Primary Sources: Historic Documents, Publications, Images, Memoirs, Oral History Interviews, and Other First-Hand Accounts of Life in Connecticut’s Mill Communities

Historians use the term primary sources (also known as first-hand accounts) to describe documents, photos, images, letters, diaries, memoirs, oral history interviews, and other materials created by the people who witnessed historical events. This section of the Mill Museum’s website is a portal to many of the primary sources that we have digitized and made available online. Follow the links to explore some of the Mill Museum’s rich collection of primary sources.

Audio recordings of oral history interviews with men and women who lived in Willimantic and other northeastern Connecticut mill communities in the 20th century. Most of the interviews were conducted by the historian Thomas R. Beardsley in 1990-92.

Excerpts from Loom and Spindle, or Life Among the Early Mill Girls by Harriet Hanson Robinson. Describes working life in the textile mills of Lowell, MA in the 1830s and 1840s, when Robinson worked there as a doffer, spinner, and drawing-in girl, when she was a girl and a teen. Originally published in 1898.

The memoirs of Claire Meikle. Born in Willimantic, Claire’s memoirs relate the story of the 20th-century decline and eventual transformation of a New England textile mill town.

A Fairy in School was originally published in 1893.  A fairy tale about Idola, a lazy fairy sentenced to learn the value of hard work by being transformed into cotton and then manufactured into thread at the Willimantic Linen Company in Willimantic, CT.  Originally published by the Willimantic Linen Company.  Republished, with a historical essay by Jamie Eves as The Flight of the Cotton Fairies in 2011.

Originally published in the 1890s as a series of newspaper articles, A Builder’s Tale recollects the new mill city of Willimantic, CT in c. 1850. Baldwin was a carpenter and builder who came to Willimantic in the 1820s as a young journeyman, and stayed on to build many of the city’s most important structures. A rich description of early Willimantic residents.

 A collection of various documents from the Mill Museum Collection, scanned and documented by Jared M. Leitzel.  Each link contains a brief write-up for the whole set in Microsoft Word. Each write-up contains the Title of the folder, the searchable DOC or Folder Name/Number and a brief explanation, followed by the total number of items individually marked.

The Mill Museum has placed a portion of its collection of Connecticut postcards in the Connecticut Digital Archive for public access. Emphasis on Willimantic and Windham. 1900-1920. (This link will take you to the Connecticut Digital Archive and away from the Mill Museum’s website.)

The Mill Museum has placed a portion of its collection of Connecticut textile industry trade cards in the Connecticut Digital Archive for public access. 1870-1910. (This link will take you to the Connecticut Digital Archive and away from the Mill Museum’s website.)

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