Stamford, Connecticut – A Bibliography – Introduction

Thoughts and reflections on the creation of Stamford, Connecticut : A Bibliography

To many individuals, ‘bibliography’ usually evokes memories of fulfilling the requirements of a research paper for their teachers or professors. While others may consider it simply as a word in a crossword puzzle. Yet, bibliographies are more than an ambiguous subject. They are invaluable not only to scholars and the general reading public but for business, finance, industry, government, science and technology as well as many other disciplines. In addition to citing the authors’ sources, they serve researchers seeking further information on a particular discipline of knowledge.

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 these reference works became a conventional literary endeavor, culminating in the eighteen sixties with the start of Joseph Sabin’s multi-volume bibliography of Americana, which became a classic work in this field.

With the dawn of the twentieth century, Charles Evans embarked on his commanding bibliography of printed works produced in the United States prior to 1820. This, in turn was followed by a large number of bibliographical reference works. To cite just a few: Shaw & Shoemaker, The National Union Catalog (including all series and supplements), Library of Congress – American Library Association Pre-1955 imprints volumes, and the Bibliography of American Literature. In addition to this wealth of printed materials, there are computer programs and services plus of course, the internet.

During the early nineteen sixties, a concerted effort was begun by Robert M. Halliday to produce a card catalogue of the Stamford Historical Society’s printed library holdings. He felt that a number of these items, particularly pamphlets, might be relatively scarce, and in so doing, not only verified their existence but made them more accessible to researchers. He also proposed including color coded cards for works relating to Stamford which the Society did not have, but were available elsewhere. Although he could not finalize this aspect of the project, through it I became aware of the value of location citations. It appears then, that my initial idea of compiling a bibliography of Stamford evolved from Robert Halliday’s procedures.

A few years later Vivian Gluss, researching the Rev. Dr. Moses Mather of the Middlesex (Darien) Congregational Church, inquired if the Stamford Historical Society had any of his pamphlets and sermons. While at that time they did not have a single item by Mather amongst their holdings, 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 work 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 in 1912-13 by Oscar Wegelin titled “Bibliographical list of books and pamphlets related to or printed in Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut.” It listed a total of fifty items and was published in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, Volume VII, Number 1-2; remaining until recently as the only compilation of this type dealing specifically with Stamford. Another work with the title 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 [1981], Christopher Collier [1983] and Roger Parks [1986] enabled me to locate and cite works on Stamford, which were published after Wegelin’s initial compilation.

Obviously, a new Stamford bibliography would be desirable, but how to create one? I started on several occasions but the results were less than satisfactory for several reasons. To begin with, I had very little time available for such a potentially long term project. Then there were questions of style, extent of descriptions, location citations, abbreviations, etc., to say nothing of the all encompassing matter of format. Should it be produced on cards, individual sheets, in book form or what? Eventually the work was put aside, but not the idea.

Shortly after moving to its headquarters on High Ridge Road in 1984, 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 endeavor. Because of rapid developments in the field of electronic 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 acquiring data entry skills, I sought the expertise of Lawrence Bolanowski. Not only was he a fellow member of the Historical Society, but he utilized an identical computer at his place of business as well. After much trepidation, hesitation and whatever else individuals in this situation initially experience, I began learning the basics under his patient, thoughtful guidance. The result was that I started to acquire not only confidence in my ability, but an actual fascination with the potential that such devices had to offer. However, I must admit there are still times when I become somewhat perplexed and a little envious of those who appear to be totally attuned to the latest technological developments.

In the autumn of 1987, a group of Dr. David Mazza’s high school students from the Rippowam Cluster Program approached the Historical 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 1895-1915. Their primary question to me was: what books and pamphlets were available that included information on Stamford within this specific era? I was able to assist them, but not without some difficulty. How convenient it would have been if only there were a means to discover published works on the history of Stamford arranged by specific time periods. As it turned out, this was entirely feasible and is now included in my final work.

Throughout the spring of 1988, Alice (Brownie) Booth presented a number of perceptive, sometimes humorous questions and statements to me, regarding this future 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 bring this work into existence. In the summer of that year, the computer program Procite was acquired, which enabled me to produce the reference composition I sought to create and more. It has the capability to produce an annotated, indexed bibliography, with thousands of references and cross references to names and subjects.

One of the most interesting individuals I ever knew was Miss Grace Hope Walmsley, reference librarian at The Ferguson Library in Stamford.   Over the years she became a friend, advisor and mentor. Her comprehension of the library’s resources was profound, combined with a genteel, warm enthusiasm for American and British history, genealogy, ornithology and gardening. During her outstanding tenure of fifty-seven years at the library, she answered an inestimable number of inquiries from patrons, covering a vast spectrum of human knowledge. She had mentally developed an extensive store of information on the history of Stamford and its neighboring communities. Articles in periodicals and books not primarily relating to the history of this area, but nevertheless containing useful historical data germane to it, were of special interest to her. As with so many busy individuals, she unfortunately never found time to publish a significant portion of this knowledge.

During the course of this task, it became apparent that, to a lesser degree, my situation began to evolve along similar lines. I have mentally acquired a moderate amount of information about Stamford, which would eventually be lost, were it not for today’s computer technology. The books, pamphlets and journal articles would not in themselves be gone, only straight forward access to their contents.

In 1993 the first edition of this work was published. Within a short period of time it was accepted as a useful source by many seeking answers to a wide range of questions about the history of Stamford. Students at all levels from elementary schools to college and graduate institutions, reference librarians, realtors, newspaper reporters, educators, public relations consultants, historians, land use analysts, attorneys, historic preservationists, civil engineers, neighborhood associations, genealogists, photo archivists, homeowners and a host of others have found it to be of service in helping to resolve some of their queries. The fact that some copies in public libraries are beginning to show a little evidence of wear, is a silent testimony to its value. Also, numerous heartwarming comments received over the years as a result of the Bibliography’s accessibility on the Stamford Historical Society’s website stamfordhistory.org are most encouraging and rewarding.

Despite the priorities of family and work, including the daunting task of commuting, I had managed, in the interim since initial publication of this work, to complete several refinements of it. First of all, being dissatisfied with the initial indexing, I re-examined and made additional entries to sixty eight out of the original two hundred items (books, pamphlets, articles in journals, etc.). Upon completion of this, I then proceeded to add five hundred-sixty six supplementary items, many of which were brought to my attention by friends and associates. The number of name and subject terms in the index now stands at sixteen thousand, eight hundred and twenty two entries. Another improvement is the elimination of checking index numbers against a reference numeral list and then proceeding to the main entries. In this edition, simply consult the index and go directly to the main section utilizing the obtained numeral.

Most wondrous of all was the unexpected and for me a fortuitously positive experience of early retirement on 2 April, 2004. Euphoria hardly describes the phenomenon of this unanticipated, newly acquired status. Many friends at that time came forth with humorous quips, that I might possibly become bored after the initial reaction wore off. Of course, nothing of the sort occurred. While I am rather proud of my vocation as a scientific glassblower, most individuals in this situation have found it very beneficial to have an avocation outside of work as well. By then this was already thoroughly established through volunteering at the Stamford Historical Society since 1956. So with retirement, my priorities were realigned to devote a significant number of hours to my wife and family, while also amongst other projects, further enhancing this work at the Historical Society’s library.

Having experienced cardiac arrest twice within a few hours in November 1992 and heart bypass surgery in 2009, I am now acutely aware of just how fragile our mortal existence is.   Nearly every adult is cognizant of the fact that we have only a specified period of existence on this earth. Once spent, it cannot be renewed, regardless of an individual’s wealth or power. Bearing this in mind, each person at selected points in their life should deliberately set aside a certain measure of hours from their usual routine for creative or enjoyable endeavors. Along these lines, a few favorites of mine include spending time with my family and friends, reading, historical research, writing, watching sunrises, sunsets and scenic vistas; listening to music, appreciating art, architecture and (a singular preference) admiring autumn foliage in New England! In addition, I strongly believe that each of us should impart something of ourselves that is beneficial, back to the community in which we live.

This final edition of my bibliography is now submitted to the public in the hope that it will prove to be of use by succeeding generations researching the history of Stamford, Connecticut. It is very satisfying to know that a large portion of what I have learned about our city over the past fifty-six years will not eventually vanish. More significantly, in producing this work, I feel that I have achieved a sense of personal fulfillment regarding what one should do during their lifetime with a portion of that priceless, irreplaceable commodity, bestowed upon each of us by Divine Providence.

22 April 2012
Ronald Marcus

© 2012 Stamford Historical Society, Inc.


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