Inside the CHS

What is this?

November 19, 2013 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts 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,

Monument to Progress

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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Richard Welling and the SX-70

November 18, 2013 · Collections ·

The SX-70 was a camera manufactured by Polaroid between 1972 and 1981. The new Polaroid greatly improved on the early models, which required the user to manually pull the photograph out of the camera and peel apart the film pack, as it ejected the film automatically and developed automatically, as well. 

Revealing the Invisible: Mounting Artifacts in a Museum Exhibit

November 15, 2013 · Collections ·

Before I worked in the exhibits department of a museum, I had never even considered how objects and artifacts in museums were presented. I always focused on the object or the label or the overall feel of the exhibition. It never crossed my mind what went behind taking a delicate object and suspending inside of…
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An Over-Sixty Looks at Veteran’s Day

November 14, 2013 · Collections ·

You know you’re getting old when the faces at Veteran’s Day events look more and more like yourself and less and less like your parents. Obviously it’s the natural course of things, and yet there is an unmistakable poignancy in it all. As we bid adieu to the World War II generation I can imagine…
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Protest against the constant calms

November 13, 2013 · Collections ·

Connecticut was known as the Provision State during the Revolutionary War. However the colony (at the time) was also a “provision state” to the West Indies in the 18th century. Connecticut vessels plied the waters between our ports to the islands of Barbados, Antigua, Granada, Tobago and others in the Lesser Antilles. The cargo the…
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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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Open Studio Hartford Comes to CHS

November 11, 2013 · CHS Buzz ·

For artist Vicente Garcia, form and scale are crucial elements of his artistic production. On the beautiful fall day when he installed his large outdoor sculptures on the CHS grounds, he also needed strength and dexterity and some really good climbing skills. For those of you strolling past the CHS along Elizabeth Street or Asylum…
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Giving Thanks!

November 8, 2013 · Education ·

It is that time of year (I can’t believe that November is already here) when everyone begins to think about the things that they are thankful for. I want to give a big thank-you to the following for making 2013 such a great year!

Clothing the troops

November 7, 2013 · Collections ·

Clothing is one of the basic necessities provided by the American government to its faithful soldiers.  Even as a patriot army before the United States was truly a nation in her own right, she still did her best to clothe her troops.  One of my favorite uniform pieces in the CHS collection is a uniform…
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Forgotten Wars?

November 6, 2013 · Collections ·

Almost everyone remembers from history class the names of the major wars fought by the United States—the French and Indian War, the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War,  World War I and World War II. Then there are the “forgotten wars” like the The Mexican-American, Spanish-American and Korean wars and Vietnam.  With Veteran’s Day…
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What is this?

November 5, 2013 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts 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,

Heartbreak Hotel

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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What is a Nut?

November 4, 2013 · CHS Buzz ·

At CHS, we’re chock full o’ nuts; history nuts, that is. We’re so nutty about history, that I even began to wonder about the history of the word nuts. Finding the origin of nut(s) and the historical development of its meaning turned out to be a tougher nut to crack than I thought; but here…
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Movember 1st at the CHS

November 1, 2013 · Exhibits ·

Movember begins today. Support your mustachioed buddies as the next 30 days reveal their ability to grow a thick and bushy upper-lip bear rug; a whispery mouth spider web; or something in between. All to promote men’s health and combat prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges.

Of fiery steeds…and lunatics

October 31, 2013 · Collections ·

As a regular rider on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail I have opportunity to pass many different types of bicycles—high tech racers, mountains, recumbents (are they really that comfortable?), hybrids, even tricycles. Occasionally my musings turn to pioneering bicycle styles, such as the high-wheeler or “ordinary” as it were called. How did they ever ride…
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Phelps family record

October 30, 2013 · Collections ·

Every once in a while I come across a really poignant document in the midst of deeds and letters and other family papers that can be more mundane. That happened this week when I cataloged a collection of papers related to the Work and Smith families. Tucked in among the numerous deeds and family memorabilia…
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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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The History of a Street…

October 28, 2013 · Collections ·

 As you walk or drive down any given street, you may wonder what stories it tells, who lived there, and what may have occurred there over time. What lies beneath a street? It seemed fitting to ask this question with Elizabeth Street- home to the Connecticut Historical Society since the 1950s – in mind. Formerly…
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Innovation and Re-birth

October 24, 2013 · Collections ·

Fashion takes many courses throughout the years.  Sometimes we see brand new innovations, and other times there are re-births of past designs and fashion trends.  The 1950s saw a combination of these.

Too many crossroads

October 23, 2013 · Collections ·

We don’t usually like to acquire a single letter, primarily because it has lost its context. Well, we made an exception this time, because the letter was so interesting (dare I say fun?) and we have lots of other James Hillhouse papers in the Research Center. The letter was written byJames Hillhouse from Washington, DC…
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What is this?

October 22, 2013 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts 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?

Another Woman Photographer: Edith Watson of East Windsor

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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Richard Welling Pictures Hartford

October 21, 2013 · Collections ·

My most recent project here is to catalog photographs, prints and drawings by Hartford artist Richard Welling. I started on his Polaroids, of which there are hundreds. Welling loved photographing Hartford as it changed in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and as a result, I’ve been playing building detective for the past few weeks. My…
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On the Tarmac with Richard Welling

October 17, 2013 · Collections ·

I am continually amazed at the range of subjects that Richard Welling sketched in his long career. While best known for his drawings of Hartford’s changing skyline through the years, Richard also loved railroads and vessels of all types, as I have blogged about in the past. This of course now brings us to another…
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The true price of slavery

October 16, 2013 · Collections ·

When the men and children aboard la Amistad decided to take over the ship and return home, they initiated one of the more memorable events in Connecticut’s history. Steven Spielberg even made a movie about it. But some people actually lived it, like Charlotte Cowles of Farmington, Connecticut, and we are fortunate that she wrote…
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Forget the Futon, It’s Time for Grown-Up Furniture

October 15, 2013 · CHS Buzz ·

Ok, I’ll admit that we still have a futon in our basement. But that’s not our greatest source of furniture shame. I remember vividly the hot afternoon we set out to get a new desk for my husband. I was a graduate student at the time and money was short, so we headed to a…
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The Names Have Been Changed

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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The Colors of Fall!

October 11, 2013 · Education ·

Fall is my most favorite time of the year – slightly cooler weather, fairs and festivals serving delicious pumpkin and maple flavored treats, and the changing of leaves from green to vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges. If it were up to me, (and I know a lot of you will be happy that it is…
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Hiring a professional…

October 10, 2013 · Collections ·

At CHS we frequently exercise our internal photography muscles; however, there are certain items and certain projects that sometimes require a professional photographer.  Yesterday David Stansbury spent the day photographing a variety of our landscapes for the Artist and the Connecticut Landscape project that will result in a number of Connecticut landscapes being added to…
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A ballad of Captain Kidd

October 9, 2013 · Collections ·

This coming weekend we have a Behind the Scenes Tour about “creepy” things at CHS. I don’t think anyone thought of this little gem I found, a booklet with two poems copied by Sarah Churchill before 1791 (that is the date of the newspaper used as a cover). The bulk of the text is a…
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What is this?

October 8, 2013 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts 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?

Planning the Transcontinental Railroad

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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“F/8 and Be There!”

October 7, 2013 · CHS Buzz, Exhibits ·

History of photography enthusiasts might recognize the quote above, generally attributed to Arthur Fellig, a photojournalist in the 1930s and ‘40s. His advice – half technical, half philosophical – was based on the method he found worked best for him, when all cameras were manually operated. The first half refers to the aperture setting on…
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Winter’s Comin’

October 4, 2013 · Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, “Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers”, will be open October 11, 2013 – March 29, 2014. That’s next week! You’ve got 5 months to check it out, but please tell me why you would wait. You might think you have time to roll in some lazy Saturday afternoon in the…
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It’s a What…?

October 3, 2013 · Collections ·

So what was your beach reading list like this year? I recently finished reading This Republic of Suffering: Death in the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust. Not exactly cheery summer fare, I suppose, by fascinating nonetheless in this, the sesqui-centenary of that dreadful conflict. The book points out how, in the face of…
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Stitches and seams

October 2, 2013 · Collections ·

Do you remember Home Economics in school when you were younger? They don’t call it that any more, and boys are learning to sew and cook and girls can take shop, so I understand. I wish that had been true in the 1960s and 1970s while I was growing up. I still hammer like a…
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Hartford Rises

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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Luman P. Kelsey: “Professional Hobbiest”

September 30, 2013 · Collections ·

Luman Kelsey was an artist unknown to me until I happened upon his work one day in the photographs section of the Graphics room. The organized box read “Luman Kelsey–Virgin Islands”, and immediately I was intrigued. I wondered what photographs may be in the box, and how CHS came to own them. What I discovered…
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An eye for capturing history (through a lens)

September 27, 2013 · Collections ·

In this age of smart phones and Instagram, photography and sharing photos is all within the palm of our hands. Most of us are equipped with cameras on our phones that eclipse the bulky cameras of yesterday on many levels.

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