Fishing Is Dangerous!

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Ripley’s “Romance of a Great Factory” from 1919 gives us an unsurprisingly romantic view of the Schenectady General Electric works at that time. In addition to providing us with Charles Steinmetz’s private shorthand method, its appendix section (titled “Fragments”) gave a little recitation of industrial accident facts to show that life at GE was pretty safe, especially in comparison to some occupations.

“A man who fishes for a living is really in a very dangerous occupation, as on the average three men out of 1,000 lose their lives at this work every year. Comparing this with the figures of the General Electric fatalities . . . it is seen that in round umbers that it is 30 times more dangerous to fish for a living than to work in the General Electric shops, surrounded by high pressure steam, high voltage electricity, with tons of steel and cast iron being swung over your head by the electric cranes, and with tens of thousands of tons of freight moved daily on the two railway systems within the works.”

industrial-accidents-1919Using figures from 1913, Ripley showed that pretty much every industry of the time had a significantly higher rate of fatal accidents than the GE Schenectady works did. At a time when the works employed nearly 21,000 people, it suffered only two fatalities in 1916 (a rate of 0.099 per 1000). Only the line of “general” manufacturing even approached GE’s rate, at 0.25 per thousand. Only the overall rate for “all other occupied females” fared better than GE, at 0.075 per thousand.

“Who would ever imagine that men engaged in agricultural pursuits, the farmers, should suffer from a high rate of ‘industrial accident?’” Hoxsie has met a lot of farmers and even today, their fingers often don’t add up to 10, so this is no surprise.

It’s a little hard to make a comparison to the present day, as what is included in these categories may have changed over time. What then fell under draymen and teamsters would almost certainly be truck drivers and freight loaders today, with a whole different set of threats. It’s certainly safer today to be a street railway employee, though the opportunities have also decreased. But for even a rough comparison, the building and construction trade saw 1875 deaths in 1913. In 2014, the private construction industry saw an uptick in fatalities, to a total of 899 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). If you lump together mining and quarrying in 1913, there were 3560 fatalities. A century and a year later, fatal injuries in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries rose to 183. BLS now lumps farming, fishing and forestry together, with 253 deaths (77 of those in logging) in 2014; in 1913, that number was probably more like 5,447.

Since those are absolute numbers, not rates, it helps to have a little bit of perspective. In 1913, the US population was about 97.23 million. In 2014, it was about 318.9 million – 3.28 times greater.

So for everyone who says, “We didn’t used to have all this safety stuff, and we were fine” – no, you weren’t. You died in droves. Unless, of course, you worked at the Schenectady works.

How Dr. Steinmetz Writes

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steinmetz-introductionCharles Ripley’s “Romance of a Great Factory” is a 1919 love letter to the Schenectady General Electric works, printed by the Gazette Press, and with an introduction by none other than Dr. Charles P. Steinmetz, the electrical wizard. In an afterword section titled “Fragments,” Ripley presented a short explanation of “How Dr. Steinmetz Writes,” detailing his self-created shorthand.

“Dr. Steinmetz, one of the greatest authorities on matters electrical, and an author of many volumes useful to the scientific world, possesses no ‘neck in the bottle,’ when it comes to jotting down the results of his researches in his wonderful laboratory at Schenectady. All of his writing is done in shorthand; that is, this shorthand is the medium between his mind and the typewriter and printing press.”

He goes on to quote Steinmetz as saying:

“With this shorthand I can write as fast as I can think. The only other way in which I could put down my thoughts as fast as I could think, would be to dictate to a phonograph but I have not always a phonograph with me. I learned this shorthand while I was in high school in Europe, and while in college took all of my notes in shorthand. All of these notes I have preserved and had bound, and I can read them as well after thirty-five years as I could after thirty-five minutes.”

Here please allow Hoxsie to admit that his own handwriting is often indecipherable after 35 seconds.

Ripley said that Steinmetz’s system, evolved as the best adapted for writing on electrical subjects, was based on the Arends stenography system taught in Europe, under which words were written phonetically, such that “height” would be written as h, long i, t.

steinmetz-shorthand“With a view of affording every reader some knowledge of Dr. Steinmetz’ system, a reproduction is given of the alphabet, written out by the famous electrical wizard himself. A second illustration is given [shown above] which shows the start and finish of Dr. Steinmetz’ introduction at the beginning of this book and how it looked when written originally by him in his shorthand. The space required for the shorthand is but approximately one-third of the introduction when typed with double spaced lines.”

Delavan House Menu: Maybe Just The Toast

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Delavan House Menu ca 1875

From the collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia, an 1875ish breakfast menu from Albany’s leading temperance hotel, the Delavan House, in the era when Charles Leland was running it (which puts this between 1867 and 1882).

Founder Edward Delavan was a rabid temperance advocate who brought prohibition to the state of New York long before that other prohibition everyone is so familiar with, but only for a very short time.

The hotel ended in tragic fire in 1894.

As for the menu, maybe we’ll just have a salad. No salad? Toast, then. The toast looks safe.

History Links! Get Yer History Links Here!

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It’s been a while since we did a Phoenixville Phriday. So, a couple of cool bits of local history news came out of our new hometown region this week.

The first was the amazing news that little Phoenixville was, for 17 years, hiding a secret treasure trove. Revolutionary War muskets, cannons, paintings, sculptures, uniforms, and George Washington’s frickin’ portmanteau were stored just a couple of blocks from our home. Now they’ve been transferred to the new Museum of the American Revolution, which will open next spring. You can read all about it here.

The second was that south of Philadelphia, the Lazaretto, the oldest surviving quarantine center and intake center for tens of thousands of immigrants who came in through Philadelphia, is going to be saved and repurposed. Read all about it!

The third isn’t exactly news. But, it is a good little list of facts about the encampment at Valley Forge, published at the Journal of the American Revolution. Since Hoxsie now spends more time in Valley Forge than you could imagine, it’s useful to remember why we preserved this rolling landscape along the Schuylkill. Check it out.

But we haven’t forgotten our origins. Fan of Washington Irving and headless Hessians? Check out this story on the Revolutionary Beginnings of the Headless Horseman.

 

Albany, And Two Women Holding Grain

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Albany With Two Women Holding GrainAgain from Ben Franklin’s Library Company of Philadelphia, we have this interesting envelope  featuring a bird’s-eye view of Albany, along with two women holding grain over the legend “Empire State.” Did they represent the plenty provided by the state’s farms? Not clear.

The envelope was created by Charles Magnus of Frankfort St., New York City, who, it turns out, made a lot of this sort of thing. The Library Company says this is Civil War era, but doesn’t ascribe a specific date; it says this was cited in a collection of Union Civil War patriotic covers.

According to the Winterthur Library, Charles Magnus, [1826-1900], “was a print publisher, map dealer, bookseller and stationer working in New York City from 1850 to 1899 who issued over a thousand different letter sheets, maps, song sheets, envelopes, and separate prints. His best known works were city views and Civil War-related material. Much of his work was copied from other printmakers. During the Civil War, Magnus produced around 700 patriotic envelopes and over 300 illustrated song sheets. He used images of allegorical figures, battle scenes, political cartoons, portraits and state emblems, frequently using the same images in different combinations.”

The People’s Line

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People's Line token side 2 People's Line token side 1

There are so many reasons to love the Smithsonian Institute – and not just that its first secretary was Albany’s Joseph Henry. It’s a treasure trove of wonderful objects like this one: a token from the People’s Line. The Smithsonian has no opinion on the date of this token, but does know that it was made by the Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut – the button people.

The front says “New York and Albany / People’s Line of Steam Boats.” The back, charmingly, provides the schedule: “Time Table / Leave N.Y. 6 P.M. / Leave Albany 7 ½ P.M.”

Howell’s “Bi-Centennial History of Albany” holds that the People’s Line was established in 1834 as a day line, in opposition to the Hudson River Association Line, a consolidation of several lines that ran both day and night boats and involved “Commodore” Vanderbilt. With his typical lack of explanation, Howell reports that the People’s Line was sold to the Hudson River Association Line in 1835, but that in 1836 it was “revived” as a night line by Daniel Drew, with the ships West Chester and Emerald. The line grew quickly, and eventually Daniel Drew controlled most of the passenger liners on the river. In 1863 the Hudson River Day Line began with the acquisition of the Daniel Drew.

These tokens can be found on eBay; they generally claim to be from the Civil War era, but I haven’t found particular backing for that. It’s entirely possible there was another token for day runs, but all the tokens we’ve found are from the night line.

This Is Not A Collar, But Still

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Cluett, Peabody display card

Did you know Benjamin Franklin founded a free library? Okay, you probably did. Did you know that library still exists, as The Library Company of Philadelphia? And did you further know that the online collections of The Library Company of Philadelphia include some items of interest to Capital District history nerds? Well, now you do.

This, for instance, which is a trade card and point-of-sale cutout from about 1900, promoting the legendary Cluett, Peabody & Co., one of the several makers of collars who made Troy the Collar City. That they chose to advertise collars with a display of a cuff might be a little confusing, but yes, cuffs were made of detachable cellulloid in those days as well. Want to advertise collars? Show a little cuff.

Cluett, Peabody was the largest, and the longest-lasting of all the collar companies. As with many Troy companies, they went through many forms and names. They started as Maullin & Blanchard, in 1851, at 310 River Street. According to Anderson’s “Landmarks of Rensselaer County,” George B. Cluett had been in charge of the manufacturing department when he was admitted to partnership in 1861, and the company became Maullin & Cluett in 1862. Joseph Maullin died the following year, and George Cluett, J.W.A. Cluett and Charles J. Saxe formed George B. Cluett, Bro. & Co., with a factory at 390 River Street.  Saxe left in 1866 and another Cluett, Robert, rose to partner. In 1874 R.S. Norton’s name was added to the firm, and they moved to 74 and 76 Federal Street, where they would remain until destroyed by fire on March 20, 1880. “Before the fire was extinguished a new location was found at 556 Fulton street.” In 1891, Geo. B. Cluett, Bros., & Co merged with Coon & Co., another prominent collar maker, to form Cluett, Coon & Co., which brought along Frederick F. Peabody. In 1899, the company became Cluett, Peabody & Co., and after 48 years of pretty much perpetual name changes, decided to settle down and focus on collars and cuffs.

By the way, the detachable collar was invented by a Troy woman, Hannah Montague.

Guy Mannering: Good Dog

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Dudley Olcott was a member of the Olcott family that owned the Ten Broeck mansion, Arbor Hill. Born in 1838, he attended the Albany Academy and took a course in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and then joined the family business (well, one of them) as an assistant cashier at the Mechanics’ and Farmers’ Bank, and then became cashier before ascending to succeed his father Thomas as president of the Mechanics’ and Farmers’ Bank in 1879. During the Civil War he was a captain in the Twenty-fifth New York Volunteers, made a brevet major and then a lieutenant colonel. He was a member of the board of governors of the Albany Hospital, president of the Albany Cemetery Association, and a trustee of the Home for Aged Men, the Albany Orphan Asylum, and the Albany academy for Girls. He was president of the Park Commission of Albany, enlarging and improving Washington Park. He vacationed every year by going salmon fishing on the Ristigouche River in Canada.

Yes, yes, that’s all fascinating. But the reason we’re talking about Dudley Olcott today is because of a dog. In the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Olcott received an award for showing a Native English Setter Dog. The dogs were shown September 4-8. According to “The Illustrated History of the Centennial Exhibition,” setters were “more largely represented than any other variety of the dog race, and there are many fine, highly-bred animals here. . . Many English setters are exhibited, and some of them not only show the points of good dogs, but have pedigrees of remarkable extent.” In the “Reports on Awards,” Olcott was noted for his American-bred setter dog Guy Mannering, over one and under two years old, which won the Scott special prize for best native English setter at the Centennial Bench Show.

An article in Scribner’s Monthly magazine in November 1876, “Some American Sporting Dogs,” In discussing a variety of breeds, the author specifically described Dudley Olcott’s dog:

As a specimen of the high-bred dog from imported stock, I have chosen “Guy Mannering,” bred by Charles H. Raymond, Esq., of Morris Plains, N.J. This dog is the produce of “Pride of the Border” and “Fairy,” – a pair of celebrated Laveracks, imported by Mr. Raymond from the kennels of the gentleman whose name is given to the strain and who has bred them in purity for more than fifty years.

The setters known as the native English (a misnomer, as native American would be more proper) are generally in color, orange and white, lemon and white, black and white, red and white, liver-colored and white, or all black; although they are to be found of a liver and tan, or in fact of almost any known combinations of the colors mentioned except those of orange and lemon and black.

The writer then went into extreme detail on how such setters are judged in this country, which you can peruse yourself if you care to. Thanks to the Google, we can pretend that we knew that “Guy Mannering (or, The Astrologer)” was a novel by Sir Walter Scott, so the name was less random than it may have seemed. The article only identified the breeder, but the cutline for the illustration of Guy Mannering clearly identified him as Olcott’s dog.

Dudley Olcott's English Setter, Guy Mannering

As you can see, he was a good dog, Brent.