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Collections

Select one of the Collections below and browse some through some of the objects chosen to illustrate particular aspects of the collection. They may be grouped by time period, subject, or as a particular group of objects that we consider highlights.

Clifford Mitchell, an African-American architect and artist who was born in Alabama, spent most of his life in Hartford and West Hartford. He graduated cum laude from Hartford Art School in 1958 and began winning prizes at regional art exhibitions in 1959. He had at least 15 one-man shows over the course of his career, and continued to win awards and exhibit at national and regional shows. He was one of the first black men in Connecticut to become a registered architect and was responsible for the design, production, and management of architectural projects including the University of Hartford Residential Campus, the School of Engineering Building for the University of Connecticut, and Berol Corporation Office Building in Danbury. His art work is in many public, private and corporate collections in Connecticut and across the country, including those of The New Britain Museum of American Art, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center and the Mattatuck Museum. In 2011, Mitchell’s daughter, Brenda Mitchell-Powell, donated a large collection documenting her father’s work to The Connecticut Historical Society.
Gift of Newton C. Brainard, 1962.28.4  Photograph by Gavin Ashworth. © 2009 The Connecticut Historical Society.
Twenty years before what has been traditionally accepted as the beginning of two-dimensional pictorial art in Connecticut (William Johnston's portrait painting in the region in 1762), talented and skillful Connecticut women were creating pictures on canvas-assembling color, line, form, and symbols into visual compositions intended for display. These women's canvases, in contrast to those typically considered by art historians, used needles instead of brushes, and multicolored threads instead of paint.

Some types of needlework are primarily associated with Connecticut - even distinctive to Connecticut - such as bed rugs, quilted petticoats with figural designs, and the use of crewel embroidery on women's dresses. But whatever the end product, Connecticut needlewomen created a broad range of aesthetically pleasing figural and decorative art that was displayed within private homes or worn on personal occasions. This exhibition makes public a variety of work that affirms the fundamental role that female Connecticut needleworkers played in the development of the visual arts of early America.
Gift of Margaret G. Giles 2015.87.3393 © 2016 The Connecticut Historical Society.
Frank H. DeMars (1872-1942) was a photographer and the owner of an art store in Winsted, Connecticut. In the late nineteenth century through the first few decades of the twentieth century, he photographed Winsted-area homes and their inhabitants, local businesses, disasters and weather events, town streets, and the landscape. He also purchased large numbers of glass plate negatives from other northwestern Connecticut photographers King T. Sheldon, William Deming, and Una Clingan Rands. In his art store and other small businesses, and on the road, DeMars sold prints and photographic postcards of these images. The glass plate negatives remained in the family after his deathThis collection of over 4500 glass plate negatives was donated to the Connecticut Historical Society in 2015.
Gift of G. Fox & Co., 1949.11.0  © 2008 The Connecticut Historical Society.
In 1847, Gerson Fox established a fancy goods store on Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut. The store expanded over the years and was in operation until 1993, becoming at one time America's largest privately-owned department store. A key component of the store's success was the leadership of the Fox family and its commitment to both customers and employees. This collection of material related is related to both the store and the family who owned it for three generations.
Museum purchase, 1975.30.1  Photograph by David Stansbury.  © 2010 The Connecticut Historical Society.
The Kellogg brothers were Hartford's most important 19th-century print-publishing firm. Between about 1830 and 1880, they produced thousands of brightly colored popular prints for use in homes and businesses throughout the United States. The Connecticut Historical Society has the largest collection of Kellogg prints in existence consisting of over 1000 different prints.
Gift of Mrs. George Potter, 1954.33.0  © 2012 The Connecticut Historical Society.
The Connecticut Historical Society has an extensive collection of maps and charts illustrating the history of the state from the seventeenth century through the present. These maps are a rich resource for studying physical and cultural change over time. In addition to maps of Connecticut and New England, the collection also includes early maps of individual Connecticut towns and counties, the Western Reserve, and maps produced by Connecticut surveyors, printers, and publishers. The digitization, cataloging, and re-housing of eight hundred of these important maps and charts has been made possible by generous support from Connecticut Humanities and the William and Alice Mortensen Foundation. NOTE: To see dates of maps, go to the "view list" option. To sort by year, click on "Date" and it will sort in order.
Union Station, Hartford, Gift of the Richard Welling Family, 2012.284.48  © 2014 The Connecticut Historical Society.
Richard Welling (1926-2009) is best known for his prints and drawings of Hartford, especially for those documenting demolition and construction from the 1960s through the 1980s. The Richard Welling Collection at the Connecticut Historical Society is especially rich in such works, but also includes substantial numbers of prints, drawings, and photographs of other towns in Connecticut, as well as elsewhere in New England and the United States, and ephemera, manuscripts, and artifacts relating to artist, such as his drawing implements and the hard hat he wore when drawing at construction sites. Consisting of over 5000 items, the contents of the artist’s studio at the time of his death, the collection was given to the Connecticut Historical Society by the family of Richard Welling in 2011-2014.
Gift of Nancy Phelps (Mrs. John A.) Blum, Jonathan Phelps Blum, and Timothy Alexander Blum, 2000.135.0  Photograph by David Stansbury © 2012 The Connecticut Historical Society.
The Connecticut Historical Society holds the nation's largest collection of 18th and 19th century tavern signs. Long before the bright oversize signs that we see on the highways today, painted tavern signs were the predominent form of roadside advertising.
Towns were required by colonial legislation to have an inn or tavern to provide essential services, and these signs marked those establishments for travelers. Today, although we travel faster and farther than ever before, our needs have hardly changed: food, refreshment, fuel, and a place to spend the night.
Gift of Roy D. Bassette, Jr. and John H. Bassette, 1976.18.21.1  © 2010 The Connecticut Historical Society.
The Connecticut Historical Society has Hartford's most significant collection of drawings of domestic architecture from the first decades of the twentieth century. During this period, Hartford architects such as David Douglass, Cortlandt Luce, William Marchant, Lester Scheide, and Smith and Bassette designed beautiful and supremely livable houses in a wide range of architectural styles for a wide range of clients. These houses range from modest homes for returning World War I veterans to spectacular mansions for Hartford's wealthiest citizens. These houses established Hartford's West End as a district of beautiful homes and enhanced Hartford's reputation as one of the loveliest cities in America. Only a small portion of the CHS collection is currently digitized. For more information on CHS holdings, contact the Graphics Collection.
Gift of the Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation, 2011.344.124  © 2012 The Connecticut Historical Society.
The Connecticut Historical Society has recently acquired the work of two talented woman photographers, Harriet V.S. Thorne and her great-granddaughter, Rosalie Thorne McKenna, whose lives and work reflect the changes in photography as an avocation and profession from the late 19th century, when Thorne began taking stunning portraits of her friends and family through the late 20th century, when McKenna achieved acclaim as a professional portrait photographer. The photographs were the gift of the Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation. In the fall of 2013, CHS will mount an exhibition featuring the photographs of Thorne and McKenna together with those of a third woman, Marie Hartig Kendall, who was active in Litchfield county beginning in the 1880s.