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Stamford, Connecticut – A Bibliography

Random Thoughts on the Creation of Stamford, Connecticut – A Bibliography

Notes and Thoughts on the Second Print Edition

To most literate individuals, ‘bibliography’ usually evokes memories of fulfilling the requirements for a research paper by their teachers or professors, the sort of work prepared in an 'ivory tower' study to be read only in respective secluded quarters. For others it may simply be a word in the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. Yet bibliographies are invaluable not only to scholars, but for business, industry and the general reading public as well. In addition to citing the authors' sources, they serve researchers seeking further information on a particular subject.

Published lists of private and institutional book collections came into existence within the first two hundred years after the invention of printing by moveable type. By the beginning of the nineteenth century production of bibliographies became a conventional literary endeavor. In the eighteen sixties, Joseph Sabin started publishing his multivolume bibliography of Americana, which became the classic work in this field.

With the twentieth century, Charles Evans began his bibliography of printed works produced in the United States prior to 1800. A virtual avalanche of bibliographical reference works began to appear approximately after 1935. To cite just a few: Shaw & Shoemaker, Readex Microtext cards, The National Union Catalog (including all series and supplements), Library of Congress-American Library Association Pre-1956 Imprints volumes, and the Bibliography of American Literature. In addition to this wealth of printed materials, there are computer programs and services plus network systems between libraries.

During the early nineteen sixties, a concerted effort was begun by Robert M. Halliday to catalogue completely all book and pamphlet holdings at the Stamford Historical Society. He felt that a number of these items, particularly pamphlets, might be relatively scarce. In so doing, he was able to verify the existence of these materials and thus made them more accessible to researchers. Today the Society's excellent card catalogue stands as a result of his endeavors. He also proposed including color coded cards for works relating to Stamford which the Society did not have, but were available elsewhere. Although we could not finalize this aspect of the project, through it I became aware of the value of bibliographies which cite locations. It appears then, that my initial idea of compiling a bibliography of Stamford evolved from Robert Halliday's suggestions.

A few years later Vivian Gluss was researching the Rev. Dr. Moses Mather of the Middlesex (Darien) Congregational Church. She inquired if the Stamford Historical Society had any of his pamphlets and sermons. While at that time we did not possess a single item by Mather, I was able to discover several of his works in other institutions by consulting bibliographies that included location references. This experience enhanced my appreciation of Sabin, Evans, and others. Would a similar tome containing an alphabetical list by author, of books, pamphlets and articles about Stamford be worth the effort? Such an item had in fact, already been produced by Oscar Wegelin titled “Bibliographical List Of Books And Pamphlets Related To Or Printed In Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut.” It lists fifty items. Published in Papers Of The Bibliographical Society of America, Volume VII, Number 12, 1912-13, it remained until recently as the only compilation of this type dealing specifically with Stamford. Another work called Architecture Of Stamford, Connecticut: A Selected Bibliography by Anthony G. White appeared in 1989. Published by Vance Bibliographies, Monticello, Illinois, it lists sixty seven items, most of which are articles in architectural journals. In addition, publication of Connecticut bibliographies compiled by Thomas J. Kemp, Christopher Collier and Roger Parks have helped beyond measure to locate and cite works on Stamford published after 1912-/13.

Obviously, a new Stamford bibliography would be desirable, but how to create one? I started several times but the results were less than satisfactory. To begin with, I had very little time available for such a long term project. Then there were the questions of format, style, extent of work, location of books, abbreviations, etc., to say nothing of additional problems: should it be on cards, individual sheets, slips, in notebooks or what? Eventually the work was put aside but not the idea.

Shortly after moving to its headquarters on High Ridge Road, the Stamford Historical Society acquired a personal computer and printer. Initially, it was planned to use it primarily for maintaining and updating membership and mailing lists. I wondered if it had the potential to produce a bibliography. It did not take me long to learn that computers had already been in use for years by a number of libraries and individuals for exactly this type of work. Because of rapid developments in the field of data processing, my project was not only feasible but it could easily be expanded far beyond what I had originally envisioned. But, could I manage a computer?

Never having the opportunity of learning how to operate one I sought the expertise of Lawrence Bolanowski. Not only was he a fellow member of the Historical Society, but he used the identical model computer at his place of business. After much trepidation, hesitation and whatever else computer literate persons feel that they initially have, I began learning the basics under his patient, thoughtful guidance. Despite a near disastrous loss of data, I started to acquire not only confidence in my ability, but an actual fascination with the machine. In the Autumn of 1987, a group of Dr. David Mazza's high school students from the Rippowam Cluster Program came to the Society Library with an unusual request. For their assignment, each of them had to study a single aspect of Stamford's City government (i.e., police and fire protection, sanitation, education, taxation, parks, etc.) within the years 1895 to 1915. The question presented to me was: what books and pamphlets were available that included information on Stamford within this specific time frame? I was able to assist them, but not without some difficulty. How convenient it would have been if only there existed a list of published works on the history of Stamford arranged by specific time periods. If this were feasible, it certainly should be included in my proposed bibliography. The computer program we eventually acquired has enabled me to create the reference work I wanted and more. It has the capability to create an annotated, indexed book, with thousands of references and cross references to names and subjects.

During the Spring of 1988, Alice (Brownie) Booth presented a number of perceptive, sometimes humorous questions and statements to me, regarding my proposed project. She made no secret of her aversion to computers and yet seemed intrigued by what they could do for librarians and historians. Through her generosity and constant encouragement I have been able to begin what some time ago was but an idea.

By June 1991 it was apparent that despite three years' of effort, my project was proceeding at a very slow pace. The reasons for this dilemma were primarily due to two factors. First of all, I am employed fulltime in Fairfield, Connecticut and must be there for the greater part of each day during the week. Secondly, the computer program that I am using allows me to enter up to twenty pages of name and subject references for each book, pamphlet or article in a periodical and that's a terrible temptation! After lengthy discussions with Historical Society members, especially Robert Towne, the problem was resolved by restricting the number of entries in the index section for each item. The time saved enabled me to enter many additional items, resulting in a more inclusive bibliography.

One of the most interesting individuals I ever knew was Miss Grace Hope Walmsley, reference librarian at The Ferguson Library. Her comprehension of their resources was profound, combined with a genteel, warm enthusiasm for American and British history, genealogy, birdwatching and gardening. During her tenure of fifty-seven years, she answered countless inquiries from patrons, covering almost every conceivable field of knowledge. She had mentally developed an extensive store of data on the history of Stamford and its neighboring communities. Articles in periodicals and data in books not primarily relating to the history of this area were of special interest to her. Unfortunately, the authors' names, titles and locations of these sources were lost upon her death. As with so many busy individuals, she never thought of taking the time to commit what she knew to paper.

Over the past few years, it became apparent that, to a lesser degree, my situation began to evolve along similar lines. I have acquired a moderate amount of information about Stamford in my mind, which eventually would suffer the same fate as Miss Walmsley's were it not for today's computer technology. The books, pamphlets and articles in journals would not in themselves be gone, only easy access to them. Having experienced cardiac arrest twice within a few hours in November 1992, suddenly made me acutely aware of just how fragile our mortal existence is. It is very satisfying to know that a large portion of what I have learned about our City over the past thirty seven years will not be scattered or lost. This first edition of my bibliography is now submitted to the public in the hope that it will prove to be of use by succeeding generations who may wish to research the history of Stamford, Connecticut.

Ronald Marcus

© Stamford Historical Society, 1995, 2004

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