Inside the CHS

Hartford Blooms at CHS

June 24, 2014 · Collections ·

At the end of the nineteenth century, much of the west part of Hartford was still farmland. Cows grazed in the meadows along the Park River, where small boys went swimming in the summertime. But the area was beginning to build up, primarily with great estates, but also with more modest homes in the neighborhood…
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In Lieu of Virtual Keys…

June 23, 2014 · Collections ·

While many of us have become accustomed to the world of virtual keys on tablets, phones and laptops, we often forget about the technologies that came before them, such as the typewriter. In 1868, a man by the name of Christopher Latham Sholes received a patent for his invention of the typewriter, which spawned a…
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Richard Welling’s Lino Blocks

June 20, 2014 · Collections ·

Linoleum blocks, either mounted onto particle board or left unmounted, are perfect for printmaking. The linoleum is soft enough that it can be carved into with a knife or special chisel-like tools. The areas that are carved out will not appear in the print; ink gets applied to the raised, uncut portions of the block,…
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The Mystery Shoes

June 18, 2014 · Collections ·

The Connecticut Historical Society has been collecting costume and textile items since the 1840s.  With all of those wonderful objects floating around it is hard to solve all of their mysteries.  One particular mystery has intrigued me since I started here, and I thought I would share it with all of you….

Oh, you meant that Smith!

I love mystery stories and I find that reference questions let me play sleuth every once in awhile. That happened last week when a nice gentleman from South Dakota contacted me about a manuscript he had that was a “religious exegesis” on the book of Romans written in Greek and English. On the cover of…
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What is this?

June 17, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, showcases over 40 costumes form Hepburn’s illustrious film and stage career. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its background every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

A Day at the Beach

During the nineteenth century, a trip to the beach was a major expedition, not something to be undertaken lightly. Because of the difficulties of travel, people went to the shore for weeks or months at a time. Only the very well-to-do could afford such extended vacations, and the less-than-affluent primarily frequented those resorts that were…
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Flowers are Blooming!

June 14, 2014 · Education ·

Summer is right around the corner – the weather is getting warmer, the grass has turned a brighter green, and flowers are popping up in gardens all over the state! Perhaps one of the most amazing Connecticut gardens to view at this time of year is the Rose Garden at Elizabeth Park (Hartford, CT). The…
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In Praise of Porches

June 13, 2014 · Collections ·

With the arrival of summer weather each year I think back to the joys of what I call “front porch living.” Unfortunately, it is an experience that has become more and more rare for a variety of reasons.

Dr. Thompson’s Celebrated Eye Water

June 11, 2014 · Collections ·

Joseph Thompson of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote a letter to his uncle Dr. Isaac Thompson of New London, Connecticut, in May, 1842. Joseph related the peaceful death of two of his sisters within a week of each other and how devastated he felt. His mother, he mentions, is also dying. While the above tale is a…
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The Mountain Laurel is in Bloom Again

June 10, 2014 · Collections ·

Certain flowers remind me of certain people. Trailing arbutus reminds me of my father, who knew where to find it growing in the woods around Manchester, where I grew up. Hybrid tea roses remind me of my mother, who grew them in her garden. Mountain laurel reminds me of a woman I never knew, who…
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Got Style?

June 9, 2014 · CHS Buzz ·

Katharine Hepburn was stunning wearing this grey silk marquisette gown in Stage Door (1937), but the beautiful draping of organza and chiffon of silk crepe de chine is just the start of the story this dress tells about how movies were made in the 1930s and how museums research and restore the items in their…
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Hepburn: So Good It’s Scary

June 6, 2014 · Exhibits ·

Only the greatest actors can inhabit a character so fully that you forget who’s who. Daniel Day-Lewis is not Daniel Day-Lewis. He IS Abraham Lincoln. He IS Hawkeye. Christian Bale IS retired boxer Dicky Ecklund. Adam Sandler IS . . . Adam Sandler. This is my way of complimenting Katharine Hepburn. If she wasn’t a…
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Kicking Back in Baltimore

June 5, 2014 · Collections ·

The Connecticut Historical Society has always been the type of institution to encourage employees to attend conferences, lectures, etc. that help them continue to gain knowledge and skills that will help in their jobs.  Last week I had the opportunity to attend one of my favorite conferences in Baltimore, Maryland.  It was three full days…
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He survived Andersonville Prison

June 4, 2014 · Collections ·

Diaries and letters of Civil War soldiers from Connecticut form a large part of our manuscript holdings, so I don’t go out of my way to add more material unless it tells a previously unknown or undocumented bit of history. That is how and why we acquired a certificate issued to Alonzo G. Case of…
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What is this?

June 3, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, showcases over 40 costumes form Hepburn’s illustrious film and stage career. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its background every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

Where in Connecticut?

The gracious old house has a wide veranda and is surrounded by mature trees. In the photograph, it is autumn, and the ground is littered with leaves, but in spring, the gardens must have been a riot of color. There was a coach house, a barn with one of the first basketball hoops in the…
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Being a Teacher- Part Two

June 2, 2014 · Education ·

Teaching in a museum setting is such a different experience than teaching in a school. As a museum educator I have a chance to work off of lesson plans,with no homework or tests, to grade. The students are there to have fun and most of the time they are excited to be out of the…
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“Weaving” History in the Research Center

May 30, 2014 · Collections ·

A recent visit from a researcher prompted a trip to retrieve some of the Warren book collection at CHS. She was looking for definitions relating to wool processes, and immediately I thought of the “Warren books” as a point of reference.

Decoration Day A Century Ago

May 29, 2014 · Collections ·

As the end of May approaches I begin my mental checklist of things to do over Memorial Day (originally named “Decoration Day”) weekend: mow the lawn, plant the vegetable garden, make barbeque plans (after consulting the weather gods), attend the local parade, maybe go biking or kayaking; oh, and put flowers on my parents’ graves….
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“Book of letters”

May 28, 2014 · Collections ·

One of my tasks in getting the Oliver Wolcott papers digitized and online is quality control—looking at each image to make sure it is clear and legible. I am up to box 18 (of 59!). When I got to the volumes of draft letters in box 16, I noticed the “docketing” on the reverse. It…
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Savin Rock Memories

May 27, 2014 · Collections ·

I didn’t really appreciate postcards until I began reading what was written on the backs of the cards.  Most postcard collectors like their cards in pristine condition, unused, never sent, but I prefer those that have been through the mail, carrying messages between friends and family members.  “Who said we couldn’t find our way?” a…
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Ahoy! It’s the Charles W Morgan at sea!

May 23, 2014 · Collections ·

“There isn’t anybody alive today who has seen a whaling ship with her sails up.” Richard “Kip” Files, Captain, Charles W. Morgan. This statement is about to be history itself. For the first time since 1941 (73 years), the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling ship, has gone beyond the confines of Mystic…
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How YOU can use our collections!

May 22, 2014 · Collections ·

I often marvel at the variety of ways the public uses our collections.  I thought it would be fun to give a run-down of some of the ways individuals have used, or could use, our vast collections here at CHS. 

Are you Mickey Mouse?

May 21, 2014 · Collections ·

One question we often get in the Waterman Research Center from researchers handling manuscripts is, shouldn’t I be wearing gloves? Here at CHS we have determined that clean hands are less damaging to the documents than gloves would be. Note the emphasis on clean. Your fingers are highly sensitive to the edges of pages, can…
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What is this?

May 20, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, showcases over 40 costumes form Hepburn’s illustrious film and stage career. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its background every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

What’s Not in This Picture?

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a series of photographs taken during the 1880s by an unknown itinerant photographer, probably employed by the Northern Survey Company. The photographer traveled from town to town taking photographs of people’s houses, usually with the members of the family and their prized possessions arrayed on the…
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How Do You Know What You’re Looking At?

May 19, 2014 · Collections ·

Last Friday, I went to see Finding Vivian Maier at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Maier, a Chicago-area street photographer, made a living as a nanny in the mid-twentieth century. She took tens of thousands of photos of people she encountered while dragging the kids she cared for across the city, and then let those…
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Creating Participatory Exhibitions; Our Try It! Gallery

May 16, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

With all of the warranted hoopla surrounding our blockbuster exhibition, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, it’s easy to overlook other exhibitions at the Connecticut Historical Society. One exhibition that’s interactive and fun for all ages is Try It! Connecticut Places, People, Collections, & Me.

A High Tech Relic and the Other “Cable Guy”

May 15, 2014 · Collections ·

The long, frustrating search for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 serves as a reminder that the deepest parts of the ocean remain largely unexplored, as much terra incognita as the New World was to European explorers five centuries ago. In fact, we are told, scientists know more about the surface of the moon…
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A Who’s Who of the Early Republic

May 14, 2014 · Collections ·

Working with the papers of Oliver Wolcott Jr. really is like reading a Revolutionary War/Early Republic who’s who, as I mentioned in my previous post about our grant-funded project. I keep running across letters to or from the likes of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster.

On the Road with Richard Welling: Along the Maine Coast

May 13, 2014 · Collections ·

When I was growing up, my family spent two weeks in Maine every summer, and those were probably the best two weeks of my entire year. Later on, when I was grown up and living in the Boston area, I went to Maine frequently, both on weekend day trips and for extended vacations, exploring parts…
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He’s a Fixer Upper

May 12, 2014 · CHS Buzz ·

Ron Tanner is a do-it-yourselfer, whether he’s fixing up his historic Baltimore row house or embarking on a book tour. We’re eagerly awaiting his arrival here at CHS in his camper van with his trusty sidekick, his Bassett hound Cleo.

Not a Moment to Spare!

May 9, 2014 · Education ·

SO. BUSY. These two words sum up the schedule of our educators over the last few weeks. In April, the CHS Education Department served about 3,000 children, teachers, and parents through its educational programs. May is gearing up to be an even busier month for our department! So, please accept the following humorous photograph in…
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Illustrating Life

May 8, 2014 · Collections ·

Last week Rich Malley posted about the Billings and Spencer Company complex in Hartford. He illustrated his post with an amazing watercolor done in 1898 by Hiram P. Arms, a Hartford-based illustrator.  When I first saw the painting, which is quite large, I was intrigued by all of the little vignettes Arms included, as Rich…
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Everything Kate

May 7, 2014 · Collections ·

I thought I would “jump on the Kate bandwagon”, as it were, for this week’s post. We actually do have in the collection some letters written by the stage and screen star. They provide additional proof that her heart still belonged in part to Hartford and more particularly to the Asylum Hill Congregational Church.

What is this?

May 6, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, showcases over 40 costumes form Hepburn’s illustrious film and stage career. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its background every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

On the Road with Richard Welling: Octagon Houses

An “Octagon House” is just what it sounds like: an eight-sided dwelling. Octagon houses were something of a fad in 1850s America. They were promoted by a New York phrenologist names Orson Squire Fowler, who believed such houses were cheaper to build, easier to heat, and cooler in summer. Octagon houses are scattered all across…
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Being a Teacher- Part One

May 5, 2014 · Education ·

I have been working on a post about moving from the classroom to a museum setting, and my biggest issue has been how do you start, and how long of a post do I want to create? Without the past I can’t really compare the present, so I guess I will start at the beginning,…
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Pants are optional

May 2, 2014 · Exhibits ·

Have we had enough posts yet about Katharine Hepburn and her pants? I’ll let you decide, and to be precise for you Hepburn fans, they’re slacks, not pants. SLACKS. Hepburn was a fashion icon, and her embrace of slacks in a world of feminine Hollywood starlets upended the fashion status quo and encouraged women everywhere…
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