Connecticut Historical Society

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Connecticut Historical Society
A two-and-a-half story stone building with slate roof and portico entrance.
Connecticut Historical Society
Established 1825
Location 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Type History museum, library, archive, education center
Director Jody Blankenship[1]
Public transit access

Connecticut Transit Hartford 11 Simsbury-Granby Express

72 Asylum Av

The Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) is the official state historical society of Connecticut. Established in Hartford in 1825, the CHS is one of the oldest historical societies in the nation.[2]

The Connecticut Historical Society is a non-profit museum, library, archive and education center. Its mission is to inspire and foster a lifelong interest in history through exhibitions, programs and Connecticut-related collections. The CHS houses a research center containing 270,000 artifacts and graphics and over 100,000 books and pamphlets.[3] It has one of the largest costume and textile collections in New England.[4]


In 1825, the Connecticut General Assembly was presented a petition signed by Connecticut citizens including Thomas Robbins, John Trumbull, Thomas Day, and William W. Ellsworth stating the importance of creating a society for preserving historical materials.[5]

After approval from the General Assembly, the Connecticut Historical Society was created to collect objects related to the history of the United States, specifically Connecticut.[6] The first elected officers were Trumbull, Day, Robbins, Thomas Church Brownell and Walter Mitchell.[6]

With the rise in prominence of Hartford in the 1820s, the Society's committee decided to house its first meetings in the city.[7] Yet despite a flurry of activity, the Society became inactive after 1825 and it was not until 1839 when new interest regained.[8] The first official quarters for the CHS was over a store at 124 Main Street in Hartford.[9]

The CHS' new ideals and direction were spearheaded by educationalist Henry Barnard, who recommended that the Society enroll members from around the state, encouraged a history and genealogy magazine and retrieved speakers for lectures who could address groups throughout Connecticut.[10]

With its growing collection of books, pamphlets and objects, the CHS moved its home to a room in the newly built Wadsworth Athenaeum in 1843.[11] By 1844, the collection of Society grew to 6,000 pamphlets, 250 bound volumes of newspapers, manuscripts, coins, portraits and furniture.[12] New officers were elected including David D. Field.[13] The CHS appointed Thomas Robbins as its first librarian because of his extensive book collection and antiquarian expertise.[14]

Under Robbins' tenure, the new quarters were open six days a week and interpretive tours of objects were given.[15] Some early objects in the collection were a chest of William Brewster, a tavern sign of General Israel Putnam and a bloodstained vest worn by Colonel William Ledyard at the Battle of Groton Heights.[15] After the death of Robbins in 1856, Connecticut historians James Hammond Trumbull and Charles J. Hoadly contributed to the CHS through various published research and lectures.[16] The first woman elected in the organization was Ellen D. Larned in 1870.[17]

In 1893, the Society hired Albert Carlos Bates as a full-time librarian and it was under his tenure that membership doubled, the annual income increased five-fold and the collection grew.[18] To accommodate the growth, the CHS purchased the house of inventor Curtis Veeder at Elizabeth Street in the West End of Hartford.[19] Alterations to the building in the 1950s-1970s included the addition of book stacks, auditorium, exhibition galleries and reading room.[20]

In the early 2000s, the CHS hired Bruce Mau[21] and Frank Gehry to design a new museum near Trinity College, but lack of funds prevented the project from happening.[22] From 2003 to 2007, CHS operated the Old State House and created a permanent exhibit "History Is All Around Us".[23][24]


Permanent exhibits include "Making Connecticut", about the history of Connecticut,[2] and "Inn & Tavern Signs".[25] There are also galleries for temporary exhibitions.

Recent exhibit topics include women and needlework,[26] the Kellogg brothers lithography firm, women's basketball,[27] the Amistad,[28] a history of cleanliness,[29] the Civil War[30] and Eliphalet Chapin, an 18th-century furniture maker.[31]


  1. ^ Fillo, MaryEllen. "CHS Has New Executive Director". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  2. ^ a b Catlin, Roger (May 22, 2011). "'Making Connecticut' Explores State's History". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Condon, Tom (12 July 2001). "Our History Needs a Home". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Eiseman, Alberta (29 October 2000). "Exploring History's Closet: They Were What They Wore". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Bickford, Christopher P. (1975). The Connecticut Historical Society, 1975 : a brief illustrated history. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society. pp. 7–85. 
  6. ^ a b Bickford 1975, p. 7.
  7. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 12.
  8. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 19,23.
  9. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 27.
  10. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 25.
  11. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 33.
  12. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 32.
  13. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 26.
  14. ^ Wilkie Jr., Everett C. "Rev. Thomas Robbins, Connecticut Historical Society". Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Bickford 1975, p. 37.
  16. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 50.
  17. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 54.
  18. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 69.
  19. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 71.
  20. ^ Bickford 1975, p. 85.
  21. ^ "Society To Mix Sparkle and Scholarship". The Record Journal. 28 April 2002. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  22. ^ Puleo, Tom (9 June 2003). "Museum Project Fades Away; Historical Society Rethinking Future". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  23. ^ Condon, Tom (17 Sep 2006). "Hartford's New Time Machine". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  24. ^ Bloom, Larry (18 March 2007). "In Saving A Heritage, The Past Calls". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  25. ^ Liebenson, Bess (21 January 2001). "For Tavern Signs, A Fitting Tribute". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  26. ^ Catlin, Roger (8 October 2010). "Two Exhibitions Highlight Historic Connecticut Needlework". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  27. ^ Valin, Jeff (2 April 2009). "She Shoots ... She Scores!". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  28. ^ Eiseman, Alberta (22 March 1998). "The Amistad, in Multimedia Rendering". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  29. ^ Cohen, Jeffrey B. (28 February 2005). "Big East Tourney a Tryout for City". Hartford Courant. 
  30. ^ Libenson, Bess (9 September 2001). "Civil War Unfolds Item by Item". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  31. ^ Stevenson, R.W. (31 July 2005). "Cultural History Found in a Cabinet". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 

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Coordinates: 41°46′23″N 72°42′19″W / 41.77293°N 72.70525°W / 41.77293; -72.70525