One of the original 13 colonies, Connecticut has played a prominent role in the development of the United States. The Hartford Courant, the nation's oldest continuously operating newspaper, was an influential voice for the rebel cause during the American Revolution and President Abraham Lincoln's Republican Party in the 1860s.
In 1636, Thomas Hooker, a minister who fled England to freely practice his Puritan beliefs, headed south from Boston with about 100 members of his congregation to found Hartford, Connecticut. In 1662, Governor John Winthrop Jr. obtained a royal charter from the king to combine the Connecticut, New Haven and Saybrook settlements.
Though its roots are in agriculture, textile and machine manufacturing became dominant industries by the mid-19th century, and Connecticut prospered during the Industrial Revolution. During the Civil War, the state played a prominent role in manufacturing weapons and supplies for the Union Army.
The Constitution State was one of the first to introduce railroads, and today Amtrak connects Boston and Washington, D.C., with part of the original main line of the New Haven, the most prominent railway service of the 1800s.
By the 1920s, more than a third of U.S. brass was produced in the Naugatuck Valley, earning Waterbury the nickname “Brass City.” During World War II, the city’s factories produced millions of bullets, shells and casings for U.S. and Allied forces. Following the war, aluminum and plastic took over much of the brass production in the region.
At the close of the Cold War in 1991, reduced national defense spending forced Connecticut's economy to diversify. Two Native American tribes, the Pequot and the Mohegan, opened casinos in 1992 and 1996, and although they were initially successful, the tribes have struggled to recover from the economic recession of 2007.
The transition to entertainment and the emergence of digital media have had a huge impact on Connecticut's economy, with more than 1,200 digital media-related businesses located in the state, including sports media giant ESPN. Other top industries include advanced manufacturing, bioscience, green technology, insurance and financial services.
Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Connecticut include health insurance firms Aetna and Cigna, and United Technologies, the parent company of both heating and air-conditioning manufacturer Carrier and Otis Elevator.
Connecticut’s median household income, $73,433 in 2016, was among the highest in the country, and the poverty rate was under 10 percent, about two-thirds of the rate in the rest of the U.S.
There are about two dozen colleges and universities in Connecticut, including the prestigious Yale University, Fairfield University, the University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University and the United States Coast Guard Academy.
Though it is the third smallest state in area behind Rhode Island and Delaware, today it is one of the most densely populated with 3.6 million residents. The state expects continued growth through 2025. The most populous cities are Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, the capital city of Hartford and Waterbury.
About 23 percent of Connecticut residents speak a language other than English at home, and just under 15 percent were born outside the U.S.
In 2016, around two-thirds of the state was white, though Connecticut's black, Asian and Hispanic populations continue to grow. Some cities, including Danbury, Stamford and Norwalk, are among the most diverse communities in the country in terms of social class, race and economic and household diversity.
Connecticut is among the least religious states, with only 28 percent of adults attending at least weekly services, according to Pew Research Center. Though the state has had periods where it leaned primarily Republican, it has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992 and is not considered a battleground state.