Archive for the ‘Connecticut history’ Category

6
Dec

Friendship album

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Jennifer Sharp M’11, a Project Archivist with the Watkinson Library]

dedicationA common practice in the nineteenth century was to maintain a friendship album. Though mostly kept by women, entries were often from both men and women. The albums contained poems and stories, and served a purpose similar to a high school yearbook or a Facebook wall.

Lucy Strong was the sister of Charles Wells’ wife, Jane Naomi (Strong) Wells. As we can tell from the album’s dedication, in 1832 Lucy attended (or perhaps just visited) Wesleyan Academy, now Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

She received entries from several men there, including one from Columbia, South Carolina, and another from New Hartford, Connecticut.

While often the entries were just text, some, such as this entry from Clarissa Talmage, were far more intricate.

Though water damaged, the pages all remain legible. It’s great to have this example of a nineteenth century custom in the collection.

*I have learned from online histories of Wilbraham & Monson that Wesleyan Academy was the first co-ed boarding school in the country. The wording in the dedication makes it sound like Lucy was a student there, but in my quick search I was unable to find a date for co-education.

 

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1
Dec

Juvenalia of Charles P. Wells

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Jennifer Sharp M’11, a Project Archivist with the Watkinson Library]

When Charles P. Wells died, it was reported in Hartford’s two prominent daily newspapers. The Hartford Daily Times described his character as “peculiarly self-contained and reserved.” Similarly, the Hartford Daily Courant wrote that “Partaking largely of the Quaker character of his father, he led a quiet, undemonstrative life, and in some sort the world went by him.”

Charles P. Wells’ collection, with its many pages of Bible study notes, does suggest that quiet study was a significant part of his day-to-day life. There are other pieces in the collection, though, that provide a glimpse of a more playful side.

front_streetWhile in his early 20s, Wells entered into several “agreements” with friends. One, signed with his friend John Corning, was that neither man would go to Hartford’s Front Street for a month. Another was that Wells and a friend would not “associate with any young woman damsel or girl” for one year.

young womanBy far, the most intricate of these was the Hebedatombobyboosthimout Club (no, I don’t know how you pronounce that). The initial club document I found is three handwritten pages, in small script, with little space between the lines. Additionally, there is a Book of Record. At the end of the first entry, written in pencil (in a different hand), is a list of the four members: Charles Stanton, L.H. Goodwin, Charles Wells, and John Corning.

The document and the record book are not easy reading. But they are certainly among the more unique items in the Wells collection. I encourage you to visit the Watkinson and take a look.

club 1 club 2 club 3

28
Oct

Processing the Papers of Charles P. Wells

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Jennifer Sharp M’11, a Project Archivist with the Watkinson Library]

IMG_5084A few months ago the Watkinson was fortunate to receive the papers of Charles P. Wells. The image shows the contents of one of the boxes of material when I started working on it. Now, after an initial pass through the entire collection, all the papers have been unfolded and placed in folders.

Objects that came with the collection are currently in a separate box.

The next task is to make sure the papers are organized in a way that will make sense to researchers, and will help them find information that is pertinent to their work. What seems to make the most sense is to group them in three series: personal papers, business papers, and papers pertaining to the extended Wells family.

After all the papers have been organized, I will put together a guide to the collection. Called a finding aid, it is like a table of contents for the collection. This will be available online, and anyone who would like to study Charles P. Wells will be welcome to research the collection.

Over the course of the next few posts, I will detail some of the items in the collection to give you an understanding as to what is available, and what you can learn about Wells and his life here in Hartford.

 

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9
Sep

Gift: Papers of Roger Clarke

   Posted by: rring

Roger ClarkeThe Watkinson is very pleased to announce the gift of the professional papers and working library of CT-based architect Roger Clarke (1936-2011). Clarke was born in England (Castleford, Yorkshire), studied at Liverpool University, apprenticed in Germany, worked in London for several firms, and in 1963 met Marjorie Donnelly, an American who was in England making her way back from the Peace Corps in the Philippines as part of the first wave of volunteers sent by JFK. They hit it off and wrote to each other but time and distance took its toll. In 1967 Clarke took a job in Philadelphia, and later moved to New York City, where he worked for two prestigious firms, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Edward Larabee Barnes. Marjorie was working as a book editor in New York where they reunited and were married. They moved to Collinsville, CT in 1972. He worked for Henry Shadler in West Hartford, then opened a firm in Collinsville in 1974 with architect Richard Swibold. They were at the forefront of the “green” movement in the 1970s, which was in its infancy, designing houses with passive solar heating systems and other efficiencies. Through his work on The Old State House, Clarke began to develop his deep interest and enthusiasm  for historic preservation.  He worked on properties such as the Charter Oak Temple (the state’s first synagogue), Gillette Castle, the mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park, the Butler-McCook House in Hartford, the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, and dozens of other projects.

The donor of the collection is Marjorie Clarke, and it will be processed for research as soon as possible.

26
Jul

Strike while the iron is hot!

   Posted by: rring

Courant1A shout-out to Henry Arneth, our Special Collections Assistant, who spotted a great buy at a local auction house–five bound volumes of the Hartford Daily Courant dating from 1838-1843. Up to now we only had seven (7) individual issues dating from 1846-1887 in paper, but of course the main library has the entire run online–which comprise title changes: The Daily Courant (1837-1839) and the Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887). As anyone will tell you who has handled period newspapers, though, leafing through the real thing and using it online are two very different experiences.

Even Thoreau relates how “scraps of newspapers in which some party had wrapped their luncheon” was more evocative of the past than many a reasoned narrative in his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (first published in 1849).

Henry told me about the lot around 9am yesterday morning–and the sale was at 6:30pm. By 1:30pm I had struck an agreement with a local antiquarian book dealer who would bid for us at the auction (I had to teach at 6:30) and, if we were successful, deliver the set to us after the sale. We got the set for just over the high estimate, which was still a fabulous bargain for us–definitely what I would call a “wholesale” price. See below for some excerpts from 1838.

Courant6Courant2Courant5Courant4Courant3

 

25
May

Early Hartford family archive

   Posted by: rring

WellsWe are very happy to announce the gift of an archive of family papers related to early 19thC Hartford from former Trinity College President (1981-89) James F. English, Jr. (H ’89) of Noank, CT. Jim is also an emeritus member of the Watkinson Library Board of Trustees, which he served to our great benefit for 12 years, from 1997-2009.

The papers mostly relate to Charles Pitkin Welles (1811-1876), although other members of the Welles (or Wells) family are also represented. The archive includes correspondence, ephemera, objects, and other documents (like report cards from Hartford High School ca. 1850, insurance policies, invitations, bills, etc.), poetry, diaries, and printed chapbooks and newspapers.

 

img166According to his obituary in the Hartford Daily Times (March 4, 1876), “his peculiarly self-contained and reserved character, and his thoroughly domestic and retiring habits” made him almost a stranger in his own town. Born of Quaker parents, “the slow and unruffled Quaker calm not only asserted itself in his ever cool and even blood, but led him away from the stirring outward life” but rather, to the “quite and genial atmosphere of his books.”

“It is related of him that once, when word was brought to him, down town, at night, that his place of business (he kept a drug and medicine establishment, not far from the Main and Asylum street corner) was on fire, he deliberately arose, carefully dressed himself, and adjusted his necktie with his usual care. It did not suit him, and he took it off, and getting another, arranged that to suit him–and then walked up town to see what was going on at the fire.”

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27
Apr

Hartford Medical Society Library

   Posted by: rring

HMS deskRecently I was given a tour of the Hartford Medical Society Library, a local cultural/historical gem which (admittedly) is a bit tough to get to, at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, but well worth it.

The HMS was founded in 1846. The Society’s rules, adopted September 15th of 1846, state: “The object of this Society, is to maintain the practice of Medicine and Surgery in this city upon a respectable footing; to expose the ignorance and resist the arts of quackery; and to adopt measures for the mutual improvement, pleasant intercourse, and common good of its members.”

HMS stuff2Aside from the historical collections of books and manuscript material, which are fascinating, there are a number of artifacts, many of which are described in a catalogue that the HMS published in 1979.

To learn more about the library and its collections, I urge Trinity students and faculty to contact the Librarian, Jennifer Miglus, who is both friendly and helpful!

HMS stacks

3
Dec

Old school campaigning

   Posted by: rring

Jackson1On this day in 1828, Andrew Jackson was elected president.

I thought it would be good to put up this little piece of ephemera–related to the Connecticut push to get Jackson elected.

“The Committee-men should take it upon themselves, personally, to see that every Jackson man is at the polls.”

As was the custom at the time, neither candidate personally campaigned, but their political followers organized many campaign events. Most interesting are the notes of the political stance of Connecticut figures on the back.

Jackson2

21
Oct

Out & about

   Posted by: rring

DAR1aIt was my pleasure to give a talk last week to a local chapter of the DAR on the life of John James Audubon, and specifically our copy of Audubon’s Birds of America, and its donor, Dr. Gurdon Wadsworth Russell, Trinity Class of 1834.

In 1839, after finishing the production of the plates, Audubon’s engraver Robert Havell moved to America. Almost forty years later in 1878, shortly before his death, he held an exhibition and sale at his home in Tarrytown of paintings and books—including our copy of Audubon’s Birds of America. They were purchased at the sale by a New York book dealer/publisher, C. S. Francis & Co., who in 1856 had charge of the sale of all of Audubon’s works. The set was sold the same year to Dr. Gurdon Russell, Trinity Class of 1834. Mention of this sale was made four years later in the December 1882 issue of Ornithologist & Oologist; the article stated, “The Doctor (G. W. Russell, 490 Main Street, Hartford, CT) also owns the Robert Havell copy of Audubon’s Birds, Double Elephant Folio. The copy cost $1150 and the table and roller drawers in which to keep it $100 new. Some years ago we furnished to the Doctor a letter from Robert Havell to one of Audubon’s sons stating that every plate was carefully selected as he was colouring the work, making it one of the best, if not the best, copy known.”

22 years later, an article ran in the Hartford Courant on July 11, 1900:

Fine Gift to Trinity / Dr. Russell Presents his splendid copy of Audubon Birds

Dr. Gurdon W. Russell of this city yesterday gave to the library of Trinity College the most valuable single work ever received by it in the course of its history. The work is none other than that monument of American genius and enterprise, “The Birds of America: From Original Drawings, by John James Audubon.” Dr. Russell visited the College in person yesterday morning and formally presented the work to President Smith. The extreme rarity and costliness of Audubon’s “Birds” has long made it famous in the book-world, and its deserved reputation of being by far the most sumptuous single ornithological work ever published has rendered its name well known to the general public, though few ever see a really fine and complete copy.

DAR4From 1897 until 1909, when Dr. Russell died at the age of 93, he enjoyed the status of being the oldest living graduate of both Trinity College and the Yale Medical School—he entered Trinity College (then named Washington College) in 1830, six years after its founding. Russell was born on April 10, 1815 in Hartford, the same year that Audubon’s daughter Lucy was born in Louisville, KY (she died 2 years later). His father was a printer who was born in Litchfield in 1790 and came to Hartford in 1812; his paternal grandfather was John Russell, a soldier in the Revolution who served in Boston, Long Island, and White Plains. Dr. Russell’s mother was the daughter of Gurdon Wadsworth, a lineal descendant of William Wadsworth, one of the first settlers of Hartford who came with Thomas Hooker.

Needless to say, Dr. Russell was one of the patricians of Hartford, and the list of his accomplishments was long and illustrious—having worked for Aetna for some 60 years. At his death he gave the College the REST of his natural history collection, numbering over 275 items of British and North American flora and ornithology, and including some of the great rarities we have at Trinity, including Audubon’s famous Quadrupeds of North America (folio) and the first and third editions of Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants, published in 1738–100 years before Audubon’s Birds of America, and a cornerstone of any collection of American natural history.

14
Sep

Re-discovering the archives!

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Peter Rawson, Associate Curator of Archives & Manuscript Collections]

IMG_3248While conducting a survey of the archives I came across two 19th-early 20th century collections.

The first are the papers of the Reverend Frederick William Harriman, D.D, Class of 1872. Harriman served for over thirty years as the rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Windsor, CT, retiring in 1920.  The collection contains several of his hand-written sermons, information pertaining to his father, the Reverend Frederick Durbin Harriman, Class of 1845, personal correspondence, and family genealogy.
The second are the papers the Reverend Abner Jackson, Class of 1837, and eighth President of Trinity from 1867-1874. The papers contain three of his diaries from 1860-1864, personal correspondence, 1840-1874, certificate of ordination as a priest by Bishop Brownell (first President of Trinity), and a published volume of his discourses, 1875.
Both of these collections give us insight into Trinity’s early roots in the Episcopal Church, and the lives and perspectives of members of our community in the 19th and early 20th centuries.