May 18 – Middletown 366

1808

Nathan Starr and the 2,000 Cutlasses

Nathan Starr of Middletown became the nation’s first sword manufacturer when he entered a contract with the United States government on May 18, 1808. The contract was negotiated by Navy Agent John Hull of New London and Nathan Starr provided 2,000 cutlasses. With the War of 1812 on the horizon, soldiers were in need of weaponry.

The contract required Starr to produce a regulation Navy cutlass for $2.50 and a pike for $0.75 in a four month period. The cutlass was a straight single-edged 30-inch bad and was perfectly designed for the small, crowded vessels where soldiers were stationed.

Starr provided another 1,000 cutlasses at $3.00 each for another contract signed on January 15, 1816. The blade on these cutlasses were 25-inches long rather than 30.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.


1860

Seventeen-Year Locust

For the Constitution.

Mr. Editor.–It has probably occurred to many of your readers that this is the year for the appearance of that strange insect, the seventeen-year locust (Cicada Septendeeim) in our vicinity. Their last appearance was in 1843; and their several appearances before that were in the years 1826, 1809 and 1792, the exact period of 17 years returning each time. I cannot find that there is any record of their having been seen here at an earlier period than the date last mentioned, nor any reliable tradition of such an occurrence, but there can be no doubt of the fact! Going back 17 year from 1792 brings us of course to 1776 as the period of their return. Probably they came above ground that year about the time of the battle of Bunker Hill!

They may be expected about the middle of next month on the rocky ledge of land mostly occupied for pastures a little this side of the village of Westfield. Should the season prove specially favorable they may be looked for very early in June.

It will be recollected by many, that, at the time of their last appearance they were very abundant; and on pleasant evenings their perpetual din could be heard in the city, especially in High street, though they must have been three miles distant in a straight line!

Though their usual period is 17 years, it seems that circumstances may sometimes hasten or retard their appearance. Thus, in Morton’s memorial, they are said to have appeared at Plymouth, Mass., in the Spring of 1633, but it is known that several appearances at that place in later times have been in the years 1804, 1821, &c.; consequently a year must have been lost in the period between 1633 and 1804. It is of course possible that Morton may have made a mistake of one year, as he did not write until thirty or more years after 1633.

The times of their appearing in other parts of the country do not correspond with their times here; but the period of their absence is the same. Thus in Maryland, S. Carolina, Georgia, a part of Massachusetts and a part of Ohio, they appeared in 1831 and 1851; but in Western Pennsylvania, a part of Ohio, and other places their appearance was in 1829 and 1846, while in this State and in a part of New Jersey, their last appearance was in 1843, and they are expected again the present year. In other places their periods of return are still different; and probably every year witnesses their return in some locality of our richly extended country.

JAY.

From The Constitution (Middletown, Conn.), May 18, 1860.

1889

Francesco Lentini born, “The Three-Legged Wonder”

On May 18, 1889 Francesco A. Lentini was born in Rosolini, Sicily as one of thirteen children. However, unlike his twelve siblings, Francesco Lentini was born with three legs and an extra foot. The extra leg and appendage were part of two siblings who had never fully developed in the womb.

As a young man, Lentini joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was known as the “Three-Legged Wonder.” He also toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and other circuses and carnivals. He eventually settled in Middletown, Connecticut.

Lentini never saw his extra leg and foot as disability. He went on to marry and have four children who did not inherit his condition.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

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