This week’s curiosities

Every week there are one or two items that, while I find them incredibly interesting, hardly warrant their own blog post. So this afternoon, with a few minutes to spare, I thought I’d share some of my recent finds.

Ms 76796: Marriage certificates were as necessary in the early 1800s as they are today.

What struck me, though, about Rev. Aaron Hunt and Hannah Sanford‘s marriage certificate was how small it is. At a mere two and a half inches long, this could easily have been lost over the past 200 years. Yet this unassuming vital record has survived.

Ms 77209: How great would it be if your rent did not increase at all over the course of 14 years? Mrs. Margaret (Williams) Green moved to Hartford in 1906 with her daughter, Lucy Green. Mrs. Green had been widowed for over 20 years. In Hartford she was near her brother, Job Williams, longtime principal of the American School for the Deaf.

In researching the Greens I learned that Lucy died in 1909. The next year, her sister Julia returned from Ceylon to live with her mother. Julia had actually been born in that country; her father, Dr. Samuel Fiske Green, served there for a number of years. Julia and Margaret moved to 264 Whitney Street in 1925. Margaret died in 1927 and Julia continued to live on Whitney Street until her own death in 1951. Bills from items the Greens purchased during their first year in the city may be found in another of our manuscript collections (Ms 99928).

Ms 77548: Want to try your hand at some magic? Take a look at the Catalogue of Fred D. Jewett‘s Magic Tricks as Performed by him in his Regined Sleight of Hand Entertainments. According to The Connecticut Catholic in 1891, Jewett, “has won a well deserved reputation in Hartford and vicinity for his achievements in the world of magic, has a remarkably fine collection of magical apparatus at his residence on High street.” The article continues to describe a visit to Jewett’s “den of mystery.”

Fred D. Jewett catalogs of magic tricks, 1890-1892, Ms 77548. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The catalog lists 175 magic tricks, most with illustrations. Prices for the items range from the 50 cent Spinning of a Handkerchief on a Walking Stick to the $150 Thought Transfer and Wonderful Feats in Second Sight.

All of these collections, and many more, are available for research. Not sure what we have? Take a look at our online resources. Come visit!

Albert Walker, magician, redux

At long last, Albert Walker, the magician of Glastonbury, Connecticut, has had his diaries reunited. Twenty-two volumes dating from 1867-1895 recently arrived on our doorstep. Unfortunately, they shed no additional light on his magic performances, with one exception. On April 20, 1867, he went to Hartford to see some Japanese performers. Inside the back cover of the volume, he made these interesting notes:

“When I am out of work I must try my performance in connection with a
lottery combined also tin pedling [sic]

I saw a new kind of juglars [sic] box at the Japanese performance in
Hartford that was made to turn over in another large one

At least we know that he was still showing an interest in his performances; however, except for a few notations about his fiddle and playing for dances, Albert remains mute about his avocation. What he does do is give us more information on his family. In 1867 his brother Charles died in Boston and Albert was named his administrator. Charles went by an alias, Henry C. West. Intriguing, and one wants to know why. That same year, in March, their younger sister Mary married John Blish. Their first child died in December, probably right after birth.

By 1884 Albert was married to “Tillie” [Matilda Schieding] with whom he had two children, Edna Elizabeth and Howard Albert. He continued to make spoons, repair and clean clocks, paint and repair wagons, and by the end of his life appears to have elevated himself to the status of “gentleman farmer,” hiring others to work for him.

Magician’s diaries

We recently (January 2007) purchased at auction ten diaries written by Albert Walker (1836-1902) of Glastonbury, Connecticut. He was a farmer and spoon maker by trade, but also rolled cigars, repaired and cleaned clocks, played the fiddle for dances, and performed magic and ventriloquism. An essay he wrote on ventriloquism and dialog for a Punch and Judy play are written in one volume accompanying the diaries. The diaries date from 1856-1865 and provide just hints of his magic performances. For example, on August 28, 1856, he wrote, “factory boys come up after segars [sic] performed a few tricks.” On January 2 of the same year, he went to Hartford and got his “performing apparatus”. In 1857, he spent two nights in September working on his Punch and Judy images and his dancing image. All three of these puppets/figures plus several more characters are now part of the museum collection, part of the same purchase. Walker’s “performing apparatus” includes the box or trunk he made and painted himself, curtains, magic wands, metal and cardboard cups, an assistant’s costume, card tricks and side tables. This is the most complete collection of magic-related material anyone on staff has ever seen.