Connecticut’s Rogues—and Reformers, too


By Elizabeth J. Normen

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Winter 2008/2009

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The editorial team has been chomping at the bit to address the theme of vice in Connecticut, and this issue is the result. It’s not quite what some team members wanted—an edgy, unvarnished look at the seamier side of our past. Blame it on me for tacking on a few stories of reformers—those do-gooders who have worked to right society’s wrongs. I admit I have a Pollyanna streak. Though it’s instructive, and, let’s face it, fascinating and entertaining to examine the underbelly of our society, I also like the stories from our past that inspire us to carry on the work of making our state a better place to live, work, and play.

But don’t despair: this issue features some real rascals. Marshall Berdan, who last brought us the story of Weston’s meteorite [“Connecticut Catches a Falling Star,” Winter 2007-2008], writes about a real-life rum-running saloon-keeper whose story could be the basis for a Hollywood thriller. Karin Peterson, museum director for the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, brings us the story of counterfeiter and scam artist William Stuart, who passed bogus bills up and down the East Coast and ultimately spent time in East Granby’s New Gate Prison. And you’ll be surprised at the Connecticut part of Tammany Hall racketeer Boss Tweed’s story, which intern and Conard High School history teacher Alan Patterson reveals, thanks to a tip from Debra Mecky at the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich.

New Teacher Resources Coming
For teachers who are fans of HRJ and are looking to incorporate Connecticut history into their classroom,more help is on the way. We wish to thank Alan Patterson and editorial team member Chris Pagliuco, a history teacher at Daniel Hand High School in Madison, for spearheading HR’s efforts to develop curriculum units for teachers around HRJ stories. As the State of Connecticut is considering addressing the teaching of Connecticut history, HRJ has recruited a team of teachers from throughout the state to work with us to develop 15 lesson plans that coordinate with the school-level U.S. history curriculum. These will be available early in 2009 to teachers who subscribe (at a special half-price rate for educators, available now). The Connecticut Humanities Council is developing a comprehensive Connecticut history curriculum project to be available next year. We thank the 100 Friends of Hog River Journal 5th anniversary fund for supporting our project. NOTE: Find our updated teacher resources on our TEACH page.

HRJ Considers a New Name
After six years of publication, HRJ is considering a name change. We have a name in mind, but it is premature to announce it before we’ve completed our research to be sure no one else has a claim on it. While we would regretfully let go of our beloved Hog River, this publication’s name needs to better reflect its state-wide editorial coverage. Watch the next few issues for developments and let us know if you have strong feelings for keeping the Hog River name or a suggestion for a new one!

Hartford’s Hog River, buried since the 1940s for its smelly, contaminated, and unruly ways, has inspired us to tell Connecticut’s untold tales. It’s part of our mission to look at all aspects of Connecticut’s past, even the parts of which we are less than proud. That perspective has made for a richer, deeper understanding of who we are and how we’ve come to be this unique place called Connecticut. We promise that even with a name change, we’ll continue to bring you the surprising mix of stories you’ve come to love. This issue will not be the last you’ll hear of Connecticut’s rascals and rogues—and some superheroes, too.


Read all of the stories from the Winter 2008/2009 issue

Taking a Ride Down the Hog River,” Summer 2008

“A River Runs Under It: A Hog River History” Fall 2002


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