What’s this eighteenth-century print showing dancers on an island in the South Seas doing at the Connecticut Historical Society? Actually, there are two good reasons for its presence. One of the three men seated in the center of front row is probably John Ledyard, a young man from Groton, Connecticut, who sailed with the British explorer Captain James Cook on his third voyage of discovery in 1776-1779. The other reason is that the print belonged to Daniel Wadsworth, the Hartford philanthropist who founded one of America’s first art museums. Curiously, Wadsworth left his engravings of Captain Cook’s voyage to the Connecticut Historical Society in his will, rather than leaving them to the museum that he founded. This suggests that Wadsworth viewed the prints primarily as historical documents rather than as works of art. Today it’s all the fashion to use works of art as primary resources when doing historical research, but Wadsworth’s 1848 bequest proves that it’s really nothing new.
Tag Archives: Groton
Blinded by the Glare
David F. Armstrong of Groton, Connecticut patented the device in this photograph in 1906. At that time, most automobiles were equipped with acetylene headlights, which apparently gave an impressive amount of light. The concept of low beams did not exist; drivers simply coped with the dazzling light of oncoming cars as best they could. Accidents were not infrequent. Armstrong’s device consisted of a tinted shield that could be lowered to cut the glare. Armstrong also suggested using a clear shield in the device when driving during the day for protection from dust and wind. This was in the days before windshields. The introduction of electric headlights and low beams—not to mention windshields—soon rendered Armstrong’s invention obsolete. Armstrong, his wife Helen, and his daughter Muriel, appear in a series of photographs taken by the commercial photographer William G. Dudley during the 1910s and 1920s. Volunteers at the Connecticut Historical Society have been working to digitize this collection and make it available to the public. Look for photos of Armstrong and his family in the CHS online catalog in weeks to come.