1914: One Hundred Years of Reflection in the Making

1914 CHSWhile searching for images of life captured in 1914, I was amazed by the range of subjects; prison halls, family picnics, and at least three different fires were all immortalized one hundred years ago. Continue reading

Her grosgrain goune blacke

This is the first item listed on the two-page inventory of the estate of Elizabeth Welles of Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1683. We rarely come upon an inventory that dates this early, and even fewer that were of estates of women. Of course, it helps that she was the widow of Governor Thomas Welles. And in his will of 1659, he designated that “the land wch I head of hers should return to her agayne; . . and that howsehold stuffe wch remaynes.” Property brought to a marriage by the wife generally was subsumed by the husband’s estate, so Thomas’ actions were quite unusual. But it explains the size of the inventory, and the fact that she owned 14 acres of meadowland, 30 acres of upland and one 50 acre lot.

The first 14 items in the inventory are clothing, including gowns, petticoats, waistcoats, and suits. The list also includes yard goods, bed linens, a featherbed, rugs, pewter, livestock, and cookware. The inventory was taken by Samuel Talcott, James Treat and Samuel Butler, selectmen of the town of Wethersfield. Ms 07880.

For more information on coverture (women’s property rights in marriage) please visit the following web site: womenshistory.about.com/od/laws/g/coverture.htm.

Visit our web site at http://www.chs.org to learn more about our collections.

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.

Edward Steele diaries

It is so exciting to find diaries that actually give details about daily life.  Four volumes we recently received do just that.  The writer, Edward Steele, was a day laborer who lived in Wethersfield.  His spelling indicates he was not too well-educated, but he noted when he and his wife Maggie went to the theater and the play they saw, and he often read when he stayed home.  More to the point, though, is the fact that he put a lot of information in a very small space.  Each entry started with a description of the weather throughout the day.  He kept a detailed record of the work he did on the road–the number of loads of stone carted to which street, the streets he scraped, and the amount of dirt he hauled and spread–along with the number of hours.  But it gets better.  In 1896 he and Maggie moved into a new house.  Edward’s entries include such details as putting the Ship Essex into a frame, tacking down the oil cloth in the hall, hanging curtains, putting up shelves, laying down carpet.  He even mentions one day chopping cabbage and making pickle.

These volumes, dated 1896-1899, document the life and work of a real “everyman”,  something we don’t often see in the world of archives.