Archive for January, 2014

img842We recently acquired a bit of Connecticut history that has been in a mid-western historical society since 1965, and was recently deaccesioned by that archive. We bought it from a dealer in Philadelphia and brought it back to Connecticut!

Dated 14 July 1763 at Preston, CT, this is an apprenticeship indenture which binds Asa Greer, “son of Elisabeth Parke and one of the poor of this town,” to John Greer and his wife to serve as an apprentice until age 21.

Young Asa (who was probably about seven years old) “shall not absent himself day or night from his master’s service,” and in return his master will “teach him to write and cipher and provide him with suitable board and clothes.” The nature of his apprenticeship beyond “service” is not specified.

IMG_4439I am pleased to announce the availability of copies of a limited, signed and numbered edition (1 through 30) of a 3-color lino-cut print by local artist Kait Lennon, a recent graduate of the University of Hartford Art School and a printer at Hartford Prints!

All proceeds from the sale of these prints will go toward the purchase of a copy of the first edition (1855) of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

The dimensions of the sheet are 9 x 12 inches, and the print itself is 8 x 10, ready-to-frame!

Cost: $150.00

Please e-mail if you would like a copy.



img808Also available for those who donate to the Whitman:

On December 3, 2013, the students of Clare Rossini’s First-Year Seminar (“The Practice of Poetry”), having visited the Watkinson to compose lines of Whitman’s poetry in metal type the week before, went on a field trip to print keepsakes at Hartford Prints!, a local letterpress shop.  The news article covering the event is here, and here are pics of the students printing.


Lucky 13! opening a success!

   Posted by: rring    in Classes, Events, exhibitions, students

AMST 835 class picThe opening of our student exhibitions last month was a great success, with over 60 people in attendance from as far a way as upstate New York.

Every fall I teach a course in the American Studies department on museum and library exhibitions, and my students curate their own shows “soup to nuts,” – not just telling a story with artifacts, but also fundraising, planning and budgeting for an opening event and producing a published catalog. This fall I had 13 students, and each one did their own show, so I called the collective exhibition “Lucky 13.” The shows will be on display through June 15, and catalogs are still available.




Page 1Our most significant acquisition this year came from a dealer in Philadelphia.  It is a 450-page diary written over 10 years (1841-1851) by Hartford artist and dilettante Edward Watkinson Wells (1819-1898), one of the many nephews of our founder, David Watkinson (1778-1857).

Edward was immersed in Hartford’s cultural life in the 1840s, exhibited his works at local fairs and gave lessons to the locals. He portrays an active involvement with with his large extended family, which often crossed and re-crossed the other prominent families of Hartford (i.e., Barnard, Channing, Dexter, Ely, Gallaudet, Gill, Goodrich, Hudson, Rockwell, Silsbee, Tappan, Terry, Tracy, Trumbull, Van Renselaer, and Wadsworth).

Edward describes dancing and costume parties, soirees, teas, dinners, and receptions in private homes and public venues. He meets Charles Dickens and his wife when they come through Hartford in 1842, and describes brushes with other luminaries, such as Col. Thomas L. McKenney (who lectures on American Indians), and the Unitarian clergyman Rev. Henry Giles, who gave a pro-Irish speech.

Other entertainments included a balloon ascension, exhibitions of mesmerism and hypnotism, parades, and performances by well-known groups.  He also chronicles the progression of the construction of the Wadsworth Atheneum, and touches on his father’s far-reaching interests in the business world–canals, railroads, factories, and real estate.

The cost of this valuable document of mid-19thC Hartford was generously underwritten entirely by a  member of the Watkinson Trustees.


Spring 2014 Creative Fellows

   Posted by: rring    in Creative Fellowships, News, students

We welcome and herewith introduce our Spring semester Fellows with great hopes for their projects:

David FieldDavid Field ’15, originally from Franklin, Massachusetts, is currently in his junior year at Trinity College, where he is an English major with a focus in creative writing as well as a minor in Writing, Rhetoric, and Media Arts. David has written two novels and is currently at work on two other projects, all of which he hopes to publish. He plans to attend an MFA program after Trinity and go on teach creative writing at the college level.

David’s proposal is to explore the Watkinson’s collections for adaptations of canonical works such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Classical mythology, and the stories of specific authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Lewis Carroll, and “produce my own short stories that re-envision these classic works using a more modern lens.” He intends to produce a small volume of these stories and donate it to the Watkinson.

JuanVasquezJuan Vasquez ’15, born and raised in Bushwick, New York, is a Theater & Dance major with a focus in Arts in the Community, with minor concentrations in Urban Studies and Film Studies. Having recently completed his fall semester at the Trinity/La MaMa program in New York, he is interested in exploring the intersection of community development and the Arts. These interests have lead him to work relentlessly within the non-profit sector in the hopes that civic engagement would catalyze a more inclusive society.

Juan intends to write and produce a staged reading of a play exploring the challenges of gay and transgendered people in Cuba, based partially on one of our recently acquired artist’s books, Eduardo Hernandez Santos’s El Muro, a series of ten pictographic triptychs showcasing the thwarted gay nightlife of Havana.

ADGAlix de Gramont ’15 was born in Paris, France and grew up in Santa Barbara, California. She is studying Religion, with a concentration in Judaism and biblical studies, at Trinity College. She currently works for Glenn Horowitz Bookseller as a cataloging assistant for the Dobkin Research Collection of Feminism and Judaica in New York City. She has been with Glenn Horowitz Bookseller since May 2013.

Alix plans to explore the major trends in book design and production over the past five centuries, using examples from the collections and our excellent secondary source material on the subject, and create a series of sketches illustrating these trends, as well as a few physical examples.

img839We recently acquired a few more items for our collection on Lydia H. Sigourney (1791-1865), the “sweet singer of Hartford.”

Shown here is a letter to an unidentified friend dated 22 July 1857. In it, Sigourney apologizes for the delayed response, and is empathetic to an obviously bereaved friend, who lost someone named Elizabeth: “Strongly have I been reminded of your mother and yourself, and your desolated house, by the image of dear Elizabeth . . . objects from her tasteful hand continually meet my eye–the needle-case in my work-basket, the embroidered cushion in the guest chamber, the “Holy Family” upon the walls of the apartment which my daughter used to occupy…”

Another letter, dated 19 May 1857, seems to be to a publisher or distributor, who apparently had asked if she would be able to use 750 copies of Voices of Home.  “It is true that have occasionally desired some as gifts for friends going on voyages,” she admits, but for those purposes she requests only 50 copies.

img840There are two engraved portraits of Sigourney as well, and two manuscript poems:” Addressed to Madame Wadsworth, on seeing her surrounded by her children, and grand-children, on Thanksgiving Day” dated 30 November 1816; and “Lines written on reading this morning ‘A Letter to Maj. General Dearborn by Colonel Putnam, repelling an unprovoked attack on the character of his deceased father, the late Maj. General J. Putnam,” dated 5 June 1818.Sigourney poem


A Wartime Romance?

   Posted by: rring    in Americana, oppotunities for research

ww I lettersWe recently acquired a small archive of forty-three (43) WWI-era letters from enlisted Ohio native John Burkin to his wife Evelyn between August and December 1918.

John (or Jack, as he often refers to himself) was recruited by the army in the summer of 1918 and sent to Fort Slocum in New York to await orders, then to Camp McClellan in Anniston, Alabama, where he made First Sergeant and wrote to his wife Evelyn nearly every day.

“The higher I can get in military circles, the greater chance of having my Evie near. They don’t pay attention to a Private, he is the dog who does the work.”

His letters home speak candidly of the longing most soldiers felt during the uncertain times at the end of the Great War. Camp life was training, waiting, and loneliness. “I am so sad I can hardly talk. There are a great number of soldiers in camp here. They are coming in and going out continually. We are right on the shore and have a fine view but to hell with the views. There is only one that would look good to me.”

Although never shipped overseas, his anxiety about the possibility can be seen throughout the letters.

famous creeperWe have acquired two paintings this year to add to our growing collection of original art related to ornithology. The artist is Sarah Stone (1760-1844), a talented watercolorist employed by the entrepreneur Sir Ashton Lever to record the contents of his extraordinary private museum. This consisted of specimens and ethnographic material being brought back by British expeditions to Australia, the Americas, Africa and the Far East in the 1780s and 1790s–most importantly from Cook’s round-the-world voyages.



black & blue creeperThe Lever museum was dispersed in 1806, and although the specimens have been lost, almost 1,000 of Stone’s paintings are in private and institutional hands–they are often the only remaining record of specimens which were used by scientists in the 18thC for descriptions of new species  (some now extinct) for the first time.

Source: Sarah Stone: Natural Curiosities from the New Worlds, by Christine Jackson (1998)