Inside the CHS

Ever Heard of Nick’s Café?

August 28, 2019 · Collections ·

Founded in 1951, Nick’s Café of Hartford, Connecticut served as a multi-decade cultural institution. However, it was neither the first nor the only gay bar in Connecticut. Despite oppression, many LGBTQ people were not about to return to living solitary, isolated lives after experiencing a brief taste of freedom during the years of World War…
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What is it?

Why, it’s a playing card holder used to do magic tricks, of course! It was used by Albert Walker (1836-1902) of Glastonbury, who was a farmer, craftsman – and magician! Walker also performed puppet and ventriloquist shows, and made his own equipment, including the puppets, magic wands, metal and cardboard cups for ‘disappearing ball’ tricks and…
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The Space Industry in Connecticut

July 3, 2019 · Collections ·

What object is featured in this picture and how did Connecticut aid in its development? It’s the Space Station! Hamilton Standard, now a division of United Technologies Corp., is a Connecticut company that played a major role in the space industry, including the development of the space station. According to Hamilton Standard, the Space Station…
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“Dear Mother and Dady….I am not hurt from the fire”: July 6, 1944

June 28, 2019 · Collections ·

July 6, 2019 marks 75 years since the Hartford circus fire, one of the worst disasters in Connecticut’s history. One hundred and sixty-eight people, 71 under the age of 19, died when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus’s big top caught fire in 1944. The blaze was aided by a strong wind and…
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Name that Instrument!

May 29, 2019 · Collections ·

Can you guess what instrument he’s playing? Hint: it’s not a piano… …It’s a harpsichord! A harpsichord is similar to a piano, but the sounding mechanisms and characteristics of the sounds are slightly different. This is a photo taken in 1955 of a display at G. Fox. & Co., either on a stage or in…
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Guess How Much?

April 25, 2019 · Collections ·

How much did this cream rayon satin wedding gown cost in 1941? Twenty-nine dollars and ninety eight cents. How do we know? We’ve got the original G. Fox & Co. receipt! Barbara Doty married Francis Kane at Plymouth Congregational Church in Thomaston, Connecticut, on 11 October 1941. The bride wore matching pumps and a borrowed…
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…Why, Kate the Great, of course!

March 5, 2019 · Collections ·

Hartford native Katharine Hepburn is a stage and screen legend who inspired designers and influenced fashion. She preferred menswear styles that allowed her to be comfortable and move freely. Her style, once considered eccentric, is now classic. This past October, when some of Katharine Hepburn’s clothing items came up for auction at Augusta Auctions in…
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Isn’t It Romantic! (not really)

January 29, 2019 · Collections ·

At first glance, you might think this is a Valentine. Nope! It’s an 1880s trade card. Trade cards were advertisements, with cute or funny images, that were hugely popular in the late 19th century. They were used to sell household products, medicines, tobacco, and lots of other stuff. People collected them and even pasted them…
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Sabrina helps out with facepainting at Dia de los Muertos at CHS

A Rewarding Autumn at the Historical Society

December 28, 2018 · CCHAP ·

“The collaborative attitude CHS held created a great bond among its workers, which makes volunteers like me want to work even harder for the CHS – not because the school demanded me to do so, but because I fell in love with the community.”

Who is this mystery hunk?

December 26, 2018 · Exhibits ·

Why, Burt Lancaster, of course! The 1968 film The Swimmer was based on a short story of the same name by John Cheever, and filmed largely in Westport, CT! Though its initial reception was lukewarm, it has achieved a cult status. Critic Vincent Canby praised it for its “grim, disturbing and sometimes funny view of…
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Trinity College students at Mas Exhibit at CHS

Arts in Action

December 22, 2018 · CCHAP ·

“One main thing that I can take away from my time volunteering with CCHAP is that it really is important and fulfilling to be involved in the community. Every single person has a story to tell about how they grew up and how their culture influences their daily living.”

2018-2019 Southern New England Apprenticeship Program

December 13, 2018 · CCHAP, CHS Buzz, Latest News ·

The Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program at the Connecticut Historical Society is pleased to announce the 2018-2019 grant recipients for the Southern New England Apprenticeship Program. These grants support skilled traditional artists and craftspeople to intensive teach their expertise to a student apprentice, recognizing that Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island share many ethnic and occupational…
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Hamilton’s Hair

November 30, 2018 · Exhibits ·

Answer: His hair! A small gold locket containing Alexander Hamilton’s hair is in the CHS collection. According to the engraving on the back of the locket, the hair was “given by his descendant to Mrs. Martha Lyman Foster and left by her to Miss E.L. Dixon.” Weird, huh? But still cool! If you are a…
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The Joy of Toys!

November 29, 2018 · Collections ·

Although almost every toy in this display is older than I am, installing Connecticut’s Toy Story took me down memory lane. It’s crazy to think that some of my greatest memories growing up include playing with toys made in Connecticut! Who knew! Like Legos®. Oh, we had some really epic Lego building competitions with my…
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The Cost of War

October 30, 2018 · Exhibits ·

“Had a surprise visit from Matt about a week ago. He came upon our company accidentally while snooping around up near where we were. . . Well as he probably told you I’m well and only hope I can stay well for one month more and then I guess I’ll be safe & sure of…
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No, it’s not a coffin….

September 25, 2018 · Collections ·

  If you guessed that the item was a coffin, you’re close….but not quite correct. It’s a corpse preserver, used in the days before embalming to preserve a body during the mourning period.   This item came to CHS in 1994 from a donor in Middletown who owned a funeral parlor. According to the donor, dad found…
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Progress Sometimes Means Taking the Stairs

August 24, 2018 · Collections ·

1919 and 1920 saw a flurry of activity leading up to the ratification on August 18, 1920 of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. On that date, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment and…
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Constitution State

August 20, 2018 · Collections ·

  Pop Quiz: why is Connecticut’s nickname “the Constitution State”? In 1639, a group of colonists in the newly established Connecticut colony wrote and adopted a governing document known as the “Fundamental Orders.” This document was inspired by a 1638 sermon delivered by Reverend Thomas Hooker, wherein Hooker preached that leaders should be chosen by the…
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Who is this guy, and why did he get kicked out of the YMCA?

July 25, 2018 · Collections, Exhibits ·

George Thayer was a longtime member of the Hartford YMCA. During WWI, he went to France as a volunteer, staffing the recreation ‘huts’ that the YMCA ran there. Thayer was scandalized by what he found there, and wrote a series of letters back home – some published in the Hartford Courant – exposing the “deplorable”…
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Cooking in the Trenches

June 25, 2018 · Collections ·

During World War I, soldiers were issued mess kits for preparing and eating their meals. Mess kits usually consisted of a pan for cooking food, a set of cutlery, and a lid which also served as a plate. This mess kit was owned by George W. Cheney of Manchester who served during World War I. George…
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Green Thumbs

May 25, 2018 · Collections ·

As the weather gets nicer, Connecticans throughout history have taken this opportunity to work outside and garden. This photograph, taken in Hartford’s Riverside Park Children’s Garden in 1905 shows a group of boys getting ready to plant in the garden.   Recently, CHS CEO Jody Blankenship appeared on Better Connecticut to share other garden-related items from…
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Baseball’s Back in Hartford

April 25, 2018 · Collections ·

Baseball has been a family pastime for generations of Connecticans. Hartford has hosted teams from the 19th century Dark Blues to today’s Yard Goats. The CHS will be at the Hartford Yard Goats’ Baseball in Education Days on May 9th, 16th, and 31st with fun activities for kids and adults to do before and during…
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Connecticut’s Enfield Shakers

March 21, 2018 · Collections ·

The Shakers are a religious group that got their name from the vigorous shaking movements made while worshiping. With roots in England, the first Shakers, led by Mother Ann Lee, came to America in 1774. The Enfield, CT Shaker Community (not to be confused with the Enfield Shaker Community in New Hampshire) was established in…
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Teensville: A Sample of Baby Boomer Youth Culture

February 22, 2018 · Collections ·

From 1959 to 1961, West Hartford native Tom Vater hosted a television program on Hartford’s Channel 18 called Teensville. Similar to American Bandstand, Vater played the hit songs of the day and hosted musical acts such as teen heartthrob Bobby Rydell, all while teens from the Greater Hartford area danced along to the music.

A View of 19th Century Middletown

January 29, 2018 · Collections ·

This past April, the CHS was pleased to acquire from Nathan Liverant & Sons a delightful folk art landscape view of Middletown, CT by an unknown artist. This c. 1870-1890 landscape, done in colored pencil, gouache and ink on paper provides a detailed visual depiction of this important river town. From the south, looking north…
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Romulo Chanduví’s Work: A 21st Century Item Joins the CHS Collection

May 5, 2017 · Collections ·

The CHS has accepted a beautiful piece of furniture with an interesting story into our collections. Crafted in 2009 by expert furniture maker Romulo Chanduví in his East Hartford studio, this 18th-century Spanish colonial style chair was designed as one of a pair for a long-time collector of Chanduví’s work.

Indented Bill, was originally a 2 shilling note, altered to 10 shillings, CHS collection, 2016.24.37

Money Money Money: Tax Day and the First Emission of Paper Currency in Connecticut

April 14, 2017 · Collections ·

With Tax Day just around the corner and everyone scrambling to submit their income tax returns by April 18th this year, what better time is there to talk about currency?

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching: Dance Memorabilia in the CHS Collection

March 28, 2017 · Collections ·

The month of March may be known for basketball’s Big Dance, but it also commemorates special anniversaries in dance. This Friday commemorates the 94th observation of Dance Marathon Day, and March marks the 35th anniversary of the Connecticut Ballet, among other special dates in the coming months. Connecticut Historical Society’s collection includes a variety of dance cards, performance programs, photographs, and manuscript materials surrounding this art form.

How the Pay Telephone Was Invented in Connecticut

March 5, 2017 · Collections ·

Did you know that the pay telephone was invented here in Connecticut?

Chief Curator’s Collection Corner — Peanuts Lunchbox

May 13, 2016 · Collections ·

By Ilene J. Frank, Chief Curator Did you carry a lunch box to school? I did. I remember I had a Ziggy one in first grade that I just loved. Lunchboxes, especially those we carried to school, are a link to our childhoods. In 2001, Elizabeth Triplett Blakelock donated to the CHS her Peanuts lunchbox, which she carried…
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Newgate Prison Document Acquired

April 21, 2016 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

A very recent addition to the CHS collection is a Revolutionary War era document related to Newgate Prison. Documents like these don’t come around very often.

The Flood of 1936

March 4, 2016 · Collections ·

On March 11, 1936, heavy rains fell over New England. For the next two weeks, as rivers rose from melting snow and as a second rain storm hit, the residents of Connecticut and up to half of the Eastern United States prepared for historic floods. In Hartford, the Connecticut River rose to 38 feet. Smaller…
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Keimani Q Delpeche

A spectacular exhibit. An enduring partnership.

August 19, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Exhibits, Latest News ·

By Lynne Williamson and Jody Blankenship In June, the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CHAP) became a part of the Connecticut Historical Society. Originally developed by and based at the Institute for Community Research in Hartford since 1991, CHAP is a wonderful program that works with communities across the state to document and share all…
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Broadside Detail

The first documented mass murder-suicide in North America? Wethersfield, Connecticut, 1782

August 11, 2015 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

By Barbara Austen What goes through the minds of those who murder groups of people, often our youngest and most vulnerable, for no apparent reason? While these horrible actions continue to haunt our nation, they are not new in our history. Did you know that the first documented mass murder-suicide in North America occurred in…
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Sampler by Susanna Spencer in 1761

The pre-Revolutionary world of a young Connecticut needleworker

August 5, 2015 · CHS Buzz ·

By Ilene Frank Ilene Frank recently joined the Connecticut Historical Society as chief curator. From time to time, she’ll write about what’s new with the collection, educational programs and exhibitions. Why do museums keep collecting objects? In this day of digital imagery, can’t a picture be enough? What does a diary, or a skirt, or…
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Callie & Melissa with Bathing Suits

Summer Interns Create Beach Display at the CHS

July 23, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Exhibits ·

Callie Prince and Melissa Traub are this year’s Dangremond Museum Studies Interns at the Connecticut Historical Society. Through this ten-week internship, they are gaining exposure to different aspects of the museum field. Melissa and Callie’s first assignment was in developing and setting up a new display, Trends in the Tides: Connecticut’s Beaches that opened July…
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Apollo 13 Movie Poster

This Wednesday @CTHistorical: A Movie Under (and about!) the Stars

Houston, we really have a problem, due to inclement weather, tonight’s showing of Apollo 13 has been cancelled, and rescheduled to next week, July 22, at 8:15 pm, doors open at 7:00 for access to the Connecticut 50 Objects/50 Stories exhibit.

An Animated Discussion

Connecting & Building Communities

July 10, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Latest News ·

In the summer of 2014, the exhibit Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Screen and Stage was on display at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS). I had just begun to work at the welcome desk and was impressed by the droves of people who visited the exhibit every day.

Ice

Enjoying summer, remembering (and still recovering from) winter

July 1, 2015 · CHS Buzz ·

By Kevin Hughes, Director of Administration at the CHS Summer is upon us and warm weather beckons us outdoors. In many respects, February is a distant memory. Or is it? February 2015 in Hartford was one for the record books. With an average daily temperature of 16 degrees, it eclipsed the old record of 16.5…
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Reading to Baby

Hands-On History: Home School Days at CHS

By Corinne Swanson, Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs at the CHS Last week, the CHS education staff wrapped up our last school programs for the 2014-2015 school year, bringing a very busy year to a close. However, even after all the school buses left, we held our Home School Day: Summer Kick-Off on Monday,…
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