Hiring a professional…

At CHS we frequently exercise our internal photography muscles; however, there are certain items and certain projects that sometimes require a professional photographer.  Yesterday David Stansbury spent the day photographing a variety of our landscapes for the Artist and the Connecticut Landscape project that will result in a number of Connecticut landscapes being added to the Connecticut History Online database.  The landscapes ranged from houses and industrial scenes, to rivers and forests.


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A Pleasant Surprise

There are many items in the back recesses of the museum that were accessioned, catalogued, numbered, and housed years ago that rarely find there way into the light.  I often find myself stumbling upon items in the costume and textile collection that were catalogued far before I was here and if I haven’t had a reason to disturb a nicely packed box, I may not realize these wonderful items exist.  However, every once-in-a-while a project, or in this case a researcher’s project, comes up that requires diving into a seldom opened box, and each time the result is something surprising.

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My Favorite Manuscript

We have a great manuscript collection here at CHS, and if you read the blog posts by our Archivist, Barbara Austen, you’ve seen many examples of the great items that collection holds.  But today I wanted to tell you about MY favorite manuscript.  Out of the 3 million and something manuscript items in our collection (and I admittedly haven’t seen them all!), this particular one always gets me coming back for more.  Its title in our online catalogue is “William Buckingham record book, 1869-1890” but trust me, there is more to it than that… Continue reading

The Revolution in Connecticut

I recently returned from a mini-vacation to visit some friends in Colonial Williamsburg (and brought back a cold, which leads to my apology at this late posting!).  Even after living in New England for almost six years, I still think of Virginia and Massachusetts when I think of the American Revolution.  Being a Midwestern girl, most of my education on the subject of the American Revolution revolved around these two states (when we weren’t talking about the French fur traders on the mighty Mississippi).  These were the places you learned of and the places you yearned to visit.  However, after being immersed in a crash-course of New England history upon my move, I’ve learned quite a bit about the part Connecticut played in our fight for independence.


A New and Correct Map of the United States of North America. 1784. Engraved and Printed by Abel Buell. 1950.553.0.

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How Others (Don’t) See Us…

Coming off a road trip to West Virginia (mentioned in my previous blog) I was thinking about perceptions of place, and by extension the people who inhabit them. As coastal-oriented folks, my wife and I had absolutely no experience traveling through interior states; and oh my, West Virginia certainly lived up to its nickname “The Mountain State”; just ask our poor underpowered Honda. Thought those winding climbs to 3500 feet and above (complete with switchbacks and precipitous drops worthy of a James Bond film) would never end. With apologies to Dorothy and Toto, we knew for sure we weren’t in Connecticut anymore! Continue reading

Closure….It Can Be Complicated…

Tomorrow summer will officially begin and with it commences one of the easiest fashion seasons of the year.  In summer we need to do little more to ready ourselves for the day than hop out of bed, throw on a t-shirt and shorts, or even a jersey dress, a quick pair of sandals and off we go.  But did you ever stop to think that getting dressed maybe wasn’t always so easy?  Let me show you what I mean…


Dress. 1805-1810. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Terry. 1959.11.2

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Changes coming

As an institution, we are examining our use of social media to make sure we are reaching the widest possible audience. In the next few months you should see some changes. The title of the blog may become “History Nut” and the style of the blog will definitely change to be more in keeping with our History Nut theme and our web page design and color scheme at www.chs.org.

We will also be more inclusive, adding posts about items in the museum collection and library in addition to manuscripts. Our collections are so diverse, we could keep blogging about old favorites and newly acquired items for years and years. You can get a glimpse of our collections by checking out our online catalog for library and manuscript materials at http://chs.kohalibrary.com and our museum collections at http://emuseum.chs.org:8080/emuseum.

The blog will continue to provide additional information about collection items and often tie them to outside events or other things in our holdings that people might not know about. An object or document is only as interesting as the story it tells, which we will strive to do.

So stay tuned for some exciting changes!

One of several remarkable log books in the manuscript collection at CHS. Ms 75734.

One of several remarkable log books in the manuscript collection at CHS. Ms 75734.

A Horse Guard helmet in the military costume collection at CHS.

A Horse Guard helmet in the military costume collection at CHS.


Who was Albert Sharp?

Ebenezer Punderson, Roger Risley, Albert Sharp, James Terry…any of these names familiar? Whether they are or not, you may now read more about these men via our finding aids.

Finding aids are guides to collections. They are more in-depth than an online catalog record might be, helping researchers to locate the material in a collection most relevant to their topic.

While we still have many collections without finding aids, we are very excited that 30 have been added so far this summer. We hope the list will continue to grow. All of them may be accessed through our website (go to the Research page, online catalogs, scroll to Manuscript Finding Aids) as well as Connecticut Archives Online, where you may search the collections of several Connecticut repositories.

Through our website you have the option of viewing in HTML or a printable PDF. The PDFs are also available in binders in our Research Center. Included in the binders are finding aids that have yet to be digitized. Have a favorite? Let us know and we will move it to the top of the list. Yes, that’s right. We take requests!

Happy researching!

Records from the town of Plymouth, Connecticut are listed in one of the latest finding aids. (Photo from Connecticut History Online)

The CHS “Junk Drawer”

This post was written by Archives volunteer Marie Jarry.

All of us have that drawer at home for items we don’t know what else to do with–the junk drawer, the miscellaneous drawer. Perhaps you have a shoebox designated as such or even an entire closet. Well the Connecticut Historical Society has their own version of a miscellaneous box, only it’s approximately thirty boxes stuffed full of papers from another era. Some were tossed in the boxes after a flood a few decades ago. Others had been separated from their collections and were waiting to be reunited. Then there were items that nobody knew what else to do with.

Just a sample of the miscellaneous boxes!

When Barbara Austen, Florence  S. Marcy Crofut archivist here at  CHS, asked if I would like to make heads or tails of their miscellaneous manuscript collection, I jumped at the chance. Sure it was thirty boxes but my mind began to race with the possibilities.

What would be found in there? Perhaps a document signed by Abraham Lincoln? Or maybe some long forgotten copy of the Declaration of Independence? No, nothing as “glamorous” as that was found, though one of the first items I pulled out was a long-lost tax list of slaves in Hartford.  History isn’t just about the people and items who made headlines, it’s also about the everyday people and day-to-day activities that inform where we came from and why we do the things we do today.

Sometimes I found entire collections sitting in one box waiting to be cataloged. One of the most interesting was a collection of papers from a lawyer in Hartford named Andrew Broughel around the 1890’s. He had saved depositions from his cases, correspondence and bills. It was interesting to see what a couple getting divorced in 1897 had to argue over.

Another collection I found was created by the Connecticut Daughter’s of the Revolution Committee on Old Trails. From 1910-1930, they worked to preserve markers from the Old Boston Post Road. The collection contained hundreds of post cards, various maps and printed material. My favorite were little pictures of the “Madonna of the Trails” emblem that were “worn by anyone interested in the National Old Trails Road, the new Ocean to Ocean Highway.” They would cost you $1 each with all the proceeds going to the project.

Unfortunately, not everything in the miscellaneous boxes was as easy to catalog. There were hundreds of disparate letters, bills, promissory notes and poems that I had to try to make some sense of. I made detailed lists of names, places and dates from each item hoping to see some connections.

I began to notice I was accumulating a large number of letters from the town of Hampton addressed to Samuel Bennett and Harriet Spaulding. I figured these had to go together somehow. Now it was time for some detective work.

I first check the catalog at CHS to see if the person is already listed. If not, it’s on to ancestry.com and familysearch.org. If I have the person’s name, town and rough estimate of the year, I can usually find out when they were born, who they married, when they died. Family and town books in the CHS research center are also helpful. Follow the breadcrumbs and you will often be surprised by what you find.

In the case of the Bennetts and Spauldings, I did discover there was already a William Bennett from Hampton in the catalog. Could he be related to Samuel? So I did some research on familysearch.org and lo and behold, the William Bennett in the CHS catalog was the father of the Samuel from my letters! Now I had to figure out if Harriet Spaulding was related to this family. Sure enough, she married Samuel.

I’d like to say I was able to process all the papers this easily, but it often does not end up that way. I still have hundreds of letters that don’t have enough identifying information to formally catalog, but I can say those thirty boxes have been culled down to two.  Maybe soon you’ll come in to CHS and check out an item rescued from the “junk drawer” of history.