Decoration Day A Century Ago

As the end of May approaches I begin my mental checklist of things to do over Memorial Day (originally named “Decoration Day”) weekend: mow the lawn, plant the vegetable garden, make barbeque plans (after consulting the weather gods), attend the local parade, maybe go biking or kayaking; oh, and put flowers on my parents’ graves. Memorial Day, the unofficial gateway to summer in these latitudes, carries multiple meanings for many of us. Continue reading

“A Memorial” in Wool: Phineas Meigs’ Hat

People frequently ask me what’s my favorite item in the CHS collection. Frankly, that’s a tough one, not only because there are so many great items but also because different objects tell different stories in different ways. So when asked this question recently (appropriately enough while I was watching our town’s Memorial Day parade) I thought of an object that truly resonates with me.

It’s a simple, green wool “round hat”, a broad-brimmed type worn by farmers, tradesmen and militiamen in the American colonies. Think of it as the baseball cap of the 18th century and you’ll get the idea. Uncounted thousands of these hats were made and worn, yet only a handful of them survive. Surprised? Well, how many of your baseball caps will be around in a couple of hundred years?


Phineas Meigs’ round hat bears entry and exit holes from the musket ball that killed him instantly. 1850.10.0

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They Also Served

Miss Jordan, Miss Carpenter, and Miss Marsh appear in a photograph album from the 1860s that once belonged to Sergeant William Huntington of Lebanon, Connecticut and is now in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society. Huntington was a member of the 8th Connecticut Volunteers and was wounded at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. The three young women in this tintype were nurses who cared for him at the Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C. Huntington was fortunate; he recovered from his wounds and returned to active duty.  Because it was located near the steamboat landing, Armory Square Hospital was the first stop for badly wounded soldiers and received many of the worst casualties from the Southern battlefields. Between 1861 and 1865, it recorded the largest number of deaths of any military hospital in Washington. These three women would have seen a great deal of suffering and death, but we don’t know anything about them, except their names. If anyone knows anything about Miss Jordan, Miss Carpenter, or Miss Marsh, and can help CHS to tell their stories, please let me know. Another photograph from Huntington’s album is featured in These Honored Dead, an article about Memorial Day.