Inside the CHS

Collections

“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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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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A Legacy in Steel: Billings & Spencer Co.

May 1, 2014 · Collections

While it can be argued that these days Hartford is thought of as primarily a center of insurance and financial services, anyone driving through some of the neighborhoods just beyond downtown will be quick to note an impressive array of old industrial buildings. These brick and stone structures, some empty and unloved, others hosting a…
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Wolcott goes online

April 30, 2014 · Collections

With grant money from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division within the National Archives, we recently started a project to digitize manuscript collections that have already been captured on microfilm. The digitized images are going to be available on Connecticut History Online, and there will be links from our online finding…
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The Mapmaker’s Daughter

April 29, 2014 · Collections

  It’s a Cinderella story. Mary Pierson (1874-1949) was the daughter of Stephen C. Pierson, a civil engineer based in Meriden, Connecticut. The CHS has a large map of Meriden surveyed by Pierson in 1891. In 1898, his daughter Mary married Horace Bushnell Cheney, a member of the Cheney silk manufacturing dynasty. The couple traveled…
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The Philadelphia Story… A Connecticut Story?

April 28, 2014 · Collections

The Oscar-nominated movie that is known for its many catch phrases (“The calla lilies are in bloom again”) has a few distinct connections with the Nutmeg State. Katharine Hepburn, born of Hartford, created the role of Tracy Lord on the stage in 1939, which immediately preceded the 1940 on-screen release of The Philadelphia Story.

Trying New Things

April 24, 2014 · Collections

I had an idea of something to blog about today…but then I changed my mind.  Instead, I thought I would share something with you all (y’all if I was writing this from back in Illinois!).  So many times professionals, regardless of their field, give off an air of confidence, knowledge, and authority.  As they should. …
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Daylight Practice Air Raid

April 23, 2014 · Collections

One of my favorite sources for historical content and context are diaries. Madeline L. Wells lived in Danielson, Connecticut, when she kept a diary that recently came into the collection here at CHS. She was about 22 in 1943 and kept a meticulous record of the major news stories of the day, all recorded in…
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What is this?

April 22, 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-Tisket, A-Tasket, a Green and Yellow Basket

In this photograph from the early twentieth century, two little girls in Hartford’s Mazzafera family are holding baskets of flowers. When I was cataloguing the photograph a couple of years ago, I described the baskets as “Easter baskets.” Maybe they are. The first mention I can find of “Easter baskets” in the Hartford Courant, however,…
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Thrall Hall

April 21, 2014 · Collections

On March 18, a few people from CHS had the opportunity to tour Thrall Hall, a square dance hall in East Windsor, Connecticut. Ed Thrall, described by the Hartford Courant as a “true Connecticut Yankee original,” visited demolition sites in and around Hartford in the 1960s and salvaged materials, which he then carted back to…
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Katharine Hepburn: Rebellious and Sporty

April 18, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits

Over the past couple of weeks while preparing for the opening of Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, I’ve been thinking a lot about Katharine Hepburn. One thing that I keep going back to is her parents – and how much they must have influenced her. Hepburn loved sports and was fiercely competitive. Her…
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America’s First “Brown Water” Navy

April 17, 2014 · Collections

This past weekend we offered a special Civil War-themed behind the scenes tour at CHS. I spent a day selecting a wide variety of objects, manuscripts and graphics items to include in the tour, including several that I had not used in the past. Among these was a pair of fine photographs of river gunboats…
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Right to your door

April 16, 2014 · Collections

You mean to tell me that at one time the postal service did not bring my mail directly to my house six days a week? How could that possibly be?

A Good Many Chestnut Trees About

April 15, 2014 · Collections

Before the chestnut flight devastated the forests in the early 1900s, American chestnut trees were a prominent feature in the Connecticut landscape. Chestnut trees grew tall and straight and the wood was used in the construction of barns and houses and the making of furniture, telephone poles, and railroad ties. The nuts were used as…
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Hepburn Comes Home

April 10, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits

The anticipation has been building for weeks.  All of us here at CHS have been excited to bring Katharine Hepburn home to Hartford in the form of an exhibition on loan from the Kent State University Museum called “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen.”  Well…on Thursday of last week she finally arrived and the…
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Just part of the job

April 9, 2014 · Collections

Collecting history can sometimes be uncomfortable and it is often hard to retain objectivity. Such was the case with two recent acquisitions—a broadside advertising a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in Woodstock in 1926, and two protest posters from this past Saturday’s rally to repeal Connecticut’s gun laws.

What is this?

April 8, 2014 · 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,

On the Road with Richard Welling: Discovering Historic Connecticut Houses

In 1976, in conjunction with the nation’s Bicentennial celebration, Richard Welling produced a slim volume featuring twenty of Connecticut’s most historic houses. From late 1975 through the early spring of 1976, Welling was on the road, crisscrossing the state, sketching buildings that ranged in date from Colonial times through the Victorian era. The book came…
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Beware the Bottle!

April 3, 2014 · Collections

Much attention is focused these days on the costs of addiction, to drugs and alcohol in particular, here in America. The Partnership for a Drug Free America is one well-known effort, while “Drink Responsibly” is the motto of a liquor industry campaign. While the specifics of these current public education efforts may vary, they rest…
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Hawaii Once Again

April 2, 2014 · Collections

One of these days, I will have to go to Hawaii because I keep coming back to it in my research and blog posts. Now I am going to be talking to a college class about Connecticut missionaries in Hawaii. In addition, next week is filled with Hawaii-related programs at Central Connecticut State University(CCSU) and…
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But What Does it Have to do with Connecticut?

April 1, 2014 · Collections

What’s this eighteenth-century print showing dancers on an island in the South Seas doing at the Connecticut Historical Society?   Actually, there are two good reasons for its presence.  One of the three men seated in the center of front row is probably John Ledyard, a young man from Groton, Connecticut, who sailed with the British…
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The Last Wolf in Connecticut

March 28, 2014 · Collections

I drove into work this morning behind a car with a bumper sticker for the West Hartford Wolves, a youth hockey team. Today we think of wolves and tough and brave, as noble symbols of wildness and of the wilderness. We now view wilderness itself as something rather rare and precious, good for the human…
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Underneath It All

March 27, 2014 · Collections

Even if you are not a fashion historian, you have likely seen images of the clothing people wore in the past.  Whether you saw them online, or in your own family photos, the outer garments of individuals are fairly visible.  But what about what lies underneath?  What does that look like???

Do we ever learn from history?

March 26, 2014 · Collections

I am continually amazed by how history repeats itself, and not always for the better. We recently acquired a set of diaries kept by a young Waterbury man just prior to and during his study to become a doctor. James A. Root, Jr. was between college and medical school when he finally decided to keep…
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Men at Work

March 25, 2014 · Collections

Richard Welling was known as the “Artist in a Hard Hat” because he spent so much time at construction sites. He spent so much time drawing the World Trade Center when it was first going up in Manhattan that the Port Authority issued him a pass to the site—and his own hard hat. Welling was…
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