What is this?

thumbnailOur exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more, Continue reading


you will gow to room Number
three & as you gow in, on your
right – hand you will find an
old pillow on an under birth
Where you may find concealed the
contents, etc – etc  Between the case
& tick that holds the feathers.

This unsigned note is one of several documents, in the latest Newgate Prison collection to cross my desk (Ms 74355), that refers to escaping from East Granby, Connecticut’s copper mine-turned-prison.

It is not clear whether they all related to the same escape, or if there were separate affairs. One letter appears to be from an inmate, apprising the guards of a pending escape. The author’s reason for informing the guards is that, “we are strictly commanded to preserve Our own lives – & that of others. And did I not deem life sweeter than liberty gained at the peril of ones own life.” Another echoed that concern. “If mens intentions were only to obtain their Liberty in a humane manner I should not think it my duty as a prisoner, to inform you,” the prisoner began, and then continued to describe the escape he was aware of.

(Click the above images to view in more detail)

Thomas K. Brace, in Hartford, spread the word to Captain Griswold at Newgate in another letter. “[T]he white Prisoners in the New Building have it in contemplation to effect their escape,” Brace wrote. He encouraged Griswold to “Look out! be vigilant! be watchful!!”

There is no indication in the collection as to the success rate (or lack thereof) of the escapes. The other pieces included are minutes from a guard meeting and a list of certificates paid.

Escape the heat and come study this collection or any other. Our library and museum are quite cool places to spend the day! Visit our website for more information.

Friday Fun: Newgate?

Newgate Prison, in East Granby, Connecticut, began as a copper mine in the 1700s. It became a prison during the Revolutionary War, and continued in that capacity until 1827. In 1976 Newgate became a National Historic Landmark,  and remains a very popular museum in the state.

Perhaps you can imagine my surprise when I found the following entry in the autograph album I was cataloging:

Autograph album, 1860, Ms 65539. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The owner of the album is unknown, though it appears she was a student at the Hartford Female Seminary. Many of her classmates signed the book, as did Hartford resident and activist Lydia Huntley Sigourney.

What do you think this was about?? Send us your ideas. Maybe we can even scare up a prize for the best answer! Enter via the comments section below, Facebook, or Twitter by 9AM Monday, March 14. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

You are welcome to come view the album, any of our manuscripts relating to Newgate Prison, Hartford Female Seminary, Lydia Sigourney, or any other Connecticut history subject. More information about visiting and researching is available on our website.