The Stamford Historical Society Presents
The focus of the exhibit is on the development of
Stamford as a diverse community composed of representatives from many different
ethnic backgrounds. The exhibit begins by setting the context for later waves
of immigration by documenting the area's first settlement by individuals primarily
of English descent. Chronologically, the majority of the material presented
covers the years from the arrival of the railroad (1848) through the 1930s.
The first wave of migration was from Ireland. Later
waves of immigrants came from Poland, Italy, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Sweden,
and Germany, and each group carried with them a desire to make a better life
for themselves in Stamford. Each group also brought different traditions and
faiths from its country of origin. The exhibit documents the similar process
by which each group established itself in Stamford. Invariably, the first act
taken by recent immigrants was to found a society, usually with a religious
background. Once the immigrant group's population grew to a sufficient size
a church was established. The Irish successfully founded Stamford's first Roman
Catholic Church when St. John's was constructed, initially on Meadow Street.
The church became the center of social identity and community for each new immigrant
group. Each church also served as a center of social activities and mutual aid
societies as well as a locus for the preservation of Old World traditions. The
large gallery presents photos, images and items documenting the establishment
of each community.
The smaller side gallery is designed to illustrate
the living conditions faced by many of the large immigrant families. The gallery
is set up as a tenement. The kitchen area includes an old stove, kitchen implements,
and an ice-box. The back room is set up as a bedroom. The tenement represents
the typical 1920s apartment lived in by many of the more recent immigrants.
Personal recollections and stories by the Society's own Frank Zurzola have been
used as source material for the reconstruction of tenement lifeways.
The front hall is a reconstruction of Pacific Street,
which at one point stood at the core of Stamford's immigrant community. Pacific
Street was a microcosm of the larger downtown community for here immigrants
from all nations converged to do their shopping and business. The residential
community about Pacific Street was likewise a mixture of people from all over
Europe. Photos as well as articles of many of the stores on Pacific Street are
The Halliday Gallery completes the picture of immigrants'
experience. While the large red gallery focuses on community and neighborhoods,
and the smaller gallery portrays the hearth of immigrant families, the Halliday
Gallery shows the immigrants at work. Stamford has a number of nascent industries
when the first Irish laborers arrived in the 1840s. Immigrant labor drove the
expansion of industry in Stamford and provided opportunities for entrepreneurs
and industrialists to move their businesses to Stamford. By the end of the 19th
century, Stamford was a burgeoning center of industry best represented by the
Stamford Manufacturing Company, Getman and Judd Lumber, and the great lockworks
at Yale and Towne. It was the manufacture of locks at Y&T that gave Stamford
its earlier name: the Lock City.
The exhibit has been long in preparation and has
gone through a number of transformations and additions. SHS would like to thank
all those who donated pictures and materials to help us tell the immigrants'
story. Special thanks to the Jewish Historical Society
for pictures and materials, and to Walter Wheeler and Eva Weller who provided
the impetus for the exhibit with the Cultural Mosaic and whose many hours on
the project have made it a success.
Images from an early version of the educational tour of
Stamford Mayor Dannell Malloy accepts calendars for
2002 from the Stamford Historical Society
We are interested in immigration or
migration stories. Details.