CT History Day Topics

Are you a middle school-high school student? Do you want to engage in research @ the MATT? The Mattatuck Museum is thrilled to be participating in the 2024 CT History Day. Below are some suggested collections/themes to use.  

For more information/to schedule a research appointment, reach out to our archivist, Frances Martin.

What is Connecticut History Day?

From Connecticut History Day website:

Connecticut History Day is one of 58 affiliate programs of National History Day (NHD). CHD annually engages over 4,000 middle- and high-school students in historical research, interpretation, and creative expression through project based learning. The program seeks to bring students, teachers, museums, and scholars together to support young people as they engage in history. Led by the Connecticut Democracy Center,  CHD is presented with major funding and partnership support from CT Humanities. Visit the Connecticut History Day to learn more.

Research Topics @ the MATT

Revolutionary War and New Nation 1775-1812 

Comfort Homer and the Gradual Emancipation Act 

  • Comfort Homer was enslaved by Miles Newton in Waterbury. She was sold by John Thompson to Miles Newton in 1795 when she was 11 years old and on May 8, 1810 Comfort Homer petitioned local judge Noah Benedict for her freedom under Connecticut’s Gradual Emancipation Act. She was granted her freedom.  

Progressive to New Eras

Charles Fallowell – Letters Home and the things we keep as remembrances  

  • Charles W. A. Fallowell was from 29 Catherine Ave., Waterbury, Connecticut. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1917. He then went on to become a member of Company H, 307th Infantry, 77th Division. Fallowell served overseas during the war throughout areas in France. He was killed in action on September 11, 1918 in Fismette, France when struck by an enemy shell. A scrapbook, probably kept by his mother, houses letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs that Charles sent home or were collected by her. 

Minstrel Shows, Trade Cards, and White Supremacy 

  • The history of minstrel shows in Waterbury is largely unwritten. Trade cards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries for local businesses at times depicted stereotypical images of black people with exaggerated facial features. Trade cards usually depicted a black person being lazy, dumb, or as a comforting mammy type figure. Minstrel shows were a popular form of entertainment from the post Civil War era until the early 20th century. The Scovill Foreman’s Association and the Waterbury Club both put on minstrel shows on a regular basis as a form of a variety show. Contemporary scholars have linked minstreling to an overt expression of whiteness in addition to furthering stereotypes of black people.  

Great Depression and World War II  

Oral History and WWII: Listening to Edward Landau’s Truth 

  • Edward Landau contributed to the Mattatuck Museum’s Jewish Oral History Project in 2001. The transcript of his interview is a powerful testimony to his experience surviving the Holocaust. Landau was born in Krakow, Poland. In his interview he speaks about the ghettos, hiding the fact that he was Jewish in order to get a job, the Gestapo, and the horror of concentration camps. But Landau speaks about how he made a conscious decision to continue to live and to celebrate his life. He got married in 1946 and they both came to Waterbury to start a new life together.  

The Waterbury Maternal Health Clinic Trial of 1939 

  • In 1938 nurse Clara McTernan founded the Waterbury Maternal Health Clinic with Dr. William Goodrich and Dr. Royce Nelson. The purpose of the Maternal Health Clinic was to provide a place for the poor of Waterbury to seek medical advice about birth control. The center was affiliated with the Connecticut Birth Control League and the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in New York City. While the Federal Comstock Laws that restricted distribution to birth control were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1937 – there were still active Connecticut laws against its use.  In June of 1939, Waterbury police executed a search warrant, seized the materials, and charges were pressed against McTernan, Nelson, and Goodrich. This was a landmark case in Connecticut women’s rights.  

Post War /Contemporary  

The African American Oral History Project 

  • From the mid 1990s through the early 2000s, the Mattatuck Museum conducted oral history interviews with African American Waterbury residents. Participants spoke about their parents, how they were raised, why their family moved to Waterbury, what life was like a black person in Waterbury, and what kinds of organizations they belonged to.  

Waterbury Civil Rights Hearings 

  • In 1968 the State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities held public hearings in Waterbury. The commission was concerned with four areas: Housing, Education, Employment, and Police-Community Relations. The hearings provided a forum for anyone who lived in Waterbury to voice concerns over these issues – though the vast majority of people who testified were under subpoena. Witnesses spoke about police violence, segregation, inequality, discrimination in housing, and lack of opportunities. These hearings were published in 2,000 pages of transcripts and an Interim Report was consolidated and published in the Republican American.