Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hitting the wall

There comes a time in any project of this nature where you hit a wall, where it seems there can't possibly be any more information out there to be found. This can be very frustrating when you still have unresolved questions and no clear way to find the answers, but, as I have discovered, this is part and parcel of the research process and there's really nothing to it but to take a step back and find something else to focus on.

Recently I have been very hard pressed to find any new tidbits of data so I did what I always do when I hit these plateaus, I start going through the files already in my research archive; further organizing, annotating and filing the bits and pieces that I have already collected. 

Part of doing this forces me to send my scanned clippings through a text recognition program. This is the kind of drudge work which I am normally loathe to take upon myself especially when you take into account the huge backlog of articles in my research archive and the glacial speed at which this exceptionally good and accurate text recognition software does it's job. There are two very good reasons for doing this however:
  1. It makes the documents searchable.
  2. It forces you to review what is already there. 
Each time I have taken this plunge into the archives I always seem to come up with some fresh, new, yet unexplored, avenue of research (Admittedly a big part of what fuels these creative insights might very well be my aversion to doing the task at hand, but you have to take inspiration where it comes and try not to look a gift horse in the mouth). To wit:

One of the things I have squirreled away in my research archive is a scan of a sheet of Paul McCobb Design Associates letterhead, courtesy of Mr. McCobb's daughter, it's a blank sheet of letterhead and undated. On this letterhead are listed the names of the associates in Paul McCobb Design Associates at that time. It was a document that I had not looked at since scanning it several months ago.

Some of the names on it were already known to me, Chon Gregory, Paul McCobb's right hand man and second in command is listed there, but I already knew that Mr. Gregory had passed away a few years back having already examined that line of research, also listed as an associate is Paul McCobb's wife Molly; she too died many years ago, which left me with a very short list of names to look into. Now seemed like a very good time to do so, it was either that or to keep working on the existing files...

So I set to it and surprisingly both of the gentlemen listed were fairly easy to locate. A few short phone calls and emails later and I had suddenly assembled a considerably longer list of persons formerly in the employ of Paul McCobb Design Associates than I had ever really hoped to achieve, especially considering the amount of time which has passed since the company was last in operation (another good maxim to follow is to set your sights low and allow yourself to be pleasantly pleased when your anticipations are exceeded rather than maintaining high expectations which are repeatedly crushed by the exigencies of the universe, but enough about the zen of research)

This past week has been spent searching out and interviewing these former Paul McCobb Design Associates employees. I have to say that I am very pleased with the results, many of the people I have contacted have been very generous with their time and most helpful. I will not list names in consideration of those individuals privacy but thanks to you all.

Amongst the things I have learned this week:
  • McCobb Associates did design a typewriter for Remington Rand (no one I have interviewed is certain whether this typewriter was ever actually put into production...)
  • The Paul McCobb shop, which was the very first of it's kind, on the 5th floor of Bloomingdale's in New York City was not a unique venture, there were several other McCobb Shops set up at high profile retailers around the country.
I've also learned quite a bit more about a very obscure chair Paul McCobb designed for Thonet and other interesting Paul McCobb related facts and stories and I haven't even finished going through the list yet.

More to come.



3 comments:

  1. I find your blog fascinating and informative. Keep up the good work! What a great turn of events that you located more people to interview and that they provided you with new information.

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