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Uncompleted Work

September 4, 2014 · Collections

As school starts back in session, I am reminded of many instances in my own childhood of the excitement that leads to that first day: the school supply shopping, the nerves regarding whether or not you would get the “good” teacher, and the wonderful idea of learning something new.

The Heartbreak that is Weighted Silk

July 31, 2014 · Collections

We have a number of fantastic volunteers at CHS for the summer, and I am lucky enough to have a few working with me up in the costume collection.

In a chicken coop like place

In a chicken coop like place

July 30, 2014 · Collections

I’ve seen movies and television shows that were set during World War I, but it still amazes me how relatively primitive things were in the early 20th century.

What is this?

July 29, 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?

I Love New York

Artist Richard Welling loved to drawing buildings, especially very large buildings. He was therefore drawn to cities, and his two favorite cities were Hartford, Connecticut and New York City. His drawings chronicling the construction of the World Trade Center are today at the New-York Historical Society, but some of his other New York drawings came…
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Teeth and Innovation

July 28, 2014 · Collections

On this day 149 years ago, the American Dental Association established their code of ethics. In Connecticut, compared to Horace Wells’ anesthesia of the 1840s, other innovations may prove lesser known but just as intriguing.

Strike Up the Band(box)!

July 24, 2014 · Collections

In recent years the issue of waste materials being sent to landfills has become a concern. Excessive packaging, involving paper, cardboard, plastic (don’t get me going on those impossible to open blister packs) and other materials, seems to be the norm now. And at home, we have large plastic bags filled with smaller plastic bags,…
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How many copies does it take?

July 23, 2014 · Collections

Sometimes you just don’t realize what you are looking at. I was reviewing the Wolcott papers to make sure I put the right volume- and object-numbered document in the correct “folder” of the finding aid (just one step in the project funded by NHPRC to get our manuscripts online through Connecticut History Online). I kept…
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What Does this Photograph of the Farmington River have to do with Downton Abbey?

July 22, 2014 · Collections

Inscriptions on the back of this 1930s photograph of the Farmington River provide quite a bit of information about it. The dam in the foreground is said to be in the same location as the dam for the first gristmill on the river, established in 1701. In the 1930s, there was still an active gristmill…
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Linocuts and an Apology

July 21, 2014 · Collections

Last time I wrote a blog post, I wrote it about Richard Welling’s linoleum blocks. I mistakenly wrote that we don’t have prints made from the blocks. I would like to formally apologize for that. We actually do have linocuts of most of the Welling linoleum blocks. I just got through cataloging them, and they…
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Adventures in Exhibits

July 18, 2014 · Collections

I just received a few emails from people congratulating me on LinkedIn for my fifth year work anniversary. That was news to me! I started in the summer of ’09 as the Interpretive Projects Assistant and had a lot of memories working at CHS since. So of my favorite adventures in exhibits…   When I…
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A Change of Plans

July 17, 2014 · Collections

I was quite literally in the middle of writing up today’s blog post, all nerdily excited to teach you a thing or two about weighted silk, when I was interrupted by some young researchers.  So, instead, I’m going to tell you about one of the reasons I love my job (don’t worry, you’ll hear about…
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Just what is on those tapes?

July 16, 2014 · Collections

On  Saturday, volunteer VivianLea Solek and I launched a project that will take years to complete, but which I think is very exciting.

What is this?

July 15, 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?

Who Were the Harvard Five—And What Do They Have to do with Connecticut?

When most people think of Connecticut architecture, they most often think of Colonial saltbox houses or white steepled churches nestled in green hills. They usually don’t think of the International Style of modern architecture, and they certainly don’t think of Harvard University. But in the 1940s, five architects from Harvard settled in the green hills…
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The Colonial Revival in Art

July 10, 2014 · Collections

Over the years that I have worked at CHS I have noticed that some items seem to have a particular appeal as illustrations. Sometimes it is clearly understandable, as with the flag that decorated Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater, or Amos Doolittle’s engravings of Lexington and Concord. But in other instances the attraction is less…
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John Trumbull, artist

July 9, 2014 · Collections

John Trumbull (1756-1843) was the son of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull and first cousin of M’Fingall poet John Trumbull. John the artist graduated from Harvard in 1773 and served as an aide to General Washington during the Revolution. In 1784 he went to London to study with the painter Benjamin West.

Who Was Hartford Louise?

July 8, 2014 · Collections

The gentleman driving the sulky is John A. Pilgard. The horse is Hartford Louise. Pilgard had come to Hartford as a poor immigrant boy and became a successful merchant, banker, and civic leader. A butcher and grocer by trade, Pilgard greatest love was fast horses, especially those that he bred and raced himself. He was…
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The Connecticut Landscape…in our entrance hall

July 3, 2014 · Collections

As some of you may already know, this year we are teaming up with FoxCT and the Hartford Courant to celebrate the Courant’s 250th anniversary.  Part of that partnership is a segment on FoxCT every first Thursday of the month called From the Vault where we bring a few items out of storage and give…
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Blue cloth coats with red facings and white lining

July 2, 2014 · Collections

As we prepare for the July 4th holiday and enjoy the fireworks celebrating American independence from Great Britain, it is hard to realize that our country faced a rather treacherous beginning. I thought about that when reading a series of militia brigade orders from the 1790s.

A Moment in Time

July 1, 2014 · Collections

It’s the Fourth of July. An American flag is flying from Fort Trumbull, and a stately procession of tall ships is leaving New London harbor. The monument commemorating the Revolutionary War Battle of Groton Heights is visible in the background. It could almost be a snapshot taken during OpSail, but this drawing was made by…
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What’s in a Name…

June 26, 2014 · Collections

The Connecticut landscape is filled with place names based on Native American antecedents, from towns and villages like Naugatuck, Niantic and Scitico to rivers such as the Housatonic, the Shetucket and, of course, lest we forget, the Connecticut. Many of these names are based on words in various Algonquian dialects spoken by Native inhabitants during…
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Samson Occom- Getting More Collections Online

June 25, 2014 · Collections

The past few days I have been preparing the scans from the microfilm of the Samson Occom papers so I can publish them in Connecticut History Online. This is another of the collections we are getting online with funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. I have already blogged about the Wolcott papers,…
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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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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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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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“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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