I t extends along the Sound for a hundred miles on the turnpike between the great `Commonwealth’ and the `Empire State.’ The State is in contact with Rhode Island for forty-five miles and with New York for seventy-two. Within these modest limits lies the land of the Connecticut Yankee, thrifty, inventive, with a keen eye for the main chance, a peddler now as always. Before the Revolution the Connecticut peddler sold his goods from Quebec to Mobile. Today not a country in the world escapes.
The etymology of Connecticut is interesting. The legend runs that it is derived from `connect’ and `ticket,’perennial topics of conversation with its citizens, especially those in the southwestern part of the State who use Connecticut as a bedroom and live in New York. The usual assumption that the State is named from the river seems rather paradoxical, for the river `connects’ nothing, though it certainly does `cut’ the State in half.
`The Land of Steady Habits’ takes its sobriquet, the `Nutmeg State,’ complacently, knowing that without the thrift and inventive genius which gave us the wooden nutmeg-and the sawdust ham, the Connecticut Yankee could never have produced the innumerable manufactures that now carry the name of Connecticut to every country on the face of the globe.
The Connecticut Yankeees mind is inventive. To him we owe vulcanized rubber; the cotton gin, the Colt revolver, and innumerable other things handy in a civilization like ours. Connecticut holds the first place for the number of patents issued in comparison with the total population. In recent years there has been issued annually one patent to every thousand inhabitants. In 1912, 4251 manufacturing establishments with 233,871 workers produced from $257,000,000 worth of raw material manufactured products worth $490,000,000. Connecticut produces half the brass of the country, two thirds of the clocks, corsets, firearms, and plated ware.
The State is a hive of industries, and since the war boom, of munitions factories. Bridgeport now prides itself on being the American Essen. Hartford is the capital of the State and of the insurance world. Every fire alarm is heard in Hartford, and whenever a wealthy man dies, Hartford weeps. The nineteen fire and life insurance companies have total assets of about $500,000,000.
In 1614 Adriaen Block in his 16-ton yacht the “Restless,” which he had built at New Amsterdam, cruised along the Connecticut shore, poking into every nook and cove, and sailed up the “Quanehta-cut” river as far as Enfield, where he found a village of the Sequins. Continuing around Cape Cod, he met another Dutch ship bound for Holland, left his yacht, took passage home on her and organized a company to exploit the Connecticut region.
For eighteen years this company monopolized the Connecticut river trade until a talkative Dutch skipper in Plymouth harbor shortsightedly told the Pilgrims of the soft snap. It was no time at all before the Pilgrims sent one of their number to spy out the land, and that doughty adventurer John Oldham came along soon after. The same year that Harvard College was founded (but probably not for that reason) there was a great exodus of Cambridge people to the valley. The Dutch failed to appreciate their new neighbors, and Knickerbocker’s History describes them as “a squatting, bundling, guessing, questioning, swapping, pumpkin-eating, molasses-daubing, shingle-splitting, cider-watering, horse-jockeying, notion-peddling crew.
Although pre-eminently a manufacturing State, Connecticut today produces 4,000,000 bushels of oysters, and $6,000,000 worth of tobacco, an average yield of over $300 to the acre. Before the Revolution an agricultural state, the produce of her soil was exported to West Indian markets in her own bottoms. Every little town along the coast and up the Connecticut as far as Windsor not only had a foreign trade, but a shipbuilding industry. The War of 1812 killed its trade, and with the decline of agriculture the population came to a standstill. But with the growth of factory industries, about I850, immigration began, and today the State is largely populated by Italians, Greeks, Russians, and the nondescript hordes of southeastern Europe. Poultney Bigelow’s “In Darkest Connecticut” says: “The Americans have disappeared like the red men. The overwhelming majority of those we saw by the roadside here were Italians.”
Before the days of the railway, live stock which provided its own transportation on the hoof was an important export. Great herds of mules were raised and driven south to the Virginia markets. John Randolph, seeing a drove of mules passing through Washing-ton, remarked genially to Congressman Tracy of Connecticut,”Tracy, there go a lot of your constituents.” “Yes,” said Tracy. “Goin’ down to Virginia to teach school.”
Not only did Connecticut supply school masters and school mistresses who went all over the country, but the text books, too, were of Connecticut origin. In addition to his “Dictionary,” Noah Webster wrote a “Speller” which in the first half-century sold twenty million copies. Jedediah Morse of Woodstock published in 1784 the first “American Geography,” which after mention of the “Great American Desert” added this sage remark:”It has been supposed that all settlers who go beyond the Mississippi will be for-ever lost to the United States.”
Connecticut early began its export of men and ideas. Dartmouth College is a Connecticut institution transplanted, for Eleazar Wheelock began his school for Indians in Williams County and moved northward to New Hampshire as pupils became scarce. Connecticut has given citizens and soldiers and college presidents to all the Middle Western States. The first Vermonters, the “Green Mountain boys,” were nearly all Connecticutters, from Litchfield County.
Yale is the daughter of Connecticut and the `Mother of Colleges.’ Yale is so largely patronized by the sons of Yale men that her prosperity largely depends upon the rate at which they propagate. Perhaps it is to encourage this that at all the great Yale celebrations the wives and children are so much in evidence.
All this was recognized on the facade of the Connecticut Building at the Chicago Exposition in the legend above the entrance to the agricultural exhibit which read, “Connecticut’s best crops are her sons and daughters.”