Thomas Robbins was a bibliophile who collected 4,000 books, an antiquarian who became the first librarian of the Connecticut Historical Society and a diarist who made an entry almost daily for 58 years.
He was born Aug. 11, 1777, in Norfolk, Conn., the son of a Congregationalist minister. He entered Yale College at 15 and began a diary In January 1796, the year he graduated, and he kept it for the next 58 years..
Thomas Robbins spent the next few years after college teaching, preaching and studying theology. In 1803 he went to Ohio to organize churches for the Connecticut Missionary Society. Six years later began his permanent library, making a catalogue of his 130 volumes, and determined to add at least 100 volumes a year as long as he lived.
He returned to Connecticut to preach and in 1831 he replaced his uncle as Congregational minister in Mattapoisett , Mass., in 1831.
It was in 1822 that he suggested the creation of a historical society for Connecticut. Three years later he was its recording secretary. In 1846 he became the historical society’s librarian.
He died on Sept. 13, 1856, In Colebrook, Conn., at the home of his niece. He bequeathed his library to the Connecticut Historical Society along with $3,000 to take care of his beloved books. The historical society also has his original shelves.
In April 1849, Thomas Robbins was working as the Connecticut Historical Society’s librarian in Hartford. He had an active social life and kept busy with his books and correspondence. On April 26, 1849, he made the following diary entry:
Yesterday we had a cannon ball brought in here, a thirty-two pounder fired through the house at Stonington from a British ship, in 1814, a donation of Miss Catherine Williams, of Providence. Had my mahogany table, lately purchased, fixed as a centre-table in my room. Read. Wrote.