Inside the CHS

About Barbara

Barbara Austen is the Archivist at CHS and is responsible for all of the incoming manuscripts, which means she gets to read people's diaries or mail. She has a master's Degree in Library and Information Science and has been working in the museum and historical society world for 30 years.

Articles by Barbara:

Know All Men by These Presents

May 10, 2011 · Collections, Manuscripts

A recent addition to our collection is a deed in which the widow Easter Smith of Middletown, Connecticut, transferred all her rights, title and interest in the real and personal estate of her late husband Rev. Joseph Smith, to their only son Joseph.  Included in the transfer is “also all the right, title or interest…
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Camp Near Pollock’s Mill, Virginia

April 28, 2011 · Collections, Manuscripts

We made another great discovery as we continue to catalog our backlog (thanks to NHPRC), and it is yet another document without any author or provenance. This one is a map of what appears to be a Union camp along a river, sometime and some place during the Civil War. The handwritten key to the…
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An epic poem about a dastardly man

April 19, 2011 · Collections, Manuscripts

We find some really amazing material while we catalog our manuscript backlog with funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. My least favorite part of all of this discovery, however, is finding something really neat that has no author and no record of how we acquired the item! Such is the case with…
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March 14, 2011 · Collections, Manuscripts

It is funny how things seem to come in batches. Recently, as part of our NHPRC grant, I cataloged several documents related to the War of 1812, one right after the other.  The most interesting document, at least to me, was what appeared to be a draft of a message written by Marsh Ely, commander…
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Uncle Tom’s Cabin

March 8, 2011 · Collections, Manuscripts

On November 25, 1882, the public was invited to attend two performances of the “Standard Combination” version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin at Roberts’ Opera House in Hartford, Connecticut. We recently acquired a ticket to the performance, a bright yellow rectangle of cardboard with the ticket information on one side and a vignette of slaves dancing…
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Her grosgrain goune blacke

January 25, 2011 · Collections, Manuscripts

This is the first item listed on the two-page inventory of the estate of Elizabeth Welles of Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1683. We rarely come upon an inventory that dates this early, and even fewer that were of estates of women. Of course, it helps that she was the widow of Governor Thomas Welles. And in…
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Hannah Hadassah Hickok

November 9, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts

It is almost like reading Jane Austen, but it dates from about 30 years earlier. That is what I like best about one of our latest additions to the collections. Hannah Hadassah Hickok was born in South Britain, Connecticut ,in 1767. Her diary No. 2, (I wish we had No. 1) which dates from February…
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A previously unknown Connecticut furniture maker discovered

August 27, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts

When the initial query came about our interest in an account book of a furniture maker, I was not overwhelmed. Until, that is, I received a scan of the very first page. The entry that caught my eye read “Eliza Punderson sampler frame 12 x 8 1/2”. Now that got my attention! One rarely if…
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More to the story

August 5, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts

We have a very extensive and well known collection of Civil War-related diaries and correspondence, so we made the decision last year to collect selectively in this area. So, why did we recently add to the collection the correspondence of Joseph H. Cummings of Waterbury, Connecticut? What makes this particular set of letters exciting and…
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Political satire in 1934

July 20, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts

Do we ever really learn from history? Last week I found a satirical piece called “The 1934 Psalm” that blames President Roosevelt for the financial misfortunes of the country during the Great Depression.  It is actually quite clever. But I was struck by how today, depending on your political leanings, you could substitute Obama or…
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“As I have nothing else to do . . .”

July 8, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts

Don’t you love holiday traffic when everyone seems to be on the same road, at the same time, going the same way? Imagine if you were at the mercy of the weather–or more exactly, the wind. Recently added to our collections is a poem, penned by Alexander Bushnell (1771-1838) while on a ship traveling from…
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It is the story that counts

March 8, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts

We are always trying to find an interesting story to tell with items in our collections. Our latest acquisition was, in a way, its own story. We purchased a letter written January 23, 1863,  by George N. Downs who was serving with the Company B of the 22nd Connecticut Volunteers. The letter was  to his…
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I David Barlow, of Sherman

February 12, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts

A very recent addition to the collection had me hopping up and down with excitement. We now have  copies of two wills, one written by David Barlow in 1814, and the other by his wife, Sarah Barlow, written in 1822. The couple lived in Sherman, Connecticut. My original interest in these documents was that David…
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A messy divorce, 19th century style

November 11, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts

Sometimes, our volunteers and interns have all the fun!  If you can call divorce fun.  In the papers of Augustine Harlow (Ms 68508), processed by Zac Mirecki, are a series of letters from Augustine’s sister Flora Barry who was living in Boston.  The letters date from 1872-1873,  and in them she details the actions of…
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April 16, 1701

May 22, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, in her book Good Wives, uses the term “deputy husband” in describing one of many roles a woman assumed as a wife.   Sarah Butler was acting as a “deputy husband” when she gave her consent to William Gaylord to propose marriage to her daughter Hope.  A remarkable letter written by Sarah Butler…
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Hartford’s Mayor Mortensen

May 8, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts

William Mortensen was born in Hartford in 1903, the son of Danish immigrants. He attended Antioch College in Ohio and took classes at the Hartford College of Law.  For 40 years Mortensen managed the Bushnell Memorial Hall. Upon his retirement, well-wishers included Carol Channing, with whom he had posed for a photograph when the actress…
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Stonington, Connecticut.

April 23, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts

One of the largest collections cataloged for our grant project was the Stonington selectmen’s records, 1792-1903.  The collection, measures 30.25 linear feet (61 boxes) and dates from the entire 19th century, the bulk of the records are from the 1880s and 1890s. Earlier records, from the 1820s, have yielded names of colored people (a term…
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Connecticut composers

April 15, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts

Herman Katims, and his wife Miriam Lapin Katims,  were pianists and composers who lived for many years in the Rowayton section of Norwalk, Connecticut. The couple each had several pieces of music published. The collection contains copies of their copyright registrations with the Library of Congress. Copies of their songs, including “Caprice and Fuge”, “No…
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Anchors and figureheads

April 9, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts

Although small in size, the collection of Noah Scovell shipping papers, 1768-1812, is filled with some fascinating information.  The collection consists primarily of correspondence and bills and receipts of a Saybrook, Connecticut, ship captain and shipowner and his son. Letters discuss such topics as trading in the West Indies and Portugal, purchasing anchors in New…
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Bells in East Hampton.

April 2, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts

As part of our NHPRC-funded cataloging project, archivists are looking through collections that have never been cataloged and adding records for our online catalog.  One recently cataloged collection is N.N. Hill Brass Co. Records, 1893-1917, Ms 100549.  The collection consists of cash books, sales records, labor accounts, ledgers, invoice books, factory order slips, factory inventories,…
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Founding Fathers

November 26, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

I have been unnaturally quiet recently, working feverishly on cataloging at least 900 collections before September 2010.  I am not doing this alone, however.  I am ably assisted by Project Archivist Jennifer Sharp, several volunteers, and CHS’s Assistant Archivist Cyndi Harbeson.  Since September 1 we have created more than 150 catalog records.  We are off…
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Two notable families

July 17, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

We just acquired a particularly rich family collection that we hope researchers will use a lot.  It consists of correspondence among members of the Terry and Bacon families of Hartford and New Haven, respectively.  Nathaniel Terry, the progenitor of the family, married Catherine Wadsworth.  Nathaniel was mayor of Hartford and a Congressman.  His sons were…
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Eli Whitney orders supplies for his armory

July 8, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

Eli Whitney, best known for inventing the cotton gin, was also a pioneer in mass-producing firearms.  There is little documentation, however, about this aspect of his engineering prowess. In a letter CHS recently acquired, Whitney himself provides some specifics. The letter was written to John Adam of the Forbes & Adam foundry in Canaan.  Whitney…
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Boy Scout Jamboree, 1953

May 28, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

I have not posted to the blog for ages; too many things got in the way, I am afraid.  But I am back! On Thursday of this week, we received the most remarkable scrapbook. It was created by a young man from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Andrew Twaddle, who in 1953 took a cross-country train trip to…
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March 21, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

No matter how many I see, I still get the chills when reading and handling a bill of sale for a person.  We recently acquired just such a document.  Benjamin Payne of Hartford sold a Negro Woman named Minnah to Samuel Forbes of Canaan for fifty-two pounds, ten shillings.  This particular bill of sale caught…
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Librarians and War Bond Workers

March 8, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

While perusing an unprocessed collection last week, I came upon a fascinating pamphlet published by the War Finance Committee.  Its title is “A New Way for Librarians and War Bond Workers to help their communities help their country win the War.”  Connecticut is used as one of the examples of how the program works. “Public…
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Iron industry in Litchfield County

January 29, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

There are so many topics for research in this collection, I don’t know where to start. We just acquired 48 account books that belonged to John Adam and Samuel Forbes, both individually and as the partnership Forbes & Adam. These two men were instrumental in developing the iron industry around East Canaan, Connecticut. Adam lived…
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Pomfret helps a prisoner of war

January 18, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts

Things have been a bit hectic here as we reorganize the operation of the library and museum, and our accessions have not been as fast and furious as usual.  However, we did acquire in December a fascinating document related to a Revolutionary War prisoner.  Evidently William Dodd, of Falmouth, Maine, who had been held prisoner…
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Shay’s Rebellion in Connecticut

December 17, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

An obscure bit of New England and constitutional history recently came into our collections. Colonel David Humphreys of Connecticut was charged with raising a small army to suppress Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts. In a letter to Governor Samuel Huntington, dated December 18, 1786, Humphreys informed the governor “of all the resignations which have taken place,…
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Girl Scout diary

October 11, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Jean Harrison of Bridgeport kept a diary in 1946 and it recently found its way into the CHS library. The entries are written in what is entitled a Girl Scout Diary, with information on the history of scouting at the front, essays on safety toward the back, and historical tidbits sprinkled throughout the volume. I…
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Rufus Raises a Ruckus

September 26, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Just arrived today is a terrific document, a complaint against Rufus Cheadle (1756-1816) of Coventry, Connecticut. The complaint is made by Joseph Talcott, Justice of the Peace, December 14, 1807. Cheadle has “fallen into scandalous offenses” and “has for a long time kept himself from the Communion table,” according to Talcott. Talcott then goes on…
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Albert Walker, magician, redux

September 12, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

At long last, Albert Walker, the magician of Glastonbury, Connecticut, has had his diaries reunited. Twenty-two volumes dating from 1867-1895 recently arrived on our doorstep. Unfortunately, they shed no additional light on his magic performances, with one exception. On April 20, 1867, he went to Hartford to see some Japanese performers. Inside the back cover…
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Confused sexual orientation

August 9, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Pearson Kipp was a bank loan officer who lived in Wallingford and commuted to New Haven in the 1940s. The Historical Society just acquired two of his diaries, from 1947 and 1948. On March 14, 1947, he wrote “On the train coming home there appeared to be a strange reversal of my traditional yearning. I…
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Tauber Co. and Tauberlak kefir

August 1, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Articles have been written about the Jewish farmers of Connecticut, but it was only recently that the CHS received its first related records. Benjamin and Mary Tauber operated a farm in Uncasville. In the 1930 census his primary language is listed as Yiddish and hers was Russian.  These Russian immigrants developed a “honey malt tonic”…
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Housatonic Valley Pomona

It seems agriculture is really on the wane in this state given the closing of local and regional granges. The records of the subordinate or local grange in Gaylordsville were the first to be preserved at the CHS. And now we have the records, 1902-2006, of the regional grange known as the Housatonic Valley Pomona….
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July 12, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Conspiracy theories abound, it seems, even in the 1860s. A new collection arrived last week, and the most fascinating documents in it were a transcript of a state Supreme Court case against Austin F. Williams who was accused of adultery, and his rebuttal. Both date from 1864. The transcript is hard to decipher, but includes…
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Missionary to Hawaii, Amos Cooke

July 5, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

A collection we have had for a while but has never been fully processed consists primarily of letters from missionary Amos Starr Cooke and his wife Juliette to Amos’s sister Mary Keeler Seeley of Danbury, Conn. The letters from Hawaii start in 1837 and the last one is dated 1854, although Amos did not die…
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Larrabee Fund

June 26, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

When I was in graduate school the first time, I developed a course to study social movements of the 19th century, including abolitionism, womens’ rights, etc. There were a lot of women’s groups formed to help more unfortunate women. But today, I finished cataloging the treasurer’s records for a charitable fund created by a MAN….
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Leena Cravzow Lippman

June 22, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Leena Cravzow (1913-2006), the daughter of Russian Jews, was an accomplished pianist in Hartford. She attended Julliard School of Music and also took lessons from the noted pianist R. Augustus Lawson. Lawson, who was African American and Indian, was born in Kentucky but moved with his family to Hartford. He studied at Fisk University and…
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Frank Smith correspondence

June 20, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

How would you feel if your younger son went off to war? Annie Smith of New London, was nearly beside herself when son Frank joined the Quartermaster Corp in 1918. Her letters to him, part of the many letters sent to popular Frank, are filled with comments about how much she misses him, how she…
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