Welcome to the Middlesex County Historical Society

We are open! Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., or by appointment. Please email mchs@wesleyan.edu, or call (860) 346-0746, to schedule a time for research.

Our current exhibit is “A Century of Devotion: The St. Sebastian Feast in Middletown, 1921-2021,”  in partnership with St. Sebastian Church, Middletown.

Founded in 1901, the Middlesex County Historical Society is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Middletown and Middlesex County and providing programs for adults and children to increase their understanding of the area’s past.  Museum exhibits, walking tours, re-enactments, and a lecture series are among its many annual events.

The Historical Society is headquartered at General Mansfield House, one of the few residential structures still standing on Middletown’s Main Street. Once the home of General Joseph K.F. Mansfield, a Civil War hero who died at the battle of Antietam in 1862, the Federal brick mansion has been the home of the Historical Society since 1959.

At the museum at General Mansfield House, visitors can explore the community’s past through major exhibits, which showcase artifacts from the Historical Society’s permanent collection. Recent exhibits have examined artifacts from World War I, Middletown’s 19th-century women’s clothing, varied immigrant groups; the rise and fall of manufacturing in Middlesex County; and, death and dying from Colonial times to the present. A Vanished Port, our current exhibition, explores Middletown’s history as a colonial port.

Jesse Nasta, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Middlesex County Historical Society. He is a Middletown native, a former MCHS board member, and an Assistant Professor of the Practice in Wesleyan University’s African American Studies Department.

Event: How To “Read” Old Photographs Zoom Seminar

Tuesday, December 6th, 2022 7:00 p.m.

How to “Read” Old Photographs: Insights, Stories, and Gems from the Middlesex County Historical Society’s Photo Collection. A free, online presentation by Jennifer Tucker, Associate Professor of History, Wesleyan University, in conversation with Jesse Nasta, Executive Director, Middlesex County Historical Society.

This event is free but registration is required. To register, go to: bit.ly/ReadingOldPhotos

Holiday Open House

36th Annual Antique Car Show and Flea Market

  • All eyes at the Middlesex County Historical Society’s 36th Annual Antique Car Show and Flea Market will gravitate to this year’s featured car, a 1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner Retractable. It will motor to the show located at Palmer Field adjacent to Washington Street, Route 66 in Middletown on Sunday, October 9th .
  • Car registration begins at 9:30 am and judging starts at 11:30 am with trophies awarded to the top vehicles at 2:00 pm. General admission is $3.00 and children 12 and under are free. Car registration is $10.00. Although cars registered for judging must be dated 1997 or older, there is no cut-off date for cars being placed in the car corral. In case of rain, the show will be held Sunday, October 9.
  • Ford built retractable convertibles in the Fairlane line from 1957 – 1959, selling between14,000 and 15,000 in 1958, making our featured car owned by Betty Pear, a rare gem. She and her late husband, Joel Pear, set their sights on owning one and purchased this car which they named “Betty Boop” in 1994. The Skyliner top uses 7 reversable electricmotors, 4 lift jacks, a series of relays, 10 limit switches, 10 solenoids, 4 locking mechanisms for the roof and two locking mechanisms for the trunk lid and 610 feet of wiring to produce a thrilling ride. It has won numerous awards at shows all along the East Coast.
  • Trophies, hand-made by the committee, will be awarded to the top vehicles. Flea market spaces are $15.00 and the market opens at 7:00 am. For more information, call DeborahShapiro at 860-344-0033. Rain cancellation information will be available at 860-346-0746.
You Are Cordially Invited to the Annual Meeting of the
Middlesex County Historical Society
Monday, April 25, 2022
 at 7 PM
Samuel Russell House
350 High Street, Middletown, CT
(corner of Washington and High Streets)
Wesleyan University
The 2022 Arthur R. Schultz Memorial Lecture will begin directly following the business portion of the meeting, with Richard Friswell, MPhil, presenting a reading and talk based on his new book, Merchants of Deceit: Opium, American Fortune & the China Trade. A work of historical fiction, Merchants of Deceit deals with the life and times of 19th-century Middletown resident, Samuel Russell, and his years spent in Canton, China. The book examines the burgeoning opium trade in China during the early 1800s, revealing a little-known chapter in American history. Signed copies of the book will be available for sale. The author is making a donation of sales to the Historical Society. 
This is both an in-person and virtual event.
If you would like to join the annual meeting by Zoom instead of attending in person, please register here to receive the Zoom link: 
Click here to register for the Zoom
All are welcome to attend, both Historical Society members and non-members.
If you are attending in person, all Wesleyan University visitors must be prepared to show proof of their vaccination status, including a booster dose. Masks are encouraged.
Street parking is available, but we also have permission to use the lots next to and across
High Street from the Russell House.
About the Speaker: 
Richard Friswell is a Visiting Scholar at Wesleyan University where he co-directs the Wesleyan Wasch Seminars, an adult education program. As a cultural historian, his lectures and publications deal with topics of importance through the imagined eye of a storyteller. Previous publications include dozens of print and online articles on topics of art, architecture, and design; a book of essays, Balancing Act: Postcards from the Edge of Risk & Reward (2015) and Hudson River Chronicles (2018), a work of historical fiction dealing with the life and times of painter, Thomas Cole (both, Hammonasset House Publishing). He speaks and lectures widely on topics related to the ‘Modern Era,’ a time during the 18th and 19th centuries when Western civilization was experiencing rapid change in the face of the Industrial Revolution and widespread political and social upheaval. He lives, paints, and writes in Branford, CT.

Recent Events:

Our interesting Summer/Fall 2021 Newsletter can be found here.

The Society hosted a Zoom presentation on the topic of “World War II Stories from Middletown on the 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor”, December 7, 2021 – Click here to see the recording of this event.

Holiday Reception and Exhibit Opening

6 thoughts on “Welcome to the Middlesex County Historical Society

  1. I assume it got its name because the Connecticut River ferry that ran back and forth between Middletown and Portland left from this street’s (one-time) intersection with the River. Perhaps someone can verify that for us?


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