Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Construction on the Green

The big public works project right now is the reconstruction of the Green downtown. The Green has been fenced off, and so far they've removed most of the sidewalks, lamp posts, benches, wood stanchions, and a few trees.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Library Matters

I've always taken it for granted that, of course, everyone has a library card. Why wouldn't you? As it turns out, however, only about a third of the residents of Waterbury have a library card, and more than half of those cards are expired.

In the past year, people have told me they don't use the library because their kids are all grown up, or because they think there's nothing for them at the library. In fact, there is something for everyone at the Silas Bronson Library. Take a look at this list, and I think you'll see something that appeals to you:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Aliens and Refugees During World War II

The war in Europe began with Germany's invasion of Poland and the subsequent declarations of war against Germany by Great Britain and France in September, 1939. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the United States remained neutral until December, 1941, when Japan bombed our military base at Pearl Harbor.

Refugees

In 1940, as the war raged on, the United States began taking in refugees. Children from Great Britain were the first to be welcomed, sent away by their parents in the hopes that they would escape the bombings and the possible impending invasion. (If you're a fan of the Narnia Chronicles, this might sound familiar--the Pevensie children were sent away to the English countryside to escape the Nazi bombings of London.) The U.S. government found itself balancing citizen enthusiasm for taking in refugee children with the slow bureaucratic requirements of the immigration laws ("Mayor Spellacy Gets Assurance," Waterbury Democrat, 13 July 1940).

Waterbury Republican, 7 Aug 1940
Collection of Silas Bronson Library

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Century of Melting Pot Frictions, Part Five

Part of a series exploring the prejudice each new immigrant group encountered when they arrived in this country.
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Chinese and Japanese

Immigrants from Asia fared somewhat better in Waterbury during the late 1800s and early 1900s than did immigrants from Europe, most likely because they came here in small numbers, drawing less attention to themselves. In 1901, the Hartford Courant mentioned in passing that the only Chinese woman in Connecticut lived in Waterbury, running a store with her husband. The paper did not bother to print their names.

Hartford Courant, 2 Aug 1901


A Century of Melting Pot Frictions: Part Four

Part of a series exploring the prejudice each new immigrant group encountered when they arrived in this country.
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Russians

Russian and Italian immigrants were often grouped together as anarchists, perhaps because many of them were socialists advocating for improved labor rights. Russian socialists were referred to as Bolsheviks, the Russian political party led by Lenin which seized control of the Russian government in October 1917. Within a year's time, newspapers across the United States were instilling a fear of the "red terror," Bolshevism, in the hearts of their readers.

A Century of Melting Pot Frictions, Part Three

Part of a series exploring the prejudice each new immigrant group encountered when they arrived in this country.
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Italians

After a surge in immigration from Italy during the 1880s, Italians became closely associated with anarchy, socialism, and general crime from the 1890s to the 1930s. "Italian anarchists" is a phrase that was frequently repeated in the newspapers, as was "Italian radical."

A Century of Melting Pot Frictions, Part Two

Part of a series exploring the prejudice each new immigrant group encountered when they arrived in this country.
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New Immigrants

Just as the Irish were reviled during the 1850s, new groups from Europe were reviled during the early 1900s. In 1904, Rev. Joel S. Ives of Hartford preached against immigration ("Connecticut's Immigrant Problem," Boston Evening Transcript, 23 March 1904), declaring that the problem wasn't the large number of immigrants arriving from Europe, but the poor character of the immigrants. He claimed "I have seen no foreign country with worse appearing settlements of foreigners" than what he saw in New Haven. Ives targeted Catholics Italians and Poles, and Russian Jews.

A Century of Melting Pot Frictions, Part One

Xenophobia is a word that has been used frequently in the past year. The definition, an intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries, clearly describes some of the rhetoric we've been hearing from certain political figures. Whether it's an intense fear of Syrian refugees, an irrational dislike of Mexican immigrants, or an irrational fear of all Muslims, xenophobia has been surging.

As someone who was a child during the 1970s, I have long embraced the melting pot metaphor of this country, thanks in part to a School House Rock video and Disneyland's It's A Small World ride. One of the things that makes America great is our diversity, our ability to integrate people of different faiths and customs into our country. While other nations are torn apart by warfare and genocide stemming from their inability to get along with people of different religions and ethnicities, we have dozens of religions and ethnicities living together in relative harmony. Yes, we still have room for improvement, but overall, we're doing pretty well.

As someone who has immersed herself in historical studies for decades, I have an instinct to compare current events to historical events. Despite the rosy image of the melting pot, our country's history is one in which new groups of immigrants often face a long uphill struggle toward acceptance and integration. Political rhetoric can easily turn to oppressive action. Studying what happened in the past can help us today. We can learn from the mistakes of the past and make better choices in the future.

It's fairly well known that Irish Catholics faced severe discrimination for decades after they began to arrive here in large numbers. Italians weren't considered "white" when they first arrived. Germans were vilified during World War I, to the point that some of them even claimed to be Swiss rather than German. Distrust of Russian immigrants began after World War I and continued through most of the century, thanks to the Cold War. During World War II, Japanese Americans were so distrusted, our government (their government) took away everything they had and locked them up in internment camps.

To a degree, Waterbury has historically been more welcoming of foreigners than many other communities in the United States, largely because the factories eagerly welcomed immigrant laborers to their workforce. The city's success was dependent upon the continual influx of new workers to the factories. But each new immigrant group was met with suspicion, fear, and prejudice as they made their presence known in Waterbury.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The Crafter's Classroom

There's a great new co-op storefront in downtown Waterbury: The Crafter's Classroom, 106 Grand Street. They opened with a ribbon cutting on Friday, and they already have some fun classes being booked.



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Burning Desire at Seven Angels Theatre

A couple of months ago, I happened to be checking out the Seven Angels Theatre website and was pleasantly surprised to see that Lou Diamond Phillips would be starring in the world premiere of his new play, Burning Desire, right here in Waterbury. Now, I'm not by any means a fangirl of actors. I don't get starstruck. But when I saw that Lou Diamond Phillips (who was so wonderful in La Bamba, Stand and Deliver, Young Guns, a guest appearance on Psych, and now on Longmire) was going to be performing here in Waterbury, at Seven Angels, I immediately bought tickets.

Image from Seven Angels Theatre Facebook page.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Harrub Memorial at Chase Park

During the early 1900s, Americans were fascinated with a romanticized view of the colonial period. Their enthusiasm for the colonial past started in 1876 with the centennial celebration of the start of the Revolutionary War. In 1920, when the country celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival at Plymouth Rock, the Colonial Revival era was in full swing.

Waterbury inventor and engineer Charles Harrub was enamored with an idealized image of the Pilgrims. Following the death of his wife, Rhoby, in 1921, Harrub began planning a memorial to honor both his wife and the Pilgrims. He died before the monument could be completed, but he left his entire estate to the City of Waterbury, which oversaw the completion of Harrub's vision.

Harrub Pilgrim Memorial, Chase Park, April 2011

Instagram Album

I've started a Waterbury Instagram account, where I will be posting photos of all that is beautiful or interesting in the Brass City. I'll be posting at least one photo a day.




You can find the photos at https://www.instagram.com/waterburygirl/ (no Instagram account required for viewing the images).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snowy Waterbury

I love walking in the snow, and today was a perfect day for doing just that.

Welton Carriage Shed.

Civic Responsibility Online

I went back to high school yesterday to participate in a "Who Is My Neighbor?" workshop at Westover School's Rasin Center for Global Justice, sharing my experiences with blogging.

It's always interesting to get someone else's perspective on your work. One of the school's teachers commented afterward that I demonstrated to the students that the internet makes it easier to fulfill a civic responsibility to speak out and to have your voice heard, and that we must abide by an ethical standard of moral judgment and informed opinion (perhaps even more so, since what we post online is there for years). She made a very good point that we must combine moral judgment, informed opinion, and courage in order to be heard. You can write or say whatever you want, but if you aren't trustworthy, you won't be respected, and your voice won't be heard.

Monday, December 21, 2015

St. John's Church

The Rep-Am newspaper recently reported that St. John's Episcopal Church, on the Green, is giving serious thought to selling their building ("St. John's Considers Move," 9 December 2015). According to the article, the church is no longer able to afford the upkeep of the building. More telling, their endowment has dwindled down from millions to only $800,000.

Side note: an endowment is the investment fund that helps pay the bills for churches and other nonprofits. Standard recommended practice is to spend no more than 4% of your annual interest, rolling the rest back into the principle, helping it keep up with inflation. It's a lot like a retirement fund, except that it has to last for centuries. Dipping into the endowment principle should be done only under special circumstances--like a much-needed building expansion or emergency repairs--and the money should be replaced through fundraising as quickly as possible.

If St. John's does decide to sell their building, it will be a significant milestone in Waterbury's history. The Episcopal Church was the second church in Waterbury, dating back to 1740. They've been on the Green since 1795.

When Waterbury was founded, everyone belonged to the Congregational Church (which was the official church of Connecticut until 1818). The Great Awakening, a widespread religious revival of the 1720s and 1730s, led to many people leaving the Congregational Church and joining the Anglican Church (Church of England). After the Revolutionary War, Anglicans in the U.S. ditched their allegiance to the King and reformed as Episcopalians.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Happy Blogiversary!

Today is the 10 year anniversary of this blog. So much has changed since then. During the first year or two of my blogging, a "hot" post had a dozen views--which isn't too surprising, since many of those early posts were pretty dull! But as they say, the best way to improve as a writer is to keep writing.

As some of you know, I started a new job last month. I am now Director of the Silas Bronson Library in Waterbury--absolutely a dream job. A couple of people have asked if I'll still be writing about Waterbury history, and the answer is a solid YES. Researching and writing about Waterbury history is what I do for fun in my free time. The same is true for my artwork--painting brings me peace and fulfillment.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. Rest assured there will be many more posts about history and cool current happenings in the coming months and years. Oh, and if you want to know what's happening at the Bronson Library, you can follow along on Facebook and Twitter. Loads of good stuff there, too! ;)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Mary Della"

While doing some research into Waterbury history, I stumbled onto a serialized novel from 1929, firmly set in Waterbury. Serialized novels were tremendously popular during the 1800s--most of the famous novels from that era first appeared in serial format in newspapers. The format continued into the 1900s, but eventually lost popularity. Serialized storytelling moved into radio and, eventually, television, where it continues to thrive today.

This particular serialized novel was titled "Mary Della" and was written by someone named Julie Anne Moore. There's no sign of Julie Anne Moore other than being listed as the author of this and other stories. I'm assuming Julie Anne Moore was a pen name. (I'll do some additional research later this week to see if I can find out more about her.)

"Mary Della" was serialized by The Independent Syndicate, a company based in Washington, D.C. It ran in newspapers all over the country, but not simultaneously. Some papers started running it in 1929, others in 1930. Some included photographic illustrations, others ran the installments without any illustrations.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Almost Home Wins CCF Trustee Award

Last week, on August 20, the Connecticut Community Foundation (CCF), based in Waterbury, held its first annual Trustee Award Ceremony at South Farms in Morris. They honored two organizations that embodied partnership and collaboration, core values of the Foundation. One of those two organizations was the Almost Home Summer Camp program, started this year in the WOW neighborhood.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Charlton Comics: The Tenuous Waterbury Connection

Most people are aware of Waterbury's claim to fame as home of Eastern Color Printing, the first printing company to make comic books. Lesser known is Waterbury's connection to Charlton Comics, a Derby-based company that helped launch the careers of some of the biggest names in comic books. According to anecdotes, Charlton Comics used a Waterbury printer for their first however many years, and they were co-founded by one of the defendants in Waterbury's Hayes-Leary scandal. I had assumed that Charlton was printing in Waterbury because the company's co-founder was from Waterbury (but you know what they say about assumptions...).

Yesterday, I attended a panel discussion about Charlton Comics at the Connecticut ComiCONN. While I was already aware of much of what is generally known about the company's history, the discussion got me thinking about it in new ways, and inspired me to write what I thought would be a quick blog post highlighting the Waterbury side of the Charlton story. As it turns out, I've stumbled onto a piece of history that hasn't been fully documented and is mostly misunderstood.

Charlton Comics panel at CT ComiCONN, 15 Aug 2015
Left to right: Mort Todd, Roy Thomas, Paul Kupperberg, TC Ford


In my effort to trace Waterbury's ties to Charlton Comics, I have found more questions than answers. There is a documentary about Charlton currently being made, so perhaps the film makers will uncover some of the answers. Or, perhaps, someone reading this post will share a few clues in the comments section. In the meantime, however, here's what I know.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Dating Your Family Photos

Being able to easily identify the approximate date of an old photograph is a skill I take for granted, since I do it all the time. Yesterday, after a friend posted something on Facebook, I realized that it is not a common skill. I looked for a good guide to identifying photograph dates for my friend, but I couldn't find one I liked. So, with that said, here is a guide to figuring out when a photograph was taken (using all Waterbury and Waterbury-connected photos, of course!).


1. No photographs before the 1840s.

The photographic process was invented in France by Louis Daguerre in 1839. That first type of photograph is called a daguerreotype, after its inventor. Only one image was made, developed directly on a glass plate, which was then placed in a protective case.

Daguerreotypes had a long exposure time, meaning that people had to hold still for several minutes to avoid looking blurry. Daguerreotypes of street scenes don't show any people or animals, unless they happened to be standing still during the exposure time. People walking by were effectively invisible.

Waterbury's Scovill Manufacturing Company was the first in the U.S. to make daguerreotype plates, starting in 1842.

Daguerreotype of St. John's Church on the Green, Waterbury, circa 1847
(Collection of Mattatuck Museum)