This exhibition portrays a major New England port during the heyday of the West Indies trade, from the luxurious life of Middletown’s merchants to the suffering of enslaved workers in the sugar monoculture of the English Caribbean. Using the documents and possessions of Middletown merchants and mariners, two stories are told–of New England maritime opportunity, and its basis in a Caribbean economy dependent on the labor of enslaved people. We use local history to talk about the roots of past and present social issues, bringing these stories together through the lives of individuals who lived them.
The exhibit is located on the first floor of the Society’s headquarters, the General Mansfield House. Artifacts and documents help tell the stories of enslavement, wealth and commerce in 18th and early 19th century Middletown.
This short film (11:55 minutes) by Erik Hesselberg and Lee T. McQuillan introduces the people and issues explored in the exhibit.
The Making of “A Vanished Port”
A short video (3:56 minutes) by Connecticut Humanities.
Articles about A Vanished Port
Beals, Shawn R. Exhibit Explores Slavery’s Ties to Middletown Commerce in 1700s, 1800s. Hartford Courant, September 5, 2016. http://cour.at/2d4cB3k
Cavalone. Photos: A Vanished Port: Middletown and the Caribbean, 1750-1824 at the Middlesex County Historical Society. Middletown Press, September 7, 2016. http://bit.ly/2dmJTx1
Hesselberg, Erik. Vanished Port: Middletown and the Great Era of Caribbean Trade. Wesleyan Magazine, January 2011. http://bit.ly/2dlTR0T
Poisson, Cloe (photographer). Photo gallery of A Vanished Port: Middletown & the Caribbean, 1750-1824. Hartford Courant, August 2016. http://cour.at/2cG5AFp
Weinstein, Willis. A Vanished Port Showcases Middletown’s Dark Past. Wesleyan Argus, September 29, 2016. http://wesleyanargus.com/2016/09/29/a-vanished-port-showcases-middletowns-dark-past/
Whipple, Scott. Middletown Historical Society’s New Show Explores City’s Lost Maritime Past. Middletown Press, September 8, 2016. http://bit.ly/2cxjwPM