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By revealing the narrative power of real things and real places, Hartford History Lectures celebrate the value of local knowledge and access to primary resources. As co-founder Bill Hosley says, “Every place has a story — and Hartford is a goldmine of stories for almost any kind of course.”

The Hartford History Lecture Series is a collaboration between Capital Community College’s Hartford Heritage Project, William Hosley’s Historic Hartford Facebook Group, and the Democracy Center at Connecticut’s Old State House, with funding by CT Humanities and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Why does place matter? What makes Hartford worth studying?
Watch William Hosley’s 20-minute lecture with illustrations for the answers!



Fall 2022 Hartford History Lecture Series

All events are free and open to the public.  


Saturday, September 17, 10-11:30am, Capital Community College (950 Main Street, Hartford)

In-person only

Black Community Formation Exhibit Opening and Curator Talk

Dr. Frank Mitchell

Dr. Mitchell will speak on the process of creating the exhibit and share insights about the Talcott Street church, its school, its people, and its significance to understanding the history of Hartford’s Black community.

Talcott Street Church Plaque Stone

Thursday, September 22, 5:45-7pm, Old State House (800 Main Street, Hartford)

In-person and virtual livestream options

“Evangelical Empire: Hartford’s Religious Book Publishing Industry, 1795-1835″

William Hosley

The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant religious revival in the United States from about 1795 to 1835, increasing membership and stimulating several social and moral reforms, including temperance, the emancipation of women, and anti-slavery. The “evangelical empire,” so-called, was centered in Hartford through the Connecticut Missionary Society and other sundry tract producers. Religious book publishing earned Hartford prominence in the rapidly evolving publishing industry. Mark Twain was attracted to Hartford because of the publishing industry, and each of the individuals featured in the coming lectures – Pennington, Plato, and Mars – published books in Hartford.

1st ed. Pennington Textbook

Thursday, September 29, Old State House (800 Main Street, Hartford)

In-person and virtual livestream options

“Rev. James W. C. Pennington: A National and Local Voice for Freedom”

Dr. Stacey Close

A lecture on the life of the Reverend James W.C. Pennington, educator and pastor of the Talcott Street church in the 1840s and 1850s, with an emphasis on his impact as a leader of the Black community in Hartford and the context of national events and the abolition movement.

James WC Pennington

Thursday, October 6, Old State House (800 Main Street, Hartford)

In-person and virtual livestream options

Stranger in a Strange Land: Ann Plato’s Strategy for Autonomy as Evidenced in Essays; Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Poetry

In 1841, Ann Plato becomes the first African American writer to publish a collection of essays. When scrutinized through a white canonical literary lens or juxtaposed with accepted African American authors, her work is generally criticized for being derivative and of “little literary merit,” rendering Plato a footnote in history. This presentation will explore Ann Plato’s literature against this assessment, situating the publication of Essays as a treatise that strategically optimizes the author’s opportunity for social and physical mobility.

Antoinette Brim-Bell
Antoinette Brim-Bell

Saturday, October 15, 10-11:30am, meet at Main Street side of Old State House (800 Main Street, Hartford)

In-person walking tour

“Justice & Faith Hartford Walking Tour”

Steve Thornton

For almost two hundred years, African Americans — both enslaved and free — maintained a vital community on Hartford’s East side. Most of these extraordinary men and women were associated with Talcott Street Congregational, the city’s first Black church. It provided a safe haven and a center of activism for the primary moral and political issues of the day. The “Justice & Faith” walking tour introduces participants to these fascinating figures and uncovers previously unknown stories that are relevant to our times.

In-person only

Justice & Faith Hartford Walking Tour

Saturday, October 22, 10am-12pm, Old State House (800 Main Street, Hartford)

ENCOUNTERS: The Global Reach of the Local Talcott Church

Dr. Fiona Vernal, Session Moderator

Encounters is a moderated discussion around a set of short readings on a challenging topic. Participants sit in table groups of 8-10 and are led through a round of discussions by a table moderator. Experts are on hand to share facts and to answer questions. Catered food creates a comfortable, community atmosphere.

This guided community conversation will take the Mars family as a lens for exploring how the congregants of Talcott Street Church cast their advocacy far and wide and weighed in on the emigration debates. This allows us insight into the wider network of the Mars family—particularly, Elizabeth Mars and her years of service in Liberia. It will also allow us to understand the relationship between the Connecticut Colonization society, the Hartford Female African Society, and the Charitable Society in the African Sunday School. These are important lenses for understanding the Christian missionary impulse in the Talcott Church as well as the role of black women as organizers and leaders. Hartford participated in the “The African Mission School” established at Trinity College, which was described as a “short-lived effort on behalf of Connecticut Episcopalians to develop a black leadership for the church in Liberia.”

James Mars

CT Humanities Logo with HHP Tagline

2021 Lecture Archive

William Hosley, Hartford History Lecture Series Fall 2021, 10/21/2021 

Why Hartford History Matters Today by William Hosley 

This program presents object lessons in local stuff and stories. By revealing the narrative power of art, architecture, and artifacts we celebrate the value of local knowledge and access to authentic material from the past. Close observation and an awareness that every place has great stories transforms everyday learning and living into a pathway for civic attachment.

William Hosley, Hartford History Lecture Series Fall 2021, 10/28/2021 Connecticut’s Capitol, A National Treasure Explored by William Hosley

The State House Connecticut built (1874-79) at the height of the Gilded Age is one of the essential landmarks in the Capital City. Designed by architect Richard Upjohn, it reflects Hartford’s remarkable prosperity, prominence, and national influence at that time. No other state has a Capitol building so saturated with art and statuary.

HHL Fiona Vernal

November 4, 2021 – Click here for more info.

In 1910 after many experiments, shade tobacco supplanted broadleaf to become the dominant crop in the Connecticut River Valley. It’s aroma, texture, burn, and size help to create a boutique industry that became an important part of Connecticut lore and romance.

November 13, 2021 – Click here for more info.

In this tour, you will explore the historic Spring Grove Cemetery with William Hosley and then cross the street to tour Faith Congregational Church, Southern New England United Church of Christ, with members of the church’s history committee.

November 18, 2021 – Click here for more info.

This presentation will explore what HPHS was about in the early years: the  composition of the student body, the  curriculum, and its governance. Many  students attended colleges and achieved prominence and influence as adults,  especially in the city of Hartford.
2020 Lecture Archive

September 2020 (52:10 minutes) – Click here for more info.

When Travelers Tower was new in 1919 in the midst of the American sky-scraper phenomenon, it was the 7th tallest building in the world and was the tallest building in New England until 1964. This lecture provides an armchair tour inside this remarkable building – from the top of the tower to the grand entry hall.

September 2020 (60:11 minutes) – Click here for more info.

We often tell this story of community succession in Hartford as a narrative of decline followed by lamentations about what Hartford used to be. What are the possibilities of framing the history in a different way, a history that explores the pull factors that made Hartford home, that kept people rooted in the city?

October 2020 (55:26 minutes) – Click here for more info.

In 1854, while Sam Colt was developing the Coltsville factory village and Armory, Hartford was hit by the biggest flood of the 19th century. Local artist Joseph Ropes, whose paintings are now housed at the Wadsworth Atheneum, was hired by Colt to create a remarkable panoramic mural, capturing with photographic accuracy what the capital city looked like on the cusp of transformation.

October 2020 (60:12 minutes) – Click here for more info.

Tour the stories behind and artifacts belonging to artists and collectors: Frederic Church, Wallace Nutting, Sol LeWitt, Aaron Chapin, William Glackens, and John Trumbull, with path-breaking patrons and philanthropists: Samuel P. Avery, Rev. Francis Goodwin and Frank Sumner.

November 2020 (60:04 minutes) – Click here for more info.

Woman’s suffrage is a story of cross class-alliances, lobbying for multiple issues, and negotiating important divisions. Learn more about how the Connecticut womans suffrage movement had a profound impact on those who participated and the attempts made to move the vote just for men.
2019 Lecture Archive

April 2019 (52:16 minutes) – Click here for more info.

This lecture focuses on the historic neighborhood surrounding Old North Cemetery, home to the city’s most intact collection of historic buildings including Isham-Terry House (1854), Keney Clock Tower (1898) and Faith Congregational Church (1878)A National Historic District since 2004, “Downtown North” was a port of entry for generations of immigrants.  

March 2019 (53:59 minutes) – Click here for more info.

This lecture explores the birth of the Industrial Revolution and its impact on the Hartford landscape and its resident visionaries, including Horace Bushnell, Catherine Beecher, Frederick Law Olmsted and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

February 2019 (52:30 minutes) – Click here for more info.

Although his most famous works were set along the Mississippi River of his childhood, Mark Twain composed those novels while living in the elegant literary community of Nook Farm, in a Hartford of industry, energy, and immigration. This lecture explores the importance of Connecticut and Hartford to Twain’s life and work, including his famous neighbors.

January 2019 (1:19:50 minutes) – Click here for more info.

With four centuries of human habitation, Hartford is rich in architectural evidence. Every generation left its mark on this highly image-conscious city. This lecture explores Hartford’s architectural grandeur from the 17th century to today, from its historic churches to its shiny reflective glass towers. 


Made possible by:

Capital Community College and the Hartford Heritage Project are grateful to CT Humanities for funding the 2020 lecture series and tour.

Hartford History Lectures are sponsored by CT Humanities and the CCC Foundation.

Videos Produced by Michael Bies and Bruce Miller.

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