MERIDEN — Each Sunday in May, the Meriden Historical Society will be presenting the exhibit, “Vice in Meriden — Smoking Drinking Gambling — Meriden Items for Bad Habits” at the Andrews Homestead.
Sherwin Borsuk, president of the Meriden Historical Society, said the exhibit will display products that Meriden companies produced for smoking, drinking and gambling.
“There’s probably 150 or so different items related to these different habits,” Borsuk said. “Meriden in the 19th century into the depression or even later was a real hub of manufacturing and because these pursuits were so popular, they made many different kinds of products.
“It seemed to us that this would be something that the public would enjoy,” Borsuk added. “Lots of people smoke or have smoked, lots of people enjoy liquor or have enjoyed it and lots of people enjoy a trip to the casino, so we thought this would be a popular topic...”
The items include old advertisements, paraphernalia and matchbooks.
“Tobacco jars, a lot of stuff for drinking, old invoices from brewing companies, more than you can imagine,” said Bruce Rovinsky, Historical Society board member.
The items in the exhibit come from Borsuk and Rovinsky along with the Meriden Historical Society.
“Both of us are confirmed lovers of all things Meriden and these items come from our collections,” Borsuk said.
Rovinsky said he has been collecting Meriden items for years.
“One of the things that I actually have is an old cigar holder that you would smoke through,” Rovinsky said. “It’s actually made of lead and brass.”
As these habits are now considered to be bad, Rovinsky said it is important to recognize that when these products were made, these habits were considered normal.
“You went home and then you had a cigar or you went home and you drank,” Rovinsky said. “You got together and you gambled. It was a way of life. Now, if someone is sitting with a cigarette, it’s this mortal sin.”
Borsuk thinks the exhibit will invoke a sense of pride in the history of Meriden. Some of the items made in Meriden have been used all over the world.
“You can find Meriden cocktail shakers in Hollywood movies, you can find them in other countries and you can find a lot of the other products have spread not only in the local community as well as in foreign countries,” Borsuk said.
The exhibit will be open every Sunday in May from from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Andrews Homestead is located at 424 W. Main St.
Social distancing and mask wearing is mandatory and only a limited number of people can view the exhibit at one time. A video recording of the exhibit will be available on the society’s website.