Giving It Away

Welcome to the latest issue of CTExplored/Inbox, your bi-weekly newsletter from Connecticut Explored with the latest stories, Grating the Nutmeg podcast, programs and exhibitions from our partners to see/watch this month, and more! 

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Fall 2021: We’re not in Puritan Connecticut anymore

This gorgeous and dramatic image is inside the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich. It’s your entree into the fascinating story of John Fox Slater and his son, William Albert Slater, and their efforts to give away their wealth gained through textile manufacturing—as in cotton production in the South.

Vivian Zoë, longtime executive director of the museum until her retirement this spring, guides us through their lives and legacy in the Fall 2021 issue. “The Slater name is ubiquitous in Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island,” she writes, “for its association with textile manufacturing and the family’s influence and philanthropy in the late 19th century.”

“It is possible or even likely,” she suggest, “that John Fox Slater understood that his wealth derived in large part from the cotton he acquired so inexpensively from plantations and enslaved labor in the South.” Among Slater’s notable gifts was the establishment in 1882 of John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen in the South, for which he was awarded a medal from the United States Congress.

Closer to home, Slater helped fund establishment of Norwich Free Academy, founded in 1854. His son William’s gift to the academy of Slater Memorial Hall, built in 1886, is among his most notable gifts.

While “the actions of America’s early philanthropists don’t necessarily sit easily with us today,” Zoë sees, in the creation of a hospital, schools, and other institutions, “a pattern of returning wealth to uplift those who had suffered for that wealth,” a legacy worth exploring today.

Read the full story in your print copy of the Fall 2021 issue or by signing up for CTExplored/Inbox PREMIUM.

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The Latest from Grating the Nutmeg

Episode 126. The Three Lives of Kevin Johnson

51 minutes. Release date: September 15, 2021

History has often been described as the present having a conversation with the past. Meet Kevin Johnson, who makes those conversations both real and personal: as a technical assistant in the History and Genealogy unit of the Connecticut State Library in Hartford; as William Webb, a Civil War volunteer in the 29th Connecticut Colored Volunteer Infantry; and as Jordan Freeman, the African American who died a heroe’s death at the Revolutionary War massacre at Fort Griswold. It’s 250 years of history, all through one person. Produced by State Historian Walter W. Woodward.

Programs and Exhibitions to 
Enjoy This Fall

Currier & Ives in Old Lyme

From October 2, 2021 through January 24, 2022, the Florence Griswold Museum presents Revisiting America: The Prints of Currier & Ives, an exhibition from the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Currier & Ives was a powerhouse of 19th-century publishing and had an immeasurable influence on American visual culture. Their prints offer a new opportunity to uncover the complexities and contradictions of our history and help shape our understanding of America’s past.

Florence Griswold Museum, florencegriswoldmuseum.org

Italian Women Artists 

The Wadsworth Atheneum’s first exhibition dedicated to Italian women artists, By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500 – 1800, on view September 30, 2021 to January 9, 2022, celebrates the vibrant yet overlooked role of women artists in Italy around 1600 and explores how these artists succeeded in the male-dominated art world of the time. See Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as a Lute Player from the Wadsworth’s collection alongside a related painting from the National Gallery, London.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, thewadsworth.org

Youth Fantasy Literature Explored

Drawing on materials from the Children’s Historical Collection and the modern circulating collection, Magic, Mayhem, and Maturity:The Growth of Youth Fantasy Literature, opening October 7 at Pequot Library in Southport, examines the emergence and evolution of youth fantasy literature. Magic, Mayhem, and Maturity will be open to the public during library browsing hours. 

Pequot Library, Pequotlibrary.org

Ghost Tours!

Visit the National Historic Landmark Victorian home of the great American author Mark Twain and enjoy their popular Ghost Tours through October. Visitors will hear the ghostly tales and stories of spirits that surround the Mark Twain House, learn about the Victorians’ fascination with spiritualism, and find out why SyFy Channel’s popular paranormal series Ghost Hunters brought its investigative team to the house! By reservation only.

The Mark Twain House & Museum, MarkTwainHouse.org

Visit the New Mattatuck 

On view October 10, 2021 to January 16, 2022 at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury is Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, an exhibition of more than 70 working photos, paintings, and tear sheets by America’s best-known illustrator. Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera was organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Also on view will be History of Photography in Waterbury

Mattatuck Museum, mattmuseum.org

Editors’ Picks

Stories we love from back issues to read now. 

Norwich’s Millionaire’s Triangle,” Summer 2021

A Strike Transforms a Village,” Winter 2019-2020

Connecticut’s Philanthropic Impulse,” Fall 2015

The Handkerchief Brigade,” Fall 2015

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