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The Stamford Historical Society: Inventoried Collection

Whitman Bailey Drawings

Whitman Bailey and his Sketches

Beginning in 1924 and continuing for the next thirty years, Whitman Bailey's sketches appeared in the Stamford Advocate almost weekly. Black and white drawings of local scenes, the sketches were accompanied by brief vignettes of the scene. Mostly factual, at times the stories presented were local folklore faithfully transmitted for the interest of the reader.

Whitman Bailey was born in 1884 and lived in Providence, R.I. until 1891, completing his third year at the Classical High School in Providence. That year, at age 17, he was accepted at Howard Pyle's art school in Wilmington, Delaware, the youngest student ever accepted at this auspicious school. Here Mr. Pyle discovered his promising pupil was color blind and gave him the following advice,

“Whitman, you do not need to give up your art work because you are color blind. You have a rare understanding of shades in black and white, and I think you have a future in that field. Draw in black and white and avoid colors. And remember, an artist must have great talent to sleep late.”

Whitman took Pyle's advice and at age 19 opened a studio at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn. There he accepted commissions and took a one year course in art at the Pratt Institute.

In addition to his artistic ability, Bailey was also a talented pianist, proficient at mounting butterflies, and something of an authority on history.

When his father died in 1914, Whitman returned to Providence to be with his mother, working for Boston and Rhode Island newspapers for some nine years. In 1923 Bailey and his mother moved to New Canaan, where his sister, Margaret, lived. She was teaching in New York City at Miss Chapin's School. Soon thereafter he began his affiliation with the Stamford Advocate.

While his career advanced with several magazines, Whitman also began the task of distributing the historic papers of his family. Papers of his mother's grandfather, James Fowler Simmons, who served in the U.S. Senate during the Civil War, included letters from Lincoln, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and others. Simmons' letters authenticated a link in American history relating his successful efforts in establishing a lasting boundary peace between the United States and Canada. Bailey also placed other family history materials in appropriate locations in Rhode Island, Boston and West Point where his grandfather, Jacob Whitman Bailey had been a scientist of note. Whitman's father, Dr. William Whitman Bailey, a botanist at Brown University, kept a diary as botanist of the Clarence King Botanical Expedition to California. This diary is now at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, N.Y.

Whitman Bailey was one of the organizers of the Stamford Museum. He was well informed on Stamford and its history, in addition to being recognized as an authority on Massachusetts and Rhode Island history.

Whitman Bailey died November 3, 1954 in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Talented scion of an illustrious heritage, Whitman Bailey brought black and white art to new heights as one of the few nationally recognized artists in that genre. His simple illustrations of scenes that no longer exist in Stamford, Greenwich and other locales, are in many instances the only remaining record of these places. We owe him and his pen a considerable debt of gratitude. ¹

Dorothy H. Mix
Research contributed by Robert Rodwin
Data entry by Jeffrey Littlestone
Captions of images by Ronak Mehta

Table of Content, Box 1
Table of Content, Box 2

¹Artist Whitman Bailey was a master of black and white drawings. His sketches picturing local scenes, many of which no longer exist, are filled with detail arid wonderfully accurate. The stories which accompany the drawings are always interesting. At times, however, they are mostly folklore passed on to Mr. Bailey by residents of the areas where he was sketching. In those instances he had no way of determining the truth of the story. Nor have we. It is presented as a sidelight to the sketch. Therefore, researchers are cautioned to regard these tales as local color, interesting, thought provoking, but sometimes not entirely factual.

Thanks to the work of our library volunteers, the sketches by Whitman Bailey have been collated and scanned and are available for viewing at the computer in the Marcus Research Library. They are in a searchable database, sorted by town and street.

Note: Some clippings are reprints labeled: "The Stamford Advocate, drawing on its files from pencil sketches by the late Artist-Historian Whitman Bailey, is republishing Mr. Bailey's sketches together with the historical beackground written by Mr. Bailey."

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