Art Fraud , A 218-year old Cold Case, and the History Detectives From WHS

By Ramin Ganeshram, Executive Director, May 15th, 2019 Those who love history often find themselves thinking about it nearly all the time and in many contexts. Here at WHS our focus is on American history as demonstrated through the local Westport story, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in new discoveries about Ancient Egypt, or 19th Century Europe or Imperial China or the Pre-Colombian Western Hemisphere…you get the idea. It should come as no surprise, then, that even in our off-hours we at WHS chat with each other about history–from discussing what historical novels or bios to read next to what heritage sites we’ll visit over summer vacation to which are our favorite songs on the Hamilton sound track (mine are You’ll Be Back and Right Hand Man, for the record.) That’s why, when I was faced with an intriguing dilemma related to work that I had been personally doing as a historical novelist over the last decade, I enlisted the after-hours aid of Sara Krasne who is WHS’ Archives Manager and current chairperson. More than that, Sara is a talented genealogist and possibly an even bigger history geek than I am. And, together we solved a 218-year-old mystery that had stumped historians for decades revealing new information relating to none other than the life of President George Washington. So, what was our intriguing find? On a personal level, the portrait graced the cover of my novel. More than that as those of you who have visited WHS’ award-winning exhibit Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport can attest, the difficulty in rebuilding a picture of the lives of enslaved people cannot be overstated. Without that portrait, a tangible link to a remarkable figure was gone. I dwelled and ruminated on a lead based on what the painting …

Laughing At Ourselves

Through the years, the town of Westport has both been home to actors and directors as well as the backdrop for both the big and small screen. Films like The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit from 1956 and 2018’s Land of Steady Habits used Westport as a foil to explore hidden themes of the somber side of suburban life. Outside of town cameos, The Westport Historical Society has had its own share of roles as “character actor.” Happily, our parts have largely been of the comic sort. It may come as a surprise to many but at Westport Historical Society we like nothing better than to laugh at ourselves. Stop by on any given day and  what you’ll notice after you enjoy our eye-opening new exhibits, engaging programs and newly renovated gift shop is the fun banter, the laughter and general high spirits. Even though we’re always working hard to fulfill our mission in the best 21st century style, we have a lot of fun too. We take our mission very seriously. Ourselves? Not so much. (Anyone who follows our Instagram account Betsy_and_Sam will tell you that.) That’s why nobody is getting a bigger laugh at the current send up of the Society (Rebranded as the “Westport Historical Guild”) on ABC’s hit comedy, American Housewife. A regular feature of the current (and past seasons) the “Guild” is a passion of the main character’s husband, Greg who is ever at the ready for a re-enactment or an onion pie baking contest (an homage to the town’s onion farming history.) Certainly, the Guild’s denizens are over the top. One member has a humidor especially for his 18th century pantaloons collection. Others engage in a friendly game of “mead pong” at the Guild’s annual gala in a barn that looks suspiciously like …