This fall marks the tenth anniversary of Connecticut Explored, the quarterly nonprofit publication with an all-volunteer editorial staff dedicated to presenting compelling stories that showcase the state’s history. Originally published under the banner of Hog River Journal—in honor of the waterway that still flows under Hartford, but is now known as the Park River—the award-winning magazine began as a vehicle for local museums and other historical venues to better share their histories, and has since gained an enthusiastic (and growing) readership.
“Our audience is made up of lifelong learners—people who are discovering us for the first time are amazed we’ve been around for 10 years,” says publisher Elizabeth Normen, who along with Cynthia Cormier, founded the magazine as a project of the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library. “One of my favorite things about the magazine are the tales we find that I call the “truth is stranger than fiction,” and “you can’t make this stuff up!” stories.”
“I’m not a Connecticut native, but reading so many narratives about Connecticut’s history has given me a deep appreciation for my adopted state,” says Jennifer LaRue Huget, Connecticut Explored’s editor. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it is to read a good piece of history writing that tells a compelling story.”
In addition to the state’s role in such events as The War of 1812 and The Civil War, articles cover such wide-ranging subjects as mulberry trees, the production of Mounds candy bars or even the bands who have played Toad’s Place. Each issue has a theme, ranging from “The Way We Ate” to “Rascals, Reprobates and Reformers.” The fall anniversary issue looks at the state’s nickname of “The Land of Steady Habits.”
“We wanted to know where that term came from and why it has stuck,” says Normen. “It came into use around the time that former President John Adams accused Connecticut [in 1808] of being ‘governed by an aristocracy, more decisively than the empire of Great Britain is.’ He’s referring to the fact that for years just a dozen or so old Connecticut families held the top state offices—many individuals held them for decades.”
Connecticut Explored also provides listings of history-related events and activities in an effort to encourage readers to get out and actually explore cultural and historical sites throughout the state.
“I think a hallmark of the magazine is how frequently people will say, ‘I didn’t know I was interested in that until I read your story,’ says Normen. “We try to make sure that each issue has something for everyone.”
For more info, visit connecticutexplored.org.