Category Archives: Staff Topics

Blog posts that are staff favorites, chosen topics, or updates abut what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Halloween in Litchfield

This morning I started to wonder when door-to-door trick-or-treating became a custom. After a quick Internet search, it seemed likely that it was sometime in the 1950s. I turned to the Litchfield Enquirer to see what was going on in town mid-century. While I did not find mention of door-to-door candy collecting, I did find that townspeople were definitely celebrating Halloween.

I started my search in 1954, and found the article to the left about the Lion’s Club’s annual party which began in 1953.  I also found this mention of a party at the East Litchfield Volunteer Fire House: 

And this great advertisement for the Litchfield Food & Bakery Co.  Aren’t those prices amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then forwarded the film reel to 1955 (yep, we’re kickin’ it old school with a working microfilm reader) and found that the Lion’s Club event was even bigger. The article above gives all the details for those who wanted to participate. The one to follow reports on the actual event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How long did the Lion’s Club continue this tradition? And were children trick-or-treating at houses during these years?  Please share your recollections of Litchfield’s Halloween traditions!

Another gem for National Poetry Month

The following are excerpts from a poem by a Grace Stone Field, the pen name of Mrs. Charles I. Page. It was printed along with the Historical Society’s annual report from August 9, 1912. The recording secretary of the time, Elizabeth C. Barney Buel, believed this tribute to Harriet Beecher Stowe to be Grace Stone Field’s “masterpiece”…”very beautiful–a true artistic gem.”

In the first few stanzas Field tackles Stowe’s impact on the fight against slavery, but also pays tribute to her writings on New England and its “quaint or queer” citizens in a later stanza (Poganuc People, anyone?).

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Tribute

Shall we twine a greener tendril in the laurel crown she wears?
Shall we add a fresher flower to the garland that she bears?
Shall we say, of one long silent, that she speaks again today?
Shall we prate of her and praise her in some trite, perfunctory way?

Nay, she heeds nor praise nor blaming, dwelling with the immortals now;
We can add no glint of glory to the nimbus round her brow–
But her own achievements land her, speaking with a certain voice
Through the lips of dusky thousands who but name her to rejoice.

Let us rather say God put her in the time and place he planned,
Set a task that men might shrink from her slender woman’s hand;
Made her mighty among women, made her strong to dare and do–
Closed her fingers round her weapon, small and trenchant, too;

And with sympathy diviner than the sympathy of men
She made plain the bondsman’s sorrows with her tiny, potent pen;
Stirred the feeble, laggard impulse, set the northern heart on fire!
Woke the wavering, sluggard conscience to a splendid brave desire.

Thus she wrote, yet lighter fancies wove and wrought within her brain
And she sketched our fair New England, lovely valley, pleasant plain;
Wrote of tender hearts that fluttered under manners more austere
Of the Puritan descendants, stern and solemn, quaint or queer.

Happy National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month! To join in the celebration, we will be posting poems from the Historical Society’s collections.

Our first selection is from a young student from Litchfield’s Spring Hill School named Peter Seeger.

Yes, the same Peter Seeger who later became a renowned folk singer and activist was once a boy who composed delightful poems for his school’s literary magazine.

The Spring Hill School was founded in 1926 by Dorothy Bull and Mabel Spinney, who modeled the school on the ideals of progressive education.

Students feed chickens at the Spring Hill School

Before “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” there was “Cheer-Up Rhyme for a Misty Day,” published in Wit and Wisdom, Spring Hill’s Upper School literary publication, in June of 1932.

 

Cheer-Up Rhyme for a Misty Day

‘Tis a very foggy day,
In the misty, foggy way,
And I hope that it will clear up very soon;
For the hillside’s all blurred out,
By this dampish white about,
And all last week I hardly ever saw the moon.

It’s so wet and damp and “mucky,”
That one doesn’t feel so lucky,
If on slips and falls down in an “ooky” pond.
But, when I settle down and read,
Having cared for every need,
I feel that I should smile and say,
“Be darned”.

Books!

As some of you know, we have spent several years working to create modern catalog records for our monograph collection. The pertinent information for each volume is scanned or photographed (this includes the title page, publication information, whether it contains illustrations, an index, a table of contents, and the number of pages to name a few things) and submitted to Backstage Library Works in Utah. Catalogers create or copy catalog records and send them back to us in spreadsheet form for corrections. We recently submitted corrections for the books formerly categorized as “school books” and the catalogers will soon add the records to reQuest, the statewide library catalog. You can search for books in our collection here: http://www.iconn.org/default.asp?lid=lfhs&mode=g.

In celebration of the completion of another portion of the project, a small display of school books and picture books is on exhibit in the Ching Reading Room of the Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library.  The items on display all have a local connection. If you are in the area, stop by to see it. If you aren’t, you can enjoy the following highlights. The titles in bold are on exhibit.

Finding that existing history texts were too dense and too expensive for young students, Litchfield resident Sarah Pierce compiled Sketches of Universal History, Compiled From Several Authors for the Use of Schools which was printed in 1811. This copy belonged to Female Academy Student Nancy Barclay Crawford, a student at Miss Pierce’s school in 1823. The notice of copyright (below)  for the volume appeared in the Connecticut Journal (New Haven) on October 31, 1811. Note that it was filed by the printer rather than Sarah Pierce.

Dwight C. Kilbourn (1837–1914) donated this copy of Benjamin Dudley Emerson’s Second Class Reader. This edition was printed in 1844 and may have been used by Kilbourn during his school days. He would go on to become a lawyer who attained the rank of Lieutenant in the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery during the Civil War. He also authored The Bench and Bar of Litchfield County, 1709–1909.

Noah Webster spent time in Litchfield as a young man. He studied law with Jedediah Strong prior to working as a teacher and later compiling a dictionary. Webster’s publications also included this Elementary Spelling Book and The History of the United States (also given by D.C. Kilbourn).

McGuffey Readers were commonly used for educational purposes from its first printing in 1836 into the early twentieth century. The volume on display was donated by local resident Frank M. Coe. In addition to being used locally, the readers have another tie to Litchfield. William Homes McGuffey was from the Ohio Western Reserve where he was active in a movement to support free common schools supported by tax money. He joined Calvin Stowe and his wife, Harriet Beecher Stowe, in supporting the cause.

Rose Dale is one of a set of three volumes owned by John Williams Quincy (1866–1950). Quincy was a descendant of Deming family and spent a considerable amount of time in Litchfield with his family. In the late 1800s, an as-yet-to-be-determined condition required John Williams Jr. to spend the rest of his life under private institutional care.

Anne Lyon Haight (1895–1977) contributed an essay to the Children’s Book Show 1945–1950 publication. She married Sherman Post Haight in 1914. She was a writer and a lecturer who was active in various book clubs and museums in New York. Her family lived in Litchfield part-time.

Nils Hogner, author of Farm for Rent (see illustration above), was born in Massachusetts to Swedish immigrant parents.  He attended Rhodes Academy, Copenhagen, Denmark, Royal Academy of Arts, Stockholm, Sweden, Boston School of Painting, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He married Dorothy Childs, an author, in 1932. They purchased Hemlock Hill Herb Farm in Litchfield and remained part-time residents throughout their lives. Dorothy Childs Hogner’s book The Wild Little Honker is also on display. She wrote many books illustrated by her husband Nils.

Dorothy Childs Hogner wrote of her Litchfield Home in the introduction for the second edition of The Junior Book of Authors, 1951.

We enjoy the city and like living here in winter, but, perhaps even more, we enjoy our camp in Connecticut, where we go in summer.

In winter we drive up there quite often to feed the birds. We have about eleven acres of woodland, in a remote spot, and when the snows are heavy we have to walk through drifts to get there. The birds are always glad to see us, the chickadees, the nuthatches, the juncos, and even the wild shy grouse, which will come out and eat corn when we are there, if we sit very quietly inside, looking out of the window.

Of course, these birds, and all the wild animals which live there, the chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and others, make wonderful characters for our books. We have put up a salt lick too, so the deer come near our back porch, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of a fox, or of the handsome shy lynx cat which lives in the near-by forest.

There is only one animal we do not find amusing. That is the woodchuck. We liked him at first, but he is such a glutton. He enjoys filling himself on greens we plant in our garden, and we are both very fond of gardening. So we and the woodchucks do not get on!

Ben Hawthorne, author of Bessie Bossie, shown above, was born Benton Deming, son of William Champion Deming and Imogene Hawthorne Deming. He was the great-grandson of Nathaniel Hawthorne and of Julius Deming. He was a radio disk jockey and served in WWII. The following was written about his show:

Early morning programs, musical clocks are one of the most successful types of jockeying. Programs like Ben Hawthorne’s WTIC (Hartford, Conn.) session with Bessie the Cow, sold millions of dollars of merchandise for G. Fox department store down through the years, before the army got Hawthorne. Bessie the Cow was only a sound effect yet a book was written about Bessie that did a sock job through New England, the area served by WTIC.

Billboard 1944 Music Yearbook, page 64

 

Finding that existing history texts were too dense and too expensive for young students, Litchfield resident Sarah Pierce compiled Sketches of Universal History, Compiled From Several Authors for the Use of Schools which was printed in 1811. This copy belonged to Female Academy Student Nancy Barclay Crawford.

Dwight C. Kilbourn (1837–1914) donated this copy of Benjamin Dudley Emerson’s Second Class Reader. This edition was printed in 1844 and may have been used by Kilbourn during his school days. He would go on to become a lawyer who attained the rank of Lieutenant in the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery during the Civil War. He also authored The Bench and Bar of Litchfield County, 1709–1909.

Noah Webster spent time in Litchfield as a young man. He studied law with Jedediah Strong prior to working as a teacher and later compiling a dictionary. Webster’s publications also included this Elementary Spelling Book and The History of the United States (also given by D.C. Kilbourn).

McGuffey Readers were commonly used for educational purposes from its first printing in 1836 into the early twentieth century. This volume was donated by local resident Frank M. Coe. In addition to being used locally, the readers have another tie to Litchfield. William Homes McGuffey was from the Ohio Western Reserve where he was active in a movement to support free common schools supported by tax money. He joined Calvin Stowe and his wife, Harriet Beecher Stowe, in supporting the cause.

Rose Dale is one of a set of three volumes owned by John Williams Quincy (1866–1950). Quincy was a descendant of Deming family and spent a considerable amount of time in Litchfield with his family. In the late 1800s, an as-yet-to-be-determined condition required John Williams Jr. to spend the rest of his life under private institutional care.


Nils Hogner, author of Farm for Rent, was born in Massachusetts to Swedish immigrant parents. He attended Rhodes Academy, Copenhagen, Denmark, Royal Academy of Arts, Stockholm, Sweden, Boston School of Painting, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He married Dorothy Childs, an author, in 1932. They purchased Hemlock Hill Herb Farm in Litchfield and remained part-time residents throughout their lives.

Ben Hawthorne, author of Bessie Bossie, was born Benton Deming, son of William Champion Deming and Imogene Hawthorne Deming. He was the great-grandson of Nathaniel Hawthorne and of Julius Deming. He was a radio disk jockey and served in WWII. The following was written about his show:

Early morning programs, musical clocks are one of the most successful types of jockeying. Programs like Ben Hawthorne’s WTIC (Hartford, Conn.) session with Bessie the Cow, sold millions of dollars of merchandise for G. Fox department store down through the years, before the army got Hawthorne. Bessie the Cow was only a sound effect yet a book was written about Bessie that did a sock job through New England, the area served by WTIC.

Billboard 1944 Music Yearbook, page 64

Anne Lyon Haight (1895–1977) contributed an essay to the Children’s Book Show 1945–1950 publication. She married Sherman Post Haight in 1914. She was a writer and a lecturer who was active in various book clubs and museums in New York. Her family lived in Litchfield part-time.

Dorothy Childs Hogner, author of The Wild Little Honker, wrote many books illustrated by her husband Nils.

Dorothy Childs Hogner wrote of her Litchfield Home in the introduction for the second edition of The Junior Book of Authors, 1951.

We enjoy the city and like living here in winter, but, perhaps even more, we enjoy our camp in Connecticut, where we go in summer.

In winter we drive up there quite often to feed the birds. We have about eleven acres of woodland, in a remote spot, and when the snows are heavy we have to walk through drifts to get there. The birds are always glad to see us, the chickadees, the nuthatches, the juncos, and even the wild shy grouse, which will come out and eat corn when we are there, if we sit very quietly inside, looking out of the window.

Of course, these birds, and all the wild animals which live there, the chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and others, make wonderful characters for our books. We have put up a salt lick too, so the deer come near our back porch, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of a fox, or of the handsome shy lynx cat which lives in the near-by forest.

There is only one animal we do not find amusing. That is the woodchuck. We liked him at first, but he is such a glutton. He enjoys filling himself on greens we plant in our garden, and we are both very fond of gardening. So we and the woodchucks do not get on!



In April 2011, the Litchfield Historical Society launched The Ledger, an online database containing biographical information for students of the Litchfield Law School and the Litchfield Female Academy. The Ledger also includes personal papers, needlework, artwork, portraits, pertaining to each student.

The copy of Sketches of Universal History in the case below belonged to Nancy Barclay Crawford, a student at Miss Pierce’s school in 1823. The notice of copyright for the volume appeared in the Connecticut Journal (New Haven) on October 31, 1811. Note that it was filed by the printer rather than Sarah Pierce.

Noah Webster, who wrote two of the books included in the display, is often mistaken for a student of the Litchfield Law School. He actually studied with local attorney Jedediah Strong.

Illustration, Bessie Bossie

Illustration, On the Farm

Construction!

Scaffolding goes up

If you have walked or driven past the Litchfield History Museum in the past month you may have wondered about the scaffolding and construction equipment surrounding the building.

We are getting a new roof!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roof and Gutters

 

 

 

But it is not any run of the mill roof. After 108 years of service the standing seam copper roof and  elaborate copper gutters and leaders have become severely deteriorated and are being replaced.

 

 

Deteriorated mortar joints

 

The roof is not our only issue.  Many of the bricks and mortar joints in exterior walls have deteriorated and made it possible for water to infiltrate into the building  causing  damage to paint and plaster in the museum.  The construction project began with masons replacing bricks and fixing mortar on all sides of the museum

 

 

After several years of planning and preparation,  funded by grants from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, we developed a comprehensive plan to address all the buildings needs, both interior and exterior.  The first phase of the project will fix all of the exterior issues – from the roof and gutters to window and door repair.  Thanks to generous grants from the Seherr-Thoss Foundation and the 1772 Foundation we have received funding for  this work and the building will be water tight by winter.

We will keep you updated on  the progress as the work as we go forward. We have already uncovered some fascinating
new information the building. Check back next week for an update.