Vicious Habits Rooted Out

Connecticut Residents Celebrate the New Year

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A Happy New Year. Greeting card, ca. 1910
The Connecticut Historical Society, Ephemera Collection
William Weston Patton. Diary entry for December 31, 1838
The Connecticut Historical Society, Ms 68129
Grace Burnham. Diary entry for January 1, 1901
The Connecticut Historical Society, Ms. 99335
Grace Burnham. Diary entry for January 1, 1910
The Connecticut Historical Society, Ms. 99335

The modern form of actual New Year's resolutions can probably be found with Benjamin Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanac" of 1738. In it, Franklin writes why it is important to get rid of old habits and make better ones around the New Year. Franklin wrote, "Each year one vicious habit rooted out, in time might make the worst man good throughout." Franklin's almanac published the first set of true New Year's resolutions in history.

From diary entries found in the library collection at The Connecticut Historical Society, it seems that New Year’s Day was not a momentous event in Connecticut in the 18th and 19th centuries. It might have been a time for contemplation of the past year or a warning that time was passing for everyone. Not until 1900 does anyone mention a party, and that was held at church. It was not until 1906 that the first ball dropped in Times Square.

Following are some examples of New Year’s entries from a variety of individuals’ diaries over a span of more than 100 years.

Hannah Hadassah Hickock, aged 19 at the time, and living in South Britain, Connecticut, wrote in her diary that on January 1, 1785 she “rose before light and helped to set Breakfast--did nothing but talk with Maria and read—had a fire in the Parlour and was exceedingly indisposed in the evening.” (Ms 100961)

Rev. William Weston Patton, an ardent abolitionist who served as pastor of the Fourth Congregational Church in Hartford from 1846 to 1857, noted in his diary one December 31, “The year 1838 has almost gone for ever. A few hours more and it will have gone into eternity for ever. Since my last entry in my diary [October7] have had many precious seasons particularly on the Sabbaths. 8 of my Bible class have to human appearance become Christian. . . .During the year 1838 I have been proud, self-righteous, censorious, rash and in a word very wicked. Yet God has often visited my soul the refreshings from on high.” (Ms 68129)

Abigail Foote Loomis, was a resident of Colchester, Connecticut. On New Year’s Day 1867, she noted “Stormy, nothing of importance took place killed turkey hens and commenced a new year perhaps the last to any of us” (Ms 70822)

Finally, Grace Burnham of Bloomfield, Connecticut, aged 11, wrote in 1900: “It is a nice day. Jeanie & I went to the church sociable and had ice cream and cake Happy New Year.” Ten years later, she wrote, “’Happy New Year’ There was a social at the Y.M.C.A. in Hartford but we didn’t go. I had a telephone from Mary Bloomer, Mrs. George Brown has a new “player piano” Mr. Brown plays it.” (Ms 99335)