What is this?

March 28, 2013 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Governor John Winthrop, Jr. chairOur exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. Starting in May, the blog will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week.

What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more,


Chair, made of red oak, originally owned by Governor John Winthrop Jr., 1660-1675, gift of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

This chair belonged to the Connecticut Colony’s Governor John Winthrop, Jr. around 1660 to 1675. He was one of the best-known physicians in colonial New England, in part because of his research on alchemy, an early form of chemistry, which blended science, magic, and religion. Winthrop’s new chemical (rather than herbal) medicines were thought to have been revealed to man by God.


Illustrations of three theories of the organization of the universe from Astro-theology: Or, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, from a Survey of the Heavens by W. Derham, London, 1731, originally published 1714.

The Governor’s extensive scientific library included books by Galileo, and he owned a telescope with which he made astronomical observations. But astrology also played a role in early medical treatment. Because of this, some historians question the meaning of the designs on Winthrop’s chair.

Are they just decorative flowers and circles? Are they astrological symbols? Or are they a representation of the solar system?

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