In Lieu of Virtual Keys…

While many of us have become accustomed to the world of virtual keys on tablets, phones and laptops, we often forget about the technologies that came before them, such as the typewriter. In 1868, a man by the name of Christopher Latham Sholes received a patent for his invention of the typewriter, which spawned a booming industry in Hartford. One of the major typewriter manufacturers of the 1900s was the Royal Typewriter Company. Continue reading

Paul Robeson: Baritone, Activist and Renaissance Man

Although Paul Robeson was born in New Jersey, for twelve years he made Enfield, Connecticut his home. The baritone and radio singer was best known for his title role in “Othello” in the 1930s and 1940s, which he portrayed in various venues between London and New York. Robeson performed in numerous American plays and Hollywood films, including Borderline (1930), The Emperor Jones (1933), and Show Boat (1936). Robeson performed regularly at the Bushnell Memorial Theater, having sung in their first Concert Series in 1945 with such songs as “Deep River” and “Ritual Fire Dance”. Continue reading

The Colors of Fall!

Fall is my most favorite time of the year – slightly cooler weather, fairs and festivals serving delicious pumpkin and maple flavored treats, and the changing of leaves from green to vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges. If it were up to me, (and I know a lot of you will be happy that it is not), fall in New England would last all year! Continue reading

Transportation and the Imagination

Morgan Bulkeley Brainard (1879-1957) was a prominent Hartford resident. The Bulkeley and Brainard families have been established in the area for generations. A successful businessman, Brainard was President of the Aetna Life Insurance Company, a company founded by his grandfather,  Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley, for over 40 years. During that time, Brainard also served a term as President of the Connecticut Historical Society. Over the years we have acquired several collections of papers (search our online catalog) and objects (search eMuseum) from Brainard.

In the collection I worked with this week, I found a few interesting transportation-related items. Hartford’s train station is located on Asylum Avenue, in sight of the Capitol Building. I will admit to not having studied much about the station, but do know the current building is not the original.

Hartford roundhouse

Roundhouse letterhead, Morgan Bulkeley Brainard papers, 1802-1942, Ms 66426d. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Nor is the current building the one shown in the above letterhead. If it is shown to scale, the building would have been enormous. The Capitol is an imposing structure and in the picture it is dwarfed by the station.

For those who like old maps, Brainard’s papers contain a 1946 Connecticut road map.

CT highways

Connecticut Highways 1946, Morgan Bulkeley Brainard papers, 1802-1942, Ms 66426d. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The highways shown have mostly stayed in place in the past 65 years. Driving them has certainly changed, and with the advent of the interstate system, most people would no longer consider many of them highways.  I showed  a photo of the map to a friend who is a historic preservationist. He remarked, “Ah, the good old days.” My friend was commenting on the well-documented troubles the City of Hartford has faced since the construction of I-84.

CT highways, 1946

Connecticut Highways 1946, Morgan Brainard Bulkeley papers, 1802-1942, Ms 66426d. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

You can see on the map above that no highways (as shown in red) previously traveled through the city.  It is left to our imaginations what the city would be like today, if construction had differed.

Imagination certainly comes into play when we look at the proposed New York and Boston Automobile Boulevard.

NY-Boston Auto Blvd

New York and Boston Automobile Boulevard, n.d., Morgan Bulkeley Brainard papers, 1802-1942, Ms 66426d. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Certainly the route would be convenient, and portions of the road parallel highways that have been built. It is amusing, though, to read the advantage it was thought this road would provide. Relief from highway repairs! No dust! Fast time, with safety! Imagine if these were true today…

Boulevard advantages

New York and Boston Automobile Boulevard advantages, Morgan Bulkeley Brainard papers, 1802-1942, Ms 66426d. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

This collection is open for research. Come visit! We are conveniently located off of several highways…