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Adult Programs


Wolf by the Ears book cover

Book Talk by Dr. John Van Atta
Wolf by the Ears: The Missouri Crisis, 1819-1821

Thursday, November 19, 2015

From the early days of the republic, American leaders knew that a ticking time-bomb–the question of slavery—lay at the heart of national politics. For a time, an implicit understanding between North and South had helped to keep the issue at bay: Northern states tacitly agreed to respect the property rights of southern slaveholders, and in return, southerners essentially promised to view slaveholding as a practical evil to be dealt with farther down the road. By 1819–1820, westward expansion had brought the matter to a head. As Thomas Jefferson noted, a nation dealing with the politically implacable issue of slavery essentially held a "wolf by the ears.” It could neither let go nor hang on without consequences.

Van Atta deftly explains how the Missouri crisis revealed the impact that slavery had on American nation building. He explores the external social, cultural, and economic forces that gave the confrontation such urgency and examines the beliefs, assumptions, and fears that characterized both sides of the argument. Wolf by the Ears provides students in American history with an ideal introduction to the Missouri crisis while at the same time offering fresh insights for scholars of the early republic.*

Dr. John Van Atta is the Oaklawn Chair in American History at Brunswick School and a recognized master teacher since 1996. He has published a number of articles on Middle American History (1776–1861), and two earlier books, Securing the West: Politics, Public Lands, and the Fate of the Old Republic, 1785-1850 and A Place For Boys: Brunswick School and the Building of Young Men.

A short Q&A session and book signing will follow the lecture, and Wolf by the Ears will be available for purchase.

* Book description adapted from

Thursday, November 19, 2015, 7:00 to 8:00 pm

Vanderbilt Education Center

$10 for members; $15 for nonmembers. Reserve below or call 203-869-6899, Ext. 10.

Members: $10

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Non-members: $15

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candlelight dinner

Candlelight at Bush-Holley Historic Site

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Join us for a festive holiday evening when—only once a year—costumed interpreters lead “candlelight” tours through Bush-Holley House, Greenwich’s only Registered National Historic Landmark. In addition to your family-friendly walk through Bush-Holley House, there will be live music, hot chocolate, seasonal goodies, winter-themed crafts for kids and a special appearance by Santa Claus from 5:30–6:30 pm.

Tours are roughly 45 minutes long and focus on Christmas traditions as celebrated by the Bush family in the early nation period and later by the Holley family, who were residents in the early 1900s.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

5:00 to 7:00 pm

Admission is free to all. No reservations required.

Tours begin at the Vanderbilt Education Center


Curator-Led Tours of Greenwich Choices: 50 Objects that Illustrate our History

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Greenwich Choices: 50 Objects That Illustrate our History explores defining moments in Greenwich’s growth and development through objects drawn from the Historical Society’s collections. In two separate behind-the-scenes tours with exhibition curator Karen Frederick, visitors will have the opportunity to examine (along with the many other items on display) why an 18th-century, homespun shirt with a bullet hole, a bill of sale for a three-year-old slave boy and a congresswoman’s carefully preserved scrapbooks all represent important turning points in the town’s history.

Visitors will have the chance to ask questions, learn more about the selection process and to share their own responses to these unique objects. The exhibition, created in honor of the town’s 375th anniversary, provides fascinating insights into how choices made by earlier residents still resonate today and why it’s so important to collect and preserve items that document our local story.

Coffee with the Curator

Thursday, February 18, 2016, 10:30 to 11:30 am

Storehouse Gallery

Coffee will be served

Admission is free for both events

Space is limited. Reservations strongly recommended. Please call 203-869-6899, Ext. 10

Cancellation, Refund and Nonsufficient Funds Policy

A full refund for program and special events payments will be made up to 10 days before the program or event. Within 10 days of the program or event, no refund can be granted, but payments may be changed to tax-deductible contributions at payer's request. A fee of $25 will be charged for checks returned to us for nonsufficient funds.