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The Charter Oak at Hartford

c. 1846
19th Century
24 in. x 34 1/4 in.

Frederic E. Church, (1826–1900)

Medium and Support: oil on canvas mounted on masonite
Credit Line: Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
Accession Number: 2002.1.29
The Charter Oak is a symbol of the spirit of independence that began the American Revolution. In 1687, Connecticut stood alone in New England in defying James II's orders to relinquish a 1662 charter that had given the colonies self-government. Legend has it that the candles went out suddenly at the showdown meeting and the charter vanished - into a hole in an ancient oak tree down the street which was said to have been a council tree of the Native Americans who watched for its leaves to appear in the spring to indicate the proper time for planting corn. When the tree was felled by a violent storm in 1856, a counting of its rings determined it to be almost a thousand years old.

The painting depicts the grand old tree with a fence just beyond it and the tiny figure of a woman to its left.

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