lost at sea. Besides his parents, David Wasel left behind his brother, Robert.

Engineman 2nd Class Richard P. Brann — A Windsor Locks High School grad of 1957, Richard Brann joined the Navy immediately upon graduation. He had served on another sub — theWahoo — prior to being assigned to the Thresher in February of 1961. Besides his wife, Richard left behind his parents and two brothers on North St. in Windsor Locks. One of his brothers, Danny, was a childhood friend of mine.

Lt. Frank J. Malinski — Though born in New Jersey, Frank Malinski grew up in Fairfield County in the town of Stratford. He was a Fairfield Prep grad in 1957. Malinski then attended Holy Cross College, graduating in 1961. He soon joined the Navy and became a lieutenant, taking advanced training in nuclear power. He was assigned to the Thresher just two months before it was lost. Just 23 when he died, Lt. Malinski was survived by his parents.

Lt. John Smarz Jr. — Born in Shelton, CT, in 1929, John Smarz graduated from high school there in 1947 and joined the Navy. He studied electronics first, then he became qualified as a nuclear reactor operator. He served on one other sub before being assigned to the ill-fated Thresher in August of 1960. He left behind his parents, his wife, and three sons.

Five of the seven Connecticut men onboard the Thresher had jobs that dealt with electrical components and the operation of the nuclear reactor. One can only imagine the central role that those five Connecticut guys had in trying to re-start the crippled sub and the fear that must have gripped them as the sub sank ineluctably to its watery grave.

Men from 34 states, the Philippines, and Washington, D.C. perished on the Thresher. By far, the most victims came from New York — 17. Massachusetts was next with 10, followed by Maine with nine. Both New Hampshire and Connecticut lost seven of its native sons to the sea fifty years ago on April 10, 1963.

Just this past Sunday, hundreds of people, including relatives of the lost men, attended a memorial service for the victims of the Thresher in Kittery, Maine. At that service a 129 foot flagpole — one foot for every victim — was dedicated to their memory in a village close to the sea where they all rest. Just as the limp flag reached the top of the pole a strong wind kicked up and blew the flag straight out from the pole and toward the sea, snapping it to attention, as if to salute the victims. It seemed eerily appropriate.



Convent of Notre Dame, Waterbury


Waterbury train station


Rare Giraffe Born: Endangered Rothschild Giraffe at Connecticut Conservation Site Stands Up




Rrare site graced a zoo in Connecticut in the early hours this weekend. On March 22 at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center, an endangered Rothschild giraffe, Petal, went into the early stages of labor. The 6-year-old giraffe gave birth to a healthy, female calf, and bonded extremely well with her new baby. Workers also reported the young mother as being very attentive, who soon began nurturing her new calf, according to ABC News. (And just for those of us who didn't know, a calf is the term for a baby giraffe--not just a baby cow.)
Sources say the new baby can be noted for her curious nature, as she was standing and nursing just 30 minutes after birth. Mother giraffes give birth while standing, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, following an average 15 month gestation period. Her birth marks a huge milestone for the low impact conservation center, as she is the first giraffe born at the facility and quite possibly the first in Connecticut's history.
The Rothschild giraffe, found in Africa, is classified as endangered on IUCN Red List and there are fewer than 670 left in the wild. LEOZCC is a nonprofit, accredited conservation center and offsite breeding facility specializing in species at risk and conservation based education programs. LEOZCC is no stranger to newborns and is expecting more giraffe, tapir, kangaroo and primate births this Spring.

Gun Making Part Of Connecticut's Fabric




From coast to coast, politicians and pundits quickly grasped the irony when the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown landed Connecticut, the home and birthplace of the American firearms industry, at the center of a national feeding frenzy about guns.
Just days before this horrific event, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's economic development team offered a low-interest loan to the very company whose product — the Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle — was used in the killings. It's hard to imagine worse timing. And yet, as a matter of policy, it's reassuring to know that they have their eye on the ball concerning one of Connecticut's oldest and most distinguished industry clusters — firearms and precision manufacturing.
Like it or not — guns are us. Or rather, the economic and technological benefits that stemmed from Connecticut's internationally significant role in the development of machine-based manufacturing literally changed the world of work and helped make Connecticut rich. One needn't be passionately interested in this local product to be aware and even grateful for its remarkable history and legacy in our culture and economy. Indeed, our congressional delegation is busy laying tracks for a national historic site in Hartford's Coltsville, where this story will be told.
Connecticut's "Industry Cluster Initiative" develops resources to help our core industries compete globally and grow jobs. The bioscience, software/information technology and plastics industry clusters are relative newcomers. The insurance and financial services cluster is big and visible. In times past, we dominated hats, undergarments, shellfish, typewriters and sewing machines, electroplating, textiles, poultry and tobacco. Dean Nelson at the Museum of Connecticut History claims that, in 1880, half the products on the shelves in hardware stores across America were produced in Connecticut.
We were America's workshop. Famous monikers like the Brass Valley, Silver City, Thread City, Whaling City, Insurance City and Hardware City branded our industries to specific places. Most of our cities developed around industry clusters. It doesn't get much sweeter than when your community has 80 percent of the world market for a product.
Industry clusters are ecosystems. Once developed, they feed on themselves as technology, know-how and skilled labor converge around a specialized task or function. But they are also fragile and don't sustain themselves by accident. Connecticut was once the breadbasket of the Eastern Seaboard. Agriculture moved west, and in more recent times our textile industry moved south.
Firearms are controversial. But for the military, police and sportsmen they are indispensible. Our region's firearms industry isn't as big as it used to be, but there are still half a dozen key manufacturers — including such iconic brands as Colt's Manufacturing Co. and, just over the border in Springfield and Westfield, Smith & Wesson and Savage Arms.
Moreover, the firearms industry has long been interwoven with and helped spawn aerospace, machine tool and related forms of precision manufacturing. It's a fascinating history vividly brought to life in the Connecticut Valley at the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vt., housed in the historic Robbins & Lawrence Armory building. One of its founders, Richard Lawrence, seeking larger capital and labor markets, built the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Co. in Hartford during the 1850s.
There is hardly a more inspiring story in Connecticut's history then the rapid spiraling up of this industry cluster in Hartford, New Haven and Middletown during the 1850s. Some historians believe that if the Army officials had adopted Connecticut's cutting-edge arms technology at the beginning of the Civil War, the war would have ended much sooner and with less loss of life.
Industry clusters are inherently unstable. Firearms, aerospace, machine tools — we should be very careful about disturbing any aspect of this ecosystem.
I think it is time to adopt more rigorous background checks for gun permits and close the gun show loophole. The tragedy and grief of Newtown will be with us for years. But let's not get all wobbly. Demonizing firearms and the firearms industry will accomplish one and only one thing. We will weaken a key industry cluster, jobs will be lost and we will diminish Connecticut's competitiveness in the global economy.
William Hosley of Enfield is author of "Colt: The Making of an American Legend" and is a founding member of the Coltsville Ad Hoc Committee for the National Park.


Trove of Amistad letters will stay in Connecticut



The Connecticut Historical Society, buoyed by an outpouring of community support, has won a bidding war for a trove of 19th century letters relating to the Amistad incident.
The $66,000 purchase guarantees that researchers and the public will have access to the 94 letters, written by the daughter of an abolitionist family in Farmington, for generations to come.
"We're still kind of stunned,' said Richard Malley, head of research and collections for the society. "This is unprecedented in our experience.'
Last week, Swann Auction Galleries in New York City offered up an assortment of Amistad items, including a rare, first edition pamphlet about the celebrated Amistad case and an engraving of the Amistad captives' leader, Sengbe Pieh, also was known as Cinque.
Most prized of all was a cache of letters written by Charlotte Cowles of Farmington, whose family took in one of the Africans and who mentioned them in several of her letters.
"We've had people calling since the day of the auction, saying, ' OK, when might we be able to look at this material.' It clearly resonates,' Malley said. "This collection is so rich in giving us a sense of what was going on in a small town in Connecticut in the 1830s and '40s.'
The Amistad case has long been cited as a key development in U.S. civil rights history.
In 1839, off the coast of Cuba, a group of African prisoners staged a revolt aboard the ship, La Amistad. They demanded to be taken to Africa, but instead were seized near Long Island and jailed in New Haven.
The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled in the Africans' favor, giving them their freedom, but they remained in Connecticut for an extended period while trying to raise the money to travel back to Africa.
Malley said the historical society's winning bid for the letters was actually a collaboration. The bid included pledges gathered by the Farmington Historical Society, a donation by a former CHS trustee and a donation from Farmington Bank.
"The sense of pride in local history, on short notice, was remarkable,' Malley said.
The pre-auction appraisal of the letters valued them at $30,000 to $40,000. Malley said at least two other parties were bidding on the Cowles letters. Malley was bidding via phone.
"There was a very vigorous back and forth, even before I got a bid in,' Malley said.
He could not give a date for when the letters would be available for researchers to examine. However, he stressed the process would be as swift as possible.
"We know there are lots of people very interested in seeing this material,' Malley said.