Through Glass and Lens

Welcome to the latest issue of CTExplored/Inbox, your bi-weekly newsletter from Connecticut Explored with the latest stories, the newest 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

Welcome to the Fall 2021 issue! We’re the spotlight on the fascinatingly complicated and disruptive Victorians. The era’s eye-popping opulence is just one clue that we’re not in buttoned-down colonial Connecticut anymore.

“The period marked a crucial—probably the crucial—transformation of the United States;” historian Daniel Walker Howe wrote in “Victorian Culture in America,” a special issue of American Quarterly (December 1975), “it was a time of industrialization, knowledge explosion, immigration and vast population growth, urbanization, geographical expansion, changing race relationships, and the greatest armed conflict on American soil.”

Explore along with us, starting with our cover story:

Tiffany’s Stunning Church Windows

In our Fall 2021 story, Lyman Allyn Museum’s Tanya Pohrt explores three outstanding examples of Tiffany windows originally installed in churches in New Haven, Hartford, and New London. They are just 3 of the 50 or so examples in Connecticut. 

The window on our cover was, Pohrt explains, “dedicated to Thomas Rutherford Trowbridge, and has an unusual subject for a church window: the ship that brought English settlers to the New Haven Colony in April 1638. The window celebrates the church’s and the Trowbridge family’s connection to the founding of the colony. The church’s four meeting houses throughout history are shown in each corner of the window, including the current 1814 structure (lower right). In 1960 the church removed most of its Tiffany windows in a renovation project to restore the church to its original 1814 appearance. This window, now in the Hilton C. Buley Library, and two others found a new home at Southern Connecticut State University, facilitated by SCSU professor Dr. Robert Koch, an important early Tiffany scholar.” See the full window in our Fall 2021 issue.

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Finding Freedom Through the Daguerrotype

NYU professor Dr. Deborah Willis adds to the story of photographer Augustus Washington and “Daguerreomania” in her story for the Fall issue. Between 1840 and 1845, she writes, “a number of free Black men established themselves as daguerreotypists and photographers. For instance, Augustus Washington worked as a daguerreotypist and studio photographer, making images of Black and white families, key figures in the abolitionist movement of the time such as John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison, clergymen, celebrities, scholars, and businessmen.”

But Washington, who was born in Trenton, New Jersey to a Black father who was formerly enslaved and a mother of Asian ancestry, felt that he’d only fully realize his freedom by moving to Monrovia, Liberia. In 1853 he closed his successful Hartford Daguerreian Gallery and reestablished his studio in Liberia. Willis explains that this was just the beginning. “Washington closed his [Monrovia] studio in 1859 and later was elected to Liberia’s House of Representatives and Senate. He owned 1,000 acres of land, went into trading, and became editor of the New Era in 1873.”

Find out more in our Fall 2021 issue by signing up for CTExplored/Inbox PREMIUM, $30/year, for your all-access to the issue online!

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The Latest from Grating the Nutmeg

124. Lydia Sigourney, Benedict Arnold, & The Battle of Bunker Hill

What do the 19th-century author Lydia Sigourney, the 18th-century hero-turned-traitor Benedict Arnold, and the Revolutionary War Battle of Bunker Hill have in common? They all come together in this episode’s story drawn from Sigourney’s 1824 book SKETCH OF CONNECTICUT FORTY YEARS SINCE. Sigourney’s book, written early in her career, is a rare historical treat: a tale by a future-famous writer, written in 1824, reminiscing about life 40 years earlier in 1784. The past remembering the past, in this episode of Grating the Nutmeg.

PLUS: Enjoy this throw-back episode about a story from the Victorian era!

Episode 95: “Beware of the Sea, for it is a Wide, Wide Love”

In an episode that spans New England to Hawaii in the Victorian era, listen to the stories of sea captains’ wives during the Great Age of Sail. CT Explored publisher Elizabeth Normen draws inspiration from the haunting words of her great-great grandmother, one of hundreds of women in the 19th century who made the difficult choice to leave all they knew and those they loved for the uncertainly of a life at sea.

Programs and Exhibitions to
Enjoy This Month

Please Touch! 

“Oh, I remember my grandparents had an old icebox like that!” “Look, kids, that’s what a telephone used to look like!” So say visitors at one of the most popular exhibitions at the Wilton Historical Society, Just Like Grandma Used to Make: A Hands-on Experience of 300 Years of Kitchen History. Visit the exhibition that won a Connecticut League of History Organizations 2020 Award of Merit for Individual Achievement in Exhibition Design.

Wilton Historical Society, wiltonhistorical.org  

Inspired by the Sea

Mystic Seaport Museum opens a new exhibition, Sea as Muse, this month. The exhibition brings objects from the museum’s wide-ranging collection of decorative arts together to tell stories of inspiration and artistry. Silver yachting trophies are at the center of the exhibition. Also on view will be hand-carved wooden furniture and decorative panels from the massive yacht Aloha II, stained-glass windows, pictorial prints, and decorative objects created for middle-class American homes.

Mystic Seaport Museum, Mysticseaport.org

Textiles Tell Their Stories

At Connecticut Landmarks’s Hempsted Houses in New London, historically-informed clothing, shoes, accessories, and bedding help tell the story of what the enslaved people who lived there—Adam Jackson and a woman known only as Dinah—would have worn for work, church, and daily life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit this fall to see the new exhibit elements, and join a walking tour of one of New England’s earliest graveyards on September 26, 2 – 3:30 p.m., to learn more about the people of African descent who are buried there. 

Hempsted Houses, ctlandmarks.org/properties/hempsted-houses/

An Insider’s View

Litchfield Historical Society has reopened its museums to in-person visitation. All new for 2021, Antiquarian to Accredited: A Look Inside the Historical Society invites visitors to learn more about the institution while showcasing objects and stories from the point of view of the museum’s stakeholders. Those stakeholders include past and present staff, board members, volunteers, community members, and exhibition contributors. Antiquarian to Accredited gives an insider’s perspective as to how the society collects, interprets, and shares community history.

Litchfield Historical Society, litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org

Fresh Produce and Music  

The Old State House Farmers Market is open for shoppers on Tuesday and Friday through October 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring local farmers and artisans who come together with the community to share the best of what Connecticut has to offer!

The annual concert series also returns on Fridays at noon through October 9. Concerts are held on the East Lawn and will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.

Connecticut Democracy Center at Connecticut’s Old State, CTOldStateHouse.org

Editors’ Picks

Stories we love from back issues to read now. 

Augustus Washington: Portrait of a Young Man,” Winter 2004-2005

“Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London,” Winter 2018-2019

Mark Twain Comes In & Goes Out with Halley’s Comet,” Spring 2010

Marching in the Civil War with Henry Clay Work,” Fall 2008

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