Just part of the job

KKK rally broadside. CHS 2014-054

KKK rally broadside. CHS 2014-054

Collecting history can sometimes be uncomfortable and it is often hard to retain objectivity. Such was the case with two recent acquisitions—a broadside advertising a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in Woodstock in 1926, and two protest posters from this past Saturday’s rally to repeal Connecticut’s gun laws. Continue reading

An Anti-Abolition meeting

What would one do on a January day in 1836? In Farmington, one might have attended an Anti-Abolition rally. We know from Charlotte Cowles that one was indeed held in that town, and although Charlotte could empathize with slaves and indeed help them to freedom in the north, she was prejudiced against those who did not hold with her abolitionist feelings. Continue reading

“The Others”

Prejudice is a very difficult topic to discuss without someone getting his or her feelings hurt or emotions stirred. However, that is exactly one reason we recently acquired two rather disturbing (to most modern sensibilities) documents–to tell “the other” side of the story.

In 1899 Margaret L. Shepherd advertised four lectures she would give at Unity Hall in Hartford on October 5 and 6. Two of the lectures were exclusively for women. Her topic? Convent Life Exposed. The threat of the Catholic Church to America in general and Protestantism and women in particular. Her lecture titles were:

  • The Priest and the Woman in the Confessional. Reasons why Protestants Should not Marry Catholics.
  • Does Secret Confession to the Priest and Parochial School Education make Good American Citizens?
  • The Nuns who are the Brides of Christ, and Private Life in the Nunnery
  • Purgatory, Indulgences and Relics. Sacrilegious Frauds for Obtaining Money and Building up Religious Industries.

Shepherd claimed she had been a nun before leaving the order and through these lectures she sought to expose the evils of the Catholic Church. I found numerous newspaper articles claiming that she was a fraud. Two of the four pages of this advertisement are filled with testimonials to her character and veracity. She also published a book on the same subject. Who was the real Margaret L. Shepherd? Was she part of the wave of xenophobia that swept the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because “too many” foreigners (including Catholics and Eastern Europeans) were immigrating to the United States? Was she, or was she not, a fake?

Margaret L. Shepherd advertises her lectures on the evils of the Catholic Church. Broadsides Medium 1899 C733

Margaret L. Shepherd advertises her lectures on the evils of the Catholic Church. Broadsides Medium 1899 C733

The second document came in a frame along with a photograph of a Ku Klux Klan rally in Stamford and three pamphlets expounding the principles and beliefs of the Klan. I assume from the juxtaposition that this list of men were members of the Klan in New Haven. As a whole, the assemblage is quite frightening by today’s standards. Racism is a word thrown around a lot recently, given that we have an African-American as president, but these items and this list put names and faces on prejudice. These would be great starting points for a discussion of racism and the Civil Rights movement.

First of two pages of a "census" that presumably lists members of the Ku Klux Klan in Connecticut. Ms 10173

First of two pages of a “census” that presumably lists members of the Ku Klux Klan in Connecticut. Ms 10173

These provocative documents and a few more items about the Ku Klux Klan can be seen in our Research center.


Two letters were brought to our attention yesterday by our volunteer, Raquel, who is processing the Rowland Family letters, 1764-1860 (Ms 66917). The collection measures 1.5 linear feet (3 boxes) and contains correspondence to and from several members of the family.

In November 1827, Mary Elizabeth Rowland (1805-1845), living in Exeter, New Hampshire, wrote a letter to her cousin Frances “Fanny” Bliss Rowland in Windsor, Connecticut. Mary Elizabeth started off apologizing for the length of time between letters. It had been a long summer. She was having trouble attracting and keeping household help, and lamented being stuck in the house as much as she had been. The situation, though, was starting to improve.

We had a day or two ago a little boy + little girl added to our family in the capacity of servants. The damsel is a genuine blackey. She is nine years old and we take such a fancy to her we think of changing her name (Maria) to Rosetta. She is sprightly + we are most in love with her and if our patience is not spent soon we intend to educate her to suit us.

Apparently Mary Elizabeth’s patience did not run out. Thirteen years later Fanny received a letter from Rosetta, then attending Rev. Hiram H. Kellogg’s Young Ladies’ Domestic Seminary in Clinton, New York. These two letters do not provide any indication as to how Fanny and Rosetta met, though, Rosetta had just spent some time at Fanny’s and felt comfortable addressing the letter, “Affectionate friend.”

Rosetta wrote of learning to play the piano.
Miss A[ddington] is the young lady that gave me lessons on the piano forte. If you should have happen to have been there, you might have thought  it strange to see white, and [colored] in the parlor [together]without the least controversy. My Dear Miss A. I shall always love, ‘while memory lives in the heart.’ She has done much for me and I trust I shall ever be [grateful] for it. The further we go, we meet with different people. But, O!! when will this monster sin: prejudice be done away with.
Rosetta has encountered prejudice in both Connecticut and New York and, understandably, did not enjoy it in either state.

The letter ends with Rosetta writing that while she had been considering moving to the west, she had finally decided against it. “I cannot go where I have to get free papers. If I cannot live in free air, I do not wish to live at all.”