A look back

We tend to use the holiday season as an excuse for many things — overeating, overspending. Today I am going to use it as an excuse to talk about a printed document, one that is not part of our project. Fear not! There is at least one tie-in.  It is also a time of year for looking back. So in the spirit of “Auld Lang Syne,” I bring you The Courant Almanac for 1880.

1880 Almanac

The Courant Almanac for 1880, Almanac collection, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut.

The Hartford Courant is the country’s oldest newspaper in continuous publication. This past fall the paper celebrated its 245th birthday. CHS’s Diana McCain, Head of the Research Center, and Rich Malley, Head of Collections, were on hand for the festivities. They brought with them an original copy of the Courant’s first issue (there are many reproductions available).

In the late 19th century the Courant published an annual almanac. Many local businesses advertised in the almanac, including Aetna Insurance Company, The Hartford Fire Insurance Company (which will celebrate its bicentennial in 2010), and The Travelers Life and Accident Insurance Company.  One advertisement in the 1880 edition is for Neptune Cord and Twine Mills. Back in January I processed, and created a record for, CHS’s Neptune collection. Ads in the 1880 Courant Almanac

One of several cotton and twine mills in the area, Neptune was originally known as Higgins and Card. It later became Card and Company, and finally Neptune Twine and Cord Mills (or Cord and Twine Mills). The business was handed down from Stanton Card to his son-in-law, Emory Johnson and then to his grandson, E. Emory Johnson. The company consisted of two mills, the upper and lower. The lower was built by Card and later renamed the Neptune. Johnson built the upper in 1862. Following E. Emory Johnson’s death in 1905, the company was sold out of the family. Most recently the land on which the mills operated has become a Connecticut State Park (Machimoodus State Park). Business records, primarily from the 1960s when the firm was owned by Raymond Schmitt, can be found in the boxes. The 155 volumes consist of Account Books, Blotters, Daybooks, Journals, Ledgers, Production Records, and Time Books. The volumes date from 1814 to 1956. The collection also includes some miscellaneous items, including the shipping account book of James Cone, likely a neighbor of the Card – Johnson family. (Ms# 95860)

Reading this almanac it is clear some things have changed in the past 130 years. The ad opposite Neptune’s is for a butter store. They boast the “finest alderney creameries,” certainly not something we see too often these days. In addition to advertisements, the almanac included a list of the state’s elected officials, stories, and monthly calendars. The illustration opposite the almanac’s January calendar, though, depicts the Instrument Room of the Storm and Weather Signal Service Bureau in Washington, DC. We certainly have not lost our obsession with weather watching!

January 1880

Weather illustration

A piece about camping, printed opposite the May calendar, offers the following advice. “Treat all with whom you come in contact with courtesy; the good-will of a dog is better than his ill-will. Leave all chronic grumblers, and those not willing to make the best of everything, at home. Exception — one such in a party will be found endurable as a butt.”

Among the stories we can read about the personification of oysters. Apparently they do not like the letter ‘R’ (middle of the right column, just above the Household Recipes).

Stories in the Almanac

This coming year CHS will celebrate its 185th year of inspiring and fostering  “a life-long interest in history through exhibitions, programs and Connecticut-related collections”. We hope you will join us!

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