A Who’s Who of the Early Republic

Working with the papers of Oliver Wolcott Jr. really is like reading a Revolutionary War/Early Republic who’s who, as I mentioned in my previous post about our grant-funded project. I keep running across letters to or from the likes of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster. Then there are the slightly less well-known names like U.S. Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, Secretary of War Henry Knox, Jedidiah Morse (noted geographer), U.S. Senator and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Ellsworth, artist John Trumbull, Massachusetts Congressman Fisher Ames, and Connecticut poet Joel Barlow who also served as consul to Algiers during the Barbary Wars.

While perusing the letters to check the clarity of the image, I find many names I don’t recognize right off. I use Google and Wikipedia to identify these people and as a result I am learning more about American history than I ever did in eight years of college.

So far, with funding from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), we have been able to make three boxes of Wolcott’s digitally available on Connecticut History Online (CHO). The collection was originally bound in oversize volumes but was removed some time in the past. The strips of paper affixed to the edge of each document sometimes cover the left margin and can at times cover the writing along that edge. The people doing the microfilming did not always try to move the strips so some text will be obscured. As part of our quality control process, we are making note of where that happens, and we hope to rescan those pages in the future so the full text appears.

It is very gratifying to see the documents of Connecticut history revealed via the internet. Thank you NHPRC and CHO.

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