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The Burditt Newspaper Index was compiled by two diligent students of Cranford’s history, Arthur and Hazel Burditt. A graduate of Columbia University, Arthur Burditt was the founder and President of the Burditt Corporation, a Cranford tool manufacturer. An active member of several civic and service organizations, he served as Director and President of the United Way, president of the Cranford Rotary Club, Trustee of the Cranford Heritage Corridor, and Trustee of the Cranford Historical Society.
Following his retirement in 1963 Burditt devoted much of his time to satisfying a lively curiosity about Cranford’s past. With his wife Hazel as collaborator, he wrote a history of the Cranford Rotary Club and a biographical directory of its members. He contributed articles on historical subjects to the Cranford Chronicle, and co-authored with Hazel the popular “As We Were” column for several years. But the project that absorbed an increasing amount of their time was the Newspaper Index.
Over the years, the Burditts indexed three newspapers, covering a span of more than fifty years:
1. The Cranford Chronicle, from November 29, 1893, to February 10, 1921;
2. The Cranford Citizen, from March 5, 1898 to February 10, 1921; and
3. The Cranford Citizen and Chronicle, from February 17, 1921, to May 26, 1949 (Name changed to Citizen and Chronicle after May 13, 1937).
In April, 1982, two-and-a-half years after Mrs. Burditt’s death, the Index, still a “work in progress,” was given to the Cranford Public Library. Arthur Burditt died two years later.
Originally typed on 3” x 5” cards, the Index is divided into two parts. The first and longer section lists surnames, beginning with Aagard and ending with Zundel. The second section is a topic index, an inclusive listing of streets, businesses, organizations, township government, and other subjects, ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to World War II.
The Index follows its own rules. Items in the Cranford Chronicle or the Citizen and Chronicle are designated by the date of the paper. Items in the Cranford Citizen have a Z preceding the date. It should be pointed out that the Citizen is not as fully indexed as the Chronicle and that citations for the years after 1944 are scattered and incomplete.
The entries vary greatly in size and in the amount of information provided. Some give only the date on which the name or topic appeared; some give brief summaries of entire articles. Frequently entries are cross-referenced, but the practice is not consistent.
Nor is the Index always tidy. Handwritten entries, corrections and interlineations are frequent. Entries sometimes wander erratically off line, and they are not always in strict chronological order, although a hand-drawn arrow might relocate a particular item. And occasionally one or the other of the Burditts could not resist inserting an editorial correction when it was felt the newspaper had made a mistake.
Yet, such quirks merely add to the charm of the work and do not handicap the user. If the Index has a flaw, it is that the entries are referenced solely by date, not by page or column. This can require a careful reading of the entire newspaper in order to find an item that is buried deep in its pages. Perseverance pays off, however, because the item is always there.
With this Index the Burditts opened the pages of our local history. They gave us the most valuable guide we have to the township’s past, one that will only become more valuable with time.
Microfilm copies of the three newspapers covered by the Index are available at the Cranford Public Library.