Archive for April 28, 2010

Reverend Amos Starr Cooke

Recently I was reading The Imperial Cruise which is about United States foreign policy in Asia. On page 151 of the book there is a reference to Reverend Amos Starr Cooke who from Danbury, Connecticut. I was intrigued by this reference and wanted to find out more about him. I was helped in this regard by Diane Hassan from the Danbury Museum who sent me some materials from their collection. Amos Starr Cooke was born in Danbury on 1 December, 1810 and graduated from Yale in 1834. He married Juliette Montague in 1836. They went as missionaries to Hawaii in 1837. They took charge of the education of the royal family and of the nobility of Hawaii. Juliette was a gifted music teacher who formed the students into an orchestra. After fourteen years of service Cooke was released from his duties. He then went into partnership with Samuel Northrup Castle. They formed Castle and Cooke which became one of the most successful enterprises in Hawaii. Amos died in 1871 in Hawaii.

Earth Day Turns 40!

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This Earth Day (April 22) we are experiencing Mother Nature’s impact –causing mayhem with stranded tourists, stranded tulips and major economic consequences–all from ash clouds. As a consequence Earth Day’s message is particularly relevant this year. While it does appear we humans did not cause that Icelandic volcano to erupt, most of us will agree we are all contributing to environmental problems in some way.
So, what do we do? Noted environmentalist Bill McKibben offers some advice in his new book eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet Cautiously optimistic in tone, McKibben’s premise is the planet we knew has been damaged and altered–weather changes are one direct result. It is now or never, the author contends, to make changes to adapt to our already damaged planet to avert more problems.
So what can you do? Check out Earth Day events and other info at Be part of the solution.

The Real Arsenic and Old Lace

We have recently received a new book entitled The Devil’s Rooming House: The True Story of America’s Deadliest Serial Killer by M. William Phelps. It is the story of Amy Archer-Gilligan (1873-1962) who was a nursing-home operator as well as a serial killer. Archer and her first husband, James, opened Sister Amy’s Nursing Home for the Elderly in Newington, Connecticut in 1901. They prospered and in 1907 relocated to Windsor, Connecticut and opened the Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm. But James Archer died suddenly after the move and Amy collected on a large insurance policy. She continued to run the Archer Home. She was remarried to Michael Gilligan, who was a wealthy widower, who also died suddenly and she was left all of his estate. A reporter for the Hartford-Courant became suspicious of Amy after noticing the copious number of obituaries originating at the Archer Home. Amy was accused and tried for murdering both of her husbands and residents of the nursing home by giving them a cocktail of lemonade and arsenic.She was convicted and sentenced to life in Wethersfield Prison and then sent to an insane asylum. This story became the basis for the play and movie Arsenic and Old Lace.

What’s Up with This Census?

The 10 question,10 minute 2010 census form is a puzzle to me. Yes, it’s easy to complete but what does it reveal about us besides a body count? Previous censuses are a treasure trove of info–genealogists are already chomping at the bit in anticipation of the release of the 1940 census in 2012 (a 72 year privacy ruling mandates this). Earlier censuses provide a snapshot of our country at that particular time–the 1930 census asks if a radio handset is owned, in 1970 “Do you have a television” was asked. Of course, some questions we can do without–in the 1800′s folks were asked if anyone in the home was “feeble, idiotic or insane”–if asked today that question would produce lawsuits and probably a reality TV show. In 2082 when the 2010 census is released historians and family resarchers will not find info about occupations, education level, income, military service revealed in the 2010 census.
You should fill out the 2010 form as it provides documentation which determines where and how tax dollars are spent. We do have the census forms here at the library for anyone who did not receive one. We also have a census worker on hand from 3-6 pm Monday through Thursday and Saturday 10-2 pm to help you fill out the form. This assistance is available until April 19th.


One of the leading authorities on transportation history has just published a book you do not want to miss. It is Blood, Iron, & Gold: How the Railroads Transformed the World. It is by Christian Wolmar who has previously written several books on the social history of railways and transportation. He begins his survey of railway history with the development of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1830. Then he proceeds to take us around the world and details the absolutely breathtaking scale of development of railroads in every major country and the concomitant improvement in economic and social life that went with it. He reminds us of the military uses of the railroads in the Civil War particularly when General Grant used the Baltimore & Ohio (and other lines) to rush reinforcements to his army which enabled him to take Chatanooga, Tennessee. One of the groups who observed this military use was a Prussian delegation. They subsequently put this knowledge to good use to overwhelm Austria and France in wars in 1866 and 1870 respectively. This book is a reminder that we should look to the railroads of today as a solution to our current transportation woes.