In 1705 a group of colonists in Simsbury, Connecticut founded a copper mine, which the Connecticut General Assembly purchased and turned into a prison in 1773.
How did an old copper mine function as a prison?
Morgan Bengel, a Museum Assistant at the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine, a Connecticut State Historic Site, helps us investigate both the history of early American mining and the history of early American prisons by taking us on a tour of the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine in East Granby, Connecticut.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
Morgan Bengel, a Museum Assistant at the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine Connecticut State Historic Site, offers us a look at both the history of early American mining and the history of early American prisons by taking us on a tour of the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine in East Granby, Connecticut.
During our exploration, Morgan reveals the history of the founding and operation of the Simsbury, Connecticut copper mine; Why the colony of Connecticut purchased the old Simsbury Copper Mine and turned its tunnels into a prison; And, details about the daily lives and experiences of those who served time in the Old Newgate Prison between 1773 and 1827.
What You’ll Discover
- History of the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine
- Copper deposits in colonial Connecticut
- Establishing a copper mine in colonial America
- 18th-century mining techniques
- Miners of the Simsbury Copper Mines
- Transition of Simsbury Copper Mines into the Newgate Prison
- Establishment of colonial jails
- Crime in colonial Connecticut
- Why turn a mine into a prison
- Prison cells and living conditions at Newgate
- Daily life for Newgate prisoners
- Connecticut and Newgate as a revolutionary prison
- Comparing prison with debtors’ prison
- What happened to prisoners after release
- How to tour the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine historic site
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Morgan Bengel
- Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine
- Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine Special Events
- Old Newgate on Facebook
- Omohundro Institute
- Susan Sleeper-Smith, Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest (Listener-Only 40-Percent Discount Code 01BFW)
- Episode 079: James Horn, What is a Historical Source? (Colonial Jamestown)
- Episode 080: Jen Manion, Liberty’s Prisoners: Prisons and Prison Life in Early America
- Episode 123: Revolutionary Allegiances
- Episode 170: Wendy Warren: New England Bound: Slavery in Early New England
- Episode 181: Virginia DeJohn Anderson: The Martyr and the Traitor: Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar
Time Warp Question
In your opinion, what might have happened if Connecticut had not transformed the Simsbury Copper Mine into a prison? Would the history of crime and punishment in Connecticut have evolved differently? Would there have been any impact on early Americans’ attitudes toward crime and punishment elsewhere in the young United States?
Questions, Comments, Suggestions
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