Stuck Inside Of Mobile

Erika Carter has lived in Westport for 6 years. She’s from Mobile, Alabama though, and last month was down home visiting family.

Her mother took her to an estate sale. A picture hanging on a warehouse wall caught her eye. She recognized it instantly: Westport.

For $5, it was hers.

WHS print

Erika thought its rightful place was the Westport Historical Society. They were happy to accept the gift.

Archives director Sven Selander was particularly pleased. He’d never seen that image of Westport before.

A bit of digging revealed that the scene came from a book with the catchy title of Connecticut Historical Collections, containing a general colleciton of interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, &c. Relating to the History and Antiquities of Every Town in Connecticut, with Geographical Descriptions: Illustrated by 190 Engravings.”

The book was published in 1836, in New Haven.

Archives volunteer Sara Krasne says that a page from the book with the scene of Westport was removed. Someone then hand-colored the engraving, and framed it. How it migrated south to Mobile is anyone’s guess.

Now it’s “home” — thanks to an eagle-eyed Southerner-turned-Yankee.

PS: The Historical Society does not have a complete edition of the book from which the engraving was taken. If anyone has a copy to donate, they’re happy to accept it too.

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

10 responses to “Stuck Inside Of Mobile

  1. kathleen burke

    Dear Dan:

    John Warner Barber travelled by coach from town to town in the mid 1800s and sketched these “views” to make wood engravings. Sometimes assistants helped, but he was the publisher and initial creator. He covered the Amistad trial in New Haven, and created a broadside about that trial that may be in the collection at the Fairfield Museum, if not the Westport Historical Society. Many of his views became part of each town’s seals. ( Town Seals tend to get modernized and change from time to time, but many original designs used Barber’s “views”.) He was a pioneering entrepreneur and renaissance man; abolitionist, reporter, publisher and artist. Books called Collections exist for New York, New Jersey and many other states, but Connecticut’s was a very popular book for its time.

    How wonderful that that hand colored page returned to the very book it may have come from.

    here is a bit more about him:

  2. Morley Boyd

    A cropped version of the Barber woodcut is indeed featured in our town seal. A full size version appears, among other places, on the front plate of former Town Historian and longtime Clerk, Edward Coley Birge’s 1926 book WESTPORT CONNECTICUT, The Making of a Yankee Township. This nice little tome is packed with information about early Westport that can’t be found elsewhere.

    • Wendy Crowther

      Since Dan’s blog is all about connections, here’s another one. Edward Coley Birge (mentioned above by Morley) was the grandson of Squire David Coley whose house was identified in Dan’s blog (This Old House #10) a few days ago. One of David Coley’s barns (located on the former Geiger site) was dismantled in part over the last few weeks to make way for a new mixed use development. However, as I drove by the Geiger site this morning, the remaining portion of the barn (which looked like at least half of it) was being crushed into a dumpster). Why did the promised deconstruction come to an end? Some deadline? I’m livid.

  3. Peter Barlow

    The left half of that image appears on the cover of Woody Klein’s recent Westport book merged into a later photo by Miggs Burroughs who designed the cover. So, there must be other copies of this image. Ask Miggs.



  5. Amee Borys

    Go Erika! That is an amazing find 🙂

  6. We have the same image! We bought it at the art fair years ago when it was on Main St. We have the whole page from the book described above. I would post an image of it if I could figure out how to do that. We would be happy to give it to the Historical Society.

  7. Ann Marie Flynn

    Congratulations all. Your great input is helping to tie it together. Once one word in Westport is said about our history, what follows is amazing. Thank you.

  8. Wendy Crowther

    I have a book published in 1990 entitled Barber’s Views of Connecticut. In my book, the above drawing appears as an ink wash. The book includes much of Barber’s artwork and also describes Barber’s life and artistic methods. Typically he would start with a pencil sketch. Later he’d create an ink wash of the same scene. Finally he’d create a woodcut of the exact same scene. Each step along the way would include additional detail, especially via the woodcut’s crisp, linear chisel cuts.

    Barber would typically choose a view that included a road or a river running into the distance to add perspective. He also included human figures often as viewers of the same scene. Each of these elements can be seen above in Barber’s engraving of Westport.

    My book includes another Westport scene by Barber, also as an ink wash. It is entitled South View of the Saugatuck Bridge and Village. In the left foreground, a man stands on a dock looking upriver at the bridge. Sailboats and rowboats cruise by. A portion of the Saugatuck Congregational Church appears at the right edge (long before it was moved across the Post Rd. to its present site).

    Barber’s original book, “Connecticut Historical Collection,” was tremendously popular in its day. Six additional editions were printed. Estimates claim that 20,000 copies were sold – a huge number for that time.

    Kudos to Erika Carter for her good eye and generous contribution to our town’s history.