Bainbridge Burdick v. Albany Railway

Burdick&Son.pngIn researching the homes built by Edward Ogden, we ran across one he built in 1890 that was named for Bainbridge Burdick at 935 Madison Ave. in Albany. A moniker like “Bainbridge Burdick” is always worth another look, and this search didn’t disappoint, as we turned up the case of “Bainbridge W. Burdick v. the Albany Railway.” Bainbridge was the son of Norman and Mary Burdick, born in New Hampshire in 1864. In 1900, father and son and their families and more were living at 935 Madison, where Norman was listed as the head of household. Both were listed as manufacturers of stove fixtures — Burdick and Son (stove specialties, die makers and tin boxes) was located at Hamilton and Mosher. Bainbridge was also a director of the First National Bank of Albany and of the Commercial Union Co-operative Bank, and the treasurer of the Hygienic Ice and Refrigerating Company at Arch and Quay.

So here’s what happened to Bainbridge W. Burdick on November 3, 1899. Right around noon that day, Bainbridge (we may take to calling him “BWB”) boarded a trolley run by the Albany Railway Company at the corner of State and Pearl Streets. The car was very crowded, so he stood on the rear platform, as did another passenger. The car moved up to Chapel Street and a third gent got on the rear platform. The conductor collected their nickel fares and, before the car had reached Eagle Street, told the three on the rear platform to step inside, crowded though the car still was. One of the other men got inside the door, the other could only get to the door casing, against which he leaned. BWB felt there was nowhere for him to go.

“When I got on the car at the corner of State and Pearl I attempted to get inside. Getting on to the platform I looked to see if there was room to get inside. I was obliged to stand on the platform. People were standing up in the aisles, I couldn’t tell how many there was there. I couldn’t see the front end of the car.” The record, by the way, notes that he was 30 years old, six feet in height, somewhere between 160 and 170 pounds, and that he had been United States marshal of the Northern District for three or four years.

 The conductor, Clinton F. Jackson, told him he would have to get inside, or get off the car, but BWB said he had paid his fare and had not reached his destination. Jackson said there was plenty of room, and he had just been fined three days’ pay for letting a passenger stand on the rear platform; BWB said “if you lose any time I will pay you for it.” Jackson signaled to stop at Hawk Street, asked Burdick one more time to go in, and Burdick refused. The conductor told him he would have to put him off the car, and Burdick said, “I think you will need some assistance.” The conductor, motorman and an inspector then threw him off the car and refused to permit him to get on again. “During the struggle plaintiff’s finger was sprained, and his back strained. The conductor struck plaintiff while endeavoring to put him off the car. At no time did the conductor offer or return to plaintiff his fare.” Passengers testified there was room in the car.

So he sued, as one does. In Supreme Court (which, of course, is the lowest state court in New York), a jury found for the railway and charged BWB with costs. In fact, he was ordered to pay the railway $132.69, which wasn’t nothing at the turn of the real century (Hoxsie’s not on board with this whole 21st Century thing). Not satisfied with that, he appealed, but the Appellate Division was no more sympathetic. “Diligent search fails to disclose any case holding that a passenger has a right to ride upon the platform in violation of a city ordinance or the rules of the company after being requested to go within the car or leave the car.” He was called on to pay up; it’s possible his was the most expensive trolley ride in Albany history.

 As late as 1946, Burdick and Son of 72 Hamilton St. was advertising for help – “Girls Wanted.” Hey, that’s how classifieds were worded at the time.  (Mosher Street ran from 72 Hamilton to 85 Madison, all of which is wasteland underneath the Dunn Bridge now.)

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