Not a Moment to Spare!


These two words sum up the schedule of our educators over the last few weeks. In April, the CHS Education Department served about 3,000 children, teachers, and parents through its educational programs. May is gearing up to be an even busier month for our department! So, please accept the following humorous photograph in lieu of a long blog post. Stay tuned for June (and summer vacation!)……

: Busy! Busy! Busy!

Busy! Busy! Busy!

Erin Strogoff is the Lead Museum Educator at the Connecticut Historical Society

“We saw Main St. as we never saw it before.”

Many of the great programs offered today by one of our sister institutions, the Hartford Public Library, are rooted in the work of Caroline M. Hewins. During her 50-year tenure as librarian at the Hartford Public Library, Hewins ran many programs for Hartford children, including the City History Club. In 1910, at least two of the participants, Rebecca Miesel* and Anna Goldberg**, kept journals of their experience.

The street on which Rebecca Miesel lived. (Photograph from Connecticut History Online)

Rebecca Miesel lived with her mother at 21 North Street. She was 13 when she inscribed her name and address inside her notebook. She also noted participating in the Out Door School at the city’s Goodwin Park.

Windsor Green, a park at the intersection of Windsor and Village Streets, Hartford, CT (Photograph from Connecticut History Online)

Anna Goldberg lived close by at 22 Village Street. Twelve years old, Anna was in Room 26, Grade 7, at the Brown School. According to the 1910 Census, Anna lived with her grandfather, parents, an uncle, and six siblings.

Neither North Street nor Village street remains today, having become victims of redevelopment.

In identical composition books, Rebecca and Anna described visits to the Travelers Insurance building, Colt’s Park, a bridge dedication, the Capitol, and other local monuments. Anna wrote more entries than Rebecca, seemed to have a better command of English, and went into more detail in her descriptions.

Rebecca Miesel, City History Club notebooks, 1910, Ms 75764. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The trip to the Travelers building was their first outing. Rebecca noted they were able to see the nearby towns, the Connecticut River, and that Miss Hewins, “told use [sic] many interting [sic] things about them.”

Anna Goldberg, City History Club notebooks, 1910, Ms 75764. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Anna’s first comment about reaching the rooftop (the tower we are familiar with today had not yet been built) was that they could “see Main St. as we never saw it before.” She went on to describe nearby buildings they could see (City Hall, the Hartford Public Library) and hills farther away (Meriden, Talcott Mountain). The group could see the reservoir and learned it was the source of their drinking water. When they were back down, Anna concluded, “we felt as if we [k]new more about the city than we ever knew before.”

Miss Hewins was dedicated to enriching the lives of the city’s underprivileged children. Even remaining in their own backyards, she was able to show them more of the world than they may have previously seen. As an archivist, I’m thrilled Hewins had the students record their experiences, and that the notebooks have survived. This is also an experience that could be repeated today. Though so much of the world has changed in the past century, seeing our cities and towns from above still fascinates many of us.  Whether from the Travelers Tower, a hike up Talcott Mountain to the Heublein Tower, or the roof of a friend’s apartment building, I hope every Hartford student will have a similar adventure.

* Miesel may be found as Meisel or Missal in the City Directories
** Other sources, including the 1930 Census and Morris Silverman’s Hartford Jews, have Goldberg’s first name as Hannah


“As this is my first attempt at an editorial…I of course tremble at the idea of having so great a responsibility resting upon me”

"Excelsior," Seymour, Hattie, ed., 1863, Ms 39424. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Hattie Seymour and her Hartford, Connecticut schoolmates self-published a paper called Excelsior. Volume 1, number 4 was edited by Hattie, the previous three having been edited by others in the class. Her editorial is short, remarking on the approaching end of their time together in school. Hattie encourages her classmates, as they “climb higher up the ladder of learning,” to study in order “to show ourselves approved unto God, and then at his coming we shall not be ashamed.”

A devotion to God is evident in several of the essays. Mary Felt defines nature as “all the works of God.” One unsigned piece commands the reader to “Be a sunbeam on earth…that you will be more fully prepared when God shall call you to shine as an angel in heaven.”

The remainder of the paper is filled with stories such as “The History of a Rocking Chair,” told from the point of view of the chair. Beckie Watrous’ story traces the life of the chair from its time as a tree in a large lot to being relegated to the garret by its owner. Given the year they were writing, it is not surprising that several students wrote about the Civil War and its horrors. Other topics include George Washington, memory and the mind, and several (such as Mary Felt’s alluded to above) about nature.

Red ribbons tie the pages of the paper together. The title is in color, but the remainder was handwritten in black ink. The entire work is in the same hand, with 19 stories covering 18 pages. In addition to Hattie Seymour, Mary Felt, and Beckie Watrous, stories are attributed to Louise Kellogg, Sarah Langdon, Nellie McManus, Mary Wilson, Sarah Belden, and Ed Roberts.

Unfortunately there is no indication as to which school the students attended, and if it was even in Hartford. Census data suggests, though, that Hattie Seymour was a resident of the city and would have been 18 in 1863.

This item is available for research. Please come visit! If you are interested in a different style of student work, enjoy our Connecticut Needlework exhibit while you are here as well.