(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Fall 2007
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I was all set to crow in this space about how “We Made It!” that is, how HOG RIVER JOURNAL made it to its 5th anniversary, when Jennifer LaRue Huget, HRJ’s editor, e-mailed me a New York Times article (May 17, 2007) announcing the demise of American Heritage. After 50 years, the venerable history magazine decided to cease publication. Suddenly, crowing about our mini-milestone seemed a bit cocky.
What happened? Despite an all-time high roster of 350,000 subscribers, American Heritage editor Richard Snow was apologetic about not meeting corporate-parent Forbes’s profit expectations, saying, “Forbes has been very, very patient, but basically they’ve been carrying us for a while.” That comment made me appreciate that, as a nonprofit magazine, HRJ does not answer to a for-profit parent but to the magnanimous Hartford Public Library, whose definition of success looks well beyond dollars and cents. (We became an independent 501(c)(3) in 2012.)
American Heritage‘s rise and fall does reflect our changing world. In this issue, in which the “We Made It!” theme also refers to our state’s manufacturing heritage, we chronicle a number of industries—clocks, textiles, brass, and the famous Fuller Brush Company and Hitchcock Chair Company—charting their auspicious rise and unfortunate fall. Why, all too frequently, did industries decline after having thrived here? Not to oversimplify, but in many cases the industries no longer needed to be located close by Connecticut’s abundant natural resources such as wood (for clock movements, for example) and fast-moving streams (to power mills).
So where does that leave us? Are we doomed to wallow in nostalgia for the great technological advances of days gone by? For an answer, we turned to the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, whose mission is to promote the economic viability of our state in the present and future. Not to give away “the ending” (see Soapbox, page 50), but there is reason for optimism. In fact, we have good reason to congratulate ourselves on our ability to build on a great legacy of innovation in this state.
Surely, then, the community of readers and writers of this young upstart publication can take something away from the loss of 50-year-old American Heritage as we mark our 5th anniversary: to appreciate the increasingly rare thing that HRJ is and appreciate that HRJ exists and continues because of you. The fact is, subscribers’ support encourages advertisers’ support and justifies the small but important amount of grant funding we are eligible for and receive. We couldn’t do it without you. So to you, our subscribers, I tip my hat and say thank you for 20 issues and 180 stories that inspired us, humbled us, explained our quirks, and hopefully bolstered our resolve to move forward to make Connecticut a better place. As historian David McCullough said, “Yes, reading history will make you a better citizen and more appreciative of the law, and of freedom, and of how the economy works or doesn’t work, but it is also an immense pleasure.”
Consider this your invitation to join our 5th Anniversary celebration: We’re planning a series of events around the state in the coming year, and we look forward to seeing you at them (see Afterword for details.) Look also for an invitation to join the “100 Friends of Hog River Journal” through contributions of $100 or more in honor of HRJ’s 5th Anniversary. Many “Friends of HRJ” helped us get started, so please help us now to ensure HRJ can continue to explore with you Connecticut’s rich cultural heritage, one good story after another!
Read all of the stories in the Fall 2007 issue
Read all of our stories about products made and invented in Connecticut on our TOPICS page