Hyland Price Stewart III, 80, founder, publisher of criss-cross directories

October 31, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Hyland Price Stewart III, founder and publisher of Stewart Directories Inc., the criss-cross telephone manuals that have been an integral part of daily business life in Maryland for nearly 50 years, died Saturday of heart failure at a daughter's home in Phoenix, Baltimore County. The longtime Towson resident was 80.

In the late 1940s, Mr. Stewart was a salesman for Bard-Avon School, selling secretarial courses and looking for an easier way to meet possible sales contacts, when the idea for a directory listing telephone numbers by address was born.

"He found it difficult to find people, so he sat down and assembled the first criss-cross guide for Towson from the phone book. He listed names, addresses and phone numbers on 3-by-5 index cards and then refiled the cards by street address," said a former wife, Marie L. Foulkes Stewart of Phoenix.

FOR THE RECORD - Hyland P. Stewart III: An incorrect time for Mr. Stewart's memorial service was stated in an obituary published in yesterday's editions. It will take place at 4 p.m. today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road. The Sun regrets the error.

The first criss-cross directory was published in 1950. Today, the directories, which are leased and not sold, are used by sales forces, police departments, the FBI, public libraries, the media and direct-mail companies.

The work by hand and the drudgery of past years has been largely replaced by computer matches and phone files.

Until 1961, when Stewart Directories Inc. moved to several old houses on Chesapeake Avenue in Towson, the Stewarts produced and assembled directories in their Towson home, all by hand.

All essential data were copied and then typed onto index cards, which were filed into shoeboxes. From the shoeboxes, which numbered in the thousands, emerged the color-coded directories, black for Baltimore County and green for the city.

"It was a job. The worst thing that ever happened took place during a terribly hot summer. I was carrying a tray load of Cokes and tripped and spilled the soda into several shoeboxes. I thought he was going to kill me," said Mrs. Stewart, laughing.

In 1958, Mr. Stewart launched the Baltimore County Real Estate and Tax Directory, which later became the Lusk Report and is no longer published by his company.

The company, which has been in Cockeysville since 1991, publishes directories for every county in Maryland except Frederick, Prince George's, Montgomery, Allegany, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester.

Mr. Stewart "had bad eyes, and I can see him now sitting in a room with the black shades drawn, hunched over his desk under a shaded light, with his long, slender fingers constantly moving over the cards," said Mrs. Stewart.

"He enjoyed tiny, tiny detail. He was a stickler for accuracy," she said. "He liked an ordered and detailed world with everything in its place. He proofread them himself. Can you imagine anything more boring then reading the phone book, but he was so proud of them."

A voracious reader, Mr. Stewart devoured eight newspapers daily and other periodicals. He was continually clipping and filing information he extracted while reading.

"He taught me how to alphabetize my spices," said a daughter, Perry Baldwin Stewart of Phoenix.

"He would rather sit and do paperwork more than anything else. He wasn't an outdoor person and was really a bookworm. He had the absolute perfect temperament for his work," she said.

Mr. Stewart retired in 1996 but continued to visit his office at the business until recent months.

Paul F. Burch of Towson, a stepson who has owned and operated the business since 1992, described him as "eccentric but a very quiet and kind man."

Mr. Stewart, who was born and raised in Baltimore's Homewood section, was a 1939 graduate of City College.

He earned a bachelor's degree in business from the Johns Hopkins University and served at the end of World War II in the Army's Central Intelligence Corps in occupied Japan. He attained the rank of lieutenant.

His other marriages, to Elizabeth T. Becker and Carol Cook, also ended in divorce.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

He also is survived by another daughter, Wendy Price Stewart of Phoenix; another stepson, James Henry Burch of Phoenix; a stepdaughter, Margaret B. Verchow of Airville, Pa.; and a grandson.

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