Inside the CHS

Collections

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?

August 7, 2019 · Collections, Programs and Events

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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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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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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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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Beer or Bad Water? How Connecticut’s Perfected the Former, Then and Now

June 24, 2015 · Collections

Beer connoisseurs believe that the United States is currently in a craft-brewing renaissance. The number of microbreweries is at an all-time high and some American beers are considered to be the best in the world. But the history of brewing beer in Connecticut, like other states in America, has had its ups and downs. Beer,…
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Waterbury Brass Buttons

All About That Brass

By Tasha Caswell, Research & Collections Associate, the Connecticut Historical Society How often do you think about the buttons on your clothes? Unless you’re into fashion or design, you probably don’t think about them that much (unless one falls off). I know I don’t. Maybe you’ll be surprised at how much impact such small objects…
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Schaghticoke Wedding Dress

My Favorite Wedding Dress? It’s Made of Leather

By Sierra Dixon, Research and Collections Associate, Connecticut Historical Society One of my favorites is a handmade wedding dress that was produced by the late Maisie Shenandoah, Clan Mother of the Oneida Indian Nation. The wedding dress was made for her relative Butch Laydem’s fiancée, Kay Kayser, of the Schaghticoke tribe, which spanned the area…
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Hogan's Heroes

Colonel Hogan, Meet Major French

May 29, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Education, Manuscripts

By Jill Padelford, Development Services Associate for the CHS Those of us of a certain age may remember the outrageous hijinks of the POWs in the 1960s comedy Hogan’s Heroes. (Some interesting trivia: Waterbury, CT native Bob Crane portrayed Colonel Hogan in that popular show.) Working from within a German stalag, the heroes of the…
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Chairs, Clocks and Signs

Decorative Arts Study Day with Dr. Philip Zimmerman

By Jenny Steadman, Adult Programs Manager of the Connecticut Historical Society On May 21, CHS welcomed a group of Decorative Arts enthusiasts who spent the whole day literally turning things upside down under the expert guidance of Dr. Philip Zimmerman, a museum and decorative arts consultant, author, and nationally recognized authority on early American furniture. Focusing…
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Space Suit

50 Objects. 50 Stories. Endless Conversations.

by Jody Blankenship, Executive Director, Connecticut Historical Society What’s your Connecticut story? At the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS), we’re highlighting 50 Connecticut-defining items in our new exhibit, Connecticut: 50 Objects/50 Stories. In parallel, the exhibit’s online gallery has 150 items and that number continues to grow! Earlier this week, more than 220 CHS members and…
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Hygrothermograph

How Does CHS Preserve Its Historic Treasures?

By Tasha Caswell, Research and Collections Associate at the CHS  Here at the Connecticut Historical Society, we do a lot of preservation work. Preservation is different from conservation – when an item is preserved, it is not altered; rather, steps are taken to protect it from deterioration. Conservation, on the other hand, involves physically treating the…
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Wayne Hilt Examines a Pewter Pitcher

CHS Hosts the Pewter Collector’s Club of America

On Saturday, May 16, the Connecticut Historical Society hosted 35 members of the Pewter Collector’s Club of America who have come from all over the U.S. to study the CHS’s remarkable pewter collection. Expert Wayne Hilt leads the discussion. For more information about the Pewter Collector’s Club of America, go to www.pewtercollectorsclub.org. About the Connecticut…
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Brochure in 2 Languages

Windham Textile & History Museum Teaches Us How to Share Connecticut’s History in Two Languages

May 10, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Collections, Education

El Museo Textil e Histórico de Windham Nos Enseña a Compartir La Historia de Connecticut en Dos Idiomas By Gerson Escobar-Arroyo, Member Relations Associate, Connecticut Historical Society Author’s Note: This blog is the first of what will be regular bilingual (English and Spanish) posts that share Connecticut’s diverse history with its Hispanic/Latino citizens. Is your…
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Exploring Connecticut’s Haute Fashion History

By Jenny Steadman, Adult Programs Manager, CHS The costume and textile storage on the CHS’s third floor is my favorite space in the Connecticut Historical Society museum. Every time I go up there, I get a shiver down my spine thinking of all the stories that go with all the dresses and uniforms and even…
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Put Yourself on the Map

April 29, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Collections, Education, Latest News

By Corinne Swanson, Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs, Connecticut Historical Society I’m a huge fan of maps. When studying history, maps are essential for getting a visual, concrete understanding of the places where events take place. They can be incredibly powerful in influencing the way we think (Remember the episode of “The West Wing” where C.J….
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Thomas Barber, a detective with the Hartford Police Department

Little Miss 1565

April 23, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Collections, Latest News

By Barbara Austen, Archivist, Connecticut Historical Society  CHS recently received the archive of Thomas Barber, a detective with the Hartford Police Department. In 1944, he was one of the men charged with identifying the bodies found in the Hartford Circus Fire that July. It always haunted him that no one identified or claimed a young girl;…
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CHS Gift Shop

The CHS Gift Shop: Featured Items for Spring

April 22, 2015 · CHS Buzz, Collections, Latest News

By Sara Plante, Visitor Service Associate, Connecticut Historical Society.  As the winter finally wanes and spring unfolds, opportunities to explore our state and take pleasure in nature increase. As you venture out to enjoy the warming weather and general greenery, consider a stop at the Connecticut Historical Society’s gift shop. We carry many Connecticut-made items…
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