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

Give us back our cows!

I recently came across four letters in our catch-all “Miscellaneous Manuscripts” boxes that provided a real aha moment. The letters were written by Amos Laurence of Brookline, Massachusetts, to Abby Smith of Glastonbury, Connecticut. Abby is one of the Smith sisters whose claim to fame is that they refused to pay their town taxes because as single women they had no representation in town government. The town took their cows in lieu of payment. News of their plight evidently made it all the way to Boston. Laurence seems to be rather progressive–on January 14, 1874, he wrote:

The account of y[ou]r hardships is interesting and y[ou]r action will be highly beneficial in bringing the subject to public notice, and in leading to the correction of a great injustice. The taxation of the property of women without allowing them an representation even in Town affairs is to unfair that it seems only necessary to bring it to public view to make it odious and to bring about a change. Therefore you deserve the greater honor not only because you have suffered in agood cause, but because you have set an example that will be followed and that will lead to happy results.

A letter of support from Amos Laurence to Abby Smith for refusing to pay her taxes to the town of Glastonbury. Ms 38267

A letter of support from Amos Laurence to Abby Smith for refusing to pay her taxes to the town of Glastonbury. Ms 38267

He continues with some examples:

In the town where this is written [i.e. Brookline] a widow pays into the town treasury $7830 a year, while 600 men, a number  equal to half the whole number of voters pay $1200 in all. . . . That is, each one of 600 men who have no property, who pay only a poll tax, and many of whom cannot read or write, has the power of voting away the property of town, while the female owners have no power at all.

In an earlier letter Amos wrote about excess spending by various levels of government. Yet another example of how, no matter the amount of time that has passed, nothing changes.

If you take the New York papers you will have seen recently the results of “manhood” suffrage without qualifications, in the annual addresses of the Governors of States. What a piling up of state and municipal indebtedness! Has there ever been seen in the history of governments such a reckless expenditure of money, the greatest part of w[hic]h has been borrowed.

I wonder what he would think of the current threat of the “fiscal cliff”?

In his third letter he celebrates that there was a movement in town to buy back the Smith sisters’ cows and present them to their rightful owners, which is exactly what happened. The Smith sisters are folk heroes in Glastonbury, and here at CHS we have their mother’s diary (see the earlier blog entry about Hannah Hadassah Hickock), Julia’s translation of the Bible and her diaries (Ms Smith, Julia), published books about the sisters, and a portrait of their house, which is still standing in Glastonbury.

The homestead of Abby and Julia Smith in Glastonbury, Connecticut. 1979.63.263.

The homestead of Abby and Julia Smith in Glastonbury, Connecticut. 1979.63.263.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton letter

Fall is quickly approaching, the new school year has begun, and the year 5771 has begun for Jews around the world. For us, this September is the beginning of a new grant cycle. After having cataloged 1945 manuscripts and account books since September 2008, our counter is being reset to zero (all have been entered into our online catalog). Over the next two years we hope to catalog at least as many items, further decreasing our backlog. This new project is also funded by the NHPRC and we continue to be grateful for their support.

I intend to return to my schedule of [This Month] in the Archives posts along with posts about items that Barbara and I find interesting (and hope you do, too!). I just spent some time doing an inventory of part of our holdings and was pleasantly surprised to find a letter written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Hartford, Connecticut suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker. As we continue to display our suffrage exhibit and celebrate the anniversary of the 19th amendment, it seemed apropos to share it with you.

ECS letter

Elizabeth Cady Stanton letter, ca. 1890s, Ms x3025. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Mrs. Stanton wrote four pages to Mrs. Hooker. She began by explaining why she was unable to travel to Connecticut to help with the state’s suffrage cause. That spring and summer Stanton was quite busy addressing graduating classes. It was the first time a woman had been asked to do so, and she felt she could not pass up the opportunity.

The tone of the letter demonstrates that the two women were friendly, and had at least one friend in common. On the third page Stanton asks, “Will you & Pauline be at Saratoga?” Stanton signed the letter, “Lovingly yours.”

ECS signature

Elizabeth Cady Stanton letter, ca. 1890s, Ms x3025. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The letter is open for research and the catalog record will be available at the end of September.

Woman suffrage in Wyoming Territory: A letter to Mrs. John Hooker

Woman suffrage is one of my favorite topics, and I was therefore quite excited this morning when I stumbled upon this letter. It is even more relevant considering we have just celebrated the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment.

H. Glafcke letter to Mrs. John Hooker, 6 May 1871, Ms 100929. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The women of Wyoming voted in their first general election in September 1870. Herman Glafcke, who served as Secretary of Wyoming Territory between 1870 and 1873, shared his recollections of the event in a letter to Isabella Beecher (Mrs. John) Hooker, a well known suffragist in Hartford, Connecticut. Dated May 6, 1871, Glafcke begins by stating his opposition to suffrage before he moved to Wyoming. “You are aware that, when I left your state for Wyoming Territory about a year since, I looked upon woman suffrage as an impracticable idea; a movement, if carried into effect, likely to undermine the fundamental principles governing our social system.” The September election, however, served as a catalyst for an incredible change of opinion.

Glafcke watched as a seventy-eight year old woman was the first to cast a ballot. The men, he wrote, “took off their hats and remained uncovered, while she performed the sovereign duty of an American citizen.” After this, numerous women followed. According to Glafcke, everyone at the polling place was on their best behavior.

The records from Glafcke’s office indicated that approximately two-thirds of eligible women voted (he noted that the numbers did not include Indians). In addition to voting, women earned the right to serve on juries. Wyoming Supreme Court judges, according to Glafcke, “concur in the opinion that, since women have served on our juries, crime has decreased wonderfully; criminals have been brought to justice; and a due regard for the law has been instilled into those who had formerly committed crimes without fear of being punished.” Certainly the fundamentals of the social system were not being harmed.

H. Glafckce letter to Mrs. John Hooker, 6 May 1871, Ms 100929. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

At the end of the letter, Glafcke boldly comments, “Our community is satisfied with the result and could not be induced to return to the old, barbarous system of disfranchisement of a portion of our citizens any more than our nation could be persuaded to return to allegiance to Great Briatin.” It would be difficult to find a more rousing endorsement. Glafcke had clearly been convinced that the benefits of giving women the vote far outweighed the risks.

A record for this letter will be added to our online catalog at the end of August. Please search the catalog to learn more about our collections, including other Isabella Beecher Hooker items, suffrage material, and anti suffrage material.

H. Glafcke letter to Mrs. John Hooker, 6 May 1871, Ms 100929. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

This letter is open for research. Please see our website for more information about visiting and researching at CHS. Don’t forget, we also have a special hallway exhibit currently on view regarding suffrage.

September in the Archives

In September 2008 CHS embarked on a two year, NHPRC grant funded, project to catalog a backlog of 900 manuscripts and account books. Today, 13 months into the project, we have been able to create and add more than 600 catalog records to our online catalog.

Some of the highlights from the past month include the Morgan-Geer-Gallup papers, the Thomas Knowlton account book, New Haven Woman Suffrage Association record books, and the Gennaro Capobianco papers.

The Morgans, Geers, and Gallups were families in the Norwich and New London areas of Connecticut. There was much intermarriage, and tracing the family lines became increasingly confusing! One interesting piece is a notebook filled with dance instructions. (Ms. No. 17964)

Captain Thomas Knowlton is considered the United States’ first intelligence professional. He was the namesake for Knowlton’s Rangers, a unit which made a significant contribution to intelligence gathering during the early Revolutionary War. This account book details information about the men serving with Knowlton. One young man sent half his pay home to his mother. (Account Book collection)

There are, in my opinion, far too few woman suffrage collections available. The New Haven Woman Suffrage Association records include the group’s constitution, membership lists, meeting minutes, and press clippings. (Ms. No. 55712)

Gennaro Capobianco was a newspaper editor, funeral home director, security guard, and advocate for all things Italian.  His papers are organized into eight series: Personal Papers, Family Papers, Italian-American Societies & Organizations, Connecticut/Hartford General Organizations, Historical Documents, Italian-American Culture, “Our Roots” Project, and Research Material.  This collection was processed over the summer by one of our fabulous volunteers, Robert. Robert volunteered at CHS for a year after graduating from college and before heading to Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. (Ms. No. 100476)

All of these collections are open to research.

Looking for something to do on Saturday October 3? Come to CHS for a Civil War reenactment!