Listen to the 2022 Stowe Prize winner

Ahead of his planned talk at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center on Thursday evening, Clint Smith gave a tremendous interview to Khalilah Brown-Dean on her Connecticut Public show, “Disrupted.” (47 minutes.)

Smith won the 2022 Stowe Prize for his book, “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America.” From the author’s website: “Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an inter-generational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.”

Perhaps a reward after all for help in solving 1953 murder

There’s good news in a small item today from the Associated Press, via Fox61:

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut legislators are moving closer to making amends with a Hartford woman who helped in the arrest and conviction of a man nearly 70 years ago.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of issuing a $3,000 reward that had been denied to the woman. 

She said she had been sexually assaulted by the man as a teenager in 1953, but police did not take her seriously. It wasn’t until an 11-year-old was raped and killed weeks later that police used her tip to arrest Robert Nelson Malm.

Cover of "Girls of Tender Age" by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith.

The governor at the time, John Davis Lodge, had issued a reward in the case. But the girl who had gone to the police was denied it, despite taking the matter to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The murder of the 11-year-old, Irene Fiederowicz, became the center of a gripping 2006 memoir by a classmate and friend of hers, Mary-Ann Tirone-Smith. Called “Girls of Tender Age,” it gives an intimate account of what it was like to grow up in Hartford during the 1950s–and how the city dealt with (or didn’t deal with) the crime. In other words, it’s highly recommended.

Tirone Smith vigorously supports issuing the reward and has been chronicling the legislature’s deliberations on her website. She details the “appalling” rationale that Raymond Baldwin and his fellow Connecticut Supreme Court justices used to deny the claim:

[Baldwin] determined that an offer of a reward was a contract, no different from a business contract. Since the reward—the contract—was dated after [the teenager] had given the police the details of the crime against her, and one day after she picked Malm out of a line-up, Baldwin ruled she did not claim the reward in response to the offer; the offer hadn’t been made yet.

Later, in denying another appeal, Baldwin used the occasion to denigrate the girl and her family for even seeking the reward. According to Tirone-Smith, he berated her “for not appreciating that her consolation should not come from a reward, but from her public duty, which according to him, [was] an obligation.”

Eugene Gaddis, Wadsworth Atheneum archivist and author

Eugene Gaddis, a longtime archivist at the Wadsworth Atheneum and biographer of legendary Atheneum director A. Everett “Chick” Austin Jr., has died at age 72.

Gaddis, who was retired, died at his home in West Hartford on August 18, according to his obituary on

In 2000, Knopf published Gaddis’ “Magician of the Modern: Chick Austin and the Transformation of the Arts in America.” The book describes how Austin, arriving at the Atheneum in 1927 as its first professional director, pushed and cajoled the conservative museum into showing modern art. Soon, the Atheneum found itself not just participating in the modern art movement–it was in the vanguard of it. Because of Austin’s many connections, the book also serves as a chronicle of Hartford’s arts and social scene in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

In 1986, when the Austin family gave its Scarborough Street home to the Atheneum, Gaddis became its curator, eventually working to restore it and securing its recognition as a National Historic Landmark.

Gaddis’ tenure with the Atheneum began in 1981, when a week-long survey of museum records led to him creating the archives. He also became a well-known speaker on the Atheneum, and taught classes at at Hartford College for Woman and at the Hartford branch of the University of Connecticut.

A memorial service will be held when it is safe to do so.

Hear Susan Campbell talk about her new Frog Hollow book

Susan Campbell got to know the city’s Frog Hollow neighborhood as a longtime reporter and columnist for the Hartford Courant. Now she has poured that expertise into a new book that delves into the neighborhood’s long history as a hotbed of industrial, political, and cultural change. You can meet Campbell and buy a copy of her book, “Frog Hollow: Stories from an American Neighborhood,” at the Barnes & Noble UConn Hartford Bookstore today from 6 to 8 p.m.

If you can’t make it to B&N, you can still hear Campbell discuss her book on “Where We Live,” the Connecticut Public Radio talk show. Here’s the recording  of today’s show, on which she was a guest.

Publisher Wesleyan University Press gives this description of the book:

Frog Hollow: Stories from an American Neighborhood is a collection of colorful historical vignettes of an ethnically diverse neighborhood just west of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford. Its 1850s row houses have been home to a wide variety of immigrants. During the Revolutionary War, Frog Hollow was a progressive hub, and later, in the mid-late 19th century, it was a hotbed of industry. Reporter Susan Campbell tells the true stories of Frog Hollow with a primary focus on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the inventors, entrepreneurs and workers, as well as the impact of African American migration to Hartford, the impact of the Civil Rights movement and the continuing fight for housing. Frog Hollow was also one of the first neighborhoods in the country to experiment with successful urban planning models, including public parks and free education. From European colonists to Irish and Haitian immigrants to Puerto Ricans, these stories of Frog Hollow show the multiple realities that make up a dynamic urban neighborhood. At the same time, they reflect the changing faces of American cities. Features 40 illustrations.

You may also buy the book on Amazon.

Of cookbooks, redlining, and heels

Grating the Nutmeg,” the podcast co-produced by State Historian Walt Woodward and “Connecticut Explored” magazine, continues to deliver the goods, proving itself as essential listening for anyone interested in Hartford history and Connecticut history in general.

Cover of "United Tastes"Hartford’s one-time prominence as a publishing center comes up in this episode, in which Woodward and co-host Brenda Miller of the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library interview Keith Staveley and Kathleen Fitzgerald about their book, “United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook.” The title refers to “American Cookery,” first published in Hartford in 1796 and commonly regarded as the first cookbook published in the United States. The identity of the author remains a mystery; the name on the title page–Amelia Simmons–turns up in no other records from the period. There’s no mystery, however, about the publisher. The partnership of George Goodwin and Barzillai Hudson were already publishing the Connecticut Courant (today’s Hartford Courant) and couldn’t keep up with the demand for another title of theirs, Noah Webster’s spelling and grammar book, widely known as the “Blue-Backed Speller.” As Woodward notes in the podcast, the cookbook appeared to fit into Hudson & Goodwin’s effort in those years, just after the Revolution, to promote “Americanism.”


Another episodeCover of "On the Line" deals with the Hartford region’s history of housing discrimination through redlining, steering, exclusionary zoning, and property covenants. The guest is Trinity College’s Dr. Jack Dougherty, whose online book, “On The Line: How Schooling, Housing, and Civil Rights Shaped Hartford and Its Suburbs,” uses West Hartford as a case study.

Though titled “The Challenge of Fair Housing in Connecticut’s Suburbs,” the podcast episode deals in several respects with Hartford. For instance, when the federal government sought to revive the home mortgage market as an antidote to the Great Depression in the 1930s, it partnered with lenders to create maps that would highlight some neighborhoods as better-than-expected risks for mortgages. But the maps also showed the poorer risks–based not just on the prospects of repayment, but on such social criteria as the percentage of foreign-born or African-American families. As a result, these so-called poor-risk neighborhoods (color-coded as red on the maps, hence “redlining”) became still less attractive to lenders, which in turn made them poorer. Dougherty notes that in Hartford’s case, the neighborhoods red-lined in the ’30s tended to lie along the Connecticut River, then known as the East Side.

Then there’s the discriminatory obstacles that Jewish families in the city’s North End faced in trying to move to West Hartford and other suburbs following World War II — a story that would be all too familiar to other racial and ethnic groups that initially settled in Hartford.


Cover of "Wicked Hartford"Still another Grating episode spotlights Steve Thornton’s new book, “Wicked Hartford.”  Rather than the vice and tabloid scandal implied by the title, Thornton’s work focuses on the struggles of Hartford’s 99 percent. “I wanted to talk about the unsung heroines and the overrated heels,” Thornton tells CT Explored Assistant Publisher Mary Donohue in the podcast. “I wanted to talk about people who were enslaved and people who were entitled. I wanted to make that contrast, because history is usually written for and by the ‘great’ white men of our past.” Among Thornton’s heels is Hartford’s most revered industrialist, gun maker Samuel Colt, who is called out for selling weapons to the South as well as the North in the lead-up to the Civil War — something widely known at the time but largely ignored now. “It’s really amazing that we’re willing to overlook that,” Thornton says.

The book also brings to light, among other things, the city’s Seyms Street jail, which became so notorious for its deplorable conditions that it drew national attention; the plight of “newsies” and other child laborers; and the struggles city residents faced during the Great Depression.

100 years after heading ‘Over There’*

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War 1, and the history magazine Connecticut Explored marks it with a Spring 2017 issue full of articles on Connecticut’s role in the war effort. One of them, written by former Hartford Courant editor David Drury, tells the story of Ruth Hovey, a Hartford nurse who was honored by the French government for her service under fire on the Western Front.

For even more on Connecticut’s involvement in the Great War, check out the Connecticut State Library’s repository of online material, “Connecticut in World War 1.” There’s also Mr. Drury’s excellent book, “Hartford in World War I.”

*”Over There” was a patriotic song that encouraged young men to join the military and fight in Europe. Listen to it here.