History of Connecticut
Before the coming of the Europeans to this region, the area of today’s Connecticut was inhabited by the Mohegan tribe. The first Europeans who settled here were the Dutch who, for a while, had a settlement in the area of today’s Hartford. The area was fist explored by Adriaen Block in 1614. The settlement was called Huys de Goede Hoop and it was located on the confluence of the Connecticut River and Park River. At the time, the region between Delaware and Connecticut rivers belonged to the Dutch and was known as New Netherland.
In 1635, John Winthrop from Massachusetts was given a permission to establish a new colony at the mouth of the Connecticut River in the area known as Old Saybrook. This colony was the first out of three different colonies that will eventually in 1644 merge in the state of Connecticut.
English settlers started settling Windsor and Wethersfield in 1633 and 1634, respectively. The largest group of settlers, however, was led by Thomas Hooker. It consisted of Puritans that hailed from Massachusetts, and it came to these parts in 1633. While in England, Hooker taught theology at Cambridge. In the New World he was a significant political theorist and writer who contributed a lot to the Constitutional theory. After disagreement with the political leaders in Massachusetts, he decided to start his own colony that was to be governed according to the principals that he thought were right.
The third and the final colony to serve as a foundation for the new state of Connecticut was established in 1638 by Theophilus Eaton and John Davenport. It was initially known as Quinnipiack, but the name was later changed to New Haven Colony. It even had its own constitution that was signed in 1639. The Dutch who were trying to preserve their claim in these parts saw that they are being overwhelmed by the tides of English settlers and left their settlement in 1654. Neither New Haven Colony nor Connecticut Colony had the sanctioning of the English Crown, they were considered independent colonies. They technically belonged to England, but in practice they were just Massachusetts’ secessionist outposts. In 1662, John Winthrop used this undetermined status of the colonies to obtain a charter in England that would help him unite the Colonies of New Haven and Connecticut. The charter was given by Charles II and its terms were quite favorable towards the settlers.
The first constitution of Connecticut, known as the ‘Fundamental Orders’ was adopted in 1639. The current one was Connecticut’s third adopted constitution and it came into power in 1965. These three constitutions had a great influence on the Constitution of the US.
Boundaries of Connecticut were often changed. Hartford Treaty that was signed with the Dutch in 1650 determined that the western border of Connecticut was to extend for 20 miles to the north of the Greenwich Bay, as long as it didn’t come within ten miles of Hudson River. This was respected by both parties until the war of Netherlands and England in 1652. The struggles over the borders continued until 1664 when New Netherlands was conquered by the Duke of York. That was, however, not the only issue with Connecticut’s borders. In the charter given to the colony in 1622 it was determined that the colony can have the land that stretched all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This is why Connecticut felt free to establish a ninth, Westmoreland, county located between Delaware and Susquehanna rivers. This was the direct cause of a brief war with Pennsylvania.
Economy of Connecticut
In 2010 the GSP (gross state product) of Connecticut was $237 billion, while in 2007 Connecticut was the state with the largest per capita income in the nation with $54,177 per inhabitant. But these average incomes are boosted by the incomes of people that live in urban areas, as there are very significant differences in income of inhabitants of different parts of Connecticut. For instance, while the state’s capital, Hartford, is one of the cities in the US with the lowest per capita income, New Canaan is, on the other hand, one of the cities with the highest. While New Canaan has $85,459 of income per inhabitant, and there are cities such as Wilton, Weston, Greenwich, Darien and Westport, all with more than $65,000 of per capita income, Harford only has per capita income of $14,428. There are more cities with rather low incomes and most of them are located in the eastern regions of Connecticut. Unemployment rate in the state in 2011 was 9%.
Before 1991 one, tax system in Connecticut was of the investment-only type. The income one earned from employment was not taxed, but the investment income was susceptible to a tax of 13%, which was the highest in the nation. Additionally, no deductions were available when it came to the costs of actually creating that income. However, in 1991, Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. who was the current Governor, decided to change the current system into one where both the employment and investment income taxes were applied, and the maximum rate for each was set at 4%. It is then that the conditions that made Greenwich the headquarters of a number of largest US hedge funds, were created. Since 2011, however, the taxes in Connecticut come in one of six brackets – 6.7%, 6.5%, 6%, 5.5%, 5% and 3%. Even if the residents of Connecticut are earning their salary outside of the state, they are still to pay the income tax. Sales tax in Connecticut stands at 6.35%, and it applies to lease, retail sale or rental of goods. For something to be subject to sale or use tax it must be specifically mentioned as a taxable good or service. Until 2011 there was a provision in effect that excluded clothes that cost less than $50 from taxation. Local jurisdictions don’t have the authority to impose additional taxes to the residents. One of the specifics of the tax system in Connecticut is that there is a week during the summer in which there is no sales tax on some quantities and types of clothing. This is supposed to help the people with children who will soon be going back to school.
Agriculture is one of the dominant industries in the state, with the most important products being eggs, dairy products, tobacco, cattle, lobster, clams and nursery stock. Other important industrial products of the state are heavy industrial machinery, military weaponry, electrical equipment, scientific instruments, fabricated metal products, pharmaceutical and chemical products and transportation equipment such as nuclear submarines, aircraft parts, and perhaps most importantly, helicopters.
Aircraft industry is one of the most important industries in the state. This is responsible for the fact that Connecticut has its official Aviation Pioneer, one Igor Sikorsky as well as an official aircraft – F4U Corsair. Gustav Whitehead was an aircraft designer who is officially recognized by the state as the ‘Father of Connecticut Aviation’, as he was researching powered flight in 1901 in Connecticut city of Bridgeport, which was two years before the Wright brothers began their research in North Carolina. August 15 was declared ‘Gustave Whitehead Day’.
In 2006 it was estimated that more than $14 billion of the economic activity in the state was generated by the history, film, arts and tourism industries. They have also been providing 170,000 workplaces annually. This means that the residents of Connecticut have earned $9 billion of personal income and that there was $1.7 billion of local and state revenue.
Geography and Climate of Connecticut
Connecticut has Massachusetts to the north, Rhode Island to the East, Long Island Sound to the south and New York State to the west. Apart from its capital Hartford, some of the larger cities are Bridgeport, Stamford, New Haven, Waterbury, Danbury, Bristol, New Britain and Norwalk. The state’s highest peak is Bear Mountain, on the Mount Frissell’s southern slope.
The state is split in half by Connecticut River on its way to Long Island Sound. Even though the state is quite small with its 5,543 square miles, its landscape is rather diverse. The northwestern part of the state, the Litchfield Hills is mountainous, while in the southeast, in the New London County there is an abundance of beautiful beaches. Despite the fact that Connecticut has a rich maritime past it has no access to the coast.
Connecticut is in many ways a state of contrasts, a fact best illustrated by its varying rural and urban areas. A great part of the state is covered in beautiful hickory, oak, or maple forests. This is the reason that the state has more than a few national parks including Weir Farm national Historic Site, Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor.
The northern border of the state has quite a characteristic indentation. This part of the border is called Granby Notch or Southwick Jog, and it covers the area of 2.5 square miles. This disruption in the continuity of the border is caused by the many disputes over the exact border lines that Connecticut has had in the past.
The climate of Connecticut can be as varied as its landscape. The central parts of the state usually have a humid continental climate, while the southern part of the state has a humid subtropical climate influenced by the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. Connecticut is a rather sunny state that is getting somewhere between 2,400 and 2,800 hours of sunshine every year.
Winters are usually rather cold with the average January temperature in the southeast being somewhere around 38 °F and in the northwest usually going as low as 29 °F. The average annual snowfall is approximately 20 to 60 inches, with most of it falling in the northern parts of the state. Spring is the season with the most precipitation. Summers are usually humid and quite hot, in New London the average highs go up to 81 °F, while in Windsor Locks they are usually around 87 °F.
Tropical cyclones are not an uncommon occurrence in the state during the hurricane season. There are approximately 30 thunderstorms each year, with most of them happening during the summer months. Up to now, Connecticut has been averaging one tornado yearly. The highest temperature recorded in Connecticut was 106 °F. It was recorded in 1995 in Danbury. The lowest temperature, recorded in 1943 in Falls Village was −32 °F.
Population of Connecticut
In 2005 the population of Connecticut was estimated at 3,510,297 people which presented an increase of 0.3% or 11,331 people when compared to the previous year, or 3.1% and 104,695 when compared to the year 2000. It was determined that since the previous year the natural increase was 67,427 – 154,795 deaths and 222,222 births. Likewise, the difference between the number of people who came to the state and those who have left it amounted to 41,718 newcomers. In 2011 these figures were somewhat different – the population was 3,580,709 people, which was a 0.18% increase compared to the last year. It was estimated that out of the entire population 13.8% were people over 65 years of age, 24.7% were under 18 and 6.6% were under 5 years old. Males composed 48.4% and females 51.6%.
Census from 1790 determined that 97% of the Connecticut population lived in rural areas, it wasn’t until 1890 that less than half of the entire Connecticut’s population was not qualified as rural. In the census of 2000 this number was down to 12.3%, which is not surprising considering the fact that most of Connecticut’s residents inhabit the New York metropolitan area.
In 2010 the census has determined that the ethnicity composition of Connecticut is as follows: 71.2% people are Non-Hispanic white, 6.4% Hispanic white, 10.1% are African American, 0.3% American Indian and Alaskan Native, 3.8% are Asian, there were no Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islander people and 8.2% were of some other race or a combination of different races. Hispanic people, regardless of the race, accounted for 13.4% of the entire population. The most common languages are English with 81.69% of people speaking it at home, Spanish with 8.42%, Italian with 1.59%, French with 1.31% and Polish with 1.20%.The largest ancestry groups in the state are Italian with 19.3% of residents being of Italian origin, Irish with 17.9%, English with 10.7%, German with 10.4%, Polish with 8.6% and French with 6.6%.
Connecticut Government and Legislature
One of the nicknames of Connecticut is the ‘Constitution State’ because of the fact that the Fundamental Orders document that was written in order to regulate the functioning of the Connecticut County is considered by some to be the first constitution-like document written in the territory of the United States. As is the case with other US states, Connecticut has three government branches – executive, legislative and judicial.
Executive branch is led by the Governor, with the Lieutenant Governor also being elected on the same ticket and standing ready to perform duties of the Governor if he or she is somehow prevented from performing them. Executive branch has a large number of departments including but not limited to Economic and Community Development, Administrative Services, Banking, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Public Health, Public Works, Public Utility Regulatory Authority, Social Services, Veterans Affairs and Transportation department. Apart from Governor and Lieutenant Governor there are other positions within the executive branch: Treasurer, Secretary of the State, Attorney General and Comptroller. All of the officers of the executive branch are directly elected by voters and they all serve four year terms. The main body of the legislative branch is the Great Assembly. It consists of two bodies, the State Senate which in Connecticut has 36 members, and the House of Representatives which has 151 members. In order to become a law, the proposed bill must pass both houses. The Governor has the power to veto a proposed bill, but that decision can be overturned by a two thirds majority of votes in both houses. Members of the Senate and House of Representatives must be older than 18 and they are elected for two year terms. Presiding over the Senate is one of the duties of the Lieutenant Governor of the state. The House of Representatives is presided by the Speaker of the House.
There are a number of different courts in the judicial branch, with the Connecticut Supreme Court being the highest in the hierarchy. It is presided over by the Chief Justice of Connecticut. The duty of the Supreme Court is to decide on the constitutionality of particular cases or laws.
The state doesn’t recognize counties as parts of political subdivision; instead this role has been given to towns. However, territories of the former counties are still used to determine districts of the jurisdiction of state marshals. Until May 1012, selling alcohol on Sunday was not allowed in Connecticut. This law was overturned as it is believed that it might help the state’s economy, but it is still in effect on Sundays that are major holidays, such as Christmas, for instance.
Transportation in Connecticut
Connecticut has an intricate network of highways that generally do a good job of connecting various parts of the state. The interstate highways in Connecticut are I-395 which stretches south to north along the eastern border of Connecticut, I-91 also south to north, but crossing the center of Connecticut, I-84 crossing the center with the northeast to southeast direction and I-95 going along the coast with the northeast to southwest orientation. Road I-95 that connects New York City with New Haven is one of the most crowded roads in the US. This is mainly caused by commuters travelling from New Haven to New York, this is why the state is encouraging the commuters to use rail for their commute and to car-pull. The state on the road is such that many people prefer taking the longer routes just to avoid being stuck in the congested traffic.
Luckily, the rail situation in the state is rather good, and the critical New Haven- New York route is covered by the MTA’s Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line. AMTRAK is also providing a number of lines in the state. Finally, air travel is not neglected, which is not surprising when one considers the fact that the state has always been proud of their aircraft industry and research. There are several important airports in the state including the Bradley International Airport just north of Hartford, Tweed New Haven Regional Airport and Danbury Municipal Airport.