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Connecticut Cultural Symbols

Tiny Connecticut has over a dozen cultural symbols, ranging from inspirational to lame to downright weird.

Cultural Symbols  
Tartan 1995
Hero Nathan Hale 1985
Heroine Prudence Crandall 1995
Flagship The Freedom Schooner Amistad 2003
Pioneering Aircraft Gustave Whitehead’s No. 21 2019
Song (second) “Beautiful Connecticut Waltz,” composed by Joseph Leggo of Newington 2013
Polka “Ballroom Polka,” written and composed by Ray Henry Mocarski 2013
Cantata Nutmeg 2003
Composer Charles Ives 1991
Troubadour (by appointment)
Folk Dance square dance Redundant Symbol 1995
Ship USS Nautilus (SSN-571) 1983
Aircraft Corsair F4U 2005
Cultural SymbolsNathan Hale (left) probably didn’t whistle “Yankee Doodle” as he was hung. The patterns from the official Connecticut tartan and my vision of a Connecticut tartan appear in the lower left and right corners, respectively.

The biggest weirdo of the bunch may be Nathan Hale. During the Revolutionary War, Hale served as a spy. However, the British captured him and hung him. Before he died, Nathan Hale said these famous words:

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Or did he?

It turns out that no one really knows what Nathan Hale said. Even worse, he was a lousy spy. In fact, he may have actually told a British spy that he was an American spy.

The story gets worse still because a slave owner named George Washington apparently sent Hale on a pointless mission. It appears that Nathan Hale may have been a duped dummy rather than a hero.

What about Patrick Henry, the patriot who supposedly said “Give me liberty, or give me death!”?

In fact, he really did say those words. The irony is that Henry, like George Washington, was a slave owner. The moral: History can be very complex and confusing. So don’t be too quick to believe everything you’re told.

Slavery ˆ

While George Washington and Nathan Hale fought for a nation founded on genocide and slavery, more authentic heroes popped up half a century later.

In 1831, Prudence Crandall opened an academy to educate the daughters of wealthy local families. The school was extremely successful until the following fall. The problems started when Crandall admitted Sarah Harris, a 20-year-old black woman. It is widely regarded as the first integrated classroom in the United States.

But not everyone was happy. Parents began withdrawing their white daughters from the school. Under growing harassment, Crandall was forced to close her school in 1834. Remember, Connecticut was a northern state that would soon join in the Civil War, freeing the slaves in the South.

Mark Twain, who then lived in Hartford, helped change public opinion. Connecticutters cleaned up their laws, and the government paid Prudence Crandall a pension. Today, she is Connecticut’s official state heroine.

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Just five years after Prudence Crandall closed her school, a group of slaves revolted. They were being transported to their new master on a ship named La Amistad. Ironically, the ship’s name was Spanish for “friendship.”

Unfortunately, the freed slaves didn’t make it to Africa. They were instead captured by the brig USS Washington. (The ship was named after a slave owner, George Washington.)

A famous trial played out in Connecticut. The Supreme Court’s final verdict? Freedom!

La Amistad became a symbol of the movement to abolish slavery. A replica of the famous ship was built in 1998-2000. In 2003, La Amistad was designated Connecticut’s official flagship and tall ship ambassador.

Conspiracy ˆ

On August 14, 1901, Gustave Whitehead flew a powered machine in Connecticut. We might say he was the first to fly an airplane.

But what about the Wright Brothers? Didn’t they make the first flight in 1903?

In fact, no one really knows who was the first to fly. At least eight people in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand made pioneering flights before 1906.

However, some of these flights were poorly documented. Thus, no one can really prove the claims made by Gustave Whitehead and the Wright Brothers. And it gets worse.

It turns out that Orville Wright and the Smithsonian signed a contract that requires the Smithsonian to recognize the Wright brothers as the inventor of the “aeroplane.” In other words, the Smithsonian is required to lie if it discovers that someone else invented the airplane first. That’s an example of a conspiracy.

In 2017, Gustave Whitehead’s No. 21 became Connecticut’s official state pioneering aircraft. The gesture started a feud between three states.

North Carolina is nicknamed First in Flight. The nickname honors the Wright brothers’ historic flight, which was made on a beach at Kitty Hawk.

Ohioans are also aviation fans. Orville Wright was born in Ohio, along with the famous astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

Today, some people believe Neil Armstrong never walked on the moon! What is the truth?

Well, Gustave Whitehead and the Wright brothers were all aviation pioneers. However, we may never know who was the first to actually fly. As for the alleged moon landing hoax . . . well, that’s a surprisingly confusing story for conspiracy fans to pursue. (See my conspiracy science project at

Planet Earth ˆ

Back on planet Earth, Connecticut is among the states with an official tartan.

Long Island Sound and forests are represented by blue and green bands. Red and yellow represent autumn leaves, while gray and white represent granite and snow. White represents snowfall.

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Connecticans have campaigned for a number of new symbols, including the apple, chocolate oatmeal drop cookie, Connecticut Renaissance Festival, titanium, Samuel Huntington, and Igor Sikorsky.

Sikorsky is a famous aviation pioneer who invented the helicopter. Huntington was president of the Continental Congress when the Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781. (He should not be confused with Samuel Phillips Huntington, a sleazebag born in New York City and closely tied to Harvard.)

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Other Connecticut cultural symbols are explored under symbols of the arts and political symbols.

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