The Society sponsors a wide variety of programs and events each year. Events in the recent past include:
Tuesday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Hubbard Room, Russell Library,
123 Broad St. Middletown, CT
The Architecture of the American Diner: From Wagon-Wheels to Stainless Steel, a talk by Christopher Dobbs, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum
With its stainless-steel siding, streamlined exterior, and colorful neon
signage, the classic roadside diner is as quintessentially American as the apple pie
on its menu. Whether you sit on a stool at the counter or lounge in one of the vinyl-
upholstered booths, you can’t help but feel nostalgic for a simpler time, a sense of
optimism, or the joy of the open road. But how did these iconic restaurants come to
look like they do?
In a talk sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society, the
Connecticut River Museum’s executive director Christopher Dobbs will tell the story
of the American diner’s form and function. His presentation, “The Architecture of
the American Diner: From Wagon-Wheels to Stainless Steel” will take place at 7:00
p.m., on Tuesday, April 24 in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library, 123 Broad
Street, Middletown, Conn. The talk is free and everyone is welcome to drop in and
take a seat.
Dobbs says scholars and greasy-spoon aficionados point out four essential
characteristics that differentiate an authentic diner from other inexpensive eateries.
First, the diner’s structure is usually prefabricated and hauled to the site. Second,
the diner must have a counter and stools. Third, it must offer “home cooking” at
reasonable prices. And lastly, the cooking should take place behind the counter.
A fifth defining element that has been neglected has been identified by
Dobbs. “The diner in its historic sense,” he says, “is aesthetically bound to
transportation. Its form and design have drawn upon popular transportation styles
and period décor to become a recognizable fixture in the urban landscape. Wagons,
Pullman cars, streamliner trains, even rockets have served as the models for diner
design. As modes of transportation have evolved, the look and feel of the American
diner has progressed on a parallel track.”
Dobbs has more than 20 years’ experience in historical museum work,
having served as the director of the Noah Webster House and West Hartford
Historical Society and as associate director of education at Mystic Seaport. He holds
an M.A. in Museum Studies from the State University of New York’s Cooperstown
Graduate Program and a B.A. in American History from Indiana University in
The Russell Library is handicap accessible. For further information, contact
the Historical Society at 860-346- 0746.
Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 pm
Hubbard Room at Russell Library, 123 Broad Street, Middletown
A Talk by Max R. Miller, author of Along the Valley Line
What is more American than riding the rails? The Connecticut Valley Railroad once carried both passengers and freight along the west bank of the Connecticut River between Hartford and Old Saybrook. Completed in 1871, today the railroad is known throughout New England for the nostalgic steam-powered excursion trains that run on a portion of the line between Essex and Chester. The Middlesex County Historical Society will sponsor an illustrated talk about the railroad by Max R. Miller, the author of Along the Valley Line on Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 pm in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library.
Until now, the history of this popular tourist attraction has been the stuff of local lore and legend. Miller, a railroad historian and former vice president and director of the Valley Railroad, has written the first comprehensive history of the Connecticut Valley Railroad through maps, ephemera, and archival photographs of the trains, bridges, and scenery surrounding the line. He will offer tales of train wrecks, ghost sightings, booms and busts. Miller said, “this book represents 45 years of effort. I started out as a volunteer at the Valley Railroad. J. Russell “Doc” Ward, long-time Middletown historian, gave me photographs of the railroad that piqued my interest. I began collecting others and researching in area archives including MCHS and this book is the result.” The U.S. Army issued a commendation to Miller for facilitating the training of army reservists at the Valley Railroad.
Miller will have copies of his book available for purchase and inscription. Russell Library is located at 123 Broad Street, Middletown and is handicap accessible. The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Society at 860-346-0746.
Wednesday, December 14, at 7:00 p.m.
“Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London”
A talk by author Eric D. Lehman
Russell Library, Hubbard Room
123 Broad St.
Middletown, CT 06457
In September 1781, Connecticut native Benedict Arnold and a force of 1,600
British soldiers and loyalists took Fort Griswold and burnt New London to the
ground. The brutality of the invasion galvanized the new nation, and “Remember
New London!” would become a rallying cry for troops under General Lafayette.
On December 14 at 7 p.m. in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library, Eric D.
Lehman, author of Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New
London, will chronicle the events leading up to the attack and highlight this key
transformation in Arnold—the point where he went from betraying his comrades
to massacring his neighbors and destroying their homes. His talk will also touch
on the connections Arnold had with Middletown during the war, both before and
after his betrayal.
Lehman teaches literature and creative writing at the University of
Bridgeport. In addition to his contributions to numerous newspapers, journals, and
magazines, Lehman is the author of twelve books of fiction, travel, and history,
including the Insider’s Guide to Connecticut, A History of Connecticut Food, and
Shadows of Paris, for which he was a 2017 Connecticut Book Award Finalist. He
will have copies of Homegrown Terror for sale and inscription.
This program, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the
Middlesex County Historical Society. Russell Library is located at 123 Broad
Street in Middletown and is handicap accessible. For more information on this
presentation, please call 860-346- 0746 or see https://mchsct.org
Wednesday, November 8, at 7:00 p.m.
“Poking Fun at Politics”
A talk by editorial cartoonist Bob Englehart on his work as a satirist
Middletown Senior and Community Center
61 Durant Terrace
Middletown, CT 06457
Bob Englehart, whose political cartoons enlightened, amused and — occasionally — incensed readers of The Hartford Courant for 35 years, will give a slide-showpresentation about his work depicting the absurdities of local and national political figures and issues.
Sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society, the hour-long talk – Drawn and Quartered – will be held on Wednesday, November 8, at 7:00 p.m., the day following Election Day, at the Middletown Senior and Community Center, 61 Durant Terrace. The event is free and open to the public.
Englehart’s first cartoon was published in 1968 in Chicago Today, where he worked as an art director. In 1980, he joined The Hartford Courant as its first full-time editorial cartoonist. There he published five drawings a week, typically three on national issues and two on local issues, until retiring from the newspaper in 2015. Englehart continues to bring his sharp wit to pen and paper as a freelancer, syndicated worldwide by Caglecartoons.com, and on his website at Bobenglehart.com. He also teaches a course, “Cartoons in American Society,” at Eastern Connecticut State University.
As an editorial cartoonist, Englehart says one of his goals is to show his readers that they are not alone with their thoughts on a particular issue or news event. “When the readers agree with you, they say, ‘you’re a genius.’ When they don’t, they say you should be fired,” he laughs.
The Middletown Senior and Community Center is handicap accessible. For further information, contact the Society at 860-346-0746.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 7pm
“General Israel Putnam, Connecticut Revolutionary War Hero”
A talk by Robert Hubbard, author of Major General Israel Putnam: Hero of the American Revolution
123 Broad Street
Middletown, CT 06457
A colorful figure of 18th-century America, Israel Putnam (1718–1790) played a key role in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. In 1758, while serving with the storied Rogers’ Rangers, he barely escaped being burned alive by Mohawk warriors. He later commanded a force of 500 men who were shipwrecked off the coast of Cuba, and reportedly gave the command “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Recounting these stories, and more, in a program sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society, Robert Hubbard will speak about his recently published book, Major General Israel Putnam: Hero of the American Revolution, on Wednesday, October 18 at 7:00 pm in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library. Detailing his close relationships with Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, and John and Abigail Adams, this first full-length biography of Putnam in more than a century re-examines the life of a revolutionary whose seniority in the Continental Army was second only to that of George Washington.
Hubbard is a retired professor of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven and an adjunct faculty member in the college’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program. For over 20 years, he has been webmaster of websites on Israel Putnam as well as entertainer Phil Silvers. He, along with his wife Kathleen Hubbard, is the author of Images of America Middletown, and Legendary Locals Middletown. He will have copies of his book available for purchase and inscription.
Russell Library is located at 123 Broad Street in Middletown and is handicap accessible. For more information on this presentation, please call 860-346-0746 or see https://mchsct.org
1942 Ford GPW Jeep Featured at Middlesex County Historical Society
32nd Annual Car Show
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Palmer Field (adjacent to Washington Street and Route 66
Middletown, CT 06457
The Middlesex County Historical Society is proud to honor our servicemen and women by featuring a 1942 GPW Jeep owned by Bill Cross at its 32nd Annual Car Show and Flea Market. The show will be held at Palmer Field adjacent to Washington Street, Route 66, in Middletown on Sunday, October 1. Car registration begins at 8:30 am and judging starts at 11:30 am. Trophies made by the committee will be awarded to the top 30 vehicles at 2:30 pm. General admission is $3 and children 12 and under are free. Car registration is $10. Although cars registered for judging must be dated 1992 or older, there is no cut-off date for cars being placed in the car corral.
Washington’s military planners, eyeing Germany’s highly mechanized army, determined what was needed was a 4-wheel drive lightweight reconnaissance utility vehicle that could carry weapons and ammunition, travel difficult terrain, and serve as a scout car. During the WWII period, 1941 through 1945, 643,000 Jeeps were built. Willy’s-Overland produced 363,000 of their model MB and Ford produced 280,000 model GPW (General Purpose Willy’s). Both models were virtually identical and had a 3-speed transmission, 2-speed transfer case and a 4-cylinder engine capable of producing 54 horsepower.
Jeeps saw action in all theaters of war across the globe from Europe, Asia, North Africa and the islands of the Pacific, and won praise from the military’s highest ranks. General George C. Marshall US Army Chief of Staff at the time called it “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.” The owner’s father rode across France in a Jeep as a front-line medic from Omaha Beach to the fall of Germany and this was a key factor in his decision to restore this vehicle.
In the event of rain, the show will be held Sunday, October 8. Flea market spaces are $15 and the market opens at 7 am. For more information, call the Society at 860-346-0746.
“Company G of the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry to Stage Preservation March”
Saturday, September 9, 10am
Beginning at Mansfield House, 151 Main Street, Middletown
and progressing to various historic locations in Middletown
On Saturday, September 9, at 10:00 am the streets of Middletown will come alive with members of Company G of the 14th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry marching in full uniform beginning at the General Joseph Mansfield House, 151 Main Street, and ending with a firing salute at the grave of General Mansfield in Indian Hill Cemetery. The public is invited to march along and hear brief talks about the city’s rich Civil War history.
The first stop, after opening remarks at the Mansfield House, will be the South Green where the Civil War Soldiers’ Monument and the Henry Clay Work Monument will be highlighted along with the actual 14th CVI stop in Middletown on the way to the battlefield. Wesleyan’s Memorial Chapel, built to honor students who served in the war, will be visited en route to the 24th CVI monument on the Washington Green. The stories of local soldiers buried in Mortimer Cemetery will be told before returning to the Mansfield House.
After driving to Indian Hill Cemetery, the final stops will be the Washington Terrace Cemetery, the final resting place of Middletown’s African American soldiers, the GAR Monument in Indian Hill, and General Mansfield’s grave. The walking distance of Part I is about 2 miles, with the second part being about ½ mile. The Company G members and the Society are seeking pledges of $10 with the proceeds being divided between the maintenance of the Mansfield House and Civil War battlefield preservation efforts.
To make a pledge, contact the Historical Society at 860-346-0746. Participants may also bring in their donations the day of the march. In the event of heavy rain, the march will be cancelled. Updates will be available by visiting the Society’s website, https://mchsct.org or by calling the Society.
“Sixth Connecticut Continental Regiment to Stage Encampment at Mansfield House”
A modern-day re-enactment of the 6th Connecticut Regiment
Saturday, August 12 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
with an 11:00 am discussion by Prof. Richard Buel
Mansfield House backyard
151 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457
When the alarm went out from Lexington on April 19, 1775 after the first skirmish with British troops at the start of the Revolutionary War, the men of Middletown answered the call. Captain Return Jonathan Meigs led 55 men and Lieutenant Amos Hosford led 16 men on a march to aid their fellow colonists. Captain Comfort Sage headed a troop of horse from Middletown that included a chaplain, other officers and 43 privates.
Soon, more permanent regiments were formed to wage the war, with the 6thConnecticut Regiment, Continental Line, being formed in New Haven and Middletown in January 1777 with Meigs and William Douglas of Northford as its colonels. The regiment included many Middletown men including some of African descent. On Saturday, August 12 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, modern-day re-enactors of the 6th Connecticut Regiment will stage an encampment in the Mansfield House backyard. They portray soldiers and camp followers and will demonstrate musket firing and the manual of arms as written by Baron von Steuben. A camp follower will discuss medicines of the era and the soldiers will engage visitors in discussions about the war. The “Kiddie Drill” will allow youngsters to learn the manual of arms using wooden muskets.
At 11:00 am Professor Richard Buel will explore both Middletown’s contribution to the revolutionary movement and the way the town was changed by its experience of those years. Buel was educated at Amherst College and Harvard University before teaching American History at Wesleyan University for forty years. He is the author of six books dealing with the Revolutiony era, including Dear Liberty: Connecticut’s Mobilization for the Revolutionary War, parts of which touch directly on Middletown’s experience in the Revolution.
The Mansfield House, located at 151 Main Street, is the headquarters of the Middlesex County Historical Society. The Society’s current award-winning exhibit, A Vanished Port: Middletown & the Caribbean, 1750-1824 will also be available for viewing. Admission for this event is $5.00 with children 12 and under free. The Mansfield House is handicap accessible and further information is available by calling 860-346-0746.
Connecticut Open House Day, Saturday, June 10
The General Mansfield House will be open on Saturday, June 10 from 10 to 2 as part of Connecticut Open House Day. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.
“In the Spirit of the People: James Monroe’s 1817 Tour of the Northern States”
Middlesex County Historical Society Hosts Exhibit Chronicling Historic Presidential Tour
June 1 to June 25
Lobby of the Middletown Municipal Building
245 deKoven Drive, Middletown, CT 06457
In the Spirit of the People: James Monroe’s 1817 Tour of the Northern States, a traveling exhibit commemorating the bicentennial of an historic presidential tour, will be on display in the lobby of the Middletown Municipal Building from June 1 to June 25. The local sponsor is the Middlesex County Historical Society.
James Monroe became the fifth president of the United States in March 1817. Three months later he embarked on a fifteen-week tour of the northern states, traveling up the east coast from Washington, DC to Portland, Maine; west to Detroit; and back to Washington via Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and Maryland, totaling some 2,000 miles.
Modern-day presidents are readily recognizable by almost every American. This was not true two hundred years ago. Monroe’s predecessors rarely traveled, and there was, of course, no electronic media continually broadcasting the president’s image or the sound of his voice. Monroe’s tour therefore created a national sensation. Americans came out by the thousands, thrilled by the opportunity to see the president, and newspapers across the country gave day-by-day accounts of his progress. Political differences were forgotten as Americans of both parties joined together in grand celebrations marked by parades, speeches, dinners, balls, receptions, and concerts. A Boston newspaper coined the phrase “Era of Good Feelings” to describe the national unity created by Monroe’s tour. The term became the catch-phrase of his presidency.
Monroe’s two terms in the White House (1817-1825) capped a public service career that included combat service in the Revolutionary War; state and federal legislative offices; the governorship of Virginia; diplomatic missions to France, Great Britain, and Spain; and stints as secretary of state and secretary of war. As a special U.S. envoy to France in 1803, he played a decisive role in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. During his presidency, Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise to deal with the growing sectional divide over slavery (1820); granted diplomatic recognition to emerging South American Republics (1823-24); and issued the Monroe Doctrine, declaring the western hemisphere closed to further European colonization (message to Congress, 1823). He capitalized upon the success of his 1817 northern tour by visiting the Chesapeake region in 1818 and the southern states in 1819.
President Monroe visited Middletown on June 23, 1817. He was escorted from Durham by local dignitaries and cavalry, and as he approached the city, his arrival was announced by the firing of 19 guns. He exited his carriage and rode on horseback, amid throngs of spectators, another 19-gun salute, the ringing of bells, and the display of flags. After breakfast, he visited the factories of Simeon North, Nathan Starr, and Robert Johnson, the manufacturers of pistols, swords, and rifles for the United States Government. From Middletown, he proceeded to Wethersfield.
In the Spirit of the People consists of ten full-color vinyl banners containing images, quotations, and captions to present a history of the northern tour and convey a sense of the exuberance it generated. The first three banners introduce viewers to James Monroe and offer an overall summary of the tour. The next six banners focus on specific locations that Monroe visited, with one banner dedicated to each. The final banner offers interactive educational links as well as credits for the exhibit’s sponsorship and preparation.
The exhibit is a joint project of The James Monroe Museum and The Papers of James Monroe, both of which are administered by the University of Mary Washington (UMW) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The museum, founded in 1927 by Monroe descendants, is a National Historic Landmark housing the largest single collection of artifacts and archives related to the fifth president. The Papers of James Monroe is a publication project that has produced six volumes to date of selected official and personal correspondence pertaining to Monroe’s long career in public service. The University of Mary Washington is a public university in Virginia that focuses on undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences. Signature degree programs include a major in historic preservation and minor in museum studies, both of which emphasize hands-on learning. Students in the university’s museum studies program worked on all aspects of In the Spirit of the People, from research and image acquisition to copy writing and graphic design.
“The Lyman Family of Middlefield’s Courageous Role in the Abolition Movement and the Underground Railroad”
Diana Ross McCain, Independent historian and author
Thursday, April 27 at 7:00 pm
Senior and Community Center, 61 Durant Terrace, Middletown
Members of the Lyman family of Middlefield were early and outspoken advocates for abolishing slavery in the United States, risking controversy and even physical danger. Beginning in the 1830s, William Lyman led the family’s abolitionist activities, including assisting fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom via the clandestine, illegal Underground Railroad. Independent historian and author Diana Ross McCain will describe the Lymans’ courageous participation in the movement to end slavery in America, and the perils they and others in the North faced for supporting that cause, in her talk “’This Thing You Call Law, We Will Not Obey’”: The Lymans of Middlefield, Ardent Abolitionists and Underground Railroad Activists,” sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society on Thursday, April 27 at 7:00 pm at the Senior and Community Center, 61 Durant Terrace, Middletown.
McCain’s talk will be based on research she conducted for her historical novel about the Lyman family, Thy Children’s Children: A Novel Based on the True Story of Five Generations of a New England Grassroots Dynasty. Thy Children’s Children is a fact-based fictional chronicle of the Lyman family from 1741, when they settled in Middlefield, until 1871, during which time they were involved not only in the abolition cause, but in the American Revolution, the temperance movement, and the advent of manufacturing and rail transportation in Connecticut. Connecticut State Historian Dr. Walter Woodward has praised Thy Children’s Children as “the story of a real family in the thick of Connecticut and American history for more than a century, told in a novel that accurately portrays the past and is also a great read.” Copies of Thy Children’s Children will be available for purchase and inscription following the program.
The Lyman farm developed into today’s Lyman Orchards, an 1,100-acre agricultural/entertainment complex that is operated by the eighth and ninth generations of the Lyman family. Diana Ross McCain has been researching, writing, and speaking about Connecticut history for more than 30 years. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, and was on the staff of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford 25 years. She is the author of five non-fiction books on Connecticut and New England history.
The Historical Society, headquartered in the General Joseph Mansfield House, will hold its annual business meeting at 6:30 pm preceding the lecture, which is delivered each year in memory of Arthur Schultz. The presentation is free and open to the public. For further information, please call the Society at 860-346-0746.
“A Vanished Port: Middletown and the Caribbean, 1750-1824” is a recently opened exhibit at the Middlesex County Historical Society, 151 Main Street, Middletown, that illuminates
the culture of prosperity that grew from Middletown’s trade relationships with the slave-worked sugar plantations of the English Caribbean.
Russell Library is located at 123 Broad Street in Middletown and is handicap accessible. For more information on this presentation or on “A Vanished Port,” please call 860-346-0746 or see https://mchsct.org
“Living Large in 18th Century Middletown”
Bill Hosley of Terra Firma Northeast
Wednesday, February 22, at 7:00 pm.
Russell Library, 123 Broad Street in Middletown
Perched high above Washington Street is Middletown’s finest example of Georgian Colonial architecture, the Judge Seth Wetmore House. The painted parlor was of such high quality that it was dismantled and is now on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. But the house began on a less elevated and sobering note: the foundation was dug by Judge Wetmore’s three enslaved workers, Milt, Cuff, and Will.
In the fourth installment of the “Vanished Port” speakers’ series, to be held on Wednesday, February 22, at 7:00 pm., Bill Hosley will discuss 18th – century Middletown architecture with an emphasis on the Wetmore House. Famous visitors to the house included Aaron Burr, the Marquis de Lafayette, and noted theologians Jonathan Edwards and Timothy Dwight. They would have enjoyed lively conversations in the parlor with its “corner shell cupboard with sun-burst decoration; marbleized fluted pilasters at either side of the fireplace opening, and its fine overmantel painting,” as described by the Greater Middletown Preservation Trust.
Hosley, the principal of Terra Firma Northeast, is a cultural resource consultant, writer, historian, preservationist, exhibition developer, and material culture scholar. He was the director of the New Haven Museum and Connecticut Landmarks. Major exhibitions he curated at the Wadsworth Atheneum include The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley and Sam & Elizabeth: Legend and Legacy of Colt’s Empire.
“Ships for the Trade & the Rise of the Middletown Customs Port”
Brenda Milkofsky, founding director of the Connecticut River Museum, Essex, CT
Tuesday, January 24th
Russell Library, 123 Broad Street, Middletown
The hammering and sawing sounds of shipbuilding echoed through the air in the lower Connecticut River Valley in the 18th and 19th centuries. Brenda Milkofsky will explore the shipbuilding trade in a presentation entitled “Ships for the Trade & the Rise of the Middletown Customs Port” at 7 p.m. on January 24 in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library as the Middlesex County Historical Society continues its special speakers’ series. This free presentation is open to all.
As examined in the “Vanished Port” exhibit currently on display, Middletown was uniquely situated to play a major role in the West Indies Trade. The fertile Central Valley to the north yielded the produce desired by the sugar-producing islands of the Caribbean and the Connecticut River to the south provided a navigable pathway to the sea. Thus, the Valley was a perfect landscape for the development of the shipbuilding industry evolving into a lucrative trade that lasted for some 200 years. During this period, plentiful wood and falling water attracted skilled artisans who built thousands of vessels, most of them for the Caribbean trade. It is this astonishing record that made for the establishment of a Federal Customs House, uncommonly located 32 nautical miles from salt water.
Brenda Milkofsky was the founding director of the Connecticut River Museum at Steamboat Dock in Essex and retired as their Senior Curator. A graduate of Central Connecticut State College, she also served for nine years as Director of the Wethersfield Historical Society. She has written and lectured on a variety of topics about Connecticut Valley history and currently works as a museum consultant in exhibition development. Most recently, Brenda designed & managed the “Vanished Port” exhibit.
“A Vanished Port: Middletown and the Caribbean, 1750-1824” is a recently opened exhibit at the Middlesex County Historical Society, 151 Main Street, Middletown, that illuminates the culture of prosperity that grew from Middletown’s trade relationships with the slave-worked sugar plantations of the English Caribbean.
Russell Library is located at 123 Broad Street in Middletown and is handicap accessible. For more information on this presentation or on “A Vanished Port,” please call 860-346-0746 or see www.mchsct.org
New exhibit! A Vanished Port: Middletown and the Caribbean, 1750-1824. This exhibit explores Middletown’s rich maritime legacy and ties to the ‘triangle trade,’ the slave-based Caribbean sugar industry in the colonial and early federal eras. Click here for a recent Middletown Press article describing the planning process.
Thursday, November 24: The General Mansfield House will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. Happy holiday to all!
Friday, November 25, 2-5pm: The General Mansfield House will be open to help kick off Middletown’s Holiday on Main celebration. Stop by for a tour of our ‘A Vanished Port’ exhibit, as you stroll down Main Street!
Wednesday, November 9, 2016. A Vanished Port Speaker Series: Wesleyan professor and monetary scholar Richard Grossman spoke to an appreciative audience of 65 about the wealth of colonial Middletown and its richest citizens. Were the ‘Middletown barons’ rich by our standards? It’s complicated, due to the colonial currency of early Connecticut, its buying power, the monetary standards of the time, and the difficulty of understanding a very different form of money in today’s economy.
Saturday, October 22, 2016. Halloween Fall Festival & Downtown ‘Trick or Treat’. Despite the rain and wind, over 300 children attended with their parents. Rubber ducks and candy were the popular give-aways of the day!
Wednesday, October 19, 2016. Hubbard Room, Russell Library: A Vanished Port Speaker Series: Dr. Joseph R. Avitable, a lecturer in American History at Albertus Magnus College and Quinnipiac University, kicked off this lecture series with a talk on the profitable and lethal trade in horses between Connecticut and the English Caribbean islands in the period before the American Revolution. Many thanks to Dr. Avitable for an informative and rousing talk!
Sunday, October 2, 2016, 8:30am-3pm: The 31st Annual Antique & Classic Car & Truck Show, at Palmer Field in Middletown. The featured car was a 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado Deluxe. The weather was not ideal, so many thanks to our participants and spectators!
June 23, 2016, 5pm: Beer in Connecticut: A talk by Will Siss, author of Connecticut Beer: A History of Nutmeg State Brewing, followed by a tasting of beers from Still Hill, Thomas Hooker and Olde Burnside breweries, at Herd on Main in Middletown.
May 25, 2016: Sheedy Contest Reception. This year there were 18 winning essays; thanks to all the students who participated and congratulations to the winners!
May 21, 2016: National Readathon Day in the gardens of the General Mansfield House.
May 19, 2016: Max Corvo’s Service in World War II. Bill Corvo spoke about his father and his service in the OSS during World War II. Max Corvo worked with ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan and helped develop the Allied plan for the invasion of Italy. The Hubbard Room was filled to capacity–thanks to Bill Corvo for an excellent talk!
May 13-19, 2016: Art Guild & Garden Club Show. The members of the Art Guild and the Garden Club provided an outstanding display of artistry!
May 7, 2016: First Annual Connecticut Historical Appraisal Day, at Nest Egg Auctions in Berlin.
April 25, 2016: The annual meeting of the Middlesex County Historical Society. At the business meeting new officers were elected and thanks were extended to past-President Erik Hesselberg and Chair of the Nominating Committee Ron Schatz, who are leaving the Board. The Arthur Schultz Memorial Lecture followed, with Board member Patricia Tully talking about Middletown in the 1860s, glimpsed through the pages of the newspaper The Constitution.
January 19, 2016: Connecticut Gridiron. Bill Ryczek, author of several books on early Connecticut baseball, spoke on the subject of his latest work on minor league football in Connecticut in the 1960s and 70s.
Friday, November 27 through Thursday, December 17, 2015: Gift Drive for Homeless Women and Men: Thirty-eight gifts were distributed to Middletown’s homeless men and women.
December 10, 2015: Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers. Author and Civil War blogger John Banks spoke eloquently on the subject of his latest book, which explores the lives and service of Union soldiers from Connecticut, to a full house at the General Mansfield House.
November 27, 2015: Holiday on Main. The General Mansfield House was open for the start of Holiday on Main with refreshments and exhibit tours, Including a beautiful display of vintage holiday cards and menus donated by the Chafee family.
October 4, 2015: Annual Antique & Classic Car & Truck Show, at Palmer Field in Middletown. Another gorgeous day for the show, and the featured car, a 1933 Packard Coupe formerly owned by the late Jarvis Barton and now owned by Bruce Woronoff. We have posted pictures on our Facebook page.
September 12, 2015: Civil War Day—Company F of the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry pitched their tents in the back garden of the General Mansfield House, and demonstrated military drills and camp life. At noon, Edward Ball, author of the book,Slaves in the Family,spoke to a full house, and Tom Callinan, former Connecticut State Troubadour, entertained everyone with music of the era. A good time was had by all!
August 30, 2015: Wadsworth Mansion Open Air Market. 45 people took the Middletown history quiz.
July 15, 2015: Tea and talk in the back garden. Marci Martin, former Rosarian Curator for the Elizabeth Park Conservancy, gave a talk that shone with the love and passion she feels for roses–and people!
June 19, 2015: Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories. Dione Longley and Buck Zaidel gave a moving talk highlighting some of the people featured in their recently published book, Heroes For All Time.
Sheedy Contest Reception: Congratulations to our 2015 Sheedy Contest winners, and all the third-grade students who submitted an essay on their favorite ancestor! Their stories of courage, endurance and accomplishment are truly inspiring.
May 25, 2015: Middletown’s Memorial Day parade: A beautiful day to commemorate all of those who served in the defense of our country.
April 29, 2015: The annual meeting of the Middlesex County Historical Society, at the City of Middletown Senior and Community Center (formerly Eckersley Hall School). Over 100 people attended the meeting and the Arthur Schultz Memorial Lecture by Executive Director Deborah Shapiro and the Director of the Department of Planning, Conservation and Development Michiel Wackers. The lecture, “Down by the Riverside,” explored the past, present and future of Middletown’s riverfront.
April 18, 2015: 10th Annual Mayor’s Ball, at the Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate. The proceeds benefit St. Luke’s Community Services, the Rockfall Foundation, Amazing Grace Food Pantry–and the Middlesex County Historical Society! The Society received $6,500 as its part of the proceeds.
March 19, 2015: Life and Death on Haddam Quarter Road, a talk by Dr. Michael Good. Through the stories of three members of Durham’s Newton family, Dr. Good explored the fragility of life in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and how far modern medicine has advanced since then. Michael Good is the author of The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews.
February 24, 2015: Overcoming the Odds: Anna Louise James and Ann Petry Gamble and Win, a talk by Elisabeth Petry. Liz Petry wrote about her family for the recently-published African American Connecticut Explored, a book of essays on the history of African Americans in Connecticut.
December 9, 2014: Middletown Garden Club celebration. Opening reception for the Middletown Garden Club exhibit to celebrate their 100th anniversary.
December 4, 2014: Author Anne Farrow gave an eloquent talk on the subject of her recently–published book The Logbooks, on Connecticut, the slave trade, and history’s selective memory.
November 28, 2014: Holiday on Main Open House. We had a full house with members of the Society, the Middletown Garden Club, and visitors enjoying the exhibits, the Garden Club holiday decorations, and storytelling by Board member Maria Weinberger.
November 13, 2014: Prudence Crandall’s Legacy. Despite the threat of snow, author Donald Williams and Prudence Crandall Museum curator Kazimiera Kozlowski spoke to us about this brave and principled Connecticut educator, abolitionist and feminist.
October 8, 2014: Commodore Thomas Macdonough and the Battle of Lake Champlain. It was an interesting and instructive evening with Thomas Macdonough Russell III, Executive Director Debby Shapiro, and Vice President Pat Tully commemorating the 200th anniversary of the battle. See event photos on our Facebook page.
October 5, 2014: 29th Annual Antique and Classic Car & Truck Show. Check out some of the year’s entries on our Facebook page.
August 24, 2014: Wadsworth Mansion Open Air Market & Festival. Congratulations to our prize winners–Jerry Seagrave won the framed map of Connecticut, and Heather Dodds Krupa won the framed map of Middletown. And a special thanks to everyone who took our Middletown history quiz.
August 12, 2014: Nails: The Story of Modern Manicure. Author Suzanne Shapiro gave a fun and informative talk at the Wadsworth Mansion, followed by a book signing and dessert reception. Thanks to Suzanne, event sponsors Colebrook Financial Co., Connecticut Underwriters, Inc., Long Hill Estate Authority, and Shapiro Law Offices.
Congratulations to our 2014 Sheedy Contest winners, and all the third-grade students who submitted an essay on their favorite ancestor! Their stories of courage, endurance and accomplishment are truly inspiring. Check out more photographs on our Facebook page.
June 14, 2014: Connecticut Open House Day. It was our best open house ever, with over 30 visitors.
May 26, 2014: Middletown’s Memorial Day parade, in honor of disabled veterans.
May 14, 2014: Talk by Prof. Victor Triay of Middlesex Community College on the Cuban Revolution and the Bay of Pigs invasion.
April 30, 2014: Annual membership meeting and premiere of Legendary Locals, a book with biographies of famous Middletown residents past and present. Bob and Kathleen Hubbard, with Executive Director Debby Shapiro, talked about some of the many Middletown notables in the book.
April 1, 2014: Middletown native and first Connecticut Troubadour Tom Callinan launched his new CD with classic and original songs of the War of 1812, as the becentennial commemoration of the war continues.
March 4, 2014: Talk by local historian James Sarbaugh on Native American tribes in the Middletown area and their interactions with British settlers. Wonderful exploration of the clash and combining of cultures in the colonial era, with a lively Q&A afterward.
November 29, 2013. Holiday on Main at the Mansfield House.
November 19, 2013. Allegra di Bonaventura talk on her new book, For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England, exploring the complex relationship between masters and slaves in 18th century Connecticut.
October 22, 2013. Talk by Peter Gedrys, “Furniture Finishes: Past and Present.” It was standing room only at the Mansfield House for Peter Gedrys’ talk and demonstration.
October 13, 2013: 28th Annual Antique and Classic Car & Truck Show. We had 95 vehicles entered and a beautiful day! For photographs of the feature car and the winners, go to our Facebook page.
September 7, 2013: Civil War Day at the Mansfield House. Featuring members of Company F of the 14th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, musical group Back Swamp, speaker Bob Larkin, and author John Banks.
August 25, 2013: Wadsworth Mansion Open Air Market.
August 10, 2013: Summer Jazz on the Lawn, Mansfield House Gardens. The Mike Augeri Jazz Project gave a wonderful concert to benefit the Middlesex County Historical Society in the beautiful back garden of the Mansfield House. Musicians Mike Augeri, Sinan Bakir, Orice Jenkins, Paul Fuller, Jim Bosco and Rich Tortorigi performed jazz standards as well as original compositions by Sinan Bakir. See photos on our Facebook page.
July 28, 2013: Connecticut Jane Austen Society visit. The Society’s annual convention was held in Middletown this year, and members of the Society visited the Mansfield House where Executive Director Debby Shapiro gave them a tour of the house and gardens.
July 24, 2013. Luncheon in the Mansfield House Gardens. A beautiful day, just in time for the event! See photos on our Facebook page
June 29, 2013: Reception at Highlawn. An Historical Society fundraiser at the beautiful home of George and Camille Camp. David Bauer’s photographs of the event are on our Facebook page.
June 8, 2013: Connecticut Open House Day at the Mansfield House. Over 50 visitors on a beautiful day in Middletown.
June 6, 2013: Sheedy Contest Award Ceremony and Reception. Congratulations to the winners and their families!
May 27, 2013: Middletown Memorial Day Parade. A beautiful day for a parade, after a cold weekend!
April 23, 2013: Middlesex County Historical Society Annual Meeting, at Congregation Adath Israel, Middletown. The business meeting was followed by Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor Lois Brown from Wesleyan University. Her talk was entitled: ‘So at any cost I will go”: Nineteenth-Century African American Journeys to the Civil War South, a fascinating and lively exploration of the lives and writings of Harriet Tubman and Charlotte Forten, two women of very different backgrounds who shared a passion for helping others to freedom and independence.
April 4, 2013: Beman Triangle Exhibit Opening Reception. Wesleyan Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology Sarah Croucher, her students and local residents have been conducting an archaeological dig of the Beman Triangle in Middletown, where an African-American community thrived in the nineteenth century.
March 7, 2013: Shock and Awe in 1862: American Writers and the Meaning of the Civil War, talk by Christopher Hager, Assistant Professor of English at Trinity College. Professor Hager gave a fascinating talk about how prominent writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Rebecca Harding Davis were transformed by the war, and how writing helped transform freedmen’s view of themselves.
January 31, 2013. Quiltmaking, 1941 – 1945 – The War Years. Quilt historian Sue Reich gave an informative and powerfully moving talk on quilts made during World War II, and displayed some of the many quilts in her collection. Women during the war years made quilts to express patriotism and support for the war effort, to donate to the Red Cross and other organizations, and to pass the time while sons, husbands and fathers were at war. Photos are on our Facebook page.
January 22, 2013. Panic In Connecticut: Accused Witches Have Their Say. Actress Virginia Wolf gave a powerful and moving performance to a standing-room only audience, in a one-woman show that brought to life 5 of the women accused of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Connecticut.
November 23, 2012. Holiday on Main. We had a variety of visitors for our Holiday on Main event, with tours, story-telling and refreshments.
November 8, 2012. Harnessing the Waterways: The History of Dams in Middletown. Wesleyan Associate Professor of Philosophy Elise Springer recounted the findings of research she and her team have done on Middletown waterways and how they were used to develop local industry. In addition to on-site explorations, the group conducted research in the Society’s archives. This program was co-sponsored by the Jonas Center for Earth and Art.
October 7, 2012: Annual Antique and Classic Car & Truck Show at Middletown High School A beautiful day (at least before the rain came!).
September 14, 2012: An Evening with Matthew Warshauer. Professor Warshauer gave a passionate and moving talk about Connecticut’s role in the Civil War and the Middletown men who died at the battle of Antietam. Wanda Warshauer donated a basket as a prize.
September 15, 2012: Civil War Day at the Mansfield House. It was a prefect day for our commemoration of the battle of Antietam, honoring General Joseph Mansfield and the other Middletown men who were killed there. Participants included Company F, 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, the musical ensemble Back Swamp, Professor Richard Slotkin, and Mayor Dan Drew who officially proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 15 Civil War Day in Middletown.
August 26, 2012: Open Air Market & Festival at the Wadsworth Mansion. A lovely day for the festival.
July 25, 2012: Luncheon and silent auction in the Mansfield House garden. Pictures are on our Facebook page.
The General Mansfield House a Blue Star Museum: This summer the Society offered free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
2012 Sheedy Contest winners! On Thursday, June 7 the Society held a reception at the Mansfield House for the 2012 William E. Sheedy contest winners and their families. Prizes were awarded for the best essays by third-grade students about their favorite ancestor. We were honored that Bill Sheedy, the son of the Society’s former treasurer William Sheedy, was able to attend the reception this year. Despite the unexpected storm, a good time was had by all.
June 9, 2012: Connecticut Open House Day at the Mansfield House. The Society participates in the state-wide celebration of Connecticut’s historical and cultural landmarks with an open house. We had a record number of visitors to the house this year!
April 24, 2012: Annual membership meeting and talk. The Society had a very lively and informative meeting, voting in a new slate of officers and directors, and approving this year’s budget. Author Richard DeLuca followed with a an entertaining and informative talk on his latest book, ‘Post Roads and Iron Horses: Transportation in Connecticut From Colonial Times Until the Age of Steam.’
April 3, 2012: Reception at the Governor’s Residence. The weather made it possible to take in the view from the terrace, and the house is beautifully appointed. The evening was topped off by an appearance by Governor Malloy, who could not have been more gracious. For more pictures, see our Facebook page.
Historical Society on the air! On February 24, Executive Director Debby Shapiro and President Pat Tully appeared on the Bauer Hour television show to discuss upcoming Historical Society and One Book, One Middletown events.
March 14, 2012: World War II display and Veteran’s Reception. A display of World War II artifacts, many loaned to us by local veterans. A ‘One Book, One Middletown’ event, exploring themes in the book selected for 2012, ‘Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,’ by Laura Hillenbrand.
March 8, 2012: Music of the War of 1821, Rick Spencer performed the greatest hits of 200 years ago, with an entertaining commentary on the history and culture of the early nineteenth century.
January 31, 2012: A Life of the Land: Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers. Mary Donohue spoke to more than 80 people who attended this lively and engaging program at Congregation Adath Israel, co-sponsored by the Adult Education Committee of the synagogue and the Middlesex County Historical Society.
December 17, 2011: Mansfield House reception. More than 50 attended this holiday reception, and a good time was had by all.
November 25, 2011: Deck the Halls at the Mansfield House.
October 25, 2011: Arrivederci Center Street: Mayor Stephen Bailey and the Early Years of Middletown Redevelopment. Erik Hesselberg, Middletown writer and historian, spoke to an appreciative audience about how redevelopment efforts in the 1950s and 60s changed Middletown.
October 23, 2011: Wadsworth Mansion Open Air Market and Festival. It was a little chilly, but still a well-attended event.
October 2, 2011: 26th Annual Middletown Antique/Classic Car & Truck Show and Flea Market, at the Middletown High School. It was a lovely day and a good time was had by all. See pictures on our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/qZgNF6
September 24, 2011: Civil War Day at the Mansfield House: Over 100 people visited the Mansfield House and gardens yesterday for Civil War Day 2011, braving the threatening skies. See pictures on our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/nmViib
On September 23 and 24, 2011, NBC Connecticut News aired a segment on the General Mansfield House and Civil War Day, featuring Debby Shapiro speaking about the General Joseph Mansfield. To see the broadcast: http://bit.ly/mPccBK
August 17, 2011, Luncheon in the Mansfield House Garden: Over 120 people attended the annual garden luncheon in the Mansfield House garden. The Society netted $2,300 for the replacement and upgrade of the Mansfield House security system.
On August 10, 2011, Debby Shapiro was a guest on WNPR’s “Where we Live” with John Dankosky, talking about the role Middletown played in the Civil War.
On July 21, 2011, Channel 8 news aired a segment on African American soldiers in the Civil War, filmed in part at the Mansfield House. Executive Director Debby Shapiro gave Channel 8’s Gil Simmons a tour of “Hard & Stirring Times,” the Society’s Civil War exhibit.
On July 7, 2011, the Society was featured on Comcast Cable’s ‘Community Conversations’ program, hosted by Dan Drew. Debby Shapiro was joined by Board members Joe Samolis and Lisa Santangelo to talk about the Mansfield House and exhibits.
On June 24, 2011, Debby Shapiro and Pat Tully appeared on the Bauer Hour with David Bauer to talk about the Historical Society, the Mansfield House, and the history of Middletown.
Summer 2011: Work on the Mansfield House: The chimneys of the Mansfield House have been re-pointed and repaired. See more pictures on our Facebook page.
Distinguished Citizen, 2011: Deborah D. Shapiro, Executive Director of the Society, was presented with The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Distinguished Citizen Award at a Chamber dinner on June 8. Debby was honored for her many services to the Middletown community, including her long association with the Society. Over the past 33 years, Debby has been Secretary of the Board of Directors, Program Chair, Buildings and Grounds Chair, and chair of “A Future For Our Past” capital campaign. She served as Board President for eight years and in January, 2009 was named Executive Director. Debby’s enthusiasm for Middletown history is infectious–everyone who works with her or visits the Mansfield House catches the fever! Congratulations to Debby for an honor very richly deserved!
June 15, 2011: Cruise Night in Middletown: The Mansfield House was open until 8pm; Executive Director Debby Shapiro and volunteer extraordinaire Juliane Silver welcomed 24 visitors who toured the exhibits and told stories of their Middletown ancestors.
June 11, 2011: Connecticut Open House Day: The Society participated in this annual event organized by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, with free admission to the Mansfield House.
June 2, 2011: 21st annual Sheedy contest reception. The William B. Sheedy contest is held each year for the best third-grade essays on a favorite ancestor. This year we had 124 wonderful entries and had a difficult time choosing the 12 winners. On June 2 at the Mansfield House we had an award ceremony and reception for the winning students and their families. Click here for more information about the contest and this year’s winners.
Opening May 19, 2011: Within These Walls: One House, One Family, Two Centuries. New exhibit on the General Mansfield House, the families who lived there, and the Middletown they lived in, by guest curator Charlotte Cottier, Wesleyan class of 2012, graphic artist and long-time Board member Dave Wolfram, Debby Shapiro, and Joe Samolis.
May 4, 2011: TRACES bus with traveling exhibit, “Held on the Homefront: German POWs in the Midwest, 1943-46.” Sponsored by Russell Library and the Society. The TRACES bus contains a lot of information in a small space! Over 90 people visited the bus, despite the rain. See photos on our Facebook page.
April 26, 2011: Annual Membership Meeting, followed by the Arthur M. Schultz Lecture by Richard Buel, Professor of History Emeritus, Wesleyan University. Professor Buel gave an engaging talk on the circumstances that led to the settling of the Western Reserve in Northern Ohio, with a lively Q&A session afterwards.
April 16 – 17, 2011: Connecticut and the Civil War / Commemoration Kick-Off at Central Connecticut State University and New Britain’s Stanley Quarter Park. Connecticut’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War kicked off with events at Central Connecticut State University and New Britain’s Stanley Quarter Park. There was an encampment, demonstrations of period firearms and camp life, re-enactments of skirmishes and vintage baseball games, and more. The Society was represented at the exhibit hall in CCSU’s Student Center, with other Civil War-related sites and organizations in Connecticut.
April 1, 2011: Fundraiser / talk by Michael Burlingame, prominent Lincoln scholar: Michael Burlingame, the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield and one of the nation’s foremost Lincoln scholars, gave a talk on how recently discovered resources have changed the public’s perception of Abraham Lincoln.
March 20, 2011: Women’s History Walking Tour: Dione Longley, former director of the Historical Society, led a walking tour of Middletown and told the stories of the strong, inspiring women who have lived here. 65 people participated in the tour and the reception afterwards at the Mansfield House.
March 19, 2011: The Middletown chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians donated their original 1875 charter to the Society. Deborah Shapiro, Executive Director, accepted the charter on behalf of the Society at the AOH’s annual St. Patrick’s Day banquet at the Elks Hall.
March 10, 2011, Powder Ridge Rock Festival: 1970: Past president of the Historical Society, Bill Ryczek, gave a talk on the July 1970 rock festival at Powder Ridge in Middlefield. Bill talked both about the festival itself, the court injunction that kept all performers away, with the exception of Melanie Safka, and the aftermath. Members of the audience who remembered the festival told some wonderful stories.