Celebrating Birthdays at the CHS!

This past week I celebrated my 31st birthday (not a milestone year at all!) – at home, in my pajamas all day, glued to hour after hour of non-academic television shows, and watching the snow fall outside. By the end of the day, my Connecticut yard was blanketed with about 10 inches of snow. I did venture outside to shovel a path for my Border Collie, Poncho, and, along with my husband, played a little soccer with him. This was one of the highlights of birthday #31!

Poncho and his favorite soccer ball

Poncho and his favorite soccer ball on a much warmer day. 


We are celebrating many other birthdays at the Connecticut Historical Society this winter!

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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

Wolfhounds for sale in Simsbury

In the early 20th century at Valley Farm Kennels in Simsbury, Connecticut, Joseph B. Thomas raised and sold Russian wolfhounds, also called Borzoi. The farm boasted nearly 4000 square feet of buildings for the dogs surrounded by acres of grounds. As an advertisement claimed: “Visitors are always welcome and trains will be met on request. There are constantly in the Kennels between fifty and one hundred Wolfhounds of different ages”. Most were for sale. What made these hounds different was that they were from the interior of Russia, not the Imperial Kennels. Thomas called them the “ancient type” and he spent many months tracking them down and then breeding them.

I had never heard of Valley Farm Kennels until someone contacted me about a guest book he had and wanted to know more about. Well, I could not find a lot of information about the Kennels, but the guest book is now part of our collections and we hope someone will do additional research about the people and the hounds involved.

People visited the Kennels from New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington, DC, and of course, Connecticut. Visitors signed the guest book and some added poetry, sketches, and even musical notation. The book dates from 1901-1915.

The poem penned on the pages illustrated here reads:

Poets have sung of golden days

The sketches and the poem were by the same person, L.L.K., in the guest book of the Valley Farm Kennels. Ms 101712. You can see the image of a Borzoi on the left.

on the banks of the far-away

And their thoughts are fair to look upon

In an ideal sort of way!

But give up something more practical

Wolfhounds fair to see-ski

And a day or two at the Valley farm

Will be good enough for me-ski

Several questions come to mind. How many visitors actually bought a Wolfhound? Or were they just sight-seeing? How many people were repeat visitors, and why? What other attractions were in the area? As usual, I have more questions than answers.

After Thanksgiving, look for this volume to be on display in our latest exhibit “Cats and Dogs.”

Another page from the Valley Farm Kennels guest book shows an artist drawing or painting a portrait of one of the dogs. Ms 101712.

Stonington, Connecticut.

One of the largest collections cataloged for our grant project was the Stonington selectmen’s records, 1792-1903.  The collection, measures 30.25 linear feet (61 boxes) and dates from the entire 19th century, the bulk of the records are from the 1880s and 1890s. Earlier records, from the 1820s, have yielded names of colored people (a term often used to refer to Native Americans) and Negroes living in town. Later records detail purchases of groceries for the poor, schoolhouse expenses, and labor for highway repairs. Each month the selectmen would submit their bill to the town, complete with all their receipts. Earlier submissions were entirely handwritten, but by the 1880s the majority of the documentation was written on pre-printed forms.

Among the more interesting discoveries was that supplies for the poor were divided among the five voting districts, with the second district receiving the most assistance. Also, dog owners were fined if their dog killed or injured a sheep.  By 1890 the fine for this offence was up to five dollars per sheep.

Also of interest are many bills for town residents enrolled at the Connecticut School for Imbeciles and those receiving services at the Connecticut State Hospital. There are several mentions of town residents being treated for small pox. A list, compiled during the Civil War, provides the names of substitutes drafted to serve in place of Stonington residents.  MS 70293