Dick Johnson submitted this report on last week's oral history project on the Scovill Manufacturing Company sponsored by the Mattatuck Museum of Waterbury. Thanks! dick provided the below postcard image of the Scovill plants in Waterbury Connecticut about 1900 when it was striking coins for foreign countries.
For years I read the obituaries in the Waterbury newspaper occasionally seeing reference to their being a former Scovill employee. Wouldn't it have been useful to have interviewed that person before they died I thought.
Then in February this year I received an email from a lady in Georgia who said she was Scovill's archivist. She found one of the articles in The E-Sylum that I had written about Scovill and contacted Wayne Homren (he forwarded her initial email). Her email astounded me.
I had thought Scovill was completely out of business. But one small division which made zippers and fasteners had moved to Georgia in 1955. It has prospered (even after selling the zipper business) while all other divisions were acquired by giant corporations and closed down for the most part.
Emails and phone conversations with Cathy Sigmon blossomed. I mentioned interviewing old Scovill employees. She liked the idea, so I developed a plan to conduct several days of interviews at a museum in Waterbury. That museum would receive the taped interviews as a rare oral history resource for their archives, as would her archives.
Cathy obtained permission from the president of Scovill, Craig Stoudt, to sponsor the project. I presented the concept to Robert Burns, the director of the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury. We received approval at every turn.
The week in May we chose occurred last week. We received publicity for our project in the local newspaper along with three newspaper ads announcing the event. These invited local citizens to come to the museum to be interviewed. We filled every time slot, an hour apart for 2 1/2 days, with two occasions when we conducted interviews in separate rooms at the same time.
We did not ask for donations. But we did ask for interviewees to bring some item about Scovill to help recall their memories. To our surprise many wanted to donate these items. They had been thinking of doing this for years many stated. This presented the opportunity.
I established the priority beforehand. The Mattatuck Museum had first choice of any donated item. What they did not want would go to Cathy's archives in Georgia. To our surprise we received: three paintings, one bound set of six Scovill Bulletins, the company magazine, numerous company pamphlets, sales literature, lots of photographs and correspondence (and two minor products).
It wasn't until the program at the end of the three days that three speakers give their recollections of Scovill that one gentleman pulled out a bag of Scovill mementoes he had saved. The last thing he showed me were the only numismatic items of the week -- two transportation tokens struck by Scovill.
But the experience of learning so much about the company I didn't know, adding to two archive collections, and recording some first-hand recollections for future researchers, was of spectacular value. I would do it again.
One of the best things about The E-Sylum is our ability to connect people with a common interest in numismatic research. I was happy to put Cathy in touch with Dick, and am delighted to learn of the success of their history project. The most important thing researchers can do TODAY is to record information for future generations. Kudos to Cathy and Dick for making this happen.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
SCOVILL SUBJECT OF MUSEUM ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Wayne Homren, Editor
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.
To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor
at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe go to: https://my.binhost.com/lists/listinfo/esylum
Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.
NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster