6 of the Most Interesting Bits of Danbury History
Every town has a few notable stories in their history. Danbury has more than its fair share of interesting events spanning from Revolutionary War stories all the way to the Hubble Space Telescope. Here are the six most interesting historical facts from Danbury's long history.
1. Danbury was the Original Bean Town
Danbury was being called Bean Town at least 200 years before Boston adopted the nickname. The Danbury area’s abundance of beans became known by settlers in the late 1600’s and the nickname “Bean Town” began to spread by word of mouth. CelebrateBoston.com says that Boston’s nickname only started appearing on postcards in the early 1900’s because of a city-wide celebration which used stickers featuring a bowl of beans to promote the event. Bean Town is still better than the Danbury's original name: Swampfield, gross.
2. 16-Year-Old Girl Saved Danbury Residents During the Revolutionary War
You’ve heard of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, but have you heard of Sybil Ludington’s 40-mile ride that saved the lives of Danbury residents? In 1777, when British troops began heading towards Danbury to attack a Continental Army’s supply depot, Sybil completed a 40-mile ride to mobilize her father’s troops. After alerting the American soldiers, Sybil warned Danbury residents which gave them time to flee before the British burned several buildings and killed some patriots.
3. The Red Coat's Drunken Retreat From Danbury
Historical sources cited on City-Data.com say the 2000 British troops who attacked Danbury in 1777 found stores of rum and began consuming it. The British general feared that colonial soldiers would block his route back to the ships so he ordered his drunk men to head back to their boats. They eventually made it back to their ships but suffered many loses by colonial troops along the way thanks to Sybil Ludington's 40-mile ride.
4. The Negative Effects of Danbury's Booming Hat Industry Can Still be Seen
Danbury’s history as America’s largest hat producing town has been well documented by the New England Historical Society. Danbury residents may be aware of the mercury poisoning that caused many of the factory workers to come down with the “Danbury Shakes” which sounds a lot less fun than the Harlem Shake. The term “Mad Hatter” came about because of the symptoms of mercury poisoning which many of the factory workers in Danbury experienced. Scientific reports in the 1990’s and 2000’s stated that there were still elevated levels of mercury in the waterways, soil, and fish around Danbury. However, they did note that there was a decrease in that ten-year span.
5. Time Bombs at the Danbury Police Station
In February 1970, the Pardue brothers detonated a bomb at the Danbury Police station, the Union Savings Bank, and their getaway car at a shopping mall. According to The News Times, they used the explosions, as well as other bomb threats, to distract from their robbery of the Union Savings Bank. They made out with around $40,000 but were caught less than a month later. Luckily no one was killed in the bombings but 26 people were injured.
6. Microscopic Mistake in Danbury Leads to NASA Space Mission
In the late 1970’s an optical glass company in Danbury created a huge mirror that was to be used in the Hubble Space Telescope. Once the telescope was in space NASA realized that the images they were taking were much blurrier than expected. The blame fell on the Perkin-Elmer Corporation of Danbury who had miscalibrated their equipment when carving the mirror. The mistake was apparently only 1/50th the thickness of a strand of hair but caused a lot of blurring. NASA had to spend millions of dollars, send a crew up to space, and replace many components because of Danbury’s tiny mistake. I guess this is why my dad is always telling me, “measure twice, cut once.”