The Stamford Historical Society, Inc., the municipal historian of Stamford, is an educational and research institution, whose primary functions are to collect, preserve, conserve, interpret, and exhibit materials relating to Stamford, Connecticut, and our region in order to engage citizens in the telling of their stories. Established in 1901 and incorporated in 1909, the Historical Society celebrated its 100th anniversary with an exhibit, 100 Years in the Making: Highlights from the Society’s Collections.
The Society is dedicated to preserving local history and providing opportunities for the community to understand and to experience the past through the presentation of exhibits and displays, lectures, demonstrations, special events and participatory programs. In particular, we preserve and offer tours of the unique Hoyt Barnum House, built in 1699. As the city of Stamford’s history center, we have a responsibility to all citizens of our community to preserve the varied experiences that reflect our cultural heritage.
The Stamford Historical Society was founded in 1901 and incorporated in 1909. Like most historical societies, organized at the beginning of the twentieth century, the then world of Stamford smokestack industries and immigrant labor was ignored. The Society’s founders looked for inspiration to an earlier, pre-smokestack time, and focused on collecting artifacts and objects from the 17th and 18th centuries.
As with many Americans of the era, the founders viewed the past as largely immutable, and their 17th and 18th century forebears as largely rooted in one spot. Today it is recognized that the constant movement of settlers has been an American trait since the first generation arrived, built their meeting houses, and excluded later arrivals from them.
The early Stamford Historical Society collections ignored Long Island Sound, and the town’s access to the sea, despite the evidence that Stamford was built where it is because of its access to the water.
The Society’s collections prior to 1979 concentrated on objects thought to have been made before machines, such as wooden implements, early furniture, ironware, earthenware, pewter and silver. The focus was also directed toward the interior agrarian economy and the American farmer. The fact that many of the forms that were part of the collection were made by industrial processes (lathes, molds etc.) and used division of labor (joiners and turners) was for the most part overlooked.
The 1699 Hoyt-Barnum House depicts Stamford’s colonial Puritan past through the inventory of Samuel Hoyt, blacksmith, who died in 1738. David Barnum’s 1838 inventory is also interpreted to reflect the farming, cottage industry era of Stamford before the canal and railroad transformed Stamford into a bustling, industrial town.
1979 was a turning point for the Society. It was in 1979 that The Society was named principal beneficiary of the Cruikshank Collection. The Collection is composed of objects without a tradition of Stamford ownership of manufacture. We now recognize that Stamford was a port town, connected to the world by water for much of its history, and that goods used in Stamford may not have been made locally. This present recognition brings us in line with modern scholarship, which recognizes the importance of constant movement and change in American history.
With the Society’s move to its present headquarters in 1984, the mission and purpose became more clearly defined. As an exhibits oriented and educational institution which collects, preserves, conserves and interprets materials relating to the history of Stamford and Connecticut between the 17th and 20th centuries, The Society reflects the diversity and change that this region has experienced.
We are the history center for the City of Stamford. What has happened and what is happening is being retained for future generations by The Stamford Historical Society.