Are you Mickey Mouse?

White gloves often seen in museum and archives settings.

White gloves often seen in museum and archives settings.

One question we often get in the Waterman Research Center from researchers handling manuscripts is, shouldn’t I be wearing gloves? Here at CHS we have determined that clean hands are less damaging to the documents than gloves would be. Note the emphasis on clean. Your fingers are highly sensitive to the edges of pages, can feel if a document is particularly weak or beginning to tear. Gloves reduce that sensitivity and could lead to further damage due to decreased dexterity and sensation. However, if you are using photographs, handling textiles or furniture, looking at works of art on paper . . . and the list goes on . . . you will be asked to wear gloves. In these cases, the oils on your fingers are more dangerous than the gloves. Continue reading

A behind the scenes tour

Aerial view of The Hartford's main building on Asylum Street in Hartford.

Aerial view of The Hartford’s main building on Asylum Street in Hartford.

On Tuesday a number of CHS staff had a cook’s tour of the archives of The Hartford, one of Connecticut’s premier insurance companies. I never realized that behind the imposing main building that is on Asylum Street, there is an entire campus of buildings and facilities. Continue reading

June in the Archives

Another month, another 162 records added to the CHS online catalog! Earlier this week we reached the 1800th entry. Our original goal being 900, this was a fairly significant accomplishment.

Here is a quick look at some of the items cataloged over the past month:

We begin with an account book kept by Major John Bigelow of Hartford, Connecticut. Bigelow was commissioned Major in 1778 and appointed to manage and oversee the manufacture of clothing for the soldiers in the Continental army. The same year he was appointed by the Governor and Council to purchase cloth suitable for Connecticut’s officers. The papers consist of deeds, receipts, commissions, and similar documents pertaining to the Bigelow and Hillyer families. (Ms 75763)

The Dixon family collection contains two notebooks, some newspapers, and an assortment of correspondence. One notebook is a journal kept by Elizabeth Dixon while living in Washington, DC, as her husband, James Dixon, served in the 29th Congress. The other notebook is a commonplace book filled with politically related news clippings. Many of the clippings pertain to James Dixon. There are several copies of the Supplement to the Courant, the front page of the Connecticut Courant (Jan. 2, 1858), and a copy of the Army and Navy Journal (Oct. 24, 1868). The family correspondence contains a variety of letters and invitations. James Dixon was a native of Enfield, Connecticut and the couple made their home in Hartford. (Ms 76582)

John Cuzner was a soldier with the Sixteenth Connecticut Infantry, Company B between 1862-1865. The letters he wrote were to his fiance, Ellen. Cuzner was a prisoner who was paroled in 1864, after reaching a weight of only 80 pounds. Also includes transcripts of the letters compiled and written by his daughter Jennie Cuzner Sperry, evidently intended for publication. Of interest are two published songs, entitled “When the Sixteenth Marched Away”, and “The Song of the Union Prisoners” and a handwritten sheet with the words and music of the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy Oh!”  These are supplemented by programs for anniversary celebrations of the Battle at Antietam, and assorted printed material about the Civil War from magazines.  Seemingly unrelated but part of the collection are bills and correspondence related to Dorrance Welles of Glastonbury and other members of the Welles family.  (Ms 100904)

Slightly different from many of the collections this month are two volumes, containing the records of the Cornwall Creamery Company (formed in Cornwall, Connecticut in 1889) and a record of Cornwall property deeds from 1754 to 1819. The creamery records include the articles of association, by-laws, and notes from stockholders meetings. Notes from Directors meetings have been removed from the volume. The second volume contains property deed records from 1818 to 1873.

One of the benefits of this project is being able to match manuscript material with objects in our museum collection. Such is the case with the Horace Lay letter. Lay was a soldier with the 16th Connecticut Volunteers, Company I. He wrote to his wife while at Leesboro, Maryland, complaining that his heel was sore, and that there were no provisions yet. In the museum collection we have a plate originally owned by Lay (1950.368.0) and a photograph (2003.176.1-3) taken by him. (Ms 62777)

The account books of  Oliver Wolcott primarily comprise expense accounts and farm records. Wolcott was a Litchfield, Connecticut, farmer, merchant, and Secretary of the federal Treasury. The earliest volume, 1781-1785, includes accounts with the State of Connecticut, Chauncey Goodrich, and Oliver Wolcott Sr. The second volume, 1800-1803, includes accounts with Tapping Reeve, a record of apples that were planted in April 1801, and expenses for labor, meat, seeds, and textiles. Of particular note is an invoice of furnitures sent to Middletown. Several similar lists of furniture and other articles sent to Connecticut can be found in the third volume. Dating from 1800-1826, it records farming accounts, wages, expenses of stock, farming tools and other items at Litchfield, more accounts with Tapping Reeve, and records of purchases of plaster of Paris. One interesting entry near the front of the book records that Wolcott paid William Cox for painting 18 chairs. A record of notes receivable and notes payable are found in the fourth volume, 1809-1814. The record includes the date the note was issued, the length of time to pay it back, by whom it was drawn, in whose favor, by whom endorsed or accepted, the amount due, the date receivable, the amount received, the account credited, and how it was negotiated. Names appearing in the record besides that of Wolcott are James Kelso, Isaac Bell, John Graham, John Colvill, Alexander S. Glass, John Tappan, and A. Gracie & Sons. The final volume, 1817-1831, appears to be the record of Wolcott’s farm manager, who is selling wool, flour, lambs, pigs, fabric, cheese, and is recording wages. It appears from the entries that Wolcott may have had a wool factory. (Account Books/2010.208)

John Avery‘s account book stands out because of the items he was working on. A resident of Preston, Connecticut, Avery was a self-taught silversmith and clockmaker. He recorded repairing a number of different items, including tea kettles, brass buttons, combs, and even an umbrella. Later the volume was used as a farming account book. (Ms 79264)

The Rowland family sermons written by three successive generations  – David Sherman Rowland (1719-1794), Henry Augustus Rowland (1764-1835) , and Henry Augustus Rowland (1804-1859). Includes sermons labeled “West Division June 26th 1766. Thanksgiving for the Repeal of the Stamp Act” and “Occasioned by the taking of Fort William Henry” (21 August 1757). One dated 13 May 1759 is addressed to the soldiers going to Canada. Among other things, it admonished them not to plunder. Another delivered 7 December 1780 carries a four page account of Arnold’s treason and one dated 11 December 1783 is marked “occasioned by the peace.” Most of the later sermons are not dated. Letters are included among the earlier sermons. David Rowland preached in Plainfield, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and Windsor, Connecticut. His son, the elder Henry Rowland, also served in Windsor. (Ms 79809)

Thomas Williams, Benjamin Huntington, Jr., Jedidiah Lathrop, Levi Huntington and Felix Huntington formed a partnership in 1776 to manufacture saltpeter. Their factory was probably near either Norwich or New London, Connecticut. In this account book they recorded accounts for work, travel, boards, nails, rum, hooks and eyes for the Great Gate, trying Town House dust, cider, pulling down a chimney, watching the mason, digging dust, and procuring tubs, ashes, barrels and tending kettles. (Account Books/2010.215)

As we approach the Fourth of July, it seems fitting to think of parades, such as might have been attended by the New Haven Cornet Band. In their account book, the New Haven, Connecticut band noted  earnings for concerts in parks, church and ethnic parties, encampments, regattas, dedications, and parades between 1867-1879. (Ms 80530)

All of the above collections are open for research. Please come visit, but keep in mind we will be closed on Saturday, July 3 and Monday, July 5 for the holiday.

February in the Archives

It is time once again to recap the month’s processing activity. All of the records for our NHPRC project have been uploaded to our online catalog and the materials are ready for you to research!

Frederick Curtis‘s silver manufacturing company is considered the first to manufacture German silver (Nickel silver) in the country. An account book kept by the Curtisville (area of Glastonbury now known as Naubuc) company records employee names, hours, wages, and types of tableware produced. Also included are the production records of finishers. At the time the records begin, January 1852, there were 40 production employees. By November 1862 there were only five. Frederick Curtis bought the buildings and land for his company in 1846. During the Civil War he sold to the Connecticut Arms and Manufacturing Company.  One of the employees listed in the book is Albert Walker, a magician whose props are part of the CHS museum collections.  (Ms 73440)

The earliest item in this small Hartford Fire Department collection (0.25 linear foot) is a receipt listing firefighters and the pay they received in 1851. The collection also includes early 20th century rules and regulation booklets, instructions for the fire alarm and telegraph stations, programs from several banquets and balls, an account of being on special assignment with a New York fire company, lists of firefighters with their ages, weights and heights, and correspondence of Fire Chief Michael T. Kenna. Kenna was involved with Hartford’s 1937 Disaster Emergency Committee. He also received a 1941 report titled “Planning for Hartford’s Future.” (Ms 68083)

Among the interesting pieces in a collection of papers from the Fitch and Chapman families of the Norwich, Connecticut, area are agreements for the partnership of Fitch and Bissell to build the National Road in Pennsylvania and legal documents regarding Azel Hyde, Benjamin Fitch, and Ebenezer Fitch’s debts. Due to lack of payment the men served time in New Gate Prison. (Ms 100831)

Robert Hale Kellogg enlisted in the Civil War from Wethersfield, Connecticut. Kellogg (1844-1922), a Sergeant Major with the 16th Connecticut Volunteers, was held as a prisoner of war at Camp Sumter and later wrote a book about his experiences in the war. Some of his notes are included in this collection. Diaries included cover his time in the war, between 1862 and 1865. Other pieces  include letters sent to his parents, Silas and Lucy Kellogg, of Sheffield, Massachusetts. Other Civil War related items include his enlistment, promotion certificate, discharge, a New Testament Kellogg carried with him, as well as a prayer book. (Ms 68013)

Envelope sent to Silas Kellogg

Envelope from Robert Hale Kellogg papers, 1862-1931, Ms 68013. CHS, Hartford, CT

The Rowland Family collection deserves a blog post of its own, or at least the work of our extra fabulous volunteer, Racquel, deserves more than the few lines I can devote here. The collection contains extensive correspondence among members of a Windsor, Connecticut, family. The majority of the letters were written to Frances Bliss Rowland, the daughter of Reverend Henry Augustus Rowland and Frances Bliss of  Windsor. Henry and Frances Rowland had eight children, seven of whom are represented in the collection: Frances Bliss, Henry Augustus, Elizabeth Newberry, William Sherman, Edward, George, and James Edwards. Reverend Rowland led a pious life and in his letters admonished his children to live upright, Christian lives.  Henry Augustus Rowland Jr., a Yale graduate, served at the Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for three years in the 1830s before returning north. His letters from that time described life in the ante-bellum South and included a description of a brutal incident involving slaves. George described his journey through Panama to California in 1849 and the difficulty making a living during the Gold Rush, warning his siblings not to follow him.  William Sherman Rowland described an 1840 Democrat and Whig procession in New York City, discussed society and empathized with Frances about the limited options for women, and discussed his disappointment in not accompanying brother George to California. Edward Rowland described a slave auction in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1833, discouraged Frances from taking a job at the McLean Asylum, and mentioned his marriage of convenience in 1841 to Elizabeth Avery. In letters to his brothers, he described his collection of plants, flowers and herbs. Of particular interest is a letter dated October 23, 1840, from Rosetta, a servant who came into cousin Mary Elizabeth Rowland’s family at the age of 9 and was educated by the family. In the letter she discussed prejudice, the frustrating need to get free papers to move west, and her desire to live in free air, or not at all. (Ms 66917)

The papers of Theodore Woodbridge focus on the years of the American Revolution and consist of general orders, returns, accounts with the State of Connecticut, troop reports, loyalty oaths, and correspondence with William Health, Heman Swift,  A. Chapman, and Ruben Calkin. The topics of the letters include troop movements, lack of sufficient men to hold a line, deserters, army morale, selling forfeited (Tory) estates, smallpox among the army, and military strategy, including Woodbridge’s taking of Morrisania (now part of the Bronx). A letter from A. Chapman dated February 1, 1778, includes a description of the Seven-Day Baptists at Ephrata, Pennsylvania.  Heman Swift wrote wanting to discuss the General Assembly’s plan to pay officers with land instead of money. This could have been in response to a complaint from the men of the Connecticut Line of the Continental Army about the depreciation of specie. After 1783, the number of items decreases considerably and in most cases is related to financial dealings, although there are several letters about surveying land in Ohio. (Ms Woodbridge)

Hope you will come and take a look at these collections and more. Visit our web site for more details!

January in the Archives

The cataloging has continued here at CHS. Here is a sampling of some of the records making their way to the online catalog.


Ok, maybe not that kind of alien. One of the collections cataloged last month was the Governor John Treadwell papers. The papers include incoming and outgoing correspondence and several speeches of John Treadwell while Lieutenant Governor and then Governor of Connecticut.  The incoming letters discussed such issues as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the election of 1800, the use of gun-boats for national defense, and the early talks of Union secession over the institution of slavery. Correspondents include Lyman Beecher, Henry W. Dessasure, Chauncey Goodrich, Governor Roger Griswold, James Hillhouse, Ebenezer Huntington, Joseph Lyman, Timothy Pitkin, Benjamin Tallmadge, Uriah Tracy, Jr., Benjamin Trumbull and Rev. Newton Skinner.  Treadwell’s speeches include his acceptance as Governor and those given at the opening of the General Assemblies during his term. (Ms 22445)


An unusual piece Barbara uncovered is a handmade booklet, primarily consisting of newspaper clippings about witchcraft in Connecticut and Massachusetts printed in the Hartford Evening Post and The Union and Advertiser of Rochester, NY.  Along with it is a handwritten letter from Jules to Pat (no last names) about witches in Windsor. The booklet is titled Witches of Windsor, and the Witch-hunters of Hartford and was written by David Williams Patterson.  (Ms 10732)

Why the teacher always told you to put your name on the paper!

Ten of the account books we cataloged this month have unknown authors. They include several merchants and storekeepers, a dressmaker, a weaver (more below), a bricklayer, and two butchers.  We have many anonymous account books, which is really too bad. The information can be quite interesting and it would be great to be able to give the authors credit.  For example, the Dressmaker’s account book records the sale of shoes, hooks and eyes, dresses, undersleeves, hats, hair pins, whalebone, welting, yard goods, lace veils, and aprons. Charges were for cutting, fitting, making and basting dresses.  The customers, mostly women, lived in the Norfolk, Connecticut area.  There was, though, also an account with Joseph Battell & Co. (Account Books/2010.002)


Lately Barbara has started venturing into our genealogical manuscript collections. Among these is the collection of Donald L. Jacobus genealogy correspondence, research, and personal diaries.  The collection consists primarily of correspondence, arranged alphabetically by correspondent, related to Jacobus’ genealogical research. Correspondents include Helen G. Carpenter, John I. Coddington, Meredith B. Colket, Jr., George Dudley Seymour, Helen Turney Sharps, Frank Farnsworth Starr, Clarence A. Torry, and the publisher Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor.  There are also notebooks, abstracts of vital and cemetery records, newspaper clippings, index cards for his sources, research on the descendants of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and a selection of book announcements, sent to him either in his capacity as editor of The American Genealogist or as an independent researcher. Included are manuscripts for two of his books, one on the families of New Haven and the other on the Waterman family. Of note are diaries kept by Ida Wilmot Lines Jacobus and her son, Donald Lines Jacobus, which provide insight into their private lives. Both Donald and Ida lived in New Haven, Connecticut. The volumes from 1905-1907 and 1922-1948 were kept by Ida Jacobus. When she became ill at the end of 1948, the diary was continued by Donald. With the exception of one entry in 1952, Donald kept the diaries from 1903, 1952, and 1963-1969. On February 27, 1952, Donald noted his mother’s death. Ida’s diary entries were more in depth than Donald’s, but both wrote of day to day activities. Also of interest is Donald’s baby book and several posters, in Russian, promoting socialism over capitalism. (Ms 97520)

D.L. Jacobus

Genealogist D.L. Jacobus in his early years (Donald L. Jacobus Genealogy Correspondence, Research, and Personal Diaries, 1903-1969, MS Jacobus. CHS, Hartford, CT)


In addition to the Anonymous weaver’s account book, I also cataloged the Lippitt Manufacturing Co. weaving book and the White & Robinson weaving book. All three seem to be from Rhode Island, though the clients recorded in the anonymous book resided throughout central Connecticut.  The Lippitt volume has an interesting twist. In addition to listing the names of the weavers, as well as information on the amount and type of work they performed and their pay, the volume was used to record sales of lottery tickets for the Fairfield (Connecticut) Episcopal Society. Most of the purchasers were from the Pomfret, Connecticut area. Geographically, Pomfret and Fairfield are about as far apart as any two Connecticut cities can be! (Oversize/Ms 64633, Ms 66336-12, Account Books/Ms 66336-22)

All of these collections are open for research. Come visit!