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Nickname: The Constitution State
Statehood: 1788; 5th state
Population (as of July 2015): 3,590,886
Biggest city: Bridgeport
State bird: American robin
State flower: mountain laurel
The first people came to the area that’s now Connecticut more than 10,000 years ago. Several thousand years later, Native American tribes including the Mohegan, Pequot, and Niantic lived in this region.
Dutch traders arrived in 1614 and created Connecticut’s first European settlement in 1633. Both the Dutch and English settlers founded settlements in Connecticut in the early 1630s, and the land soon became a British colony. Over time the colonists grew unhappy with British rule. In 1776 Connecticut’s representatives signed the Declaration of Independence along with representatives from the other American colonies. This led to the American Revolution, which lasted until 1783 when the colonies formally won freedom from British rule. Five years later Connecticut ratified, or signed, the U.S. Constitution, becoming the fifth U.S. state.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
The name "Connecticut" comes from a Native American word, quinatucquet, roughly meaning "beside the long tidal river." It refers to the Connecticut River, which cuts through the middle of the state.
Connecticut earned its nickname "the Constitution State" because it’s home to what some consider the United States’ first written constitution: the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, adopted in 1639.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
Connecticut can be divided into three geographic regions. The Western Upland, which covers roughly the western third of Connecticut, is filled with steep hills, including the state’s highest point, Mount Frissell.
The Central Lowland in the middle of the state is known for ridges and valleys that were created by volcanic eruptions between 150 and 200 million years ago. Because of this volcanic activity, the area contains lots of igneous, or lava-based, rocks such as basalt. It’s also where the state’s longest river, the Connecticut, flows.
The Eastern Upland in the east is filled with hills, rivers, and dense forests.
Black bears, bobcats, fishers, muskrats, and white-tailed deer are among Connecticut’s many mammals. Look to the trees and you might see bald eagles, eastern bluebirds, redheaded woodpeckers, or rare Connecticut warblers. Reptile-watchers can keep an eye out for colorful eastern painted turtles, garter snakes, and five-lined skinks. Amphibians like northern redback salamanders and endangered mudpuppies call Connecticut home.
The most common tree in Connecticut is the red maple, but black birch, eastern hemlock, and sugar maple are also widespread. Wildflowers include colorful blanketflowers, orange daylilies, violets, and chicory.
Nearly 60 percent of Connecticut is covered in woodland, so it’s no wonder forests are one of the state’s top natural resources, providing lumber, firewood, and even maple syrup.
- Famous residents of Connecticut include Nathan Hale, a spy during the American Revolution; Revolutionary War general and “turncoat” Benedict Arnold; actress Katharine Hepburn; and authors Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain.
- More than 500 historic ships, a re-creation of a 19th-century coastal village, and a working shipyard are on display at Mystic Seaport maritime museum. Visitors can even board and sail on some of the historic boats.
- Step into a famous author’s home at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, where writer Samuel Clemens, who used the pen name Mark Twain, lived with his wife and children.
- Check out the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, where you can tour the author’s house and learn how her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, helped change views on slavery in the United States.
Text by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh
Photo credits: Lagarde Sebastien, Dreamstime (flag); Jill Lang, Dreamstime (mountain laurel); Thomas Biegalski, Dreamstime (American robin); Lagarde Sebastien, Dreamstime (sperm whale); Pancaketom, Dreamstime (quarter)
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