History and STEM

In a nation where the focus is being put on the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM for short), many of us in the fields of humanities are beginning to question our relevance.  With an education that included four years at a liberal arts college, I am definitely among those who hope to keep our history relevant in times of shifting focus.  So…let’s talk about history and STEM…


Camera.1956. Gift of Mrs. Frieda B. Cantarow. 2001.88.1.

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Reflecting on the year 1965

The_Night_of_the_Iguana_posterOne of the longest diary runs we have were written by Thomas John Crockett, a Unionville resident and United States diplomat; the diaries date from 1954 to 2009. Following a brief career at the Hartford Times and in the Army, Crockett joined the Department of State where he served for 40 years. Stationed throughout eastern Europe from 1947 until the early 1960’s, he also served in the Philippines during the Vietnam War and in Tunisia and Israel during the 1970’s. The focus in his career was the diplomatic value of American culture and the liberating value of truthful reporting, and he served in the early years of the Voice of America, the U.S. Information Agency, the U. S. Information Service, and related agencies. From his experiences, he developed and nurtured a profound love of art, of music and of languages.

While I was in the stacks last week, I chose one of these diaries at random—1965 to be exact—to see what Crockett might have been up to on New Year’s Eve, since he was such a fascination person. It turns out, not much. Continue reading

History is Sweet!

AHC_canister drink pourWhat comes to mind when you think about chocolate? If you’re a chocoholic (like me), just thinking about it makes you happy – and hungry. I’ll take it in almost any of the various forms and flavors that are available today, but for nearly 90% of chocolate’s history, it was consumed primarily as a beverage. In fact, it has been enjoyed as a drink for more than 3500 years. Continue reading

Before Black Friday…there was G. Fox


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

What is a Nut?

At CHS, we’re chock full o’ nuts; history nuts, that is. We’re so nutty about history, that I even began to wonder about the history of the word nuts. Finding the origin of nut(s) and the historical development of its meaning turned out to be a tougher nut to crack than I thought; but here it is, in a nutshell…. Continue reading

I’ve always loved history…and I’d love to be a volunteer

Simone Terrell, Volunteer

Simone Terrell, Volunteer

Almost every day I’m contacted by people—of all ages and backgrounds—who want to help the CT Historical Society as volunteers and interns. (An intern is someone who earns school credit.) It’s quite heartening to talk to so many like-minded people who appreciate the past and want to support our mission—to inspire and foster a life-long interest in history. I hear comments like these a lot: “I’ve always loved history…I was a history major…I always found history fun.” Continue reading

Illustrating Stylish Travel

Often times at the CHS, we write articles, present programs, and give tours based on our collections.  Many times these articles, programs, and tours are based on information and items we already know we have in the collection.  However, sometimes the topic comes first, and the illustrations come second.


Cheney Album. Volume 5. 1991.28.5.

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New ways to explore our collections

Things have been busy for the CHS staff this month, so blogging has been light. However, I wanted to make sure you are aware of two great new tools available through our website.

Diane, our Collections Manager, worked long and hard to bring us eMuseum. Over 8000 of our museum objects may be viewed on the site.

Here in Manuscripts, we are pleased to announce the return of our finding aids to the web. New and improved, these guides to the manuscript collections are available in both HTML and PDF formats.

Looking for graphics? Don’t forget to check out our offerings on Connecticut History Online.

All of our collections are available for further study here in our Research Center.

We will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, but otherwise, come visit!

This Week in the Archives: Mary K. Talcott, Genealogist

Editors’s note: “This Week in the Archives” is filling in while “This Month in the Archives” posts itself to the beach for a week or two.

Mary Kingsbury Talcott (1847-1917) was a lifelong resident of Hartford, Connecticut. She was one of the foremost genealogists of her time in the state. According to a remembrance in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Talcott traced her descent back to John Talcott of Cambridge, MA (1632).  She also had family connections with many other prominent Connecticut families.

Among Talcott’s accomplishments were writing many articles about Hartford, Contributing to the Memorial History of Hartford County, and editing two volumes of Talcott Papers in the Connecticut Historical Society’s Collections . She was active in the Connecticut Society of Colonial Dames,  the Ruth Wyllys Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Connecticut, and the Order of Descendants of Colonial Governors, and a member of various Hartford clubs.

We have several of Mary Talcott’s collections already listed in our online catalog. Yesterday I encountered another (Ms 86768). The collection has received several levels of processing over the years and consists of three sets of boxes. The first set, numbered 1-6, contains correspondence sent to Talcott with genealogical inquiries. Personal letters comprise one folder. The material is arranged chronologically and the folders are labeled with the dates.

In the second set, numbered 1-4, there is a collection of forms gathered by Talcott for the History of the Kingsbury Family (I have not yet found that this was ever published). Additionally, it contains correspondence (1892-1908) and one folder of assorted printed material. Folders are also labeled with the dates.

In addition to correspondence, the final three boxes (not numbered) contain church records, certified records, copies of Hartford’s death records and probate records, two publication rough drafts, and a volume on the King family. These items have been foldered, but are not necessarily in any order.

For those interested in genealogy and the history of genealogists in the Hartford area, the collection likely contains a wealth of information. It is open for research and the catalog entry will be added at the end of the month. Please visit our website for more information about researching at CHS.

Passports, Papers, and Politics

Colonel Samuel Colt, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, is known as one of the greatest inventors and industrialists of the nineteenth century. He amassed a fortune manufacturing his well-known revolvers in Hartford and selling them in the United States and abroad. We have a sizeable collection of Colt’s papers at the CHS, and yesterday I stumbled upon a small batch that includes four of his passports and correspondence related to the 1860 presidential election.


Samuel Colt's passport (English)

Samuel Colt passport, 1855 (English), Ms 75018. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Two of the passports were issued in 1849 (one from the US Legation in England and the other from the Legation in France), the third in 1851, and the fourth in 1855. The 1849 and 1851 passports issued in England are written in French. By 1855, however, the Legation in England was issuing the documents in English. We can see on the English version of the 1855 passport that Colt was traveling with a servant. Apparently servants did not warrant their own passports.

Samuel Colt passport French

Samuel Colt passport, 1855 (French), Ms 75018. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Only the 1851 passport contains a description of Colt’s physical appearance (in French). All four are attached to leather, pocket-sized wallets with Colt’s name engraved in gold. Sometimes the stamps from each country were applied to the pages of the wallet. Other times, they were put directly on the passport.

Stamps on the back of the English 1855 passport

Samuel Colt passport, 1855 (English), Ms 75018. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

According to the passports, Colt traveled to France, Belgium, Germany, Prussia, and Austria. A 1856 passport, separated from its wallet and included with the political papers, indicates he also traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia. This should come as little surprise to those who have traveled Interstate 91 through Hartford and seen the Colt Armory, complete with its Russian-style onion dome.

Papers and Politics
During the summer of 1860, Colt was actively

Stamps on the 1855 passport (French)

Samuel Colt passport, 1855 (French), Ms 75018. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

involved in the presidential campaign of Stephen A. Douglas and running mate Herschel V. Johnson. The papers show that Colt financially supported Douglas and Johnson with a $250 donation in August. He corresponded with others in the area

about the campaign, including Augustus G. Hazard, founder of the Hazard Powder Company in Enfield, Connecticut. More notably, Colt worked directly with Douglas, as evidenced by the following telegram.

Telegraph to Sam Colt

Douglas-Colt telegraph, 1860, Ms 75018. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Colt’s papers also illustrate the split in the Democratic Party during the 1860 campaign.  Northern Democrats nominated Douglas, while Southern Democrats nominated James C. Breckinridge. In Connecticut, a convention held in New Haven nominated Breckinridge.  Colt and the electors in Hartford nominated Douglas, and soon received a letter from the New Haven group trying to convince them to switch their allegiance.  The New Haven group was not successful.

The collection ends with some papers sent to Colt’s wife, Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt a few years after her husband’s death. Mrs. Colt was a well known philanthropist and was active in a number of social causes. The secretaries of the Northern Ohio Sanitary Fair wrote to her, wondering if they might acquire some items for their fair from “the manufactory which the late Mr. Colt established, and which is the pride and boast of Hartford.” Though the sanitary fair is out of scope when compared with the passports and political discussion, the sentiment remains true today.

All of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt’s papers at the CHS are open for research. Visit in person, or make use of our new research services. Also new this summer, CHS is a Blue Star Museum. Please also check out our Facebook page and follow @ConnHistSoc on Twitter!