The Mattatuck Museum will host a special evening event on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 from 5:30 to 7: 30 p.m. to discuss the latest scientific research on the bones of “Fortune,” an African-American man who was enslaved by a Waterbury bone surgeon in the 1700s. The discussion will be led by a panel of faculty members from Quinnipiac University and Central Connecticut State University. Professor Gerald Conlogue, co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac University, will introduce the discussion.
“We performed a comprehensive x-ray and anthropological study of Fortune’s skeleton,” said Professor Gerald Conlogue, co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac.
Conlogue and his colleagues, Natalie Pelletier, clinical assistant professor of diagnostic imaging, and Robert Lombardo, an adjunct professor of diagnostic imaging, worked with Jaime Ullinger, an assistant professor of anthropology at Quinnipiac and her students, and Richard Gonzalez, a forensic anthropologist and assistant professor of medical sciences in the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac, to examine Fortune’s skeleton to learn more about his life and death.
Ullinger and her students performed a bioanthropological analysis. In addition, she used a 3D scanning camera that produced data that was used for a facial reconstruction. Gonzalez performed a forensic anthropological analysis to confirm that the skeleton in fact represents the remains of Fortune and to determine a possible cause and manner of death.
“They have produced a record that will last forever,” Conlogue said. “This is an interdisciplinary educational project that will prove to be very beneficial.”
In addition to the 3D scanning, the researchers used a 3D printer that makes replicas of the bones, demonstrating pathology. Additional medical technology enabled them to reconstruct Fortune’s face.
“I think the facial reconstruction will be wonderful,” Conlogue said. “People can really identify with something you can put a face to.”
Fortune is the subject of a new permanent exhibit at the Mattatuck Museum. Details of his life and the city of Waterbury during the 1700s can be found at http://www.fortunestory.org/fortune/.
Fortune, his wife, Dinah, and their three children were the legal property of Dr. Preserved Porter, a Waterbury physician. Fortune also had an older son, Africa, whose mother was not known. Fortune and his family lived on Porter’s farm, east of the center of the city. It’s believed that while Porter tended to his medical practice, Fortune may have worked on the doctor’s farm, which produced rye, Indian corn, onions, potatoes, apples, beef, hogs, cider, hay, oats and buckwheat. Dinah is believed to have worked in the Porter’s home, cooking and cleaning. It’s believed that Fortune and his family were hired out on occasion to work in other families’ homes. Fortune, who was about 60 years old, died in 1798 and it’s believed that his children were sold off shortly after his death. By 1800, only Dinah remained in the Porter household.
After Fortune’s death, Porter prepared his skeleton to serve the study of anatomy, according to the Mattatuck Museum. Fortune’s bones have provided scientific evidence to document the circumstances of his life. His rugged bone structure suggests that he was powerful man accustomed to rigorous farm work. Early historians wrote that Fortune drowned after falling into the Naugatuck River, but the circumstances surrounding his death are controversial.
Fortune’s remains will be put to rest on Thursday, September 12, 2013. The Mattatuck Museum invites the Greater Waterbury community to join the burial and funeral service, which will take place from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. The service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Green in Waterbury and will be followed by his interment at Riverside Cemetery. After the services there will be a reception at the Mattatuck Museum.
Significant support for the ceremony and burial service is being provided by The Alderson Funeral Homes, Inc., St. John’s Episcopal Church, Riverside Cemetery, the Governor’s Foot Guard of Connecticut, the Waterbury Police Department and O’Rourke & Birch Florists, all of whom are donating services to the event.
The event is free and the public is welcome to attend. Please RSVP in advance by calling (203) 753-0381, ext. 110.