Top Ways To Learn About Presidential And American History In Connecticut

February 18, 2013 8:00 AM

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Get patriotic this Presidents Day with some Connecticut-area museums and events that either bring light to some lesser-known facts or rekindle your love for our country’s history (sweet land of liberty). From Fairfield to Danbury and from the Constitution State’s capital city and down to the “copper city” of Ansonia, the amount of historical sites is vast. Connecticut is rich in American and presidential history including the state’s constitution, which served as a model for the U.S. Constitution. So, take the opportunity to enrich yourself and your family this week.

Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 259-1598

Fairfield Museum’s current exhibit (available through February 24), “Promise of Freedom: The Emancipation Proclamation,” features the only signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in New England. Other artifacts include prints, paintings, cartoons and slavery items. In addition, if you visit today (February 18) from 2:30 p.m. until 4 p.m., you can attend ”Tea with Abraham Lincoln and Mary,” a glimpse of what it may have been like to sit down with our 16th president and his wife over tea. Lewis Dube from Yale’s Drama School and Carol Deloppo will bring the president and his wife to life to interact with the audience and let visitors get a feel for the life and times of America during one of the country’s most trying periods.

Related: Top Books About Connecticut

Danbury Museum and Historical Society
43 Main St.
Danbury, CT 06810
(203) 743-5200

Tour four distinct buildings full of history and connections to Connecticut and American history including the Rider House, the Dodd Hat Shop, the Little Red Schoolhouse and Marian Anderson Studio. Among the historic stories told at the museum is the story of Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old farm girl who took to her horse and quickly spread the message of the British burning Danbury on the night of April 26, 1777. Her heroic ride was pivotal in informing and gathering the 400 or so Frederickburg militia to make their way to what was to be known as the Battle of Ridgefield. Later, General (and future president) George Washington personally congratulated her on her brave act. Also related to the British burning of Danbury is the story of General David Wooster who led troops from New Haven to ambush and defeat the British in Ridgefield. Some argue that this battle was a turning point in American history and the American Revolution against the British.

Museum of Connecticut History
at the Connecticut State Library
231 Capitol Ave.
Hartford, CT 06106
(860) 757-6535

Visit the Museum of Connecticut History to gain perspective on the vital role the Constitution State played in the birth of our country, manufacturing and our Constitution. Among the artifacts at the museum are Connecticut’s original manuscripts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Articles of Confederation. In addition, Connecticut’s 1662 Royal Charter, a standard on which the U.S. Constitution was designed, a collection of Colt firearms, clocks, hardware and tools are on view in the “Connecticut Collections” exhibit.

Cedar Hill Cemetery & Foundation
453 Fairfield Ave.
Hartford, CT 06114
(860) 956-3311

Cedar Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for a gamut of famous historic figures. Included within the grounds is the tombstone of Glastonbury and Connecticut-born Gideon Welles who was Secretary of the Navy under Abraham Lincoln (Welles was present at the bed of the dying Lincoln after his assassination). Also at Cedar Hill is United States Senator and Connecticut Governor Morgan Bulkeley and firearms pioneer Samuel Colt and his wife Elizabeth. Colt’s guns are thought by many to have made a significant difference in American history, perhaps changing the course of the Mexican-American War and American Civil War, as well as blazing the western frontier. Others of note at Cedar Hill are poet Wallace Stevens and actress Katharine Hepburn.

Related: Top Bizarre Statues Or Public Art In Hartford

General David Humphreys House
37 Elm St.
Ansonia, CT 06401
(203) 735-1908

So perhaps you heard of a president named George Washington? Back in the later days of the American Revolution, Washington had an aide named (Lieutenant Colonel) David Humphreys. Born in Derby, CT (part of Ansonia), Humphreys attended Yale University for both his undergraduate and master’s degree. When the revolution broke out, he joined the New York Militia regiment in 1776. From there he rose through the ranks of the 6th Connecticut Regiment and ended up as the assistant to Washington from 1780 until the war ended. After the war, in 1784, Humphreys became the first U.S. Ambassador and worked under Thomas Jefferson. He remained a trusted advisor to Washington and eventually became Brigadier General in the Connecticut militia. His former home, now known as the General David Humphreys House, was finished in 1698 and still stands as a testament to the times and community during the American Revolution.

Edward Main is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on

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