Did You Know: Shad, the Porcupine of Fish?

The species name of the American shad, Connecticut’s state fish, is sapidissima, meaning “delicious.”


“In 1867, Thomas De Voe noted in “The Market Assistant, Containing a Brief Description of Every Article of Human Food Sold in the Public Markets of the Cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn” that the American shad “a well known fish is a general favorite among all classes of persons, as its flesh is considered among the best, sweetest, the most delicate, as well as being the most plentiful in season. Nothing but its numerous bones can be said against it.”

George Washington, shad-eater

George Washington loved to eat shad. From Philadelphia we find him writing to his manager about a fish merchant’s offer; “I am at this moment paying six shillings apiece for every shad that I buy.” Back at Mount Vernon, he usually tried to get twelve shillings for every hundred shad he sold. In Philadelphia, he was buying shad prepared for the table, and six shillings would be worth approximately $30 today. George was frugal, and his spending such a sum shows his acclaim for the fish.

George Washington grew up eating shad and could deal with the bones. However, the bones of the shad do present a problem for those just learning about this delicious fish. How do you deal with 769 bones, most of which are small “Y” shaped bones which are found in shad where most fish fillets would be bone-free?  Shad can be de-boned, oddly termed “boning,” but removal of these “y” bones from shad is a real skill, if not art, indeed, some boning methods are closely guarded secrets. Count yourself lucky if you know a market which sells boned shad.

The boney nature of the shad became part of Indian legend. “Tatamaho” was the Algonquin name for the American shad. According to legend, an unhappy porcupine asked the Great Spirit to change it into another form. The Great Spirit’s wisdom was to turn the porcupine inside out as a fish (the shad) that would forever have to swim and make the long journey to the sea and back to spawn . Tatamaho roughly translates to “inside-out porcupine.” Anyone who has ever eaten this highly esteemed fish with 769 bones understands the meaning. But those who prize this fish are not put off by the bones.

Shad were important but seasonal components of native people’s diets. Arriving at the time of year when food stocks were at their lowest, shad and river herring were more than welcome treats, they were often life savers.”

Excerpted from:

How Sweet It Is!

The Wilton Historical Society is delighted that the “Best Whimsical Design” at the Wilton Library ‘s How Sweet It Is contest went to the “Railroad Station” which also won Community Pick. The original 1852 Railroad Station has been preserved at Lambert Corner.

History is Here!


Did You Know? Your 4th of July Pinwheel is Actually a Whirligig

American Flag Whirligig, mid 20th-century
Artist unidentified
Painted iron and carved and painted wood
Smithsonian American Art Museum

“English-speakers, and particularly children, began spinning whirligigs as early as the 15th century. Since then, “whirligig” has acquired several meanings beyond its initial toy sense. It even has a place in the common name of the whirligig beetle, a member of the family Gyrinidae that swiftly swims in circles on the surface of still water. The word whirligig comes to us from Middle English “whirlegigg” which is itself from whirlen, meaning “to whirl,” and gigg, meaning “(toy) top.”

Whirligig, 1939/45
Frank Memkus, American, 1884-1965
Painted wood and metal
Art Institute of Chicago, Permanent Collection

“Whirligigs, three-dimensional, wind-driven articulated toys, have been created by artists, self-taught and otherwise, for more than 200 years in this country. In the book ”Folk Art in American Life,” by Jacqueline Atkins and Robert Bishop (Viking Studio, 1995), the authors . . . .distinguish the weather vane from the whirligig. They write: ”These small, animated statues or structures were created strictly for amusement, for, unlike weather vanes, they do no more than signal that the wind is blowing or not blowing. They also allow a great deal of scope
for creative expression.”

Whirligig with Men Sawing Wood, c. 1900
Artist unidentified
Carved and painted wood with metal
Smithsonian American Art Museum

The authors write that no 18th-century examples seemed to have survived, but that whirligigs were ubiquitous by the 19th century. They quote a reference to one in Washington Irving’s ”Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” from 1819: ”Thus, while the busy dame bustled about the house, or plied her spinning wheel at one end of the piazza, honest Balt did sit smoking his evening pipe at the other, watching the achievements of a little wooden warrior, who, armed with a sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle of the barn.”

Witch on a Broomstick Whirligig
Late 19th-century, New England
Artist unidentified
Paint on wood with twigs and metal
American Folk Art Museum

There are a few outstanding collections of whirligigs in museums in this country, notably the Smithsonian, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Collection at Colonial Williamsburg, and the Shelburne Museum, in Shelburne, Vt. The Shelburne boasts a whirligig trade sign: A woman seated at a spinning wheel moves her foot up and down on the treadle as the wind turns the wheel. . . . Whirligigs appeal to contemporary artists, who tend to label
them kinetic sculpture.”


Definition from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Excerpt: “Animation Meets Charm In Whirligigs”
by Wendy Moonan,
The New York Times, August 14, 1998

Betts Bulletin Editor: Allison Gray Sanders

A man and his dog . . . for George Washington, it was his beloved war-horse, Nelson.

Lieutenant General George Washington, 1860
Clark Mills (1810 – 1883) bronze
Washington Circle, Washington, DC

“Thomas Jefferson once referred to George Washington as “the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback.” This assertion was supported by Washington’s friend, the Marquis de Chastellux, a French national who came to know Washington during the Revolution. Chastellux observed that Washington “is a very excellent and bold horseman, leaping the highest fences, and going extremely quick, without standing upon his stirrups, bearing on the bridle, or letting his horse run wild.”

Both as a Virginia planter and as a military man, Washington had innumerable opportunities to perfect his horsemanship. Of the many horses that Washington owned, one of his favorites was a horse he called “Nelson,” who is said to have “carried the General almost always during the war [American Revolution].” Described as a “splendid charger,” the animal stood sixteen hands high, and was a light sorrel or chestnut (reddish-brown) in color, with white face and legs.

The horse who would become known as Nelson was born around 1763 and would have been a mature fifteen years old by the time he and George Washington met. In 1778, Thomas Nelson of Virginia, learned that Washington was having trouble finding a replacement for a horse he had been riding. As a result, Nelson sent the horse to General Washington in New York as a gift. Washington, in turn, then named the horse for his generous friend.

One contemporary explained that Washington preferred to ride Nelson during the war over his other horse, Blueskin, because Nelson was less skittish during cannon fire and the startling sounds of battle. In addition, Washington chose to ride Nelson on the day the British army under the direction of Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.

The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, 1786 – 1828
John Trumbull (1756 – 1843)
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

In the painting above, is George Washington riding Nelson?

Four years later after returning to civilian life, Washington made a list of the livestock living at the Mount Vernon plantation. In this document, Washington described Nelson as a “Riding Horse,” though he appears to have been harkening back to the aging animal’s previous service. According to two sources, Nelson was no longer ridden after the war, but lived out his days at the stable and paddock at the Mansion House Farm as something of a pampered celebrity. Only two years after the close of the war, a foreign visitor commented that Nelson and Blueskin “feed away at their ease for their past services.”

George Washington’s riding crop. Made by Amory and Johnson, c. 1770 Wood, leather, string, silver, iron, horn, Mount Vernon Ladies Association Collection


Washington’s affection for the horse was reciprocated. It was reported that George Washington would walk around the grounds of the estate, where he would stop at Nelson’s paddock, “when the old war-horse would run, neighing, to the fence, proud to be caressed by the great master’s hands.” Nelson died at Mount Vernon “many years after the Revolution, at a very advanced age.” His death was reported to George Washington during the Christmas season of 1790, when the old horse would have been twenty-seven years old.”

The article above was written by
Mary V. Thompson, Research Historian, and can be found on the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens website. To learn more about George Washington and the details of his life at Mount Vernon, click here . . .

Did you know?


The number of hooves lifted into the air on equestrian statues reveals how the riders died.

Status: False.


Folk wisdom has it that equestrian statues contain a code whereby the rider’s fate can be determined by noting how many hooves the horse has raised.

General Nathanael Greene, 1877
Henry Kirke Brown
Stanton Square, Washington, D.C.

The most common theory has it that if one hoof is raised, the rider was wounded in battle (possibly dying of those wounds later but not necessarily so);

Andrew Jackson, 1852
Clark Mills
Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.

two raised hooves, death in battle;

Major General George Henry Thomas, 1887-79
John Quincy Adams Ward
Thomas Circle, Washington, D.C.

all four hooves on the ground, the rider survived all battles unharmed.

Click here to read more of this Snopes.com article, and discover which of these statues obey the (false) rule!

Thomas Jefferson and the Mammoth Cheese

American presidents are traditionally associated with Air Force One, the State of the Union, “Hail to the Chief,” and the West Wing. 


Historically, however, they’ve also been paired with – yes, really – large wheels of cheese.

The tradition began in 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson was given a gift of a giant cheese from the citizens of Cheshire, Mass. The cheese was the idea of Baptist Elder John Leland, a Jefferson supporter in the fraught election of 1800 in which Jefferson (a Republican) defeated John Adams (a Federalist). It was made from the milk of 900 impeccably Republican cows and pressed in an outsized cider press. When finished, it measured four feet across and 17 inches high, and weighed, once cured, 1,235 pounds. Engraved with the patriotic motto “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” the cheese was shipped to Washington via sleigh (hauled by six oxen), sloop, and wagon.

It arrived on Dec. 29, 1801, and Leland himself was on hand to present it, pointing out – somewhat uncomfortably to slave-owning Jefferson – that the cheese “was produced by the personal labor of freeborn farmers and with the voluntary and cheerful aid of their wives and daughters, without the assistance of a single slave.”

Drawing of an early 19th century attempt at a mammoth restoration. Note the upside-down tusks. (Image: WikiCommons/Public Domain)

The gargantuan Jeffersonian cheese was the first object to which the word “mammoth” was applied as an adjective. The first complete mammoth skeletons had recently been excavated from a marl pit near Newburgh, New York, and were on display in Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum – where they so caught the public’s fancy that the word “mammoth” was soon used to describe anything of
remarkable scope or size.

The mammoth cheese was stashed in the East Room of the White House – promptly dubbed the “mammoth room” – where it awed visitors and inspired poet Thomas Kennedy to compose an ode in its honor, in eight verses beginning “Most excellent, far fam’d and far fetch’d Cheese!”

Reproduced above is the broadside “Ode to the Mammoth Cheese . . . ” an 1802 nine-stanza poem presented to Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) by Thomas Kennedy (1776 -1832). The poem states that “Cheese is the attendant of a New-Year’s day,” and is dated January 1, 1802. Brown University Library, Providence, RI

It’s not clear what ultimately happened to the cheese, though Jefferson’s guests appear still to have been eating it a year later. One story holds that its remains were eventually tossed into the Potomac River.

But the gifting of a big cheese didn’t end there. An even more mammoth cheese arrived at the White House in 1835, a present to President Andrew Jackson from Col. Thomas Meacham of Oswego County, New York. Meacham wasn’t a fan of Jackson (he had supported Jackson’s rival, Henry Clay), but he hoped that the cheese would serve to advertise the exceptional industry and ingenuity of his home state. Meacham’s cheese, which weighed 1,400 pounds, was paraded through New York in a wagon decorated with flags; then shipped to D.C. via schooner.

“The Great Cheese Levee” from Perley’s Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis (1886)

Jackson, like Jefferson, displayed his cheese in the East Room – the White House’s largest reception room – and served it to a crowd of 10,000 on Washington’s birthday in 1837. The cheese was said to be a hit, despite its powerful odor (“so strong as to overpower a number of dandies and lackadaisical ladies,” according to The Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics.)

The guests polished it off in two hours, leaving behind only the smell – so penetrating and offensive that the staff of incoming President Martin Van Buren was forced to spend days airing the East Room carpets, stripping down the curtains, and whitewashing the walls. Van Buren subsequently banned the serving of food at White House receptions.”
This article was excerpted from:
What’s More Presidential Than a Gift of Big Cheese? by Rebecca Rupp, National Geographic’s The Plate, February 23, 2015
Click here to read the entire article

Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with mammoths! Click here to read a fascinating article about his pet project to prove they still lived during his lifetime.

The original Yankee Doodle was a local boy . . .

Happy 4th of July!
Did you know?

Color-study for “Yankee Doodle” mural, Nassau Tavern, Princeton, NJ Norman Rockwell. The mural dates from 1937

Most Americans are familiar with the Yankee Doodle tune, and can recite some of its familiar verses, but few are aware that the song was originally adopted in this country during the French and Indian War in 1755.

However, it is not well known that the original Yankee Doodle was Thomas Fitch V from Norwalk, whose two younger brothers Ebenezer and Timothy, lived on Chestnut Hill in Wilton. Back then, Wilton was still part of Norwalk, not to become a town until 1802.

Colonel Fitch, whose father was the Governor of the colony of Connecticut, was a distinguished officer in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. In 1755, Col. Fitch led Connecticut volunteers in their fight against the French at Fort Crailo, in what is now Renssaelaer, New York. On their departure from Norwalk, the local young women, distraught by the lack of uniforms, improvised plumes from chicken feathers for their hats.

Yankee Doodle Mural, Nassau Tavern, Princeton, NJ. Norman Rockwell, 1937

The poorly dressed Connecticut volunteers arrived as reinforcements for the well dressed British troops, and were met with derision from a British surgeon, Dr. Shuckburgh, who soon penned the satirical verse, set to the tune of a popular song “Lucy Locket”. Thus was Col. Fitch dubbed Yankee Doodle:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni

Yankee Doodle keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step
And with the folks be handy*

The exact origins of the term “Yankee Doodle” are obscure, the British used the term pejoratively to refer to the colonists. While the song was meant to be a low brow jeer, it was soon adopted by the Americans with much enjoyment. The tune was already familiar to both British and Americans as a popular martial marching tune, so it caught on quickly with the colonists. It became their signature tune during the Revolutionary War, and was often played while fallen British troops were paraded before their captors.

Yankee Doodle Brilliant Variationa sheet music, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University

It might surprise some that the term “macaroni” in the song does not refer to pasta, but to a fashionably dressed group of young men in London who were often called macaronis and gathered at the Macaroni Club. According to the verse, Col. Fitch led his rag-tag group of Connecticut volunteers into Ft. Crailo, stuck a feather in his hat, and declared he was “macaroni’ — a fop.

What! Is this my son Tom?”, a June 24th 1774 caricature on extreme “Macaroni” fashions of the 1770s (with a “big hair” hairstyle which echos women’s aristocratic styles of the time).

Housed in the Wilton Historical Society’s archive is a delightful book, The Birth of Yankee Doodle by Ferenze Fedor, once president of the Norwalk Historical Society, who wrote the book to commemorate our country’s bicentennial celebration. Much of the information about the origins of the term “Yankee Doodle” came from that book.

*This is the version of Yankee Doodle on Connecticut’s State website

240 Years Ago Today, April 28, 1777, the British Marched South through Wilton after Tryon’s Raid on Danbury and the Battle of Ridgefield

Find out where they stopped, and what happened!


New York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, May 19, 1777. Courtesy CT History.org

On April 27, 1777, approximately 1800 troops under the command of British General William Tryon marched towards Compo Beach after they burned houses and destroyed twenty-two storehouses of supplies, including 1,690 hard-to-replace tents, in Danbury.

In Ridgefield, the British encountered a hastily erected barricade across the north end of the main street, and battled with several hundred patriot fighters of the Connecticut Militia, who were well armed and ready to defend their land and freedom. Led by Generals Benedict Arnold and Benjamin Gold Silliman, the Americans inflicted casualties on the British and delayed their progress. Major General David Wooster was mortally wounded, while General Arnold was nearly captured after his horse was struck by nine bullets and killed, as witnessed by Jesse Nichols of Wilton.

Fight at Ridgefield
Courtesy Connecticut Historical Society

Upon their retreat further south, the British fired a cannonball – a visible “souvenir” – at T. Keeler’s Inn, where it remains lodged in one of the Keeler Tavern corner posts to this day.

Cannon Ball at Keeler Tavern
Courtesy Keeler Tavern Museum

Excerpted from Wilton, Connecticut by Bob Russell:
“The Wilton Militia, led by Lieutenant Seth Abbott, were participants in the stand at Ridgefield. Nathan Betts IV was killed and two were wounded: John Waterbury Jr. and Theophilus Mead, who was wounded by a musket ball in the hip. James Olmsted V and Jacob Patchen were taken prisoner but escaped. Other Wilton militiamen known to be in the battle included Captain Azor Belden, Ensign Samuel Olmsted, David Dunning, Nathan Gilbert, Matthew and Ezra Gregory, Matthew Hanford, Alvin Hyatt, Uriah Keeler, Jesse Olmsted and Moses Scott. Elihu DeForest, a Wilton native, served as a captain of the Ridgebury Militia.

Revolutionary War Broadside, 1775
Courtesy Connecticut Historical Society

After camping for the night, the British passed quickly through Wilton on April 28, coming south on Ridgefield Road. During this march, the only Wilton citizen to be arrested was Benjamin Keeler of Bald Hill (742 Ridgefield Road), probably for firing upon the British. Benjamin was an Episcopalian and a Patriot, an atypical combination.

742 Ridgefield Road

Samuel Keeler IV (652 Ridgefield Road) suffered the loss of several cows, carried off by the British. When all loss claims were finally recorded by the state government fifteen years later, Samuel claimed a loss value of 30 pounds 15s.

652 Ridgefield Road

The next stop was the home of Captain Samuel Comstock at 433 Ridgefield Road, occupied by his wife Mercy. She set her table with tempting food and wine, buried her silver, and hid herself on the hill behind the house. When the British arrived, they partook of the feast and left the house undisturbed.

433 Ridgefield Road

At Thaddeus Sterling’s house (384 Ridgefield Road), they entered and destroyed a large brass kettle.

384 Ridgefield Road

Samuel Middlebrook of Middlebrook Farm fled from his house (274 Ridgefield Road) with his wife and children, but the British entered, broke a large mirror and drained a hogshead of rum. His claim was 14 pounds 9s. 11d.

274 Ridgefield Road

At the intersection of Ridgefield Road with Belden Hill and Mill Road, the troops entered the house of Daniel Gregory (11 Belden Hill Road) and were greeted by Daniel’s aged mother who shook a poker at them “to show them which side I am on.”

11 Belden Hill Road

All six houses exist today on Ridgefield Road, designated a state scenic road in 1996.

Having been warned of a possible ambush by militia units on the main road (now Old Ridgefield Road through Wilton Center), the British detoured down Mill Road, which then crossed the valley north of Merwin Meadows and joined (Old ) Danbury Road at the Burlock (now Dana) house. At the bridge over Norwalk River, they found and destroyed 100 barrels of rum, several chests of arms, many cartridges (bullets and power wrapped in paper), 300 tents, and the forge and bellows of Captain Clapp Raymond, a blacksmith. All of this had been hidden there for safekeeping as the Americans did not expect the British to take this route. Upon reaching Samuel Belden’s store, the troops began to pillage it but stopped when they discovered his Loyalist allegiance. Across the street at Captain Raymond’s (249 Danbury Road), they attempted to set fire to his barn, but his Tory neighbor Mrs. Belden and her Indian slave Bill Tonquin put out the fire. Raymond later claimed damages of 34 pounds 3s. 10d.

Tryon continued his march up Dudley Road, pausing to loot the home of Lieutenant Seth Abbott (149 Dudley Road), to the extent of 55 pounds 7s. 3d. damages.

149 Dudley Road

On Chestnut Hill there was a brief skirmish with 500 American Continental Army troops commanded by Colonel Jedediah Huntington. Colonel Huntington had collected General Wooster’s troops in Ridgefield and made a forced march to Wilton. Several shots were exchanged and six Americans were wounded, none of whom were from Wilton. From the ridge of Chestnut Hill, Tryon could see that another group of militia lay in wait for him at the only bridge across the Saugatuck River (Old Kings Highway in Westport). The land had been cleared long before 1777, and one could see great distances from the hilltops. Benedict Arnold had outflanked him to get there first. Tryon detoured again (across today’s Red Coat Road in Westport), fording the river (at the intersection of Ford Road and Clinton Avenue, now marked by a monument) and after another skirmish at the shore, safely reached his ships at Compo Beach. Patriot reinforcements arrived too late. Arnold was promoted to major general for his exploits during Tryon’s four-day raid, but without the seniority that he felt he deserved. He never forgave the Continental Congress for this slight.”




March 12, 1888: The Great White Hurricane struck the northeastern U.S.

New York City, March 12, 1888
Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Photo Library, National Weather Service Collection

The storm lasted 36 hours with snowfall totaling over 40 inches in New York City. Temperatures were extremely low, and the wind created drifts up to the second floor of buildings, and higher. Over 400 persons, 200 in New York city, died from the surprise storm.

Scene in Norwalk, March, 1888 Permanent Collection, Wilton Historical Society

“The defining event of the era was without a doubt the blizzard of 1888. . .

In 1963, local writer Bob Carboni interviewed a number of Wilton residents who told their stories:

Clinton Seymour (1871-1965), was sixteen years old at the time and lived on Millstone Road. He recalled that the blowing snow and cold air made ice freeze over his eyes. Snow kept drifting over the top of the barn door, making the task of feeding the horses and cattle more difficult. Harry Jackson, then of Sturges Ridge and aged thirteen, remembered digging a two-hundred-foot-long tunnel through twelve-foot drifts between the house and the barn. Snow covered the apple trees in their orchard with drifts up to twenty feet deep. A tunnel was dug on Hurlbutt Street to permit traffic to pass through.

Archer Abbott remembered that the wind was so strong that it blew snow right into some houses to a depth of several feet. Tim Merwin, five years old in 1888, remembered seeing two yoke of oxen pulling a sled passing by his house with the sled runners at the level of the second story window. He also saw oxen pulling an upside down sled as a snowplow. In the Center, a tunnel was dug through
a drift on (Old) Ridgefield Road.

Main Street, Danbury, March 12, 1888
Courtesy Connecticut Historical Society

Dick Fitch, twenty-two at the time, wrote later of his trip from his house to the railroad station on Monday morning, when the storm was less than twenty-four hours old. He found the railroad crossing and the bridge (Fitch’s Crossing) blown totally free of snow. But deep drifts as he walked north past Cottage Row (partially constructed at the time). At the station, the southbound train arrived two hours late, covered with snow up to its smokestack, picked up Fitch and other passengers, and headed toward Norwalk. Less than a tenth of a mile down the track, the train ran into a big drift. All the trainmen and many passengers got out and cleared a path, and the train grunted off until it reached the next drift, where the scenario was repeated. It arrived in Norwalk two-and-one-half hours later.

Drifts on the railroad tracks, Norwalk, March, 1888
Permanent Collection, Wilton Historical Society

The next train did not run for three more days. His sister, Helen (Nellie) Fitch Sturges, wife of John Burr Sturges, kept a diary. She recorded that by noon on Monday it was impossible to reach the woodpile so in the cellar they found old pieces of a bin to burn. Her husband and son had great difficulty reaching the barn to care for the animals. Only one door of the house could be opened and the snow in front of it was five feet high. Some people actually had to exit from their second floor windows. Although the sun came out on March 14, Hurlbutt Street was blocked until March 31.”*

Old Leatherman in Wallingford, 1880s
Connecticut Historical Society

Even the Old Leatherman, a fixture of New York and Connecticut history, was reportedly delayed four days by the Blizzard of 1888. “The Old Leatherman was never a resident of Wilton, but he was an important part of the community for nearly thirty years, from 1860 – 1889. A wanderer, clad all in leather from hat to boots, and carrying a leather knapsack, he passed through Wilton about every thirty-four days on a regular route from east to west. He never spoke, but would communicate with gestures. He accepted meals from residents along his route, but would not enter a house, preferring to sit out back and eat, then be on his way. It was considered an honor to feed the Leatherman as he was very selective about where he ate.”*

*Excerpted from Bob Russell’s invaluable Wilton Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places, and Progress

To learn more about the Blizzard of 1888,
Click here for an account of the storm’s impact on Connecticut

Click here for a Smithsonian article about the Blizzard and New York City

Click here to learn more about the Old Leatherman

President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms are at the heart of what it means to be an American

It’s always important to remember the ideals that have made us a beacon of hope around the world.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933

“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere
in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.”

–President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress,
January 6, 1941


“There is only one speech in American history that inspired a multitude of books and films, the establishment of its own park, a series of paintings by a world famous artist, a prestigious international award and a United Nation’s resolution on Human Rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, November, 1945
FPG/Getty Images

That speech is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address, commonly known as the “Four Freedoms” speech. In it he articulated a powerful vision for a world in which all people had freedom of speech and of religion, and freedom from want and fear. It was delivered on January 6, 1941 and it helped change the world.

The words of the speech are enshrined in marble at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York, are visualized in the paintings of Norman Rockwell, inspired the international Four Freedoms Award and are the foundation for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the
United Nations in 1948.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, DC

This article is excerpted from “The Four Freedoms Speech Remastered” by Paul M. Sparrow, Director, The National Archive, “Forward with Roosevelt” blog

Click here to read the entire article and to see a new HD video of President Roosevelt giving the Four Freedoms speech.

The famous time-ball that drops in Manhattan on New Year’s Eve has its origins in the British Royal Observatory!

The actual notion of a ball “dropping” to signal the passage of time dates back long before New Year’s Eve was ever celebrated in Times Square.

The first “time-ball” was installed atop England’s Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o’clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (a vital navigational instrument).

Around 150 public time-balls are believed to have been installed around the world after the success at Greenwich, though few survive and still work. The tradition is carried on today in places like the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, where a time-ball descends from a flagpole at noon each day – and of course, once a year in Times Square, where it marks the stroke of midnight not for a few ships’ captains, but for over one billion people watching worldwide.

Front page, New York Times, January 1, 1905

Revelers began celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square as early as 1904, but it was in 1907 that the New Year’s Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square. Seven versions of the Ball have been designed to signal the New Year.

The first New Year’s Eve Ball, made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. It was built by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr, and for most of the twentieth century the company he founded, sign maker Artkraft Strauss, was responsible for lowering the Ball.

As part of the 1907-1908 festivities, waiters in the fabled “lobster palaces” and other deluxe eateries in hotels surrounding Times Square were supplied with battery-powered top hats emblazoned with the numbers “1908” fashioned of tiny light bulbs. At the stroke of midnight, they all “flipped their lids” and the year on their foreheads lit up in conjunction with the numbers “1908” on the parapet of the Times Tower lighting up to signal the arrival of the new year.

The Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime “dimout” of lights in New York City.

This edited history of the time-ball and New Year’s Eve in Times Square is taken from the official
Times Square website.

Click here to learn more.