Inside the CHS is moving!

MovingEDIT 1982_61_286In 2006 Barbara started the Manuscript blog on WordPress, talking about all the collections and her experiences working at CHS. She has kept it going mostly on her own, until the rest of the staff volunteered to help out, turning the manuscript blog in to Inside the CHS. Our staff has done an amazing job blogging daily about their passions and experiences working the the museum field. After over a year of growth on WordPress the blog is ready to come home to CHS.org.

However, we have even bigger news! We are not going to simply add Inside the CHS to the current site, we built a whole new CHS.org.  We are all working hard to get the site ready for launch in the next couple of weeks, so you might see a little down time here on Inside the CHS. To get ready, all our writers are taking a little summer time break. They are recharging their blogging batteries and to taking some time to learn how to use the new CHS.org

This blog will still be here, but all new posts, as well as our archive, will be moving to the new CHS.org. So enjoy some of the older posts, discover a new author, or send us some idea for new posts.

See you soon on the new CHS.org

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I’ve always loved history…and I’d love to be a volunteer

Simone Terrell, Volunteer

Simone Terrell, Volunteer

Almost every day I’m contacted by people—of all ages and backgrounds—who want to help the CT Historical Society as volunteers and interns. (An intern is someone who earns school credit.) It’s quite heartening to talk to so many like-minded people who appreciate the past and want to support our mission—to inspire and foster a life-long interest in history. I hear comments like these a lot: “I’ve always loved history…I was a history major…I always found history fun.” Continue reading

Marietta Canty: Actress by Day, Nutmegger at Heart

Marietta Canty 1 CHSAlongside the greater known actors of the glamour days in Hollywood stood Marietta Canty, the Hartford bred actress with a theatrical background and pride for her native state. Continue reading

Emancipation

CHS_Broadside_1857_C156b.rectoElihu Burritt of New Britain, Connecticut, was a noted social advocate. Among his causes were temperance, world peace, and the abolition of slavery. It took many years of devoted lobbying before he was able to call for a national emancipation convention, which is what this broadside advertises. The lists are names of men who pledged themselves to support the Convention.

Burritt was an advocate of the concept of Compensated Emancipation in which the Southern slave owners would be paid for their slaves from the proceeds of the sale of public lands. He saw this as not only freeing the slaves but removing the sectional tension that threatened the Union. The convention was held in August 1856. Burritt continued to push his cause and was beginning to make headway when John Brown’s Raid “closed the door against all overtures or efforts for the peaceful extinction of slavery” (The American Advocate of Peace and Arbitration, Vol. 53, No. 1 January 1891, p.8).

The Research Center has a number of printed works and manuscripts related to Burritt. You can see the list of materials by clicking here. We also have materials related to antislavery, emancipation, and slavery itself. You can search our online catalog for more information. This particular broadside can be studied by requesting Broadsides Small 1857 C156b in the Research Center.

Two notable families

We just acquired a particularly rich family collection that we hope researchers will use a lot.  It consists of correspondence among members of the Terry and Bacon families of Hartford and New Haven, respectively.  Nathaniel Terry, the progenitor of the family, married Catherine Wadsworth.  Nathaniel was mayor of Hartford and a Congressman.  His sons were also quite distinguished and most of them attended and graduated from Yale.

One son, Adrian Russell Terry, was a physician, and his most fascinating letters are those written while he was in Ecuador trying to establish a medical practice there.  Great observations of the local land and citizens, plus a huge list of medical supplies he purchased in New York City are two of the highlights among his papers.

Charles A. Terry, another of Nathaniel’s sons, was also a physician and when he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, he sent back vivid descriptions of that city.  His brother, Alfred Terry, was the most avid letter writer in the family.  His letters are mostly from his student days at Yale and later at Litchfield, Connecticut, where he studied law under James Gould.

Daughter Catherine Terry married noted minister, theologian and author Leonard Bacon.  All of their children (and there were plenty) wrote to mother about their activities, the development of their children, their relationships with other family members, etc.  Leonard Bacon and his son Leonard W. traveled to Europe and the Middle East from 1850-1851 and they wrote long, detailed letters of their impressions of the familiar and unfamiliar.

Catherine and Leonard’s son, Francis Bacon, a physician, wrote from Galveston, Texas where he tried (unsuccessfully) to get established in a practice.  His letters are filled with disparaging remarks about the lack of culture among the population there.  He also could not stand the weather.

George Bacon, another son, wrote several letters in the 1850s while he was on board the U.S.S. Portsmouth when it sailed to Shanghai and Hong Kong. Daughters Rebecca T. Bacon and Alice Mabel Bacon also made names for themselves, the first as an educator, the second as a teacher in Japan and as the founder of a nurses training school for African-American women in Hampton, Virginia.  And I could go on, as does the collection.

As I mentioned at the outset, this promises to be an extremely important research collection.  I cannot wait to learn what other gems exist in addition to the letters from Rutherford B. Hayes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Lydia Sigourney and Alexis de Toqueville.

Librarians and War Bond Workers

While perusing an unprocessed collection last week, I came upon a fascinating pamphlet published by the War Finance Committee.  Its title is “A New Way for Librarians and War Bond Workers to help their communities help their country win the War.”  Connecticut is used as one of the examples of how the program works.

“Public libraries in Connecticut, working with the State War Finance Committee, demonstrated that libraries could play an important part in the War Finance Program.  New professional and educational groups were reached through the libraries; and librarians, because of their special place and prestige in a community, made the best possible type of War Bond appeal to such groups.  Friends of the libraries and library trustees helped libraries win important literary awards for their communities.”

What struck me most was the statement the librarians hold a special place and prestige in the community.  Sometimes I am not sure we are held in the same esteem today.  I also found it a bit amusing that librarians were equated with war bond workers!

This publication and other documents related to suffrage and women’s role in World War II are part of a collection about Ruth Dadourian, a remarkable woman for her time.  A catalog record will be on the OPAC shortly.

Iron industry in Litchfield County

There are so many topics for research in this collection, I don’t know where to start. We just acquired 48 account books that belonged to John Adam and Samuel Forbes, both individually and as the partnership Forbes & Adam. These two men were instrumental in developing the iron industry around East Canaan, Connecticut. Adam lived in Taunton, Mass. before moving to East Canaan where he married Samuel Forbes’ daughter. Forbes and Adam owned interest in several ore mines, a sawmill and a paper mill, a slitting mill, a “nailery” and a general (company?) store. The volumes we have date from 1748-1875.

Many of the entries in the ledgers include not only the person’s name but his occupation and town of residence as well. Some of the occupations mentioned are ore digger, ore carter, anchor maker, bloomer and iron turner. Those customers of African heritage are so noted in the volumes. There is a volume entitled “Woman’s book”, a ledger that put me in mind of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s book Goodwives in that women, who are almost entirely identified by their relationship to men, paid their bills by nursing, spinning, making butter, and making and mending clothes.

The volume marked “Real Estate” includes notes about building a forge in Norfolk, 1760; to paying John Forbes for his 999-year lease of 1/32 of Salisbury Ore Hill; and the purchase of one whole right in the Susquehanna Purchase. Other entries give a fascinating look at the extent the iron industry impacted northwestern Connecticut–buying land for cord wood, investing in ore mines, hiring agents, investment in turnpikes, and on and on.

I got very frustrated reading through these accounts when I saw what I termed “scribbles” made by Charles S. Adam on the blank pages of the early volumes. However, I finally realized that, although he defaced the “sacred” 18th century volumes, he noted his financial transactions, local births and deaths, and national events such as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. There is a lot to be mined from Charles’ scribbles with further examination. I have learned to not be so hasty in my judgments.

This collection is a rich resource we sincerely hope the scholarly community will mine.

The “Scary” Side of the Store

Happy Halloween, everybody! G. Fox Building “at Halloween”It looks like the G. Fox building once had a few bats in its belfry! (Not really, of course! Mrs. Auerbach wouldn’t stand for it!)

Since there really isn’t anything Halloween-related in the G. Fox & Co. materials in our collection, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about the aspect of this collection that really “scares” me off. There’s really nothing scary about these materials; it’s just that in the diverse range of items that form this collection, these documents are not among my favorites. That’s not to say that some of you might not find them irresistible, however! Just what are these items I have heretofore been somewhat afraid to talk about? Legal documents.

The majority of legal documents in the collection were created by Moses Fox. Some of the more interesting ones concern the agreement between him and his sister, Emma Fox Plaut, and sister-in-law, Sadie Fox, regarding the transfer of ownership of the store over to him. After his death, Gerson Fox had left shares of the store to each of his children, but by 1917, Moses Fox was the sole owner of the company. There are also materials relating to Moses Fox’s purchase of the Brown Thomson & Co., a store he (and later his daughter, Beatrice) continued to operate independently of his own department store.

While many of the legal materials help to document aspects of the company, a few of them are just downright bizarre. The ones I am specifically referring to are the patent assignments that Moses Fox had in his possession. What makes them so odd is that none of them are made out to Moses Fox himself, or anyone else in the Fox family. In fact, some of these patent assignments concern individuals from New Jersey and New York while others concern the Smyth Manufacturing Company of Hartford. Perhaps Moses Fox was involved in some way with the Smyth Manufacturing Company, but I have yet to find a connection.

I am sure a researcher will come in one day and be able to uncover all their hidden secrets, but I’m afraid these documents will just have to wait until such a person arrives because all their legalese leaves me with a slight case of the shivers.

The Go-Getter, Fox’s Employee Newsletter

G. Fox & Co. published and distributed a weekly newsletter to G. Fox employees called the Go-Getter. While our collection does not contain a complete set of the newsletters, we do have quite a few of them. The first issue we have is Volume II, Number 16, dated July 14, 1933 and the last issue we have is Volume XXXIX, Number 48, dated November 27, 1973. The newsletter may have later been renamed Fox Tales because we have a copy of a “Love Letters Special Edition” of that publication dated June 1976.

The newsletters contain articles on a wide variety of subjects, from announcements concerning engagements, weddings, births, deaths, illnesses and promotions to profiles on individual departments and employees. Sometimes letters from Beatrice Fox Auerbach were included in the newsletters. Occasionally, word games such as crossword puzzles were also a part of the newsletter.

These newsletters provide a sense of the camaraderie among employees as well as a more intimate look at how Fox’s operated. I highly recommend taking a look through them and I just can’t resist saying, Go get a look at the Go-Getters!

Connecticut Room Menus

Archives are full of surprises and there’s nothing quite like the thrill of finding a hidden gem! While searching through the library’s ephemera collection to answer a reference question on an unrelated topic, a box of advertisements caught my eye because the label had G. Fox & Co. on it. Unbeknownst to me, the library has a whole box of G. Fox catalogs and a folder of other interesting materials such as a Charga-Plate (the old version of today’s credit card) and a pocket photo album. What really caught my eye, however, was the Connecticut Room menu from Friday, October 17, 1947!

This menu is a wonderful reflection of its time! Inserted in the menu is a small slip of paper that states:

“In compliance with the President’s request for conservation during the food crisis, G. Fox and Company will

  1. Serve no meat on Tuesday.
  2. Serve no poultry or eggs on Thursday.
  3. Serve bread or rolls only on request.”

This was in response to President Truman’s address about the world food crisis, the first presidential address to be telecast. It’s pretty amazing to see what kinds of information can be gleaned from a menu.

In the Koopman Family Collection, we also have a Connecticut Room menu; this one from Tuesday, October 5, 1965 and it’s really quite interesting to compare and contrast the two menus, from the food that was served to the difference in prices.

Click here to read more about the two menus!