On the first day of our Connecticut trip, we had set ourselves two appointments - one at the Middlesex County Historical Society, which is in Middletown, Ct., and another at the Prudence Crandall House. Barbara, Beth, Becky and I met Lynne there, and entered the pretty old house which houses the collections and exhibits. Debby Shapiro, the Executive Director, met us at the door and gave us a very interesting history of the area. It is always nice to put the area into context and know more about the kind of lives of the girls who created the needlework...what events shaped their lives and their families' livelihoods.
Middletown was settled in 1650. It was a shipping town - they built ships, made rope, and shipped goods along the coast into the West Indies and bringing back sugar, tobacco and a few slaves. Later there were rum importers and the Canton trade. In the 1770's there were pewter makers and lead mines in the area at this time as well. In 1803 the embargo on shipping to and from Europe killed the shipping industry here and people began moving out.
Russell Manufacturing made elastic webbing for suspenders and started the industrial revolution here. Other items made in the area were pistols, swords and rifles, Savage firearms, the Noiseless Typewriter was invented here, as were dress shields and the Goodyear Rubber Co. made goulashes. This is just a brief glimpse at some of the historical facts for the area.
The Historical Society is headquartered at General Mansfield House, one of the few residential structures still standing on Middletown's Main Street . Once the home of General Joseph K.F. Mansfield, a Civil War hero who died at the battle of Antietam in 1862, the Federal brick mansion has been the home of the Historical Society since 1959.
Then it was on to the samplers and various needlework pieces Debby had pulled for our viewing. We so enjoyed the pieces and gleaning what we could from them as far as materials used, stitches used, the verses that I so enjoy and try to capture when we have the opportunity to see the historical pieces. We were lucky enough to be allowed to photograph many of the pieces in many of the collections we saw on this trip. The permission was given for our study purposes and we remind you as you view a few that we will share on the blog, that the images are owned by the organizations and that they are not to be used in any way from our blog except for your visual enjoyment here without your receiving individual permission from each organization.
One sampler was the Orphan's Home. It was noted that this sampler was wrought by Emma A Harrington at the Orphans Home kept for many years by Mrs. Abigail Lucas and her daughter Miss Julia Lucas at Long Hill in Middletown, Connecticut June the 12th 1855. Wool thread on a linen ground.
A verse I enjoyed from Margaret B. Hall Middletown, Connecticut July 12, 1844 aged 10 years.
The time flies fast away
Like flowery springs the heart it cheers,
But has nothing to say.
(detail from a family register)
Harriet P Phelps aged 12 her sampler
Industry is commendable
Life is short eternity is long
Another piece that caught our attention was a pincushion from 1806 that had been made at Miss Patten's Seminary in Hartford. It had a special basket that it sat in and a beautiful silk ruched ribbon edge.
You know how much Julie and I enjoy tea. As our friends checked out the publications available from the Middlesex Historical Society they found a collection of historic and modern recipes for Afternoon Tea and Dessert. So of course we had to purchase these for our libraries as well. We haven't had much time to really go through and enjoy the many recipes, but you do know that some of these will show up sooner or later at one of our special teas we will share with our friends and then we will have the opportunity to remember our fond time at the Middlesex Historical Society as we started the first day of this wonderful week of exploring Connecticut and it's needlework.
Here is one recipe that caught my eye to start with:
Nussschnitte (Chocolate Potato Spice Cake) yes that is the spelling!
2/3 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cold mashed potatoes
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup bitter chocolate, grated
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, milk, potato, spices, chocolate, and dry ingredients except nuts. Add salt as needed and mix until smooth
In separate bowl, beat whites of eggs. Fold mixture into beaten whites of eggs. Add nuts.
Bake in 7x13- inch cake pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (or until it springs back at center)
When cool, frost with your favorite white frosting and dribble melted semi-seet chocolate on top.
This sounds like a great use for those leftover mashed potatoes at the holidays.
After enjoying a great lunch just down the street, where we found delicious soups, salads and more we headed to Canterbury Connecticut. Just the name gives you visions of the beauty there. We wound our way through the countryside with all the fall color lining the roads. Our stop in Canterbury was at the Prudence Crandall home.
They have a wonderful publication that is available about this special lady in history's life. We all purchased it on our way out and of course it hasn't seen the light of day since returning home. I have such a pile of reading material that I have brought back with me from this trip and so much work waiting here, that it will be some time before I can enjoy it all. But we do want to give you a bit of a synopsis on our special trip and each of the places we visited.
We were also made aware of a PBS movie that was made on the life of Prudence Crandall, I would suggest you all look for this and possibly it is available through your local library system as well to borrow. We saw a short version at the home before our tour began and enjoyed it very much. The title of the DVD is "To All on Equal Terms - The Life and Legacy of Prudence Crandall" and it is available for purchase from the museum.
In 1832, Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) opened a private academy for the daughters of the white families in Canterbury. After accepting a black woman, Sarah Harris, as a student at the Academy, Crandall decided to change the school into one exclusively for African-American women and girls. Of course this was not a popular decision by the community and Prudence endured many acts of violence and harassment for this decision, which finally ended in the decision to close the school.
You may have seen articles by Glee Krueger regarding the needlework of this Academy in previous years. One such entitled "A Canterbury Tale: Sarah Ann Major Harris and Prudence Crandall,"
"I never saw a heart wider open to all truth. She never stopped to ask from whence a thought came, but only, is it true." Rev. Charles L McKesson at Prudence Eulogy 1890
"I am the last leaf upon the tree" Prudence Crandall 1881
Sarah Harris Fayeweather's Headstone:
Hers was a living example of the obedience to faith
devotion to her children and a loving tender interest in all.
Prudence Crandall's needlework was a simple piece, but the story was an inspirational example of the strength of women.
On our way out of Canterbury we stopped at a cemetery we had spotted on our way into town. Many of the beautiful motifs you see on headstones of earlier years relate so much to the motifs we see on needlework. The old headstones with the beauty and patina that the years have given them are so enduring. We found a treasure trove of the beautiful angels gracing so many of the headstones here. At first glance we thought many were alike, but upon closer examination there were several different designs and some unique ones we had not seen before.
Then there was a section of a family plot fenced off from the others and several were adorned with little lambs and we read the dates and names of the many children this family had lost. It still pulls at your heartstrings even when you don't know the families and many years have passed.
So we followed the roads back into Hartford, happy after all we had seen on this first day of discovering Connecticut. We found ourselves hungry and ready for dinner and happened upon the Trumbull Kitchens in the middle of downtown Hartford. The town pretty much closes up when the work day is done and people head out into the suburbs and surrounding areas, but this seemed to be a happening place and we soon learned why. The food was not only beautiful it was delicious! So we were satisfied and ready to head to bed at the close of our first day to rest up for what the next would hold.