George Stimpson

His life and works

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George StimpsonGeorge William Stimpson was born on November 3, 1896, in Jones County, Iowa, near Anamosa. He attended Valparaiso University from 1916 to 1921, interrupted briefly when he enlisted in the U.S. army near the end of the First World War. In 1921, he self-published his first book, The Story of Valparaiso University: Including an Account of the Recent Period of Turbulence. He also worked briefly for the Valparaiso Messenger after graduating.

In 1922 he went to Washington, D.C., where he attended law school at George Washington University between 1922 and 1923, worked briefly at the Washington Herald in 1922, and became associate editor of the weekly magazine Pathfinder, a position that he held until 1932. He was the Washington correspondent for the Houston Post from 1934 to 1941. Beginning in 1941, he was correspondent for various newspapers, including the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Houston Chronicle. From 1938 to 1948 he was the author of a syndicated column, "Information Roundup." He was president of the National Press Club from 1936 to 1937. In 1949, he provided research guidance to Eustace Mullins for Mullins' book Mullins on the Federal Reserve. Stimpson was also quite interested in Shakespeare and in the Bible.

Probably Stimpson's most lasting legacy are his books on information. He wrote 10 such books: Nuggets of Knowledge (1928), Popular Questions Answered (1930), Things Worth Knowing (1932), Uncommon Knowledge (1936), What Do You Know? (1942), A Book About the Bible (1945), A Book About a Thousand Things (1946), Information Roundup (1948), A Book About American History (1950), and A Book About American Politics (1952).

Several of these have been subsequently reprinted under different titles. Most of these books have a question-and-answer format, in which a question (e.g. "Why is the sky blue?") is followed by a (usually) one- or two-paragraph answer and explanation. These books are all well-researched and many subsequent authors of books about useless facts have drawn upon the material in these books.

While Stimpson was not a genius, his curiosity about many subjects and his talent for research enabled him to become quite knowledgeable about many topics. His passion for information made him well-known in the District of Columbia. He was referred to as "the best-informed man in town" by Sam Rayburn, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and his obituary in the New York Times would describe him as "a highly regarded reference source in the capitol."

Stimpson had intended to write an eleventh book, A Book About American Government, to complete a trilogy of books about the United States (along with A Book About American History and A Book About American Politics. However, he died on September 27, 1952, aged 55, before he could finish this book. He had been in ill health, suffering from diabetes and heart disease, and had become almost blind. Stimpson had never married. His death merited mention in the New York Times, where his obituary was printed on September 28.