miniroadtrip

20 Things We Learned From Connecticut’s Unique Museums

Carousels, and clocks, and creatures. Oh my! We visited several museums on our MINI NOT NORMAL Road Trip, and here are a few fun facts from four of our favorites in Connecticut.

1. Reverend Joseph Steward’s collection of oddities was the Discovery Channel before there was a Discovery Channel.

Joseph Steward opened a museum in 1797 inside Connecticut’s Old State House to educate the public on the world’s diverse natural histories. After a couple of moves, a re-creation of the collection is now back in the Old State House in Hartford, CT, and open to the public.

2. Steward utilized the country’s oldest newspaper to build and share his bizarre collection.

Steward regularly placed ads in The Hartford Courant to solicit contributions from traveling merchants. He also used the Courant to advertise his museum to the public.

3. Narwhals are real.

And they’re responsible for inspiring unicorn myths. Steward’s museum includes a seven-foot-long Narwhal tooth (yes, they’re actually teeth, not horns. An elongated upper left canine).

4. Sawsharks have actual saws for noses.

Steward has three of them.

5. Sperm whales are huge.

Check out this giant rib bone. Steward’s museum also has a sperm whale vertebrae on display.

6. Carousel horses are masterpieces built by highly skilled wood carvers.

You’ll be amazed at how much there is to learn about carousels when you visit The New England Carousel Museum in Bristol, CT. During the golden age of carousels from 1870 to 1930, Connecticut was home to forty different carousels. Today there are thirteen active carousels, and a lot of history to be digested.

7. Each wooden carousel horse is built using about 27 stacked and carved pieces of wood.

Most horses have hollowed out bellies, and occasionally riders are able to dig out coins, lottery tickets, and rings from within.

8. There are three different styles of carousel horses.

This is Country Fair style. These horses are made to look like the wild west and frequently have holsters and stirrups. Philadelphia style horses are made to look very realistic. And Coney Island style horses are known to be very glamorous.

9. There are also three different stances a carousel horse can take.

This Philadelphia style horse is in a stander. Standers have three or all four legs on the ground and remain in place as the carousel moves. Prancers have their two hind legs on the ground and their two front legs in the air. And Jumpers have all four legs in the air.

10. Jumpers are the only carousel horses that move up and down.

This Coney Island style Jumper is beautifully decorated on its outside half, while its inside is bare.

11. There are more than 5,000 clocks and watches to explore inside this awesome museum.

Despite all of the unique pieces to look at in the Clock & Watch Museum in Bristol, CT, perhaps the most interesting way to explore is with your eyes closed. Ticking, tocking, cuckooing, and buzzing fill all six rooms.

12. Original clock gears were made of wood.

These fine pieces were hand-carved and needed to mesh perfectly with one another in order to keep accurate time.

13. Clocks use the same gears as wind-up toys.

And the first-ever wind-up toys made in the US were hand built in Connecticut.

14. This braille clock has two number scripts that rotate using the same gears as the clock’s two hands.

Braille readers are able to tell the time by lifting the top lid and feeling the number scripts.

15. Dickory, Dickory, Dock clocks came after the popular nursery rhyme.

These vertical clocks were first developed by a man whose daughter was a fan of the Hickory, Dickory, Dock rhyme.

16. Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center is perhaps the most unique spot in the entire state.

Ok, so maybe it’s not a museum, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Wild Bill’s huge collection of vintage odds and ends sits inside of an old Sicilian club in Middletown, CT.

17. This disco ball once spun at Studio 54 in NYC.

And now it hangs from Wild Bill’s 14-foot ceiling.

18. Wild Bill built the world’s largest jack-in-the-box.

And it actually works!

19. The jack-in-the-box is powered by a lawnmower engine.

And a counter weight known as The Ball of Death. You can find springs, traps, mortar shells, and a whale vertebrae inside it.

20. Wild Bill’s next project is the world’s largest and longest walkthrough fun house.

It’s being built right behind the jack-in-the-box, and will be opening Labor Day weekend.

All photos by Joseph Lin / BuzzFeed

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