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With our partner, The Connecticut Historical Society, WNPR News presents unique and eclectic view of life in Connecticut throughout its history. The Connecticut Historical Society is a partner in Connecticut History Online (CHO) — a digital collection of over 18,000 digital primary sources, together with associated interpretive and educational material. The CHO partner and contributing organizations represent three major communities — libraries, museums, and historical societies — who preserve and make accessible historical collections within the state of Connecticut.

The Oldest Continuously Published Newspaper in the U.S.

Newspapers have been called the first rough draft of history. The newspaper that has been filling that role for the United States longer than any other is The Hartford Courant, which celebrates its 250th birthday this month. The first issue of The Connecticut Courant, dated October 29, 1764, came off printer Thomas Green’s hand-press in a room above a barber shop on Main Street in Hartford. It started out as a four-page weekly. The format and frequency changed to accommodate developments in technology and society.  Publication was increased to six days a week in 1837, with a Sunday edition added in 1916. In 1994 the Courant expanded onto the World Wide Web.

Over those two and a half centuries the Courant has delivered to the people of Connecticut and beyond an amazing array of news—local, national, international, and even from outer space. In its pages (and later on its website as well) readers learned of the assassinations of Presidents and of the landing of men on the moon, of the horrific tragedy of the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire and of the historic election in 1974 of Ella Grasso as the first woman elected governor of a state in her own right, of the fall of the revered Charter Oak in 1856 and of the twin national championships of the University of Connecticut’s men’s and women’s basketball teams in 2014.

Today the Courant proudly claims the title of “oldest continuously published newspaper in America.” In his book Older the Nation, J. Bard McNulty observed that one of the foundations for this claim is that, “Since 1764 the Courant has always been the Courant. It is not the outgrowth of a Ledger, which was the outgrowth of a Post, which sprang from a Sentinel, and so on. Since the beginning, Courant has formed the principal part of the newspaper’s name at every stage. The Courant is not, as Editor Charles Hopkins Clark once put it, like the elderly gentleman who celebrated his golden wedding anniversary because, although he had been married to three successive wives, the sum of his married life came to fifty years.”

The remarkable 250-year saga of the Courant is the subject of the exhibition "The Hartford Courant, Connecticut, and the Country" on display at the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, now through November 1, 2014.

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