The Charles Guilford Woodward Lecture Series

Charles G. Woodward, CHS x1960.135.0

Many thoughtful people have funded the building, protection and enhancement of the Connecticut Historical Society’s collection, as well as our educational programming, during our 194-year history. One of those benefactors is Charles Guilford Woodward, who came from a family of CHS supporters. In honor of Mr. Woodward’s legacy, the CHS is launching the Charles G. Woodward Lecture Series in September 2019.

His grandfather, Ashbel Woodward, M.D. was born in Willington, CT in 1804, graduated from Bowdoin College in 1829, and practiced medicine in Franklin and Norwich, CT. Ashbel joined the Connecticut Historical Society in 1866, became a CHS Vice President in 1870, and remained so until his death in 1885. He and his wife, Emeline Bicknell, had three sons, including Patrick.

Patrick Woodward was born in Franklin, CT in 1833 and graduated from Yale in 1855. Patrick joined the CHS in 1864, two years before his father, and served on its Committee on Monthly Papers until 1908. He married Mary (Abbe) Smith in 1867 and they had two children, Helen and Charles.

Charles Guilford Woodward was born in Hartford, CT in 1876, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College in 1898, and his Master of Arts degree there in 1901. He continued graduate studies at Columbia University before joining the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, now known as Cigna, where he became Financial Secretary in 1911 and Vice President in 1924. A year later he retired from active duty, though remained associated with the company until his death in 1950. An expert on railroad investments, Charles served as an advisor or director for many railroad companies, as well as President of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad Company, and the New London Northern.

Charles took his father’s seat on the Connecticut Historical Society’s Committee on Monthly Papers in 1909 and served on that body for 35 years. In 1928, Charles also joined the CHS Finance Committee, and, in 1939, helped form an Endowment Committee. In 1942, Charles became a Vice President of the CHS, and continued his service to the CHS through to his death.

Charles was a generous benefactor throughout his life, and at his passing left to the CHS “Indian relics” originally belonging to his grandfather, Ashbel; his Woodward family and corporate papers; and a financial bequest. He also established a perpetual trust for charities including the CHS, and a trust for his only niece and her daughters – his grandnieces. Upon the death of the last of his four grandnieces in 2017, the entirety of that family trust was added to his original charitable trust, today benefitting twenty charitable organizations in perpetuity, including the CHS. 

A significant percentage of the CHS’s current financial portfolio originated from the generosity of Charles Guilford Woodward. The CHS and Connecticut history are forever indebted to Mr. Woodward for his extraordinary gifts of time, talents and treasure. Without benefactors like him, the CHS would not be the exceptionally stable and productive organization it is today.

Information on this year’s Charles Guilford Woodward Lecture can be found here.

A version of this article was published in the 2018 Spring issue of the CHS magazine Making History.