About Rich

Richard C. Malley is the Head of Collections & Research at CHS. A maritime historian by background he previously served on the curatorial staffs of Mystic Seaport and The Mariners’ Museum in Virginia. He oversees research and collections functions at CHS.

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

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The Colonial Revival in Art

Alfred Wordsworth Thompson’s Advance of the Enemy reflected popular sentiment in the Colonial Revival period. CHS 1930.5.0

Alfred Wordsworth Thompson’s Advance of the Enemy reflected popular sentiment in the Colonial Revival period. CHS 1930.5.0

Over the years that I have worked at CHS I have noticed that some items seem to have a particular appeal as illustrations. Sometimes it is clearly understandable, as with the flag that decorated Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater, or Amos Doolittle’s engravings of Lexington and Concord. But in other instances the attraction is less obvious. A case in point is an 1885 oil painting titled Advance of the Enemy, the work of Alfred Wordsworth Thompson (1840-1896). For some reason the painting has resonated with authors and magazine and textbook publishers over the years, based on a quick review of its publication track record. Why? Continue reading

What’s in a Name…

Seventy or so years ago this highway sign reminded drivers on what is now Route 7 of New Milford’s Native American roots. CHS 2003.165.1

Seventy or so years ago this highway sign reminded drivers on what is now Route 7 of New Milford’s Native American roots. CHS 2003.165.1

The Connecticut landscape is filled with place names based on Native American antecedents, from towns and villages like Naugatuck, Niantic and Scitico to rivers such as the Housatonic, the Shetucket and, of course, lest we forget, the Connecticut. Many of these names are based on words in various Algonquian dialects spoken by Native inhabitants during the 17th century, when first contact with Europeans occurred. Lacking a written language, Native Americans’ names, stories—their history—was handed down orally from generation to generation. Continue reading

In Praise of Porches

With the arrival of summer weather each year I think back to the joys of what I call “front porch living.” Unfortunately, it is an experience that has become more and more rare for a variety of reasons. Continue reading

Decoration Day A Century Ago

As the end of May approaches I begin my mental checklist of things to do over Memorial Day (originally named “Decoration Day”) weekend: mow the lawn, plant the vegetable garden, make barbeque plans (after consulting the weather gods), attend the local parade, maybe go biking or kayaking; oh, and put flowers on my parents’ graves. Memorial Day, the unofficial gateway to summer in these latitudes, carries multiple meanings for many of us. Continue reading

A High Tech Relic and the Other “Cable Guy”

American industrialist Cyrus W. Field was celebrated for his determination to make the transatlantic cable a success. The music sheet of "The Ocean Telegraph March" featured his portrait.

American industrialist Cyrus W. Field was celebrated for his determination to make the transatlantic cable a success. The music sheet of “The Ocean Telegraph March” featured his portrait.

The long, frustrating search for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 serves as a reminder that the deepest parts of the ocean remain largely unexplored, as much terra incognita as the New World was to European explorers five centuries ago. In fact, we are told, scientists know more about the surface of the moon than they do the pelagic depths of the world’s seas. Continue reading

A Legacy in Steel: Billings & Spencer Co.

While it can be argued that these days Hartford is thought of as primarily a center of insurance and financial services, anyone driving through some of the neighborhoods just beyond downtown will be quick to note an impressive array of old industrial buildings. These brick and stone structures, some empty and unloved, others hosting a wide variety of modern dreams, offer very real clues to one of the city’s earlier incarnations—an industrial hub specializing in metal products. In addition to iconic Colt firearms manufactured at the complex along the Connecticut River in the city’s south end, there are other buildings just bursting with stories of technological innovation and daring, many of them strung along the Park River. Weed sewing machines, Underwood typewriters, and Pope’s Columbia bicycles (and later automobiles), are just a few of the products that come to mind. Close by stands the remains of yet another hometown industrial giant—Billings & Spencer. Continue reading

America’s First “Brown Water” Navy

This past weekend we offered a special Civil War-themed behind the scenes tour at CHS. I spent a day selecting a wide variety of objects, manuscripts and graphics items to include in the tour, including several that I had not used in the past. Among these was a pair of fine photographs of river gunboats being constructed in September 1861. Continue reading

Beware the Bottle!

Much attention is focused these days on the costs of addiction, to drugs and alcohol in particular, here in America. The Partnership for a Drug Free America is one well-known effort, while “Drink Responsibly” is the motto of a liquor industry campaign. While the specifics of these current public education efforts may vary, they rest on a foundation that dates back two centuries or more in this state and nation. Continue reading

A Connecticut “Monuments Man”

Over the past year there has been any number of news accounts concerning artwork apparently seized by the Nazis during their occupation of Europe in World War II. Adolph Hitler and Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering were particularly rapacious in this regard. Recently a large collection of paintings and other works believed to have been taken during the war turned up in a private German collection, sending investigators and attorneys scrambling to sort out the mess. Continue reading