With grant money from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division within the National Archives, we recently started a project to digitize manuscript collections that have already been captured on microfilm. The digitized images are going to be available on Connecticut History Online, and there will be links from our online finding aids to the digital images. The first collection we are working on is the Oliver Wolcott Jr. Papers. Wolcott, a native of Litchfield, was first appointed in 1789 as auditor at the new Treasury Department then appointed to comptroller and finally, in 1795, when Alexander Hamilton retired, Wolcott became Secretary of the Treasury. Continue reading
Tag Archives: politics
In 1860, Republicans across the country were eager to have one of their own elected President of the United States. Those in Hartford and Waterbury, Connecticut were no exception. In both cities, clubs were formed to support this goal. Republicans in Waterbury first met on February 21, 1860, naming themselves the Red, White, and Blue Club. While cataloging today, I found their record book. It includes meeting minutes, their constitution, and a list of members. Some time later they decided to re-incorporate as a Wide-Awakes club. This required a new constitution, which is also included in the volume.
The Hartford Wide-Awakes group formed prior to the Waterbury group, as evidenced by the handwritten notes on the Hartford group’s constitution.
Sometime after the election, as people began to inquire about the history of the Wide-Awakes, the Hartford group published the following document.
In addition to these manuscript holdings, CHS maintains several Wide-Awakes artifacts in the museum collections, including this banner:
To learn more about the Wide-Awakes, study these and other collections, please visit!
Passports, Papers, and Politics
Colonel Samuel Colt, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, is known as one of the greatest inventors and industrialists of the nineteenth century. He amassed a fortune manufacturing his well-known revolvers in Hartford and selling them in the United States and abroad. We have a sizeable collection of Colt’s papers at the CHS, and yesterday I stumbled upon a small batch that includes four of his passports and correspondence related to the 1860 presidential election.
Two of the passports were issued in 1849 (one from the US Legation in England and the other from the Legation in France), the third in 1851, and the fourth in 1855. The 1849 and 1851 passports issued in England are written in French. By 1855, however, the Legation in England was issuing the documents in English. We can see on the English version of the 1855 passport that Colt was traveling with a servant. Apparently servants did not warrant their own passports.
Only the 1851 passport contains a description of Colt’s physical appearance (in French). All four are attached to leather, pocket-sized wallets with Colt’s name engraved in gold. Sometimes the stamps from each country were applied to the pages of the wallet. Other times, they were put directly on the passport.
According to the passports, Colt traveled to France, Belgium, Germany, Prussia, and Austria. A 1856 passport, separated from its wallet and included with the political papers, indicates he also traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia. This should come as little surprise to those who have traveled Interstate 91 through Hartford and seen the Colt Armory, complete with its Russian-style onion dome.
Papers and Politics
During the summer of 1860, Colt was actively
involved in the presidential campaign of Stephen A. Douglas and running mate Herschel V. Johnson. The papers show that Colt financially supported Douglas and Johnson with a $250 donation in August. He corresponded with others in the area
about the campaign, including Augustus G. Hazard, founder of the Hazard Powder Company in Enfield, Connecticut. More notably, Colt worked directly with Douglas, as evidenced by the following telegram.
Colt’s papers also illustrate the split in the Democratic Party during the 1860 campaign. Northern Democrats nominated Douglas, while Southern Democrats nominated James C. Breckinridge. In Connecticut, a convention held in New Haven nominated Breckinridge. Colt and the electors in Hartford nominated Douglas, and soon received a letter from the New Haven group trying to convince them to switch their allegiance. The New Haven group was not successful.
The collection ends with some papers sent to Colt’s wife, Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt a few years after her husband’s death. Mrs. Colt was a well known philanthropist and was active in a number of social causes. The secretaries of the Northern Ohio Sanitary Fair wrote to her, wondering if they might acquire some items for their fair from “the manufactory which the late Mr. Colt established, and which is the pride and boast of Hartford.” Though the sanitary fair is out of scope when compared with the passports and political discussion, the sentiment remains true today.
All of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt’s papers at the CHS are open for research. Visit in person, or make use of our new research services. Also new this summer, CHS is a Blue Star Museum. Please also check out our Facebook page and follow @ConnHistSoc on Twitter!