During my recent visit to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, I decided to consult the City Directories for Utica, New York, to see what they said about the Littlecote Hobby Shop.
Beginning in 1939, Steber's Utica City Directory listed Lee Jeffreys as President of the Little Cote Stamp Shop Inc., 249 Genesee. (1) Lee Jeffreys happens to be the father–in-law of my aunt PAULINA TAYLOR JEFFREYS. W. Earl Hamlin is listed as the secretary-treasurer. This is an interesting bit of news since Jeffreys was on the Taylor side of my family and W Earl Hamlin was on the Williams’ side.
In the Steber’s Utica City Directory 1940-41, the hobby shop’s name had changed to the Littlecote Hobby Shop and the only name listed is W. Earl Hamlin. Okay, there must have been a sale and a name change. Good information. According to the directory, the Littlecote Hobby Shop sold "collectors items, hobbycraft, stamps and coins." (2) This information stays the same in the 1941-1942 and the 1942-1943 directories.
In the 1943-1944, 1944, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 directories, the listing is for toys only. Maybe stamps and coins weren’t selling or maybe the ad was less expensive with fewer words. Then in 1957 the listing becomes: hobbies, toys and games.
My Uncle Earl is listed up to and including 1952. He died January 1, 1953. The Steber’s Utica City Directory 1953 lists Mrs. Isabel W. Hamlin. This continues until the 1957 directory. Unfortunately, the 1958-1960 directories were not available. The Polk’s Utica City Directory 1961 lists a different owner (Mrs. Kathryn Perreault). (3) Isabel died in March of 1966.
So what have I learned by examining city directories? I learned that the Hamlins apparently purchased the hobby shop from someone who was connected to my family. I discovered that there was a name change around 1940. If I want to try and obtain business records, I now have an approximate date to work with. I saw how the advertisements in the City Directory tracked the lives and deaths of my aunt and uncle. I also have the approximate date when my aunt sold the store.
For further reading on the value of city directories for genealogy, I highly recommend Kory Meyerink’s article entitled “Effective Use of City Directories, “ProGenealogists, 2006 (http://www.progenealogists.com/citydirectories.htm: accessed September 26, 2012).
(1) Steber's Utica City Directory 1939. Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., Inc., Publishers, 1909, p. 313.
(2) Steber’s Utica City Directory 1940-41. Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., Inc., Publishers, 1909, p. 313.
(3) Polk’s Utica City Directory 1961, Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., Inc., Publishers, 1961, p. 446.