Peter P. Hinks, Chair, Awards Committee
We have been blessed this year with a number of fine submissions for the Babbidge and Linsley Awards and for our new prize, The Bruce Fraser Award which commemorates the late Dr. Fraser, Director of the Connecticut Humanities Council from 1982 to 2010, and all his extraordinary labor over the years to support and promote the study, teaching, and preservation of Connecticut history and sharing that history with residents of the State of Connecticut. My committee colleagues—Amy Trout and Joe Avitable—and I, Peter Hinks, have carefully reviewed all of the nominations for this year and have settled on three among them to be this year’s recipients.
The Homer D. Babbidge, Jr. Award for 2012 is presented to Professor Lawrence B. Goodheart for his book, The Solemn Sentence of Death: Capital Punishment in Connecticut.Professor Goodheart’s book is an example of the finest scholarship on American legal and social history applied to a topic whose gravity and complexity pertains every bit as much to our own day as it does to the past. Moving from the seventeenth century, when as many as twenty-three offenses could be punished capitally, into the nineteenth and beyond when incarceration became the preferred punishment for all but first-degree murder, Goodheart carefully deploys such fundamental social categories as race, class, gender, and ethnicity to explain these dramatic changes. His probing exploration of the nationally trail-blazing and infamous subterranean state prison at Newgate, founded in the 1770s, is particularly engaging. One reviewer has observed enthusiastically that the book “is extraordinarily clear and well organized; it employs chronological divisions for chapters which facilitate the reader’s understanding of the shifting dynamics in the implementation of, and attitudes toward, capital punishment” and how broader social, economic, cultural, and demographic changes in the colony and state influenced those shifting dynamics. The reviewer well summarized: “As one moves from the earliest executions during the seventeenth century era of what the author calls ‘Biblical Retribution’ to the execution of Michael Ross in 2005, Goodheart offers a penetrating portrait of the state’s enduring ambivalence toward capital punishment.” It is an honor to recognize Professor Goodheart with this year’s Homer D. Babbidge Jr. Award.
The Betty M. Linsley Award for 2012 is presented to the Litchfield Historical Society for its book, Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town. Launched in 2006 by Catherine Fields, director of the Litchfield Historical Society, this historical project comprised an energetic collaboration of the Society’s Board members and highly skilled archival staff with the text’s author, Rachel Carley, an architectural historian and Litchfield resident. The result of their efforts is a well-researched and beautifully illustrated and printed volume which represents an important contribution to our understanding of the history of the often overlooked towns of northwestern Connecticut. It is with great pleasure that we present this year’s Linsley Award to Litchfield Historical Society.
The Bruce Fraser Award for 2012 is presented to the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission (CCWCC). The Awards Committee has found the Commission’s extraordinary service over the past many months to spur public remembrance and understanding of Connecticut’s comprehensive engagement with the Civil War. It exemplifies the highest dedication to the standards Bruce Fraser instilled for a broad civic involvement with the promotion and preservation of Connecticut history. Spearheaded by Professor Matthew Warshauer of Central Connecticut State University who was instrumental in the formation of the original Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Committee in 2009 and in securing the Executive Order in 2010 from Gov. Jodi Rell that created the CCWCC, the Commission has orchestrated what is possibly the most far-reaching cooperative effort of individuals, historical societies, businesses, libraries, museums, colleges, schools, and others to uphold Connecticut history that the state has ever seen. The accomplishments of the Commission and its hundreds—perhaps thousands—of partners are legion: a dynamic website—Connecticut Commemorates the Civil War—replete with calendar information, images, and a database on speakers and grants; numerous battlefield re-enactments and encampments which resourcefully drew on central public spaces to draw more people to the events; a highly successful Conference in March 2011; numerous exhibitions, lectures, and other public events at Connecticut museums and historical societies; publication in various state newspapers of prominently displayed articles on Connecticut and the Civil War written by Professor Warshauer and others. But perhaps the most enduring impact of the enterprising CCWCC will be—as one nominator articulated—to forge “an important model for future collaborative projects” promoting “Connecticut’s heritage landscape and history.” As the nominator continued: “One of the keys to the Commission’s success is the way in which it has invited groups to participate at any level, has refrained from dictating goals or mandating conditions for participation—other than helping to spread the word. By respecting organization’s unique conditions, needs and audiences, the CCWCC has helped bring them together in service to the people of Connecticut.” It is with great pleasure that ASCH presents its first Bruce Fraser Award to the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission.