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Fred Otto Makowsky Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 2000-0039

Scope and Content

The Fred Otto Makowsky Papers consist of photographs taken by Makowsky and papers collected by him.

The photographs consist of over 4000 images of New Haven Railroad and other American steam and electric locomotives, multiple unit cars, and trolleys, and scenes of Stamford, Connecticut. Most of the images were removed from the original albums, given unique identifying numbers, and sleeved in mylar enclosures. The photographs of Stamford, Connecticut, remain in their original album compiled by Makowsky.

The papers consist of train tickets, newspaper clippings, correspondence to Makowsky, and other railroad-related printed materials.

In addition, two models of New York & New Haven Railroad coaches, built by Makowsky in 1936, are on permanent display in the Reference Room, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Dates

  • 1890s-1952

Access

The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraries and the owner(s) of the copyright.

Biography

Fred Otto Makowsky was born in New York City on 26 July 1888. His father, Otto Maxmillian Makowsky, immigrated from Germany. When Fred was at an early age, his family moved to Stamford, Connecticut, where his father opened a successful barbershop on Relay Place.

Young Fred demonstrated a keen interest and an exceptional skill in crafting things at an early age. At age 13 he built his first model train, a sleeper passenger coach. It was built of cardboard, well- lacquered and painted and had wheels of thread spools. When 14 he built a working paddle wheel boat by modifying a small rowboat. Although he had several varying interests at that time, such as collecting butterflies, Indian arrowheads, and stamps and coins, his real love was railroads. He wanted to work in railroading, but his father discouraged such a "new-fangled" pursuit and directed him to engage in work of "more substance", such as bookkeeping. And so he obtained a job as bookkeeper, accountant working for the coal firm of Graves & Strang. He also had a job more to his liking -- engraving tombstones for Bounty's Monuments -- and did so well that he won a design contest for a Stamford City Monument.

Throughout his life, Fred Makowsky continued to be lured by railroads. On weekends he traveled throughout the country to view various cars or railroad stations, which he photographed. Over the years, he acquired an extensive collection of railroad timetables, train tickets, posters, photographs and other railroad memorabilia. He spent countless hours crafting metal railroad cars, paying attention to minute details in an effort to recreate them as perfectly as possible. All of these cars ran in his attic under electric power. He also crafted the tracks, along with realistic scenery, tunnels, turntables and other models.

Fred made it a point to attend the Chicago World's Fair to view the Railroad Exhibition, as well as the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1937 he was offered a job designing and making scenery for backgrounds for exhibits for the New York Fair. However, he turned down the job offer, saying that if his hobby became his work it would cease to be fun.

Fred led a very modest life as a bachelor, living in Springdale, Connecticut, with his sister, who also never married. However, his spare time was filled with the vicarious excitement of a new and fascinating means of travel. Although he never could pursue the career he so longed for, one can't help but think that at least he could imagine what life would have been like as a railroad engineer as he crafted his trains, or browsed through his collections. He died on 23 December 1952, leaving a wealth of railroad memorabilia that would live long after him for others to enjoy as he did.

Written by Roy Makowsky, donor of the Fred Otto Makowsky Papers.

Extent

6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Fred Otto Makowsky Papers consist of photographs taken by Makowsky and papers collected by him. The photographs consist of over 4000 images of New Haven Railroad and other American steam and electric locomotives, multiple unit cars, and trolleys, and scenes of Stamford, Connecticut.

Organization

Series I: Photographs (undated, 1890s-1952) consists of 14 binders of over 4000 photographs of New Haven Railroad and other railroads' locomotives, trains, trolleys, and stations. Makowsky labeled each photograph with such information as location and date taken, with pertinent information about the image (for example, he described steam locomotives in terms of engine number and wheel alignment). Each photograph is fully described in an Archives & Special Collections in-house database. Please speak to the Curator or the reference desk staff about access to this database.

Also included is an album compiled by Makowsky of photographs of Stamford, Connecticut. Box 5 contains ten compact disks of 460 scanned images selected from those in the first five binders (in box 1), scanned at 600 dpi TIFF format. These images were used for the digital collection "Steam and Electric Locomotive of the New Haven Railroad."

Series II: Papers (undated, 1897-1948) includes an album compiled by Makowsky of train tickets, newspaper clippings, timetables, and correspondence to Makowsky, all railroad related.

Arrangement

The photographs were removed from their original albums, labeled with identifier numbers, and placed in photographic sleeves.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by Roy Makowsky, nephew of Fred Otto Makowsky, of Westport, Connecticut. Prior to Roy Makowsky's ownership of the papers and photographs they belonged to his aunt Mary Makowsky and then his mother.

Related Material

Archives & Special Collections has a substantial collection of materials pertaining to New England railroads. For detailed information on these collections please contact the curator or ask at the Reading Room desk.

Title
Fred Otto Makowsky Papers
Status
Published
Author
Archives & Special Collections staff
Date
2003 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Sponsor
This finding aid was prepared with generous support from the Eldon and Judith Bernstein Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

Contact:
University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US
860-486-2524