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In honor of Connecticut Magazine’s 50th anniversary year, throughout 2021 State Historian Walter Woodward is highlighting some of the moments that have helped shaped our state throughout its history.


Would-be concert-goers at the Powder Ridge Rock Festival in Middlefield.

July 30, 1970: Nearly 30,000 would-be concertgoers circumvented barriers and police roadblocks to climb Beseck Mountain in Middlefield to attend a rock concert previously canceled by town officials. The next day’s Powder Ridge Festival, therefore, featured non-appearances by Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac and other greats. Despite no concert, the concert-goers partied their way into history at the “Greatest Rock Concert that Never Was.”

RELATED: The story of the Powder Ridge Rock Festival, "The Greatest Show That Never Was"


Richard Buckminster Fuller drives his Dymaxion car circa 1930's at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York.

July 12, 1933: The prototype of Buckminster Fuller’s Car of the Future rolled off the assembly line in Bridgeport. The Dymaxion (a word Fuller coined to incorporate “dynamic,” “maximum” and “tension”) car had three wheels, could go 125 miles per hour, and carry 11 passengers, but only three were ever produced.

July 15, 1926: Connecticut Power & Light approved plans to construct the largest lake in the state as a way to assure a constant source of hydropower. The 8.4-square-mile reservoir with over 60 miles of coastline required clearing 5,400 acres of forest and removing an entire village, but two years later Candlewood Lake was on its way to becoming one of Connecticut’s most popular recreation areas.

014: Photo by (probably) Spencer Torell, from author's collection. Big Top fully engulfed in flames as women flee.

It’s been three-quarters of a century since nearly 170 people were killed at a Hartford circus in one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history. Even today, the cause of the blaze remains a mystery. 

July 6, 1944: Fire broke out in a 500-foot-long “Big Top” tent crowded with 6,000 to 8,000 circus fans before in Hartford. Within minutes, the entire canvas was a blazing inferno. At least 167 died and hundreds more were injured in the tragedy known worldwide simply as “The Hartford Circus Fire.”

RELATED: Accident or Arson? The Hartford Circus Fire, 75 Years Later


Karen and Richard Carpenter

July 25, 1970: The New Haven-born duo Richard and Karen Carpenter topped the pop charts with a song that had been previously released by Richard Chamberlain, Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield. “Close to You” — the Carpenters’ version — remained No. 1 for four weeks and brought the brother-sister team the “overnight stardom” they had been after for over a decade.

July 24, 1911: Yale anthropologist and explorer Hiram Bingham III, led by local Peruvian guides, first laid eyes on the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. The reputation he subsequently gained as the “discoverer” of the abandoned 15th-century city and its treasure trove of artifacts put both Bingham and Machu Picchu on the world map. Today, Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Jonathan Edwards

July 8, 1741: The Puritan minister Jonathan Edward preached his most famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” before a deeply moved congregation in Enfield. The sermon — which invoked terrible fear of damnation in those who heard it –– is credited as a milestone in the religious revival known as The Great Awakening.

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