The Lost Scrapbooks Finally Have a Home!

First, a little background.

My grandfather was born Joseph Smith on September 30, 1924 in New York, New York.  He was adopted by Walter and Ruth Gallagher on December 4, 1928, and given the name John Joseph Gallagher.

Walter Wiltse Gallagher was the oldest of six children of William J. “Billy” and Mary Gallagher.  He was born February 22, 1902 in New York, New York.  Walter married Ruth Burrows around 1921.  John Joseph was their only son.  Ruth passed away in April 1971, and Walter married a woman named Marie Talmo.

When Walter passed away in September 1973, instead of offering Walter’s belongings to his only son, Marie decided she would just divvy everything between her nieces and nephews (she had no children of her own), and donate the rest to the Ridgefield Public Library without mentioning them to Walter’s family.

But I’m not bitter.

Fast forward to 40 years later … we are finally made aware of the existence of these scrapbooks quite by accident.  We were told there were three or four of these books.   My mom, two of my aunts, and I traveled to Ridgefield, New Jersey, to look at the scrapbooks ourselves.

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We discovered a total of at least 11 scrapbooks (I’m still not convinced that we found them all) and 5 other books that were donated in his name (Police Journal magazines and Chief’s Association Annual Meeting Books).  The scrapbooks date from the early 1920s to the mid 1960s.  We made a request to the Board of Trustees of the library to allow us to borrow or have the scrapbooks, and they agreed to let us have them.  As I scan them for my blog, I will be putting them on a CD so I can provide a digital copy to the library when it’s all done.

There are very few articles and photos that are dated, and even fewer that contain the name of the newspaper from which they were cut.  Several of the articles are duplicates – possibly from multiple newspapers.  I can’t begin to imagine how many bottles of rubber cement were used.

I will attempt to date as many of the articles as I can and post them chronologically, in an effort to tell the stories of my great grandfather, Walter Gallagher, and his father, Billy Gallagher.  Occasionally, I will make a mistake.  So, I’ll say it ahead of time … oops.  Ultimately, this blog may read like the story of the Ridgefield, New Jersey Police Department, because it played such a huge role in my great grandfather’s life and the majority of the newspaper clippings are related to his activities within the police department.  There will also be people (criminals and victims alike) who are named within the articles that are no relation, but I feel compelled to list them since I know of no other place that the Ridgefield area newspapers are archived and searchable online.

My intent is to post at least one article per week – hopefully more.  I just hope you enjoy watching the story unfold as much as I will enjoy telling it!


16 thoughts on “The Lost Scrapbooks Finally Have a Home!”

  1. This is FABULOUS! I’ll be watching your process with this as I have a bunch of my grandfather’s scrapbooks that pertain more to the history of the area rather than him and I’d love to somehow get the information in the right hands. Good luck with your project! And I’m doing a happy dance for you 🙂

    1. Thanks, Debi! This will be a total learning experience for everyone, I think. As I go through and scan everything, I’m also going to try to get it into some archival quality storage too (I promise, they were only on the floor long enough for me to take a picture!) 🙂 So yeah – lots of learning.

    1. Thanks, Uncle Jay! I’m glad you stopped by to check out the blog. Keep watching – there’s some pretty cool stuff in these scrapbooks!

  2. Congratulations on having the scrapbooks back. It maybe that as newspapers come on line or you have access to archive copies that you can identify what paper and date. A loooonnnnnggggg (long) job.

    1. Thanks Julie! It is a long job, but one I’m actually looking forward to (which may or may not be an effort to avoid doing all the other stuff that needs to be done). I’m searching for the newspaper articles as I go, so hopefully one day they will appear. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to get them in the proper order chronologically.

    1. It is very exciting, Kristin! I’m just glad to have our family’s history back in the family. I hope I can do the story justice. 🙂

  3. Welcome to GeneaBloggers! What a treasure trove you have finally found, and kudos to you for blogging about the scrapbooks so the world has access to this information. Folks who are interested in theatre history would find some of this very useful, in addition to your family. Keep up the good work!

  4. What a treasure trove!! At least Walter’s 2nd wife didn’t just throw everything out. How were you made aware that the scrapbooks were in the library in NJ?

    1. Carol, We are fortunate that Marie didn’t destroy the scrapbooks. My aunt is the one who actually discovered that they existed. I don’t know if the library contacted her or if she contacted them. Either way, I’m thankful 🙂

  5. Jenny,

    I went to the New Jersey Archives this past Thursday, looked at the 1919, 1920, and 1921 Marriage Records. There were NO Walter Gallagher’s mentioned. Williams, yes but no Walters.

    Because I was looking at microfilm, I browsed the Ga’s so see if there was a miss spelling. No such luck.

    The listing by the female name wasn’t readily available.

    I wanted to get down there to look this up for you, but hadn’t expected not to find what I was looking for, based on the information you provided to me.

    I need to re-group, and do some research ahead of my next visit to create my FAN club for Walter.



    1. Russ, I appreciate you going to look that up for me. Let me know when you plan to go back and I can get you more detailed information. Thanks!

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