He survived Andersonville Prison

Diaries and letters of Civil War soldiers from Connecticut form a large part of our manuscript holdings, so I don’t go out of my way to add more material unless it tells a previously unknown or undocumented bit of history. That is how and why we acquired a certificate issued to Alonzo G. Case of Simsbury by the Connecticut Association of Union Ex-Prisoners of War. We had nothing comparable to it in the collection. Who knew there was such an organization? Continue reading

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The Philadelphia Story… A Connecticut Story?

The Oscar-nominated movie that is known for its many catch phrases (“The calla lilies are in bloom again”) has a few distinct connections with the Nutmeg State. Katharine Hepburn, born of Hartford, created the role of Tracy Lord on the stage in 1939, which immediately preceded the 1940 on-screen release of The Philadelphia Story. Continue reading

An Olympic medal, a G. Fox Bracelet, and a Katharine Hepburn Costume

So, yesterday, on behalf of the Connecticut Historical Society, I attended the Connecticut Conference on Tourism in Hartford. Firstly, it is inspiring to see the number of wonderful institutions across Connecticut that are so passionate about what they are doing. There was lots of learning opportunities with workshops about social media, using video content, reaching core audiences in ways that are relevant to them, presentations, networking opportunities and all that. What I left with, however, was insight. Continue reading

Daylight Practice Air Raid

One of my favorite sources for historical content and context are diaries. Madeline L. Wells lived in Danielson, Connecticut, when she kept a diary that recently came into the collection here at CHS. She was about 22 in 1943 and kept a meticulous record of the major news stories of the day, all recorded in clear block print. For example, on Tuesday, April 20, 1943, she noted that Adolph Hitler’s 59th birthday was celebrated with “little enthusiasm” by the German people and that the British Army continued its advance toward Tunis. Only rarely do we get an idea of her personal activities. Continue reading

Thrall Hall

On March 18, a few people from CHS had the opportunity to tour Thrall Hall, a square dance hall in East Windsor, Connecticut. Ed Thrall, described by the Hartford Courant as a “true Connecticut Yankee original,” visited demolition sites in and around Hartford in the 1960s and salvaged materials, which he then carted back to his farm. He began building the dance hall in 1968, and it took him 10 years to build what is standing now. I learned about the place in February when I was cataloging some Richard Welling drawings. I was looking for information on one of the buildings in a drawing, and I found some information online about a place called Thrall Hall. Continue reading

Keeping Track of History

In the next few weeks I will be teaching a great deal of programs about immigration. The museum and outreach program focus on the stories of the people who have left their homes looking for a better, or different, life here in Connecticut. Being the son of an immigrant, the program has special meaning for me, and it has made me think about my own story.  Continue reading

Connecticut’s Modern Women Photographers and Their Fine Art Processes

On March 29, the temporary exhibition Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers will be wrapping up, which means that the various events and presentations and tours that I’ve been doing are also just about over. Continue reading

What in the “World”?

Sometimes the genesis of a blog is a current news story that has obvious historical parallels. Then again, a recent acquisition can certainly get my creative juices flowing. But once in a while I just like to slowly walk through collections storage, drawing inspiration from the many fabulous objects that help us connect to our past. Continue reading

Before Black Friday…there was G. Fox

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For decades now, the day after Thanksgiving has been referred to by many as “Black Friday”, the first day of the holiday shopping season. It’s a day of transition from a season of autumn and Thanksgiving to a season of holiday shopping and festivities; a day of drastic sales, crowds and madness at retail stores. As with many aspects of history common folklore often dictates people’s beliefs, falsely.  So, what is the history of “Black Friday”? What does it mean? Where did it come from? How long has it been around and what on earth was it like before “Black Friday”? Continue reading

Giving Thanks!

It is that time of year (I can’t believe that November is already here) when everyone begins to think about the things that they are thankful for. I want to give a big thank-you to the following for making 2013 such a great year! Continue reading