A Hannah surprise reprise

Hannah Smith's diary, Mary 10 to July 15, 1844. Ms 98476

Hannah Smith’s diary, Mary 10 to July 15, 1844. Ms 94876

I could barely contain myself when I realized what I was holding. The collection title was “Lambert Family Papers”, but here was another diary by one of my favorite young women of the 18th century, Hannah Hadassah Hickok Smith! You can read my earlier post about her here. I’ve read her earlier diary, and now, she is a grown woman of seventy-eight and the year is 1844. She notes she has been married 58 years.

Hannah has not changed much since her earlier diary, at least according to her entries. She does mention her daughters and husband which she did not in 1784, but he still is very self-deprecating, still reads voraciously, and records her daily chores, which she dismisses as lazing about. Here is a 78 year old woman hiving bees, throwing more wood in the stove at 3:00 a.m., and setting fence posts!  On June 13, she wrote: Continue reading

Connecticut Globeskirters: Gertrude Barnum’s Travel Diary

“With the first day of my journey, I commence this first page of my diary; hoping that the whole jaunt will be as favorable to my compositive powers as this beginning:”

So begins the travel diary of sixteen-year-old Gertrude Barnum, who left Danbury, Connecticut for a trip across the Atlantic to Paris and London with her mother, Sarah, on June 11, 1850. Her diary, along with her mother’s passport (Gertrude did not have her own passport, but traveled on her mother’s), are in the CHS manuscript collection and demonstrate the participation of Connecticut women in travel and tourism—a trend that would only grow as the century progressed. Continue reading

Illustrating Stylish Travel

Often times at the CHS, we write articles, present programs, and give tours based on our collections.  Many times these articles, programs, and tours are based on information and items we already know we have in the collection.  However, sometimes the topic comes first, and the illustrations come second.


Cheney Album. Volume 5. 1991.28.5.

Continue reading

Transcribing Hannah’s Diary

This entry was written by Student Intern Mike Ericson whose assignment was to complete the transcription of an 18th century young woman’s diary.

       Hannah Hadassah Hickock was born in 1767 in Southbury, Connecticut. Her diary spans the years 1784 to 1786 and gives a glimpse into what life was like in the late eighteenth century.  One of the constant activities in her life is that she is always attending meetings.  Most of these are religious meeting where she goes to listen to various preachers.  Towards the end of her diary she also begins to quote some of the texts that the preachers used.  For example on August 7, 1785 she wrote:

 Mr Wileman’s text was, Peter 2. 1,2,3.  Wherefore laying aside all malice & all guile & hypocrisies & envies & all evil-speakings as new born babies desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow there by, if so be that ye have tasted that the lord is gracious

Many of her diary entries either quote the Bible or make some reference to religion.  However, she also writes about how she doesn’t really like to read in the Bible and that she wonders if there is something wrong with her.  On May 6, 1784 she ends her journal entry by saying, “I wish I loved to read in the Bible – Why don’t I.”  Also on July 8, 1784 she writes, “Read a little in the Bible, but I am too stupid.”  While she was constantly attending meetings to listen to preachers, she found it hard in her early years to read and interpret the Bible by herself.

Another common theme in Hannah’s diary was how often she was “indisposed.”  She may have been constantly sick or just over-exaggerating her illness to get out of doing chores or going to meetings.  An example of this is can be seen on March 21, 1785 when she wrote, “I was exceedingly indisposed and had a fire in the outroom.”  Also on April 4 she wrote, “Last Saturday I rose late very much indisposed & discontented I was.”  According to her diary she was quite often indisposed which led to her not being in the best of moods.

Hannah’s diary is also unique in the fact that she went back 40 years after she had originally written it and transcribed it.  Hannah starts her transcription by saying,  “Diary, originally written in 1784 by HHH, and transcribed by her in March 1844, 60 years afterwards.”

While it’s extremely interesting to find a journal where the actual author has gone back and transcribed it, this also made it a tough read at times.  Hannah liked to constantly re-read her writings and edit them.  There are numerous words and lines in her journal that have been crossed out and new thoughts added in the margins.  There was even one paragraph that she erased so hard that she made a hole in the paper!  Furthermore, sixty years later when she was transcribing her diary she added a poem to the end of it.  Her poem speaks about how fast her life has gone by and how her hopes lie in the future.  She writes:

If at eighteen when life was new

Time was so rapid in its flight

That I should bid my pen adieu

At sixty six how shall I write!

Altho’ our day so quickly flee

We would not live them o’er again

So very few of them are free

From care & trouble, toil & pain

We are not seeking for the past

Our hopes aspire to future bliss

May they be realized at last

And in a better world than this

One of the final pages of Hannah Hickok's diary, with the poem transcribed above. Connecticut Historical Society. Ms 100961.

In conclusion, her diary entries show how life was for people in the late 1700’s.  While constantly attending meetings and being indisposed she found time to help her mother run their tavern and engage in activities such as knitting or sewing.  Hannah’s diary was an extremely fascinating study and would be useful for anyone seeking a greater understanding for early American life.

Hannah’s diary can be read at the Connecticut Historical Society’s Research Center. Just ask for Ms 100961.

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.

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Hannah Hadassah Hickok

It is almost like reading Jane Austen, but it dates from about 30 years earlier. That is what I like best about one of our latest additions to the collections. Hannah Hadassah Hickok was born in South Britain, Connecticut ,in 1767. Her diary No. 2, (I wish we had No. 1) which dates from February 19, 1784-June 8, 1786, provides insight into the life of a very intelligent young lady who often considered herself above her peers.  For example, on February 20, 1784, she wrote:

To-day rose at ten went to cleaning rooms till noon, when I went to spinning. Gibbs has been here, we have had some dispute, he is a vexation & I dislike him too much to write about him. I have mov’d my study today”.

Gibbs continued as a vexation until Hannah “escaped” to Vermont to begin teaching school. She spent a lot of time in her study when she was not helping with household chores or spinning.

In May 1784  Hannah expressed her opinion about a young lady that she felt was leading a man on:

Bella tells me that Polly C–s has made O—e think she will have him, and now turns him off with disdain which occasions his soberness – But I hope he has pride for I believe Miss C—s is deceitful as is her sister and Bella says they have by their art, made interest by O—ne, who has sent them great numbers of books and costly presents – This I believe is true and they ridicule him to the last degree for it which in my opinion they are in the fault for doing.

Finally, here is her assessment of two girls not much younger than herself:

Miss Knowles is young, which excuses her awkward behavior but Miss Mitchell is really a very sensible, learned, instructive and conversable young Lady – She is a year younger than I am, with admirable education for her years and indeed advantages, if I may call the having of teachers advantages, tho she has had time allow’d her – People in general don’t like her, they say she is proud and fond of shewing her learning by continually talking of the learned men, poets, Heroes, Goddesses and Gods in a high stile, for which I like her – indeed she and I are to be very intimate.

Hannah later married Zephaniah Smith, a minister from Glastonbury, Connecticut, and they had five very remarkable daughters. Two of the girls, Julia and Abby are well known locally for challenging the Town of Glastonbury by refusing to pay taxes on the premise that it was taxation without representation.  Laurilla was the family artist, and taught both art and French at Emma Willard’s School in Troy,  New York.  Cyrinthia was a dedicated horticulturist.  She patiently kept notes on plants she was growing and experimented with fruit grafts.  Hancy, the eldest, worked tirelessly to collect signatures on petitions calling for the end of slavery.

The library holds papers from Julia Smith, so it is fascinating to be able to examine her mother’s mind while she herself was growing up. It helps us understand the daughter in a way we could not before.

Ms 100961

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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.”

October in the Archives

October was a busy month for the CHS manuscript catalogers. As part of our NHPRC grant funded project, we completed over 120 entries for the online catalog! Here are some of the highlights.

Three of the entries pertain to the Hartford Bridge Company (Account Book collection/Ms 32203,32205,32206) . CHS has a number of items from the Hartford Bridge Company, so while these particular lists of stock shares and tolls collected may not be the most exciting information in our archives,  the company as a whole could make an interesting research topic.

In the spirit of Halloween I will mention the Boston and Albany Railroad Co. Surgeon’s record (Ms. 36423).  This is a record of incidents occurring on railroad property.  Each entry contained the name of the injured individual, their position with the company, what happened,and where they resided (if they survived). Injuries reported included fingers being crushed, ankles being twisted, and more gruesome occurrences, such as bowels being torn open.

What happened in 1802 that caused many members of the Turkey Hills Ecclesiastical Society of East Granby to leave the society and join the Episcopal church? Perhaps the answer is among the Society’s papers (Ms. 100769). Dating between 1737 and 1910, the papers include meeting minutes, treasurers’ accounts, a record of admissions, births, baptisms, marriages and deaths, correspondence, statements of admissions and withdrawals,  documents related to inviting or dismissing pastors, warnings of society meetings, financial records, sales of slips and pews, and documents related to disciplinary actions taken by the society, including complaints, responses to allegations, confessions, and testimony.

Upon her 1862 graduation from the Hartford Female Seminary, Annie B. Wadsworth‘s mother gave her an autograph book (Ms. 46297). A precursor to today’s yearbooks, Annie filled the pages with photographs of her Seminary classmates and gathered their signatures.

In 1845 Sarah Coit Day and her daughter Catherine traveled to the Brattleboro (Vermont) Water-Cure for treatment. Day kept a journal (Ms. 47047), writing about taking tepid baths, walking, the view of the Connecticut River, and other people who were also at the facility. Though not mentioned in the journal, the Brattleboro Water-Cure was attended by many well-to-do people, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister, Catharine Beecher.

Just a quick update to a previous post… Rich, our fearless Head of Collections, sent along this bit of information regarding Solomon Porter:  Solomon Porter also became surveyor and and collector of revenues for the port of Hartford in the 19th C.  He was also engaged in the West Indies trade. We have a nice miniature of him in the collection, as well as one or two portraits of his lovely daughter Rebecca Porter Conner. By the way, he married his first cousin!

This Satuday, November 7, is the first Saturday of month. Here at CHS that means FREE admission from 9am to 1pm. Come visit! And while you are here, become a member!!

April 16, 1701

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, in her book Good Wives, uses the term “deputy husband” in describing one of many roles a woman assumed as a wife.   Sarah Butler was acting as a “deputy husband” when she gave her consent to William Gaylord to propose marriage to her daughter Hope.  A remarkable letter written by Sarah Butler recently came into our possession and has amazed all of us by its uniqueness.

Sarah Stone married Thomas Butler of Hartford, Connecticut and with him had 13 children.  By 1688, Thomas was dead and she still had children at home, including her youngest, Hope.

She responded to a letter from a kinsman of William Gaylord,  in which he expressed William’s desire that she provide her “approbation or allowance” so he could “treat” with her daughter Hope “in order to an agreement of marrying”.

In her April 16, 1701 letter, she writes “I have considered of the motion and have looked up to God for direction and commendation of the man concerning his peaceable disposition & your hopes of grace & also something concerning his advantage for maintenance in this life.”  These were concerns a father would surely have had for his daughter, particularly the man’s ability to support a wife. In this case, however, Sarah had to take charge.

Sarah gives her consent in this letter, and a year later William and Hope were married.

Sarah Butler letter, 1701 April 16. Ms 100711.

Librarians and War Bond Workers

While perusing an unprocessed collection last week, I came upon a fascinating pamphlet published by the War Finance Committee.  Its title is “A New Way for Librarians and War Bond Workers to help their communities help their country win the War.”  Connecticut is used as one of the examples of how the program works.

“Public libraries in Connecticut, working with the State War Finance Committee, demonstrated that libraries could play an important part in the War Finance Program.  New professional and educational groups were reached through the libraries; and librarians, because of their special place and prestige in a community, made the best possible type of War Bond appeal to such groups.  Friends of the libraries and library trustees helped libraries win important literary awards for their communities.”

What struck me most was the statement the librarians hold a special place and prestige in the community.  Sometimes I am not sure we are held in the same esteem today.  I also found it a bit amusing that librarians were equated with war bond workers!

This publication and other documents related to suffrage and women’s role in World War II are part of a collection about Ruth Dadourian, a remarkable woman for her time.  A catalog record will be on the OPAC shortly.