Connecticut Historical Society Tells of State’s Extraordinary Past
By Emma Jones
Special to the Live Wire
Did you know the Connecticut Historical Society is home to dozens of documents and artifacts chronically Connecticut, one of the oldest settled areas in the United States? A recent visit to the 86-year-old building the society calls home includes everything from Colonial era farm implements to Native American tools.
A recent exhibit titled “The Hartford Courant, Connecticut, and the Country” showcased the Courant’s 250 years of publication and distribution as the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper.
The exhibit, which ended Nov. 1, featured the newspaper’s highlights through notable front pages, timeline style on the walls, giving visitors the chance to walk through remarkable events in American history dating back to 1764, the year the newspaper was born.
Front pages marked the devastating, like the Hartford Circus Fire on July 6, 1944, one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history. The headline read “139 Die, More than 225 Hurt in Circus Fire” with a grim photograph placed below showing canvas circus tents being engulfed by flames. Continuing down the display there was “Kennedy Murdered” on Nov. 23, 1963, “Martin Luther King Slain in Memphis” on April 5, 1968, and “Man Walks on the Moon” on July 21, 1969.
The exhibit also encouraged visitors who may have had a hand in the circulation of The Courant as a paper carrier to share their story.
Andrew Zwick of Hebron, who was one of the last people to view the Courant’s exhibit shared that his grandfather, the late Frank Kristof, used to deliver the newspaper to homes surrounding Oak Street in East Hartford when he was a boy.
“It’s cool, you know, knowing that you’re a part of something that’s ongoing and still so successful,” Zwick said. “Even though I’m not the one directly connected to it [The Courant]– my grandfather was– but it’s still cool to know I have this connection.”
The Courant’s printing hand press also made an appearance at the exhibit, representing the early publishing days of the paper. Built in the early 1800s by Adam Ramage of Philadelphia, the printing hand press was used to create the first pages of what was then called The Connecticut Courant. The manual machine continued to be used into the mid-1800s until new technology made way for better productivity.
Although The Courant has wrapped up its exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society there is still so much to see there. The building first built in from 1925-1928 for Curtis Veeder, a Pennsylvania-born inventor, was purchased by the Society in 1950. Ever since then its goals have been to educate and share with the public copious Connecticut history. Items represent the many Native American tribes that thrived along the Connecticut River Valley, as well as Connecticut’s contributions to the American Revolution, the state’s stance in the Civil War, and more recent history.
An exhibit still open to the public is local photographer Pablo Delano’s “Hartford Seen.” Delano’s camera has been capturing Harford since his project began in 2008. “Hartford Seen” inspires viewers to imagine Hartford in the past in order to understand the direction the city has taken since earlier times. Delano’s exhibit helps to bring to light the socioeconomic issues Hartford’s inhabitants faced in the past and how some of those same issues are faced today.
Another current installation is by artist Richard Welling titled “(Re) Building Hartford: A City Captured,” which aims to convey the similar theme surrounding Delano’s work. Both exhibits will be displayed until March 14, 2015.
The Connecticut Historical Society also offers several permanent, hands-on exhibits such as “Making Connecticut” a self-guided tour through the lives of Connecticut residents from the 1500s to today.
Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for students with a valid college ID. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 12- 5 p.m. and on Saturdays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information visit www.chs.org. To see more front pages from the Hartford Courant’s 250 year history visit www.courant.com/courant-250.