Roberts’ Opera House: Finest Place of Amusement in New England

In January 1869 the Roberts’ Opera House opened on Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut. In an article announcing the event, the New York Times called it the “finest place of amusement in New-England.” Today I was cataloging a ledger with listings of performances at the Opera House between 1871 and 1886. Each entry includes the name of the performer(s) and the amount of money collected at each event.

Roberts' Opera House records, 1871-1886, Ms 26034. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

A variety of acts, lecturers, and other performance groups entertained at Roberts’. There were many minstrel acts, some from as far away as California. Readings, lectures, operas, and marionette acts also occurred. Over the years many performances of Uncle Tom’s Cabin took place. Operas, such as a performance of Don Giovanni, brought in the largest sums (over $2700 for a performance in February 1872). Most, though, would yield a couple hundred dollars. At only $50, the Mansfield Seance in May 1878 was one of the lower grossing events. At the end of each year the total receipts were recorded, along with an average per show.

Roberts' Opera House records, 1871-1886, Ms 26034. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Some well-known people and groups took the stage, including Buffalo Bill, the Yale Glee Club, and Henry Ward Beecher. Others are less familiar to us today, such as Maid of Columbia, Waifs of New York, and Schools for Scandal. Black Crook held many performances, but I only noted one mention of Barnum’s Aggregation. In the later years temperance lectures were held in the hall, and it was used more than once by the Catholic Society. A newspaper clipping stored with the volume lists performances from 1870, including a two-headed girl!

If you are interested in researching amusement in Hartford, come visit! This volume is open for research.

“…the War…with Great Britain, is extensively unpopular;”

A little Friday fun…

The War of 1812 was not too popular with New Englanders!

Petition, Whiting family papers, 1754-1819, Ms 19073. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

“WHEREAS great pains have been taken to impress the public mind with the idea that the War in which we are engaged, with Great Britain, is extensively unpopular; and that it will not be supported by the People of New-England, the undersigned think proper to declare, that while they lament the necessity of a War, they are fixed in the determination to support it, till the attainment of an honorable peace.”

The petition is not dated. Above the printed text, “Windham, Connecticut” was hand written.

This piece, and the rest of the Whiting family papers, are available for research.

Weather report for September 22

Do you have any idea what the weather was like on this day in 1860? According to Samuel Chapman of East Hartford, Connecticut, it was clear and pleasant, with wind from the south.

Samuel Chapman weather records, 1841-1874, Ms 16017. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Chapman kept daily records of the weather between 1841 and 1874. The entries, as you can see in the above image, were very general and always included the direction of the wind. Occasionally, as in February 1848, Chapman noted information about local happenings. “NB the North River is open for Steamboats,” he wrote between the entries for February 4 and 5.

Of the entries I’ve read so far, my personal favorite is from May 1868.

Samuel E. Chapman weather records, 1841-1874, Ms 16017. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

An old robber was acquitted!

These volumes, as well as other weather records, are available for research. Come visit!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton letter

Fall is quickly approaching, the new school year has begun, and the year 5771 has begun for Jews around the world. For us, this September is the beginning of a new grant cycle. After having cataloged 1945 manuscripts and account books since September 2008, our counter is being reset to zero (all have been entered into our online catalog). Over the next two years we hope to catalog at least as many items, further decreasing our backlog. This new project is also funded by the NHPRC and we continue to be grateful for their support.

I intend to return to my schedule of [This Month] in the Archives posts along with posts about items that Barbara and I find interesting (and hope you do, too!). I just spent some time doing an inventory of part of our holdings and was pleasantly surprised to find a letter written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Hartford, Connecticut suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker. As we continue to display our suffrage exhibit and celebrate the anniversary of the 19th amendment, it seemed apropos to share it with you.

ECS letter

Elizabeth Cady Stanton letter, ca. 1890s, Ms x3025. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Mrs. Stanton wrote four pages to Mrs. Hooker. She began by explaining why she was unable to travel to Connecticut to help with the state’s suffrage cause. That spring and summer Stanton was quite busy addressing graduating classes. It was the first time a woman had been asked to do so, and she felt she could not pass up the opportunity.

The tone of the letter demonstrates that the two women were friendly, and had at least one friend in common. On the third page Stanton asks, “Will you & Pauline be at Saratoga?” Stanton signed the letter, “Lovingly yours.”

ECS signature

Elizabeth Cady Stanton letter, ca. 1890s, Ms x3025. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The letter is open for research and the catalog record will be available at the end of September.