Christmas greetings from Melancthon Woolsey

Ms_101787_d1One of my favorite Christmas-related manuscripts, aside from the occasional diary entry, is a series of illustrated verses created by Melancthon Woolsey in 1783 for his Grandmother Woolsey. I can understand why it survived; it is beautiful. Each verse is illustrated by a vignette in a circular “frame”, and includes the angels appearing to the shepherds in the field, the Virgin Mary and Joseph, the birth of Jesus in the manger, and the adoration of the Magi. Continue reading

A ballad of Captain Kidd

The title page from Sarah Churchill's booklet. Ms 101734

The title page from Sarah Churchill’s booklet. Ms 101734

This coming weekend we have a Behind the Scenes Tour about “creepy” things at CHS. I don’t think anyone thought of this little gem I found, a booklet with two poems copied by Sarah Churchill before 1791 (that is the date of the newspaper used as a cover). The bulk of the text is a copy of “The dying words of Captain Kidd, a noted pirate whom was hang’d at execution dock.” The ballad was first published in London in 1701 and soon made it across the Atlantic to America where it was printed about 1730 until 1820. As always, things get “lost” in translation, and William Kidd became Robert Kidd in the American version, which is how Sarah copied it.

Continue reading

An epic poem about a dastardly man

We find some really amazing material while we catalog our manuscript backlog with funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. My least favorite part of all of this discovery, however, is finding something really neat that has no author and no record of how we acquired the item! Such is the case with this epic poem I “discovered”. It is based on Byron’s poem about Don Juan, although it is not an exact copy of the verse from what I can tell. What attracted me most were the amazingly bright illustrations.

The first page of the poem.

The first page is decorated at the top by a romantic scene of a castle. Other pages (not all are shown here) are illustrated with figures–including one on a horse–a ship, a knight, and a lady in her boudoir. Several empty spaces within the text lead me to believe that this work of art was never finished. If only this document could talk and tell me about the maker!!

You may see this piece of combined literature and artwork by asking to see MS 101108.

March in the Archives: Part II

When I reviewed the catalog records from March, there were just too many worthy of being mentioned. This is a great problem to have! I therefore decided to split my report in two. If you missed the first part, about Civil War documents, you may read it here. Catalog entries for these, and many more collections, are in our online catalog.

Austin Kilbourn was a native of Glastonbury, Connecticut. His copy and memo books comprise three volumes and are filled with poetry; lists of things, such as English peers and mottoes; and many memorials. Subjects of the poetry range from the post office to temperance. The third volume (embossed with Eliza Kilbourn’s name) contains some longer writings, more short stories than poetry. Kilbourn also hand copied documents from when Lafayette visited the United States in 1825. One song, with music, is included in the third volume. Additionally, the third volume contains several time lines depicting leaders of nations. Kilbourn seems to have enjoyed studying British heraldry. Though not dated, the third volume also contains a mention of the California Gold rush having passed. (Ms 64637)

One of my personal favorites are the Dialegomenian Society records. The society was in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield, Connecticut. It appears to have been a debate society, but I am not entirely certain. I would love to learn more about it! (Ms 64772)

“The What-Cheer” was a student publication from the Tatnic Hill School in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Each of the three issues was edited by different combination of students. James W. Kimball and Hannah Robbins edited the 25-cent edition on February 3. The next week, the 37 1/2 cent issue was edited by Charles Webb and Jane L. Robbins. Editors James W. Kimball and Jane L. Robbins were joined by Associate Editors Francis Clark and Addie M. Robbins to compile the quarterly illustrated edition in March. It is completely hand written and drawn, with essays by fellow students. Each issue is tied together with colorful ribbons.

A variety of documents removed from the collections of the New Haven Colony Historical Society form this next collection. Removed because they lacked any connection to New Haven, Connecticut, the documents include correspondence, deeds, bonds, writs, summons, estate records, military commissions, and proprietors’ records.The earliest documents are proprietors’ records laying out the lands of Windsor, 1729, and the area west of Farmington and Simsbury, 1733. Within the correspondence are letters written to Daniel Sheldon of Litchfield, Connecticut, about the Revolutionary War battle at Kingsbury and the occupation of Washington by the British in 1814. Uriah Tracy was among his correspondents. Another body of correspondence was written to Charles Sherry of Norwalk, Connecticut, 1836-1844, from his brother MRS. The Brown family of Stonington, Connecticut, is well represented in the collection with estate records, distribution of property, deeds, financial records and receipts for shares in the Groton & Stonington Turnpike, 1827. Brown family members include Ichabod (several generations), Elias, Palmer and Nelson. Another body of records relates to the town of Huntington, Connecticut, and resident Samuel P. Mills. There are bonds, writs, land records with plot plans, and tax documents, 1811-1833. Similar materials exist for the Sanford family of Redding, Connecticut, specifically Lemuel, Jonathan R. and Thomas. Within their papers are three tickets to P.T. Barnum’s Museum. Of particular interest is a pamphlet entitled “Heads of Inquiry relative to the present state and condition of . . . Connecticut”, 1775. It was presented to Colonel John Trumbull by President John Adams, through the person of Josiah Quincy. Inside the pamphlet and affixed to the front cover is a receipt noting that Jeremiah Wadsworth purchased two prints by John Trumbull in 1788. The prints were the Battle of Bunker’s Hill and the Death of General Montgomery. Filed under D for Danforth is a bill of sale for pewter, 1814, sold by Samuel Danforth.

Reverend Samuel Peters, a native of Hebron, Connecticut and graduate of Yale College,  served as Rector of St. Peter’s Church in Hebron for several years. His correspondence is arranged chronologically, and begins in 1774, the year Peters fled to London because of his Loyalist sympathies. He returned to the United States in 1805 and was living in New York City when he died in 1826. Many of the letters are written to and by members of Peters’ extended family, including nephew John Samuel Peters. John Samuel Peters practiced medicine and held several political posts in Connecticut, including Governor. The elder Peters also corresponded with Rev. Benjamin Trumbull, a fellow Hebron native and a pastor in North Haven.

We end with a diary kept by General Lemuel Grosvenor of Pomfret, Connecticut. He began keeping the diary on April 17, 1775 and mentions three days later that six or eight of their men were at Lexington, but did not fight. The entries are generally only a sentence or two. The volume has been rebound and the pages conserved. Grosvenor received his commission as a second lieutenant, signed by Governor John Trumbull, on 10 June 1777. Lemuel Grosvenor advanced to the rank of Brigadier General of the Militia, and he served at Bunker Hill with his father-in-law General Israel Putnam. On 7 November 1789, General Washington visited Lemuel Grosvenor and appointed him the first Postmaster of Pomfret, with offices opening 1 January 1795. Lemuel Grosvenor served as Postmaster for nearly 40 years until his death on 19 January 1833.

All of these collections are open for research. Come visit!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Lately I have had the opportunity to catalog several friendship albums. These journals, kept by women in the nineteenth century, contain poetry and stories written for them by their friends. Though the albums were owned by women, the contributors were both male and female.

The owner of the album shown below is unknown. However, the poem seemed apropos for this day celebrating women around the world (click the image for a larger view).

Friendship album, 1824-1834, MS 65081. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

This volume is available for research. Come visit! Be sure to check our calendar for our Women’s History Month happenings, too.

“As I have nothing else to do . . .”

Don’t you love holiday traffic when everyone seems to be on the same road, at the same time, going the same way? Imagine if you were at the mercy of the weather–or more exactly, the wind.

Recently added to our collections is a poem, penned by Alexander Bushnell (1771-1838) while on a ship traveling from Long Island back to Connecticut.  Bushnell had just been visiting his friend William Wells (1773-1855) of  Southold, Long Island. Alexander married William’s sister, Sarah in 1796. The poem tells a wonderful story, and also illustrates just how frustrating travel could be in the 18th century. No outboard motors in those days!

Bushnell wrote that the “wind was faint, and contra too out from the East it gently blew”, but they were still moving. That is until “the wind did die away and we did quick come to a stay where we did stand and look around to see the calm and silent sound”. The ship had left at 6:00 am and was becalmed soon after, until about noon.  Resignedly, Alexander wrote, “This seems my luck always to be when I set out my Friends to see to have the wind ahead or none, so I am Long in getting home.” But he did indeed make it home, and was able to send the poem to William although he had no sealing wax or wafer on board to seal the letter, as he explained on the back.

Page one of the poem.

His comment about lacking sealing wax is in the left bottom corner, opposite the address.