1907: Wesleyan’s Old Laboratory Torn Down

Wesleyan's Old LaboratoryOn this date in 1907, the Old Laboratory at Wesleyan University was torn down. The simple brick building was originally built in 1825 as a gun house for the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, established by Captain Partridge.

Its first use at Wesleyan was in 1836, when it was fitted for Professor John Johnston as a chemical laboratory. It was used by the Chemistry Department until it moved to Judd Hall in 1871, aside from a brief period in 1849 when it was used as a chapel.  At various times it also housed:

  • an ice house;
  • a carpenter’s shop;
  • an infirmary; and
  • a dining hall.

The building reverted to its scientific use in 1891 as an electrical laboratory, and finally as the location for the Connecticut Bacteriological Laboratory from 1905 until 1907.

Story contributed by Pat Tully, based on Historical Society archives.


1958: 4 Children Killed in Tenement Fire

Middletown, Conn., April 19 (UP)–Four children ranging in age from one month to four years died Friday night in a flash hire which swept their third-floor tenement.

Mrs. Margaret Davis, 25, mother of the children, was hospitalized for shock and burns inflicted when she tried to rescue the children.

Fire officials said the blaze apparently broke out in the kitchen stove and was caused by a defective oil burner.

The dead children were Janice, 4, Bryant, 2, Sally, 1, and Wendy, one month. Their bodies were found close together in a bedroom.

From The Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio), Saturday, April 19, 1958.

1925: Nearly All Ferries In Connecticut Are Closed

[By International News Service.]

Middletown, Conn., April 18.–Only the fishing settlements of Hadlyme and Chester, lying snugly beneath hills bordering the broad Connecticut River, are to have ferries in the future. The State of Connecticut has finally acquired a sufficient number of  bridges across the river that cuts the State in half to warrant doing away with all but these two lines of transportation, and the Legislature, this Spring, has formally decreed the closing of routes that once were busy. Gasoline launches with barges on either side, are used as ferries at Hadlyme and Chester when autos are to be transferred and launches travel alone when only pedestrians would cross.

From The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania), Saturday, April 18, 1925.

1969: Need a Computer Reminder of Important Dates?

By Robert Stanger

Middletown, Conn. (UPI)— Computers may never duplicate the intricate responses of their creator, the human brain, but they still are a better “memory bank” than man’s cerebrum.

So now they’re being used commercially as “memory joggers” in the “SOS Division” of Canberra Industries, a Middletown firm based in nuclear electronics, data systems, analytical instrumentation and research. For a relatively modest fee “SOS” will feed into a computer vital statistics a subscriber might forget or information he might need should important documents stray or be stolen.

“SOS” will record “anything with a number,” according to David H. Smith, 29, head of Canberra’s sales force and originator of the service.

“Depending on what is lost, we will assist a subscriber in obtaining a new document,” said Smith, explaining that his firm has necessary forms for this, governmental or otherwise.

One facet of the service is immediate notification of creditors should a subscriber’s credit cards be lost or stolen.

Another reminds subscribers of important dates a busy person might forget. A wife’s birthday, perhaps, or a favorite niece’s graduation. The subscriber will be nudged through a card sent to his office, and he is saved from possible embarrassment.

Smith said subscribers also can be reminded of expiration dates on magazines and insurance policies.

Or perhaps a subscriber loses his car keys while covering a sales territory hundreds of miles from home. A call to SOS and he can find out the factory code number to his keys, and forthwith a car dealer can make him a new set.

Before handing out information, SOS checks on a caller’s identity by asking his height, weight and birth date which is compared with information on file. “We have to be sure we are giving information to legitimate people,” Smith said.

Smith’s inspiration for SOS resulted from some personal irritations. About a year ago he lost a gasoline card and wanted to notify the company. A company service station told him to call a New York City number. This resulted in the familiar “I’ll have to transfer your call” runaround until he was told he’d have to write… not phone… to an office in Kansas City.

It took the shock of a temporarily misplaced wallet before he fully realized the aggravating situations caused by the loss of important cards and documents.

SOS charges under $10 for a “package” registration covering credit cards, car keys, important dates and documents. For an appropriate additional charge, it will send the Mrs. a box of chocolates or a bottle of perfume.

From the Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia), April 17, 1969.

April 16 – Middletown 366


Solitary and Alone

Dr. Woodward, of Middletown, Conn., is the only Van Buren member in the Senate of that State, which consists of 21 members. Not an individual to second his motions. He has the field to himself.

From The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), Friday, April 16, 1841.


Settled With The Banks

Middletown, Conn., April 16.–C. E. Woodruff, of Berlin, who recently completed a term in state prison for forgery, has settled with the banks in Hartford, New Britain, Meriden, Thompson and this city, which he defrauded, paying them $45,000, the amount of the forgeries.

From The Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), Tuesday, April 17, 1894.


April 15 – Middletown 366


Great Day at Middletown

Largest Draw Span Bridge in the World Now Bridges the Connecticut River.

1896 bridge dedication

(Special Dispatch to the Transcript.)

Middletown, Conn., April 15.–At exactly 10 o’clock this morning the new Connecticut river bridge between Middletown and Portland, the largest draw span in the world was opened to traffic. Governor Coffin was present and walked across the bridge. Every bell and every whistle on either side the river sounded, and the event was witnessed by 7000 persons.

From the North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Mass.), Wednesday, April 15, 1896.


Blackface Omitted

Middletown, April 15–(UPI) The Rotary club announced today its annual blackface minstrel show next Saturday will be changed to a variety show because of objections raised by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

From The Bridgeport Post (Bridgeport, Connecticut), Saturday, April 15, 1961.


April 14 – Middletown 366


Naval Engagement

Captain Sanford Thompson, the master of the Revolutionary War privateer, the schooner Bunker Hill, and three of his men were wounded in an engagement with the heavily armed British privateer Dolphin.  But two weeks later Thompson pulled into port with a captured British schooner, the Lee, loaded with a rich cargo of sugar, molasses, and rum.  The Bunker Hill owned by Middletown merchant Comfort Sage was one of 16 privateers supplied by Middletown for the war effort.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.


Temperance Society

[For the Liberator.]

Middletown, April 16, 1833.

At a meeting of […] people of the city of Middletown, Conn. in their church, on the evening of the 14th inst. to take into consideration the cause of temperance, and the propriety of forming themselves into a society on the principal of total and entire abstinence from the use of ardent spirits, the following constitution was adopted.

Article 1st. This Society shall be called the Home Temperance Society of Middletown.

Art. 2d. Believing that the use of ardent spirits is unnecessary and injurious to health, and destructive of moral principles in individuals and community; the members of this Society pledge themselves to abstain entirely from its use, except as a medicine, and that they will not furnish it as an article of entertainment for their friends, or for those in their employ.

Art. 3d. Any person may become a member of this Society by subscribing to this constitution.

Art. 4th. The officers of this Society shall consist of a President, two Vice Presidents, a Treasurer and Secretary, and five Directors, who shall be chosen annually by an majority of the members present.

Art. 5th. The Directors shall have power to expel members who transgress the rules of this constitution, and shall open a correspondence with similar societies, and devise and execute such measures as shall promote the cause of temperance.

Art. 6th. The Secretary shall keep a record of the names of those who join this Society, and make a report once in three months of the progress of temperance among the […] people.

Art. 7th. The Treasurer shall hold all funds belonging to this Society, and pay orders drawn on him by order of the Directors.

At the adoption of this constitution, fifty gave in their names to abstain from the use of ardent spirits, and the following gentlemen were chosen officers for the ensuing year:

Rev. Jehiel C. Beman, President; Joseph Gilbert, Asa Jeffreys, Vice Presidents; Matthew M. Strong, Treasurer; L. C. Beman, Samuel Condol, Chas. Brooks, Enoch P. Freeman, Geo. W. Jeffrey, Directors; Amos G. Beman, Secretary.

Please to have the goodness to publish the above in the Liberator.

Yours respectfully,

Amos C. Beman, Secretary.

From The Liberator (Boston, Mass.), Saturday, May 11, 1833.

1906: A Standard Man to Jail

Inferior Oil Sold by a Connecticut Agent Caused a Death

Middletown, Conn., April 13.–In the superior court yesterday John Boylan, local agent for the Standard Oil company, was convicted of selling oil of an inferior and dangerous quality and was sentenced to forty days in jail and fined $25 and costs. The case against the oil agent grew out of two civil suits brought against the company by Theo White as the result of an explosion of a lamp at his house in January. The explosion caused injuries to his daughter, which later resulted in her death, and Mr. White himself was badly burned.

From the Salina Daily Union (Salina, Kansas), Friday, April 13, 1906.

1920: Had Two Wives

Middletown, Conn., April 12.–In the Superior Court here Judge John H. Banks has sentenced James Stewart Simpson of Jamaica, L. I., to one year in jail for bigamy. In court Simpson, who was defended by Attorney George H. Alexander of Jamaica, said that he was forced to marry his first wife, Miss Gladys Bruner, alias Berger, of Jamaica, at the point of a gun, Oct. 24, 1916. Later he came to this city and met Miss Mary N. P. Nelson of Middletown at a local factory. He married her on Aug. 14, 1917. She has had one child by him. While he was in the service both wives applied for his allotment and in that way became known to each other.

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, N. Y.), Monday, April 12, 1920.

1924: Tells Story of Shooting and Burying

Woman Declares She Shot and Hacked Man To Death.

Middletown, Conn., April 11.–Buried face downward beneath a dump pile, the body of Charles Blair was found today. Previous search for the body had failed and state police had begun to believe the story of Mrs. Tell that she had buried the body was untrue. The body was fully clothed. Blair’s throat had several deep cuts, almost severing the head.

From the Times Herald (Olean, New York), Friday, April 11, 1924.