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    Friday, September 22, 2023

    Made in Connecticut

    Ah, Connecticut! Here is a look at some of the coolest contributions to American culture that have come from the Nutmeg State — or if you prefer, the Constitution State — because sometimes you feel like a nutmeg, sometimes you don’t. Speaking of which, let’s start off with …

    Mounds and Almond Joy

    That’s right, it was Connecticut that gave birth to the nation’s favorite chocolate-covered coconut treat. Before Hershey’s took over the brand, Mounds was the issue of the Peter Paul Candy Manufacturing Company of New Haven. Thanks to some hard work and clever marketing, the company managed to not only survive but thrive during the Great Depression. During World War II, it was a favorite of the military, with 80 percent of the bars going to soldiers at one point. After the hostilities ended, they introduced a verison with a couple of almonds and milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate and the Almond Joy was born.

    The Wiffle Ball

    The little piece of plastic that gives each of us the opportunity to be a Cy Young Award winner was the brainchild of David N. Mullany of Fairfield. He wanted to make it easy for his son to throw a curve — and that’s exactly what those holes in the side do. Why ‘Wiffle’? Well, as any baseball fan knows, to “whiff” a batter is to strike him out — something that became much easier to do with the holy orb. The Wiffle Ball Inc. still has its headquarters in Shelton.

    The Erector Set

    The collection of nuts, bolts and tiny girders that became inspiration to generations of aspiring young engineers also has its roots in New Haven. The Mysto Manufacturing Company introduced the toy in 1913 to capitalize on kids’ desire to build and take stuff apart, but what really sold it was the electric motor it came with, to bring life to your creation.

    The Underwood Typewriter

    Originally, the Underwood family of Hartford just supplied ribbon and carbon paper to Remington, the first name in typewriters. But when Remington decided to produce these things on its own, Underwood got into the manufacturing business, improving and modernizing the device. In its heyday in the early 20th century, their factory was churning out machines at the rate of one a minute. It became the preferred writing instrument for Faulkners, Hemingways and Kerouacs.


    OK, technically, Frisbees are owned by Wham-O in California, but they undeniably got the idea from the Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport. It didn’t take long for kids to realize that throwing an inverted pie tin would make it sail through the air. Even college kids at Yale noticed and by the time Wham-O started manufacturing their flying discs, they were almost universally known as Frisbies. To avoid any copyright entanglements, they called their new product “Frisbee” and a legend was born. They’ve been making dogs and college kids happy ever since.


    The tiny compressed candy, more famous for its dispenser, is actually an Austrian confection, but it’s been manufactured in Orange since 1973. Today, you can visit the factory along with a museum dedicated to all things Pez. Fun fact: the name Pez come from ‘pfefferminz,’ the German word for peppermint. The candies were originally mints and put in a dispenser to resemble a cigarette lighter as a healthy alternative to smoking.

    Glow In The Dark Glass

    These phosphorous-filled glass decorations are a brilliant idea — literally. Manufactured in Killingworth, they light up a room with the soft glow of seascapes, jellyfish and abstract designs. And no two pieces are alike. Entrancing to the point of being hypnotic, they’re a good testament to Connecticut’s originality.

    The Dunking Buddy

    Touted as “a revolution in cookie dunking,” this gizmo is exactly what the cookie dunkers of the world have been waiting for. Ever dunk a cookie in a glass of milk, only to have it slip out of your hand and fall to the bottom of the glass. Well, no more! The world’s first cookie dunker uses magnetic attraction to safely dunk your cookie while you multitask, making wet fingers and crumbs floating in your milk a thing of the past. And the best part is that Connecticut can lay claim as the home of this little cookie-softening contraption. It’s manufactured in Naugatuck.

    Palmieri sauces

    As everyone knows, among the finest sauces made today are those in the domain of Palmieri Food Products of New Haven. What started out as the jarring of the best sauce by a little old Italian grandmother in 1920 has turned into big business. Three generations later, the Palmieris are still going strong.

    Bigelow Tea

    Bigelow is one of the nation’s largest producers of specialty teas, and seasonal favorites, like Eggnogg’n and Pepperpint Bark. It was founded by Ruth Bigelow in 1945 and the family-owned company is based in Fairfield. Fun Fact: the company owns the only tea plantation in the United States, which is located in Charleston, South Carolina. It may not be as impressive as owning “all the tea in China,” but “all the tea in the U.S.” is still a pretty good boast.


    It is indeed a rarity when such a geographically limited cuisine gets this much respect in the culinary world, but New Haven-style pizza has done just that. Oftentimes, a regional dish will be the source of a lot of controversy about where it originated, with various establishments making the claim, but in this case, just about everyone agrees that Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana was the place where it all began. Crust, oregano, tomato sauce and just a little bit of pecorino romano rounds out this thin-crust wonder. And what’s apizza without washing it down with some …

    Foxon Park soda

    White Birch, Iron Brew, Gassosa? These could only be flavors from the Foxon Park Beverage Company in East Haven. Around since 1922, Foxon Park is known for pure cane sugar and all natural ingredients. Iron Brew is an American take on Scotland’s “other national drink.” Gassosa is a lemon-lime Italian soda; while White Birch’s hint of wintergreen is a local favorite. There are 17 flavors in all. Foxon’s fizzy drinks have won regional accolades and been featured on the Food Network.

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