If only…

I love when individuals leave a record that is undeniably useful…if only everyone did…

ImageThe Costume and Textile Collection at the Connecticut Historical Society is lucky to have a number of amazing military uniforms to represent the men and women who fought from Connecticut in times of war.  Many of these uniforms come with names, which gives us a great leg-up on the researching front.  We recently installed a new pair of mannequins into the “Boom State” case of our permanent Making Connecticut exhibition.

The uniform, 1962.52.0, was donated by the original owner’s wife in 1962.  When diving into the record to find out more, I was only greeted with his name, Lieutenant John H. T. Sweet, Jr.  But…a name was enough.  After spending a fair amount of time searching for Lt. Sweet on the internet, I was able to find some amazing things…more than I could have dreamed!

Census records and marriage records are always a great place to start.  I was able to find out that the full name of our donor, given as Mrs. John. H.T. Sweet, Jr., is actually Henrietta Elliott Sweet.  Originally of Concord, New Hampshire, Henrietta married John on June 27, 1916.  They settled in Hartford, Connecticut, John’s birthplace, and remained there through the 1940s.  When they married, John was a physician and Henrietta was a graduate nurse.  Both were 31 years of age.

I was so glad to find these tidbits of information, but was even happier with what I found next.  So often we can gather the facts about an individual: birth, death, and marriage dates, plus where they lived and who their children were.  But more infrequently we come across information that tells us what a person thought.  Well, in 1920, the state of Connecticut sent out a questionnaire to those men and women who served in the World War.  John filled out such a questionnaire.  Not only did I find out that he attended Trinity College, or that he enlisted on June 13, 1918, and was discharged May 3, 1919, but I also found out that he served in France during his entire service as a physician in the Medical Corp. of the Reserve Corp. of the United States Army.

The most poignant question, however, asked about his feelings on the subject of serving in the war.  His response… “Military service is a necessary evil.  Personally I detested the life but in such an emergency no real man could stay a house and retain his self respect.”

If only we were able to know what everyone felt about their experiences in life.

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About Karen

Karen DePauw is a Research and Collections Associate at The Connecticut Historical Society. Along with aiding patrons who visit the museum in their research efforts, Karen works behind the scenes with the costume and textile collection. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History, double minoring in Theatre and Theology, from Quincy University. Karen obtained her Master of Science degree at the University of Rhode Island in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design, with a specialization in Historic Costumes and Textiles.

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