Wilton Historical Society society prepares for two exhibit openings

If a rotary phone or manual typewriter seems ancient, what about a T-handle auger or froe club?

Anyone looking for a purpose for those last two items will surely find it at the Wilton Historical Society, with its new exhibition called Changing Times: Hand Tools Before the Industrial Revolution. The show opens Thursday, April 24, and runs through Oct. 4.

Its opening will coincide with the beginning of a second exhibit, Tavern Signs & Paintings, by Heidi Howard. The second exhibition will remain open through July 5.


Walter Smith, whose personal collection is featured in the exhibition, is an emeritus trustee with the society and a longtime tool collector.

“The Wilton Historical Society would not be what it is today without Mr. Smith,” society director Leslie Nolan said last week.

“There were more than a few people involved, but it cannot be underestimated what he has done for the society.”

In fact, she said, he had a hand in moving the Abbott Barn, the blacksmith shop, and the Fitch house to their current location on the property.

Mr. Smith first started his collection nearly 65 years ago, and has amassed more than 4,000 tools from the 18th and 19th centuries. Six hundred of those tools will be on display at the society.

“Rather eccentric shapes” and “worn wood handles” lend a folk-art quality to Mr. Smith’s collections, information from the historical society reads.

The display will include such exhibits as Looking Through the Windows of History — which outlines the progress of glass-making in Wilton.

“We did not have a glass industry in this country,” Mr. Smith told the historical society about the earliest windows. “The size [of windows] was dictated by that [glass] which we could get sent over from England.”

Residents will be lucky if they happen to visit the exhibition when Mr. Smith is in the building, said Katherine Demo, a member of the historical society team.

“He really is a treasure,” she said, “and he is very eager to share his knowledge. He knows so much, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge.”


Re-creations of 18th- and 19th-Century tavern signs by Eastford resident Heidi Howard will hang in the Sloan House Gallery until July 5, with an opening reception slated for 4 to 7 p.m. on April 24.

According to her website, Ms. Howard began to paint reproductions of historic trade and tavern signs “when her interest in early American country painted antiques collided with her artistic background.”

A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Howard is a trained fine artist who takes inspiration from her New England surroundings.

Information: wiltonhistorical.org or 203-762-7257.