Daily Archives: November 1, 2017

Sturgeondom

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Recent entries brought up the question, “what the heck was ‘Sturgeondom’?” An 1869 article in the Albany Morning Express quoted the Troy Whig, saying that “A bright light in the direction of Albany last evening indicates a big fire in Sturgeondom,” but the Express responded that “Our neighbors will be pleased to learn, we know, that Sturgeondom did not suffer seriously by conflagration during Monday night. Excepting under extraordinary circumstances, we do not believe we can have a disastrous fire. Our alarm system is so very perfect, and our department so prompt and efficient, that it is quite impossible that a fire can make headway before it is discovered and extinguished.”

An 1867 article in the Daily Whig, speaking of the organization of a new Troy Cavalry Company, said “The Albanians boast of a troop of cavalry, and we know no reason why this city should be behind Sturgeondom in the military organizations.”

Albany, of course, was so closely associated with the Atlantic sturgeon that the fish was known as “Albany beef,” so the appellation of “Sturgeondom” should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, we hadn’t run across it until recently, and once we started looking for it, it was everywhere.

As early as 1853, the Troy Daily Times printed “correspondence” saying that “Sturgeondom is very dull at present.”

It was often used derisively, in the often not-so-good-natured ribbing that occurred between the cities. When the Albany Times reported in 1857 that a concert in one of the Baptist Churches in Troy called for five hundred chorus singers and concluded that “This is doing pretty well for the ‘provincials,’” the Troy Daily Times spat back: “Yes, and though, if such an occurrence should by any possibility transpire in Sturgeondom, the whole town would be in a ferment, and his tailor would have to strap David down, up here the ‘monstrous concert’ is hardly even talked of, and we are not informed that the Trojans regard the ‘big thing’ as anything out of the ordinary course of events. Fact.”

The Collar City wasn’t the only place that spoke thus of Albany, however. The term appears in the Brookyn Daily Eagle, the Saratogian, and the Syracuse Evening Chronicle, which in 1855 featured its Albany correspondent: “As for news, Sturgeondom is hard up. We have wretched water to drink, but Justice Cole and the Landon Jury have given us free access to imported liquors, and the Water Works Company are digging up the pipes to clear out fish skeletons; the owners of these relics of mortality having perished by drinking unwholesome water. These occurrences make up the sum total of our excitements.”

Another article by the same correspondent provided a bit more color on that: “But the crying sin of the Knickerbocker city is the water. It had been a subject of complaint that we were imbibing an infusion of some preparation, no one knew what. It was charged to be the drainings of a piggery which were emptied into Tivoli Lake, where by being attenuated on the homeopathic principle, they acquired an infinite potency. But alack! the water from that pond was the best in the city. The next hypothesis adopted was that the pipes were filled with defunct fish. The Water Works Company at once shut off the water, so that we have no more access to the ‘cup that cheers, but not inebriates.’ So you observe that even Sturgeondom is capable of some excitement even in hot weather.”

Lest one think the name was meant in a positive way, regard this snippet from the Troy Daily Times in 1853, which begins with a quote from the Albany Express:

“Now, friend Francis, that ‘slap’ of yours at sturgeon raises all Sturgeondom to indignation. Sturgeon is one of our ‘household gods.’ We beg to say that we are by no means fin-ical in making this assertion. We regard it as by no manner of means a scaly development of the better human ‘phelinks’ to love and cherish Sturgeon. We ‘go in’ for that noble fish. Call his flesh – yellow as the gold of Ophir and of California – ‘Albany Beef,’ if you choose to do so. We look upon it as simply a ‘fish story’ and ‘whistle it down the wind’ at our leisure. – Albany Express

“Well there, Smith, if you are willing to accept the clumsy, lazy, toothless stupid sturgeon as your model, we give it up! Sturgeon a ‘noble fish.’ ‘Albany beef’ the symbol of ‘progress.’ Why, the fat, indolent sturgeon lives by ‘suction,’ and only ‘flops up’ occasionally just to show that he has a little life. This creature the representation of ‘progress?’ Well have it so, Smith; we think after all, you are not far out of the way. It does pretty well define Albany progress – ‘flip-flop’ and ‘suction.’”