When news of the repeal of Britain’s Stamp Act arrived in Hartford in April of 1766, Connecticut Colony’s leaders were overjoyed. They ordered a day of celebrations to be held on 23 May that would include fireworks, the ringing of bells, and blasts from the town's cannons. The organizers secured the second floor of the town’s brick schoolhouse, close to the site where the General Assembly met in Hartford (where the 1792 Old State House sits today), as the location for the fireworks preparations.
On the day of the celebration, local militia men used the main floor of the schoolhouse, the site of the magazine, to distribute powder for the festivities that would follow. Many of their boys played in front of the building as they waited for their fathers inside. In the confusion that followed, no one could remember exactly what happened. But the entire city was shaken by the sound of an explosion that reduced the building to rubble and left bodies strewn about the grounds.
To learn more about what took place and how Hartford responded to this tragedy, explore the pages to the right.