Inside the CHS

About Nancy

Nancy Finlay is Curator of Graphics at the Connecticut Historical Society. She has a B.A. from Smith College and an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. She is responsible for images and artwork that are flat and on paper (Original Prints, Drawings, Photographs, Postcards, Maps, etc.).


Articles by Nancy:

Sending New Year’s Greetings

December 31, 2013 · Collections

Did you know that New Year’s cards were once nearly as common and popular as Christmas cards?  While Christmas was at first a religious and then a family holiday, New Year’s Day was long a traditional occasion for visiting one’s friends and exchanging good wishes.  It was also a purely secular holiday, celebrated and enjoyed…
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Celebrating Christmas in Connecticut

December 24, 2013 · Collections

Looking at old prints and photographs in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, I’m surprised how little Christmas customs have changed over the years.  Though Christmas in colonial Connecticut was primarily a religious affair, by the Victorian age, it had become a family holiday, complete with presents delivered by Santa and those eight tiny…
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Inside the Artist’s Studio

December 18, 2013 · Collections

When the family of artist Richard Welling gave the contents of his studio to the Connecticut Historical Society in 2011 and 2012, they not only donated a vast collection of drawings, prints, and photographs, they also donated the brushes and pens and magic markers that Welling used to create his iconic images, the binoculars that…
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Blinded by the Glare

December 3, 2013 · Collections

David F. Armstrong of Groton, Connecticut patented the device in this photograph in 1906.  At that time, most automobiles were equipped with acetylene headlights, which apparently gave an impressive amount of light.  The concept of low beams did not exist; drivers simply coped with the dazzling light of oncoming cars as best they could.  Accidents…
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Sarah Bishop’s Cave

November 26, 2013 · Collections

A photograph by Marie Kendall in the current exhibition at the Connecticut Historical Society depicts Sarah Bishop’s Cave, a hollow in the rocks overlooking a deep valley on West Mountain in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  Who was Sarah Bishop and what was she doing in this cave?  According to historian Samuel Goodrich, who remembered meeting Sarah in…
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Monument to Progress

November 19, 2013 · Collections

Richard Welling had a way of coming up with perspectives that make us see familiar subjects in a new light. In this view of the construction of Interstate 84 in 1966, the piers that will support the highway loom like ancient monoliths, like the remains of a lost culture. What might future civilizations make of…
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What’s Going On Here?

November 12, 2013 · Collections

A man with a hoe stands atop a huge smoldering heap of dirt, while smoke emerges from a second pile nearby. What’s going on here? What lies beneath the dirt, and what exactly is this man doing? The production of charcoal began in ancient times, and the methods used for small-scale charcoal production changed very…
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Heartbreak Hotel

November 5, 2013 · Collections

Does anyone recognize the grand Victorian structure in this drawing? Richard Welling drew the Heublein Hotel in 1965 as it was in the process of being torn down to make way for Bushnell Towers. At the time, Welling was experimenting with drawing with magic markers on soft sketchpad paper. The colors bled through to the…
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A Specialist in Cemeteries

October 29, 2013 · Collections

Some engineers specialize in land surveys, others in laying out highways or railroads. Benjamin F. Hatheway specialized in the design of cemeteries. Hatheway was born in 1827. I’m not sure when he developed his interest in the lovely rural cemeteries that were so popular in the nineteenth century, but he designed a lot of them,…
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Another Woman Photographer: Edith Watson of East Windsor

October 22, 2013 · Collections

Last week the Connecticut Historical Society opened an exhibition celebrating the achievement of three Connecticut women photographers. Of course, Marie Kendall, Harriet Thorne, and Rollie McKenna weren’t the only women to take photographs in Connecticut. Another woman photographer, who is not well- represented in our collections, but who has always fascinated me, is Edith Watson…
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The Names Have Been Changed

October 15, 2013 · Collections

Look at any really old map of Connecticut—from about 1800 or earlier—and you’ll see lots of unfamiliar place names. In part this is simply because spelling had not been standardized, but many places were simply called different things at different points in time. The Native Americans had their own names and so did the Dutch….
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Planning the Transcontinental Railroad

October 8, 2013 · Collections

The Connecticut Historical Society has just completed a major map project, Maps and Charts: Finding Your Place in Connecticut History, with funding from Connecticut Humanities and the William and Alice Mortensen Foundation. Eight hundred maps from the CHS collection may now be viewed in the CHS online catalog. This 1853 map showing proposed routes for…
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Hartford Rises

October 2, 2013 · Collections

A couple of weeks ago I shared one of my favorite drawings by Richard Welling, a view of the old E. M. Loew’s Theater on Asylum Street just before it was torn down to make way for the Hartford Civic Center. This reproduction of an 1982 drawing by Welling shows what went up on the…
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The Statue on the Green

September 24, 2013 · Collections

The Hartford photographer William G. Dudley took this photograph of a Civil War monument on the town green in Glastonbury shortly after it was erected to commemorate Frederick M. Barber and other Glastonbury men killed in the Civil War. Barber, a captain with the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, died on September 20, 1862 of wounds…
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The World of Tomorrow

September 17, 2013 · Collections

I was fifteen years old when I went to the 1964 New York World’s Fair with my parents.  I’d never been to Disneyland and pavilions and fair fulfilled all my fantasies of the ultimate amusement park.  The other day when I came across this postcard of the Travelers Insurance Company pavilion in the collection here…
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Monkeys in Connecticut

September 10, 2013 · Collections

What’s the monkey doing in this picture? When I started working on a talk about nineteenth-century prints of monkeys by Hartford’s Kellogg brothers, I was surprised to find that most of the monkeys in these pictures were domestic pets. Monkeys were often featured in the traveling menageries that toured Connecticut during the first half of…
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Make Way for Concrete and Steel

September 3, 2013 · Collections

E. M. Loew’s Theater at 174 Asylum Street in Hartford was one of the city’s landmark movie theaters.  Formerly the Majestic, it was the first theater in Hartford to show “talkies,” motion pictures accompanied by a sound track.  This radical innovation took place in 1929.  But by the 1960s, the inner city had fallen on…
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Photo-Finish

August 27, 2013 · Collections

Today it’s standard practice for a photograph to be taken at the end of a horse race showing the exact positions of the horses as they cross the finish line. In the 1880s, this technology was in its infancy and this photograph showing the conclusion of the 1889 Charter Oak stakes at Charter Oak Park…
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Three Young Engineers

August 20, 2013 · Collections

When the United States Coast Survey set out to compile detailed charts of New Haven Harbor in the 1870s, they hired recent graduates of Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School as assistants. George Benjamin Chittenden worked on a large 1872 chart of the harbor.  Horace Andrews and James P. Bogart both worked on the even large and…
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Barber’s Trees

August 13, 2013 · Collections

The New Haven artist John Warner Barber knew a lot about trees. When he traveled around Connecticut in the early 1830s making sketches for his book, Connecticut Historical Collections, he carefully noted the species of the trees, so that he would be able to portray them correctly in the wood-engraved illustrations. Many of his drawings…
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Where in Connecticut?

August 6, 2013 · Collections

This pristine inlet looks like it might be somewhere in downeast Maine.  An old farmhouse sits in a grassy field that runs down to the water.  Dense trees line the cove and another body of water and a barren hillside are in the background.  There isn’t a sailboat or a motor yacht in sight—of course…
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Cows in Hartford

July 30, 2013 · Collections

It’s hard to imagine cows grazing in the city of Hartford, but they were a common sight during the 1800s. These urban cows hardly ever show up in photographs, but they are documented in a series of drawings by Edwin Augustus Moore, a local animal painter specializing in pictures of cattle. A number of his…
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The Boys of Summer

July 23, 2013 · Collections

A group of boys cool off in the swimming hole at their summer camp. The time is the mid-1930s and one of the boys is Stanley Budleski, the son of Polish immigrants living in Wallingford, Connecticut. Young Stanley was fascinated by airplanes and spent much time at the local airport.  Upon graduating from high school,…
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In the Aftermath of Gettysburg

July 9, 2013 · Collections

Thirteen hundred men from Connecticut took part in the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1 to 3, 1863. When the battle was over, sixty-nine were dead and 291 were wounded, captured or missing.  Overall the two armies suffered nearly fifty thousand casualties. George Baldwin, a soldier in the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, one of the…
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Remembering the Revolution

July 2, 2013 · Collections

Connecticut artist John Trumbull was an old man when he produced his iconic painting showing the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut in 1756 and was the son of Connecticut’s governor Jonathan Trumbull.  Young Trumbull served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War from 1776 to 1777, part of…
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Siege and Capture of Vicksburg: Heroic Charge of Union Volunteers

June 25, 2013 · Collections

E.B. & E.C. Kellogg, Hartford, Connecticut’s leading lithographers at the time of the Civil War, produced countless patriotic prints during the early years of the conflict. I’ve often wondered why they made fewer and fewer prints as the war dragged on. It seems likely that their customers were growing war-weary, and the increasingly bloody and…
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French Influences

June 18, 2013 · Collections

Why would a firm in Hartford, Connecticut issue a print showing the French Emperor Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo? Because a French lithographer was working for that firm and would continue to work for them for more than thirty years. However, there must have been a market for such prints, because the Kelloggs issued…
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Connecticut’s Lost Picnic Areas

June 11, 2013 · Collections

Just about every Sunday in the 1950s, our family would pile in the car, and my father would drive to Dick’s, the local filling station, and get one dollar’s worth of gas. Then we would head off to the back roads of Connecticut, frequently stopping for lunch at one of the many roadside rests scattered…
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Big Berries and Lots of Them!

June 4, 2013 · Collections

“Hale Brothers, South Glastonbury, Conn., have printed 25,000 of this Catalogue, and will print an extra edition if necessary, so that all may learn of the wonderful productiveness of THE MANCHESTER Strawberry… Anyone who wants BIG BERRIES will receive our catalogue free, also a beautifully colored plate showing one foot of a row of the…
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They Also Served

May 28, 2013 · Collections

Miss Jordan, Miss Carpenter, and Miss Marsh appear in a photograph album from the 1860s that once belonged to Sergeant William Huntington of Lebanon, Connecticut and is now in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society. Huntington was a member of the 8th Connecticut Volunteers and was wounded at the Battle of Antietam on September…
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On their Way to the Mexican War

May 21, 2013 · Collections

After the United States offered statehood to Texas, Mexico severed diplomatic relations. By May 1846, a state of war existed between the two countries, and volunteer militia units began preparing for battle. This lithograph shows the Springfield Light Guard encamped in Branford, Connecticut. I’m not sure why the Hartford lithographers E.B. & E.C. Kellogg depicted…
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We’re with You, Ella!

May 14, 2013 · Collections

May 10 was the birthday of Ella Grasso, the first woman in the United States to become Governor in her own right. She would have been ninety-four years old. Grasso was born in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, the daughter of Italian immigrants. She was elected Governor of Connecticut in 1975. This photograph shows her campaigning for…
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How Hartford Heard about the Lusitania

May 7, 2013 · Collections

On May 7, 1915, the RMS Lusitania sank off the coast of Ireland from damage caused by a German submarine’s torpedo. The news appeared in The Hartford Times, Hartford’s evening newspaper, that same afternoon. The Hartford Courant, a morning paper, first carried news of the disaster the following morning. Even before these detailed accounts appeared…
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A Glimpse of Hellen Keller in Her Garden

Nothing is more ephemeral than a garden, unless it’s a person. Gardens change from season to season and most often die with their creators, leaving nothing but memories.  Photography has the magical ability to bring back lost gardens and people long dead.  Helen Keller had a garden full of fragrant flowers at her home, Arcan…
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One of Hartford’s Heroes

April 30, 2013 · Collections

In this photograph taken in the early 1870s, the men of Hartford’s Blake Fire Engine Company No. 7 pose with their steam engine. Although the photograph shows only the engine itself, giving the impression that it was self-propelled, it would have been drawn by fire horses. We don’t know much about the men in the…
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Justice to Ireland

March 15, 2013 · Collections

One of my favorite things in the Graphics Collection at the Connecticut Historical Society is an 1866 hand-colored lithograph by E.B. & E.C. Kellogg of Hartford entitled “Justice to Ireland.”  It shows an allegorical figure of a woman personifying Ireland wielding a sword and waving the Fenian banner, while trampling on the prostrate body of…
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