Inside the CHS

Magician’s diaries

February 6, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

We recently (January 2007) purchased at auction ten diaries written by Albert Walker (1836-1902) of Glastonbury, Connecticut. He was a farmer and spoon maker by trade, but also rolled cigars, repaired and cleaned clocks, played the fiddle for dances, and performed magic and ventriloquism. An essay he wrote on ventriloquism and dialog for a Punch…
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Edward Steele diaries

June 15, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

It is so exciting to find diaries that actually give details about daily life.  Four volumes we recently received do just that.  The writer, Edward Steele, was a day laborer who lived in Wethersfield.  His spelling indicates he was not too well-educated, but he noted when he and his wife Maggie went to the theater…
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Albert Walker, magician, redux

September 12, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

At long last, Albert Walker, the magician of Glastonbury, Connecticut, has had his diaries reunited. Twenty-two volumes dating from 1867-1895 recently arrived on our doorstep. Unfortunately, they shed no additional light on his magic performances, with one exception. On April 20, 1867, he went to Hartford to see some Japanese performers. Inside the back cover…
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Girl Scout diary

October 11, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

Jean Harrison of Bridgeport kept a diary in 1946 and it recently found its way into the CHS library. The entries are written in what is entitled a Girl Scout Diary, with information on the history of scouting at the front, essays on safety toward the back, and historical tidbits sprinkled throughout the volume. I…
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Boy Scout Jamboree, 1953

May 28, 2008 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

I have not posted to the blog for ages; too many things got in the way, I am afraid.  But I am back! On Thursday of this week, we received the most remarkable scrapbook. It was created by a young man from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Andrew Twaddle, who in 1953 took a cross-country train trip to…
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Hartford’s Mayor Mortensen

William Mortensen was born in Hartford in 1903, the son of Danish immigrants. He attended Antioch College in Ohio and took classes at the Hartford College of Law.  For 40 years Mortensen managed the Bushnell Memorial Hall. Upon his retirement, well-wishers included Carol Channing, with whom he had posed for a photograph when the actress…
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October in the Archives

November 4, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

Highlights of Connecticut Historical Society’s manuscript cataloging efforts in October

November in the Archives

December 4, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

There was no turkey coma in the CHS manuscript department this year. We have prepared another 145 records for the online catalog! All of these collections are open for research, so please stop by. While you are here, <shameless plug> do  some of your holiday shopping! We have several books for sale in our store…
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A Look Back: Part II

December 30, 2009 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

A look back at 1986.

Rev. William Weston Patton

February 18, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

It isn’t too often that I start cataloging a collection and find that the subject has his own Wikipedia entry. That was the case yesterday as I worked with the diaries of Rev. William Weston Patton. Patton was born in New York on October 19, 1821. He graduated from the University of the City of…
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“Warm as you please, thunderstorm in eve.”

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story (“Twitter Updates, the 18th Century Edition,” April 13, 2010) about how the 140 character limit for a Twitter post would not have been a problem for diarists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  As luck would have it, some Connecticut related examples have recently crossed my desk….
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Joshua Leffingwell

Joshua Leffingwell, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, seems to have enjoyed wintering in a warmer climate. Leffingwell was an architect and builder in Hartford. According to the Leffingwell Record (a genealogy published in 1897), Joshua and his brother, John, built a number of buildings, including the Hartford Bank, Center Church, and the Old State House….
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October in the Archives

November 3, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

The Connecticut Historical Society’s website is Please visit to learn more about us! (Due to circumstances beyond our control the site is not currently listed on Google) And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging… The temperatures are dropping, which means it’s a great time to warm up in the Research Center with some…
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Hannah Hadassah Hickok

November 9, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

It is almost like reading Jane Austen, but it dates from about 30 years earlier. That is what I like best about one of our latest additions to the collections. Hannah Hadassah Hickok was born in South Britain, Connecticut ,in 1767. Her diary No. 2, (I wish we had No. 1) which dates from February…
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“Rate Your Date”

November 17, 2010 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

I like to tell people that I read other people’s diaries for a living. Today our cataloging project led me to the diary of Eleanor R. Munroe. Quickly glancing over the diary, I have not been able to find that Ms. Munroe had any connection to Connecticut. Her first entries are from the Cambridge, Massachusetts…
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March in the Archives: Civil War collections

It has been a while since I wrote a [Month] in the Archives post, but with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the number of related collections we cataloged in March, it seems like a good time to return to the series. Scholars of the Civil War may already know of these collections; most…
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March in the Archives: Part II

When I reviewed the catalog records from March, there were just too many worthy of being mentioned. This is a great problem to have! I therefore decided to split my report in two. If you missed the first part, about Civil War documents, you may read it here. Catalog entries for these, and many more…
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Transcribing Hannah’s Diary

March 27, 2012 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

This entry was written by Student Intern Mike Ericson whose assignment was to complete the transcription of an 18th century young woman’s diary.        Hannah Hadassah Hickock was born in 1767 in Southbury, Connecticut. Her diary spans the years 1784 to 1786 and gives a glimpse into what life was like in the late eighteenth…
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“The Rough Riders and the 10th Cavarly was into the game”

October 17, 2012 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

First hand accounts of the Spanish American War are hard to come by. So imagine our excitement when we were able to acquire a diary written by a soldier from Connecticut! William E. Jackson of Willimantic, Connecticut, entered the army late, traveling to Philadelphia to enlist in May 1898. He was sent to Cuba andtook…
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A Diary Beginning January 1st, 1801

October 24, 2012 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

Shubael Bartlett must have had an inkling that his words would be preserved for future generations. Otherwise, why would he have put so much information on the title page of his diary? In addition to the title, he also added: “The day of my birth was April 2nd, 1778 AD. I entered College Sept. 13th…
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Dear diary

November 14, 2012 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

At CHS we have an extensive and constantly growing collection of diaries because of the detail they provide about  daily life of ordinary people, the ones who do not usually appear in the history books. The contrasts between diaries can be striking, as it is between the two that we recently added to the collection….
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Has spring finally arrived?

May 2, 2013 · Collections ·

It is May, and thoughts turn to spring. Samuel Pease of Enfield kept regular diaries between 1833 and 1851. He used an almanac within which he inserted blank pages so he could record his activities. With the beginning of a new month, I decided to take a look at what Samuel deemed important to record…
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Henry Ward Beecher

May 15, 2013 · Collections, Manuscripts ·

In 1872 Henry Ward Beecher, a noted and popular, although often controversial, minister in Brooklyn, New York, was accused of having an affair with one of his parishioners, Mrs. Tilton. She alternately confessed and retracted her confession while Beecher consistently stated his innocence. To clear his name, he appointed an investigative committee composed of friends…
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A Hannah surprise reprise

August 7, 2013 · Collections ·

I could barely contain myself when I realized what I was holding. The collection title was “Lambert Family Papers”, but here was another diary by one of my favorite young women of the 18th century, Hannah Hadassah Hickok Smith! You can read my earlier post about her here. I’ve read her earlier diary, and now,…
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Journal of occurances in a journey

August 28, 2013 · Collections ·

In May of 1800 an as yet anonymous man traveled from New Haven to New York City and on to Philadelphia in the company of Jeremiah Day, a tutor at Yale. They took a boat from New Haven to New York, where the city was in an uproar from recent state elections. From there, the…
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Reflecting on the year 1965

January 1, 2014 · Collections ·

One of the longest diary runs we have were written by Thomas John Crockett, a Unionville resident and United States diplomat; the diaries date from 1954 to 2009. Following a brief career at the Hartford Times and in the Army, Crockett joined the Department of State where he served for 40 years. Stationed throughout eastern…
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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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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.

But gosh, he’s cute!

November 19, 2014 · Collections ·

Kids in the 1940s were not all that different from kids today. They don’t always get along with their parents, don’t always want to go to school, want to go to the movies (or play on their X-boxes today) instead of doing homework. Most of all, though, girls get crushes on boys!

Fitz Hollister’s Observations on Virginia

November 26, 2014 · Collections ·

Fitz Green Hollister was a young farmer from Washington, Connecticut, when he joined the 18th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, in 1861. His letters home and his dairies evidence a keen intellect and an eye for detail.

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