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NARRATOR: Connecticut's tourism department affectionately promotes an image that evokes the state's colonial past. It's a powerful image, one with which many residents identify.

Commercial, CT Dept. of Economic Development:

Looking for a special place to spend your vacation? Come to Connecticut! You'll find 350 years of classic vacation ideas.

BARNEY LASCHEVER (Dir., "Classic CT" Campaign): We're promoting Connecticut as quintessential New England. As example, this beautiful New England style church behind me on the Litchfield green, classic Connecticut, the side of New England. We feel we’re very much a part of New England, classic state, classic colonial villages and classic attractions, classic landscape.

Commercial, CT Dept. of Economic Development:

The coast, the city, the country -- classic Connecticut -- the pride of New England.

BARNEY LASCHEVER (Dir. "Classic CT" Campaign): Our problem with promoting and selling Connecticut is that people have their own image of Connecticut who have never been here before and a great many of them unfortunately don't associate Connecticut with New England or else they think that we're just a suburb of New York.

Commercial, CT Dept. of Economic Development:

What's a classic vacation? One that's a sure fire hit.

CHARLES MONAGHAN (Editor, Connecticut Magazine): We've always been between New York and New England, caught between in many ways, and it's been difficult for us over the years to forge our own identity and you can see what difficulty we've had if you just look around. You see that our state song, for instance, is not even about Connecticut -- Yankee Doodle. It's about a person. We've got to be the only state in the nation who's song isn't about itself.


TOM CALLINAN (Connecticut State Troubadour): The purpose was back in early 1977 to establish a state song. They felt that there was a need for a state song to give us identity when the governor and other dignitaries would show up at events, so a hearing was held and many people wrote songs and had all kinds of different people performing them. Some were on recording and some were live and I spent a whole day in the hearing. Some of the songs were great and some of the songs were not so great, but everybody put their heart into it.

"Hail To Connecticut" by Rose Perotta & Young At Heart

Nathan Hale, the Charter Oak, a history of pride and pain.

Through the years and for all time, Connecticut, we praise your name.

Hail to Connecticut with a heritage so grand.

Hail to Connecticut, to the Constitution state.

Down through Connecticut where the mighty river flows,

So moves Connecticut as are mighty nation grows.

Home of the Mountain Loral,

And the robin on the wing,

To you we lift our voices,

And praises we sing.

Hail to your rocky shores,

Your hills and valleys too,

Hail to Connecticut, America loves you.


NARRATOR: Our identity today is deeply rooted in our history. Our sense of place over the past 350 years has grown much more complicated. To really know ourselves, we need to know our past.

Just two years after the violent displacement of Connecticut's native American peoples in 1637, the general court of colonial Connecticut drew up the fundamental orders. The orders both established a government and defined our first common identity derived from a central authority.

RICHARD GRIFFIS (Sr. Minister, Immanuel Cong. Church): The state really begins with the coming of Thomas Hooker and a group of people from Massachusetts who came here for economic reasons, but also and very predominantly for religious reasons.

CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): The Puritan was high thinking and plain living. The Puritans were also very community bound. They weren't always concerned about their community out of a sense of community. They were concerned about the community because if somebody in the community sinned, the whole community was going to suffer.

BRUCE FRASER (Exec Dir., CT Humanities Council): The land of steady habits goes back to old colonial notions of stability and of that Puritan commonwealth, which is very collective in its approach, and every time the Department of Tourism puts a congregational spire on some tourist document, whether they know it or not, what they're saying is -- what they're suggesting is that collective sense of mutual obligation, shared belief of mutual commitment that was the hallmark of Puritans.

RICHARD GRIFFIS (Sr. Minister, Immanuel Cong. Church): They established the commons in the midst of many of the towns, a shared space, very practical for grazing animals, but it also had a symbolic and a beautiful quality to it. The church was put on the green.

NARRATOR: If there was a time when Connecticut had a clearly defined self-image, it was this puritan era. Puritan Connecticut was collective, but it was also suspicious of change and insisted on conformity. Congregationalism was the official state religion until 1818.

ELLSWORTH GRANT (Fmr. Pres., CT Historical Society): It was an exclusive society, only God-fearing Congregationalists would survive here or be accepted. If anyone moved in to Connecticut, he had to be voted on by the community to become a citizen and a member of the church.

COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): Well, actually, the very first European people who came to Connecticut actually were the Dutch who sailed up the river looking for chocolate and so far no one has ever actually found any in Connecticut, which I think maybe accounts for the sense of blended frustration you feel here. As for the original Puritans, a lot of those were my ancestors and of course they were opposed to fun and we thought to carry on that tradition here in Connecticut too.

CHRIS BICKFORD (Exec. Dir., CT Historical Society): The Blue Law State, and that was an expression that was coined about Connecticut in the 19th Century, and was to a certain extent true. We still have Blue Laws for Connecticut that are residue of that Puritan tradition. People use this expression "banned in Boston", but the fact is that Massachusetts legalized theater in the 1790s. In 1800 Connecticut banned theater altogether and that law remained on the books in Connecticut until 1952 which was remarkable. No other state had a law forbidding theater.

COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): I can remember a few years ago the Hartford Office of Cultural Affairs was talking about having sort of a law that allowed sort of mummers and buskers and spontaneous street performers out there on the street that would allow sort of street musicians to be around and magicians and stuff on the sidewalks and the City Council voted it down because they thought it would be a little too spontaneous. You can imagine what would happen if things got a little too spontaneous in Hartford. I mean things would just spiral out of control in no time whatsoever.


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Last modified: September 03, 2012