Teeth and Innovation

Dentist’s office for employees, Cheney Brothers, Manchester, 1918. Connecticut Historical Society collections.

Dentist’s office for employees, Cheney Brothers, Manchester, 1918. Connecticut Historical Society 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. Continue reading

Strike Up the Band(box)!

This ca. 1823 bandbox was made in Hartford by the firm of Putnam & Roff, which also manufactured wallpaper. CHS 1956.45.63

This ca. 1823 bandbox was made in Hartford by the firm of Putnam & Roff, which also manufactured wallpaper. CHS 1956.45.63

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, just waiting to be dropped off at any store that will actually take them for recycling (for some reason these plastic retail bags are not accepted in many recycling programs). So we use some for around the house cleaning projects, but most await the trip to some store’s recycling bin. Continue reading

How many copies does it take?

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 seeing the words “duplicate” and “triplicate” along the top edge of letters dated 1795 in Amsterdam and addressed to the Treasury Department in the U.S.

In the upper left, you can see the word "Duplicate". The letter was "mailed" July 1795 and did not arrive until October.

In the upper left, you can see the word “Duplicate”. The letter was “mailed” July 1795 and did not arrive until October. Note that the original was conveyed through Hamburg.

It was only by the time I had gotten through three or four folders that I realized that, in 1795, you did not pick up the phone, hop on a plane, or use any technology we are so used to today. In 1795, you sent multiple copies of a document (all done by hand, mind you, in perfect script) via several different routes to ensure the message arrived. I imagine the ones marked “Quadruplicate” were by far the most important. Even then, some letters took months to arrive. What happened to other copies? Did they arrive too and just not get saved? Or did they have some misadventure?

Three copies of this letter were sent to the Treasury Department.

Three copies of this letter were sent to the Treasury Department and took seven months.

In this day and age when Secretary of State Kerry can be in Ukraine in a matter of hours, how does one even begin to fathom the pace of diplomacy in the 18th century? The issue resolved in 1795, to which this letter was a part, was commonly called the Jay Treaty. The treaty averted war between the young United States and Great Britain and stipulated the final withdrawal of British troops from forts in the Northwest Territory. Maybe having to take your time meant you had to think about what you were doing in a more methodical manner.

What Does this Photograph of the Farmington River have to do with Downton Abbey?

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Farmington River Dam Site, about 1930. The Connecticut Historical Society, 1974.50.797

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 on the site, known as the Winchell Smith Gristmill. Smith, a noted playwright, invited the filmmaker D.W. Griffith to film a scene from the movie “Way Down East” there in 1920. The building was later a popular restaurant and bookstore, both now closed. I used to enjoy sitting outdoors there on a summer evening, sipping a drink and watching the swallows and cedar waxwings catching insects out over the river.

So what does all this have to with Downton Abbey? In an episode last season, the staff of Downton Abbey took the evening off to go to the new American film at a local theater.

Linocuts and an Apology

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 are really beautiful. Continue reading

Adventures in Exhibits

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…

 

steak

When I had to ask the deli at Stop N Shop if they can shrink wrap a fake piece of raw steak. Then I felt even weirder when they did it without missing a beat like they’ve done it before. (I have to explain—this “steak” now lives in the refrigerator in our 1980s kitchen in Making Connecticut.)

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A Change of Plans

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 silk later!).

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Map of Europe, 1830.

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What is this?

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

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The Glass House, New Canaan, 1979. The Connecticut Historical Society, 2012.437.0

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 of New Canaan, Connecticut, attracted by its rural charm and the convenient train transportation to New York. Marcel Breuer, the oldest of the five, was an instructor at Harvard; John M. Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, Philip Johnson and Eliot Noyes were his students. All five built houses in New Canaan, not only for themselves, but for their neighbors. Philip Johnson’s house, known simply as “The Glass House,” has been called the “most famous house in the world.” A simple glass box set on a grassy promontory, it’s a far cry from today’s McMansions. Johnson lived in it from 1949 until his death in 2005. Now administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it’s well worth a visit, even if you don’t like modern architecture. Think of it rather as a pavilion for viewing the landscape, a work of art, an expression of a personality. Other modernist houses still dot New Canaan’s hills, and may be glimpsed through the trees as you drive the narrow back roads.