Beyond the Nutcracker in Hartford

2001_75 dracula‘Tis the season for theatrical performances, and almost nothing has become more synonymous with this time of year than the Nutcracker. Yet despite the Nutcracker’s popularity, there have been numerous other showcases in Hartford over the years, which may not be as popular, but still maintain a place in history. Continue reading

Society news in Hartford and Springfield

The Connecticut Historical Society is pleased to announce the recent launch of a new resource available through its web page. They are scanned images of the pages of 52 scrapbooks kept by Mary F. Morris, the wife of an insurance executive in Hartford. Although many of these articles (ones from the Hartford Courant) are available online, here they are gathered in roughly chronological order and more importantly they were selected by a woman who was probably invited to many of the events she documented and knew many of the participants.

Selecting one image would be next to impossible, so here are a few tidbits to whet your curiosity. In volume 2, on page 3, you can find an article about the 21st birthday party given to Caldwell L. Colt my his mother, Mrs. Samuel Colt. The article reports that 1,000-1,500 invitations were sent to New York, Boston, Newport and numerous other locales. In the same volume on page 5 are two articles about Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations for Mrs. and Mrs. Samuel Hamilton and Mr. and Mrs. Julius Gilman.

The selections are eclectic. In volume 7, which covers the years 1895-1896, is a series of articles about John Armstrong Chaloner/Chalner who was declared sane by a court order, but only in the states of New York, North Carolina and Virginia. He fought for 20 years to be declared sane so he could have his share of the Astor fortune. What an incentive!

These snippets are just a small sample of the wonderfully colorful stories you will find in the pages available online. We invite you to read and enjoy these scrapbooks that document social life in Hartford and Springfield in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Buy war bonds!

Buy War Bonds

Virginia Bulkeley scrapbooks, 1942-1945, Ms 73258. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Virginia Grover Bulkeley, a native of Boston, Massachusetts,  moved to Hartford in 1930 and lived here for the rest of her life. During World War II Mrs. Bulkeley served as the Greater Hartford chairwoman of the Women’s Organization for War Savings (WOWS). Her scrapbooks, dating between October 1942 and October 1945, chronicle the efforts of Hartford area citizens  to sell war savings bonds and stamps. The articles are from the Hartford Courant and the Hartford Times. All are labeled with the name of the newspaper and the date.

The scrapbooks highlight the many women’s organizations that participated in the sale of bonds. Women of the B’Nai Brith Auxiliary, Negro Mothers and Homemakers Club, Colonial Dames of America, Polish Junior League, Italian Ladies Welfare Auxiliary, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and many other groups covered the pages of the newspapers with the results of their fundraising initiatives.  Americans of all ages, religious affiliations, and ancestries were encouraged to support the war effort with bond and stamp purchases. Articles also tell of the participation of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and high school groups. A group of girls at Weaver High School were shown making war stamp corsages for one of their dances.

Hartford retailers, particularly department stores G. Fox and Sage-Allen, actively supported the war effort and the seven bond selling campaigns. Their advertisements included in the scrapbooks routinely had war themes. In November 1942 Sage-Allen participated in Women-at-War Week with advertisements inviting women to come meet WAACs (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corp) or sign up to be a WAAC. G. Fox appealed to shoppers to begin their 1943 Christmas shopping by buying war stamp corsages. Sage-Allen also advocated the sale of Bonds for Babies.

Many speakers and performers came to Hartford to encourage bond sales. Among those who came were First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, musician Glenn Miller and his Air Force band, and celebrities Elsa Maxwell, Kitty Carlisle, and Constance Bennett. Free tickets for the events were given to those who bought bonds.

Free tickets were among the many incentives available to Hartford area residents at various times. The owner of the LaSalle Diner on Albany Ave. offered free lunches to purchasers. One day in April 1943 purchasers were treated to a Jeep ride if they bought their stamps and bonds at the Victory House (on Main Street in front of the Old State House). A year later Sage-Allen even auctioned off a puppy! Over 20,000 people came into the city center in May 1943 and spent $250,000 on bonds and stamps. Their incentive was viewing a Japanese submarine captured at Pearl Harbor. For that event Bulkeley even included photographs.

The scrapbook paper has become very brittle over the years, but all three volumes contain a wealth of information about the war savings efforts. The collection is open for research. Come visit!

Boy Scout Jamboree, 1953

I have not posted to the blog for ages; too many things got in the way, I am afraid.  But I am back! On Thursday of this week, we received the most remarkable scrapbook. It was created by a young man from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Andrew Twaddle, who in 1953 took a cross-country train trip to attend a Boy Scout Jamboree in California. The scrapbook, like many from the first half of the 20th century is on very acidic and poor quality paper that crumbles when you touch it. Everything is affixed to the pages with cellophane tape that has yellowed and dried. Typical. It is the contents that is not so typical. This young man included a catalog for boyscout uniforms (G. Fox & Co. was the official outlet for Boy Scout equipment), the flyer for the jamboree, notes on the exciting things he saw while on the train, a diary (!), lots of newspaper clippings made by his aunt who lived in California, postcards to his parents, and, believe it or not, a cover for his flashlight that would make it glow red during one of the ceremonies.

I remember my brothers in Scouts, but I do not think they attended anything this big. What a wonderful experience it must have been for a pre-teen boy. Now we can preserve that experience here at CHS.

Miss Wheeler’s School

Earlier this week, we received six scrapbooks containing samples of the work of Mary (Peggy) Parsons while a student at Miss Wheeler’s School in Hartford.  Mary Parsons was born about 1897 and attended first through sixth grade at Miss Wheeler’s School.  The scrapbooks contain photographs of her class and schoolmates and various friends, plus samples of her penmanship, vocabulary work, arithmetic, records of the weather, maps, and artwork including collages, watercolors, and drawings.  There are also a few cut flowers.  It is fascinating to see Mary’s skills develop over the six years she was at school, from the scribblings of a five or six year old to the complex pictures drawn by an 11 or 12 year old.

This set of workbooks or scrapbooks is just one of several examples in our collections.  Seems like they would make a good research project on the women-run schools in Hartford in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.