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February 01, 2022

New Haven History: Our City in the 18th Century

Living at The Whit means you’re surrounded by history. So much history in fact that just one century of New Haven history has more stories than we could even tell here. From Puritans and theocratic governments to disappearing merchant ships, here are three things to know about New Haven during the 18th Century.

New Haven Colony

Today, it’s strange to imagine New Haven as part of anything but the state of Connecticut but in 1640, after a small party of Puritans had arrived in New Haven, setting up a nine square city grid and a theocratic government, the New Haven Colony wanted nothing to do with the larger Connecticut Colony that wanted to keep church and state separated.

The two colonies wouldn’t become one until disaster struck just six years later, in 1646, when the colony’s first fully loaded ship of local goods was sent back to England, never to be heard from or seen again. The disappearing ship filled with goods would slow the development of New Haven and by 1664, New Haven became a part of the Connecticut Colony.

Yale and The American Revolution

By 1716, the local Collegiate School in Old Saybrook was relocated to New Haven, establishing New Haven as a center for learning. After a large donation from Britian’s East India Company merchant Elihu Yale, the college’s name was changed to Yale College.

Then in 1779, with the American Revolution in full swing, more than 2,600 British regulars and loyalists landed in New Haven Harbor, raiding the town. But it was a militia of Yale students and even former Yale president and Yale Divinity School professor Naphtali Dagget rode out to confront the redcoats. 

An Inventors Hub and ‘The Arsenal of America’

By the late 18th century, New Haven was quickly becoming a home for inventors and industrialists. Eli Whitney, a Yale graduate, had invented the Cotton Gin in New Haven. Whitney also founded a clock factory and a gun manufacturing factory.

Eventually, New Haven would become such a large hub for manufacturing firearms that it would earn the nickname, “The Arsenal of America,” and by the 19th century Samuel Colt, in Whitney’s factory, would invent the automatic revolver in 1836.

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