Scraps of History

Apr 20, 2013

Mary Pamelia Felt was born in New York City on January 1, 1848, and in 1867 married John Emery Morris of Hartford. She would have remained just another Hartford resident if not for her penchant for clipping newspapers. Her collection of 188 obituary and social scrapbooks were donated to CHS in 1925.  CHS recently digitized and put online her 52 “social” scrapbooks which are filled with clippings about engagements, weddings, divorces, lectures, vacation plans, travels abroad, visits from dignitaries, Thanksgiving proclamations, and descriptions of inaugural balls. The clippings were taken from the Hartford Courant in Hartford and the Republican in Springfield, Massachusetts. They provide insight into what Mary found significant in late 19th and early 20th century Hartford and environs. Her scrapbooks helped her manage the flood of information available through newspapers, much the way today we manage information with Facebook or Pinterest. Scrapbooks were also an accepted pastime for women and children.

In addition to her scrapbooks, Mary also conducted genealogical research into families such as Bontecou, Felt, Kelsey, Lincoln, and Ressiguie, and the ancestors of Hartford Mayor Morgan G. Bulkeley. She may have been inspired by her husband John Emery Morris (1843-1911) and her father-in-law Jonathan Flynt Morris (1822-1899). Both men published books of family history in addition to their vocations, Assistant Secretary at Traveler’s Insurance Company and treasurer of the Hartford Freedman’s Aid Society, respectively. John Emery Morris was also an artist and the Graphics Department of The Connecticut Historical Society holds some of his photographs and his sketchbook.

John Emery and Mary Morris had three sons. Their youngest, John Felt Morris, was a lifelong resident of the Hartford area. Morris graduated from Hartford Public High School and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked for the Hartford-Connecticut Trust Company for many years and also served as secretary of the Connecticut Historical Society.  

Mary Morris may have thought that her life would not be recorded for the history books, but by creating these scrapbooks, her memory will be preserved forever, both physically and digitally. PDFs of the pages from her scrapbook are available through the CHS website at http://www.chs.org/finding_aides/mmsocial/ .