Daily Archives: April 14, 2011

We’re proud of our shoddy work!

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Troy Waste Manufacturing Co. 1895.pngNot surprisingly, in its heyday the Collar City (and neighboring Cohoes, the Spindle City) generated a lot of waste fabric. But in 1895, very little waste was allowed to go to waste, and the cast-off cotton and wool of the collar and shirt bosom industries was collected up for a variety of uses. Paper, for instance, was not always from tree cellulose, but often had a high cotton (“rag”) content. Cotton batting was not made from freshly processed yarn, but from cast-off materials from other manufacturing processes. And wool fibers that were too short for weaving or felting would be reclaimed into a cheap material called “shoddy.” (Today, Google finds this so hard to believe that even if you search for “wool shoddies,” it will first return you results for “wool hoodies,” making it clear you can’t be looking for what you think you’re looking for.) Although shoddy became a synonym for something that would quickly fall apart, even shoddy wool was longer lasting than cotton, and in an age when even ditch-diggers wore some form of woolen suit, shoddy was in high demand. (And I imagine if you were the foreman of the ditch-diggers, you might distinguish yourself with a high-class merino shoddy.)

The Troy Waste Manufacturing Company was a major dealer in cotton and woolen waste, batting, paper and shoddy stock. If you wanted something shoddy, they were the place to go. If you wanted another go-round at the joke, you might say they were proud of their shoddy workmanship. Their building still stands, by the way, though as its plaque indicates, the current building is from 1909. A shoddy fire burned down the previous building in 1907.

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Trojan Bowling

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Becks Pocket Guide of Troy NY 1935_Page_018.png

In 1935, the bowling and billiard hall that Erve managed was in the Hall-Rand building on the northwest corner of Congress and Third Streets in Troy. This was the former Rand’s Hall, later Rand’s Opera House, expanded in 1872 as a concert room, lecture hall and place of exhibitions. How Rand’s Hall became “Hall-Rand,” or how an opera house became a bowling alley, I don’t know. I also don’t know how “Erve” is pronounced. Sadly, it’s long gone, and a  former chain restaurant building housing a fast food buffet occupies what should be a prominent corner of the city.

Guy Bull’s location for wrapping paper and twine is a residential neighborhood on the edge of Knickerbacker Park.