“The history of Adam Cook’s Sons is the story of the growth of Albany Grease and the tale of Albany Grease is the record of grease lubrication from its infancy up to today.” At least, that was the opinion of an enthusiastic promoter who regularly secured articles extolling the virtues of Albany Grease in the trade papers of the early 20th century, when Albany Grease had already been around for 50 years.
The problem of lubrication in the machine age wasn’t a simple one. Animal greases of the past didn’t do the job, and petroleum lubricants proved too slick and wasteful. As an article in American Marine Engineer put it in 1918, “In fact, so inefficient were the various methods for using oil as a lubricant that the crying need of machine builders was for some device to give effective, efficient and economical lubrication.
“The stumbling block in the oil lubrication problem was the exceedingly great amount of waste attendant with it. The trouble was then, as is the trouble today, nothing more than the inability of keeping a liquid in some sort of a container or vessel so that it would not run off or leak out until it had accomplished its object and until every lubricating atom of it was consumed in service.”
So in stepped Adam Cook, who appears to have been a German immigrant living in Albany. Despite numerous articles praising his genius, just what his amazing breakthrough was is not revealed. Nevertheless, Cook invented a product called Albany Lubricating Compound, which soon came to be known as Albany Grease, and it was widely used throughout industry.
It was only Albany-made for a short time, however. Beginning at a small factory in the city in 1868, within four years demand was so great that a major expansion was called for, and a new location, presumably closer to his customers, was chosen, and a new plant was established at 231 West Street in New York City. There, the business continued to grow and to move to bigger factories, but the name Albany Grease continued.
(If you Google it today, you will find Albany Grease being manufactured by a Chinese firm; whether it has any relation in manufacture to the original, I have no idea.)