I was amazed at the amount of effort he put into the work. He kept carbon copies of all of this letters requesting information from lawyers, colleagues, librarians, servants, and relatives of the Durants. He attached these to the responses her received. He kept charts and timelines of the Durant family railroad and transportation business. He contacted historians to fact check references.
All of this was interesting but what was more fascinating to me was the gossip. The gossip came from the servants. The notes were part-handwritten, part typed, as if someone had taken the time to type up their thoughts, then met with Harold, and he had to cross off parts of what was told to him and revise. I couldn't tell. There were no dates on these notes, and no obvious interviewer or interviewee. The notes had to do with the Durant divorce and in some cases, what happened to William West Durant after he had lost his fortune.
Gossip. Not facts, opinions, stories, 'I heard this happened'. For example, Henry S. Harper (of Harpers Magazine) met William while he worked as a hotel clerk at a place in Tupper Lake that Harper eventually bought. Harper says of William "He was tied to the chariot of his conquerors". The owners of the hotel and other workers relished bossing William around, or as the saying goes, kicking a dog when he is down.
Another tidbit was from one of the servants who claimed a vicious rumor about Janet Durant having an affair started the divorce proceedings. And, the servants all jumped on board once they learned someone would pay for them to go the 'Big White Way' to testify at the trial in New York City.
None of this made it into Harold Hochschild's book or biography on William. These are items too hard to verify, rumors, speculation, perceptions. Harold may have been trying to spare the feelings of the family members still alive at the time he wrote Township 34. Or he may not have wanted to add any fuel to the fire of gossip. But what a treasure to find these notes buried in a museum to use for fiction. These stories are about human nature, the very emotions that make a story not only entertaining, but believable to some extent because we all know of similar human dramas that have played out in our own neighborhoods.