Category Archives: Albany

Today’s Hottest Hits – At Hudson Valley Asbestos

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Hudson Valley Asbestos Corp 1941We’ll admit we were confused when, searching for something else, we found this business brief from the Knickerbocker News in 1941 announcing that four area appliance distributors were switching the lines they sold. Initially, our confusion was over Albany Garage dropping the DuMont TV line. This was confusing because Albany Garage was a parking garage. But it was also an auto sales center, appeared to have some recreational facilities, and sold appliances.

But what really caught our eye was the name of the company that was relinquishing Motorola in order to get hold of the DuMont line: Hudson Valley Asbestos Corporation.

Hudson Valley Asbestos was, by all other accounts, just what it sounded like: an asbestos insulation contracting business, founded in Albany in 1922 by Marshall Pursel. But at some point, it also got into the appliance business, and, as so often was the case in those days, that also meant that they got into the record business.

An ad from the Times-Union in 1932 says:

The Hudson Valley Asbestos Corporation, 170 Central Avenue has been efficiently serving the the public for some nine years, specializing in heat and cold insulation for the home and factory, automotive products, electric refrigeration, radio for the home and automobile. One is sure to find outstanding values and willing service.

Hudson Valley Asbestos 1957They’re listed as one of Albany’s record distributors in Billboard magazine in 1948, and, as shown here, were still selling televisions in 1957, though by this time they’d gotten back on the Motorola wagon. (And who wouldn’t? They had a wireless remote control timer and an exclusive on-off push button!) That R.H. Pursel is shown demonstrating the new Motorola removes any question of whether the mention of Hudson Valley Asbestos in the appliance trade is just a series of unfortunate typos – Robert was Marshall’s son. In 1965, they were selling Emersons at their showroom at 10 Railroad Avenue. They also sold sewing machines.

Later on, in 1974, Hudson Valley Asbestos would become entangled in an anti-trust case against Tougher Heating and Plumbing and E.W. Tompkins. By then Hudson Valley had branched into other unspecified areas, but were still engaged in some form of insulation contracting, which is what they were fighting over. Asbestos restrictions were just starting to come into play at that time. We can’t put a closing date on the operations of Hudson Valley Asbestos, though in 1970 their Railroad Avenue location was given over to a corrugated container manufacturer, so perhaps the retail operations were done by then.

Having even dared to mentioned asbestos, Hoxsie expects to hear from some spambot lawyers.

No Journey to the Center of the Earth

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Mocha dick 1870 UK reprint.jpgFrom Munsell’s “Annals of Albany,” under Notes from the Newspapers we find this brief item from 1828:

Oct. 7. Reynolds, who advocated the theory of the interior of the earth being hollow, delivered a lecture at the Atheneum, on the utility of a voyage into the interior of the globe by an entrance at the north pole.

This would have been Jeremiah N. Reynolds, a newspaper editor, explorer and author who adhered to the thoughts of John Cleves Symmes, Jr., that the earth is hollow. They lectured together for some time, and eventually Reynolds went on lecturing on his own. Unfortunately, we’re not certain of the location of the Atheneum, which was a literary society but clearly also a meeting space used by a number of organizations. Unfortunately for those of us who love a good folly, by the time Cook or Peary or somebody got to the North Pole around 1909, the theory had long fallen out of favor and no one tried to drill an entrance.

Reynolds had another Albany connection, almost as tenuous as his likely single night of lecturing. In 1839, in The Knickerbocker, he published an account of a white sperm whale who bedeviled a generation of whalers for thirty years before succumbing to one of them (sez Wikipedia). “Mocha Dick survived many skirmishes (by some accounts at least 100) with whalers before he was eventually killed. He was large and powerful, capable of wrecking small craft with his flukes.” Reynolds’s tale was titled “Mocha Dick: Or, the White Whale of the Pacific.” In 1851, former Albany resident and Lansingburgh teacher Herman Melville published “Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.” A famously white whale.

Don’t Leave Your Car Doors Unlocked

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10,000 Autos Stolen in 1921Ahh, for the simpler times, back when we could all leave our doors unlocked and never had to fear crime. Turns out that was just fine, as long as it wasn’t your car doors you were leaving unlocked, because the early days of automobiling saw a surprising amount of theft.

An article from “Motordom” in 1921 says that 10,000 automobiles were stolen in New York State cities in 1921, a 42 percent jump over the previous year. Albany, by no means the leading city, had 234 vehicles stolen (of which 177 were recovered). That year, there were 582,000 passenger cars in the state, so just about 2% were being stolen.

The most recent statistics we found showed that in 2006, 241 cars were stolen in Albany.

A Boal of Grog for Thomas Sager

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A boal of grog for Sager from Munsell's Annals City DocumentsWe confess: we don’t really know what this is about. In Joel Munsell’s “Annals of Albany, Vol. 6,” among the many scattered “city documents,” we find this item titled “A Corporation Bill For Punch.”

“On the 3d of Sept. 1782, Hugh Denniston, who kept a noted tavern in Green street, furnished certain persons for the benefit of the city, with the following articles:

9 Boals of Punch£1160
1 Mug of Beer009
1 Boal of Grog for Sager020

The Mayor was requested to pay the bill out of the corporation money. The following is a facsimile of the signature of the person who drank the two shilling boal of grog.”

Why Thomas Sager was called out for drinking a two-shilling “boal” of grog, we can’t begin to imagine. Who drank the nine-pence mug of beer? We are not told.

Died Long Ago, Yet Liveth

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Died Long Ago - A Giffen AlbanyFrom the Schenectady Cabinet in 1855, this odd little advertisement that we suspect was meant to turn a particular phrase but which lost something in a spelling error: “Died Long Ago, Yet Liveth!” In reference to the dyeing and scouring establishment of Mr. A. Giffen at Albany’s old City Mill on Water Street, we have to assumed it was meant that he “dyed” long ago, and then we could all appreciate the pun instead of being somewhat weirded out.

“Mr. Giffen promises that no pains or expense shall be spared in shis endeavors to please, both in regard to colors and finish. Gent’s Coats, Pants and Vests dyed, scoured and pressed in a manner equal to new goods. Ladies’ Silk, Satin, Velvet, Merino, M deLaine and Bombazine dresses, dyed in every variety of shade.” And so on. A few years after this, in 1861, A. Giffen would still be in business, at 80 Beaver Street.

Lest you think he was the only dyer (or scourer) in Albany, please let us inform you of the miracle of steam scouring, and of the former editor of the Scientific American who came to Albany to die. We mean, dye.


The Old Capitol Power House

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For 105 years, the Sheridan Avenue steam plant has provided steam (and, once, electricity) to the Capitol, the State Education Building and, later on, the rest of the Capitol complex. But that’s the “new” plant, hidden down in the hollow. The original powerhouse for the Capitol was right down Hawk Street. It was tucked in among a number of neighborhood buildings, none of which exist today. Some of the neighborhood was replaced by the newfangled State Education Building, and the replacement of the powerhouse came around the time the SED was completed. Across the street, what is now Lafayette Park was once all residences, bisected by the now lost Lafayette Street.

Capitol Power House, Hawk Street

This view (from the Albany…The Way It Was Flickr page) would be about from the Washington Avenue portico of the Capitol, looking across the avenue to the buildings on Hawk Street that no longer exist. To the far right, behind the light pole, is the old power house; its chimney looms large over the row houses to the left. Given that the complex was powered by coal, we can imagine the surroundings were more than a little sooty.

Capitol Powerhouse Adjacent to State Education BuildingLater, the power house co-existed with the new State Education Building, but its days were numbered. Even before the new building was dedicated in 1912, the State had begun planning for a new power plant down in Sheridan Hollow.

Demolition of the old Capitol Power HouseFrom the Albany Public Library comes this image of the demolition of the old power house. We don’t know if something took its place for a few decades before the Education Building Annex was built.

The Barnet Family: Far From Shoddy

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While we were digging around the “Personal Pages” from a 1919 edition of Textile World, our curiosity was piqued by this note on the generosity of William Barnet, perhaps Rensselaer’s leading shoddy manufacturer. (Hoxsie will always find “shoddy manufacturer” funny, but if you don’t know, shoddy was a cheap fabric made of short-fibered reclaimed wool.) The article says that:

William Barnet, president of William Barnet & Sons, shoddy manufacturers of Rensselaer, N.Y., and a prominent resident of Albany, was one of the first to volunteer the use of his automobile to carry the orphans of Albany to and from Maple-Beach Park [successor to Al-Tro Park], where the annual orphans’ field day will be held. Mr. Barnet is a leading member of the Albany Motor Club, which has undertaken to supply transportation for the orphans.

It would appear that trundling orphans off for a day of fun was actually one of Barnet’s lesser good works; his reputation, and that of his company were anything but shoddy. (Sorry.)

According to a Knick News article from 1948, the original factory was founded at Broadway and Westerlo St. in 1898, then moved to Rensselaer in 1905. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1915 and later expanded. “The fumes and smoke which are characteristic of shoddy mills will be entirely absent in the new structure, according to Mr. Barnet, Sr. A device has been installed to draw off all obnoxious odors from the shoddies and carry them through a series of tubes to the outside.” A memorial to William Barnet from the Albany Evening News of Dec. 15, 1932, expressed what appeared to be the common opinion of Barnet:

William Barnet was one of the givers. He gave of money and time and service and sympathy. His long life of four score years was not lived for self but for others. His sense of public responsibility was large. He believed in kind words and good deeds. He had lived in Albany since he was 20 years old and he established the business of William Barnet & Son in Rensselaer. Sometimes it seemed as if business was his avocation and service to the public was his vocation. Under supervision of Herbert Hoover he was chairman of the Belgian Relief campaign. He was a trustee of the fund to build the Salvation Army Home and chairman of the Jewish War Relief campaign. In the war he was supervising chairman of draft boards in this section. He was a leader in several fraternal organizations, a world traveler and one of the foremost philanthropists that Albany has known. His life was an inspiration to all. To know him as a friend was a privilege. His example of active high citizenship will never be forgotten. The city mourns one of its rarest men.

Son Henry, who was president of the company for many years, worked on the Community Chest, on the board of the Jewish Community Center, and on the boards of Albany Hospital and Temple Beth Emeth. In 1940, he led a campaign against syphilis. “It seems that while he is in Albany, his idea of relaxation is going to meetings or trying to raise funds for his favorite projects.” The newspapers are filled with mentions of good works by Henry Barnet. In 1936, Barnet plant employees were among the first to receive hospitalization insurance (the terms will make you cry, so we’ll save that for tomorrow). No surprise, as Henry Barnet was instrumental in forming the Blue Cross Associated Hospital Service in the Capital District. He died in 1951, at age 71, extremely well-regarded. (Incidentally, he lived at 123 S. Lake Ave., certainly a handsome home but no mansion.)

A civic-minded family, Henry’s son William Barnet 2d lived his whole life in Albany, retired as chairman of the family business, and was involved In a number of philanthropic activities, including the foundation that bears his name and his wife’s. William Barnet III, an Albany Academy graduate, was President and CEO of the family business from 1976-2000, and has been on the boards of some little organizations like Duke Energy, Bank of America, and Fleet Boston. He was also mayor of Spartanburg, SC for a number of years.

William Barnet & Son went south in the 1960s, like most textile companies, moving its headquarters to South Carolina, and then branched out worldwide. While they make polymers and yarns, Hoxsie is happy to see that they still make short cut and staple fibers from post-industrial and post-consumer waste materials, so it’s entirely possible they’re still a leading shoddy manufacturer. We’d like to think so.

The Barnet mill still stands on Forbes Avenue in Rensselaer, now known as the Hilton Center and clearly visible from the Corning Preserve Boat Launch on the Albany side of the river.

True crime, 1914: Armed robbery, carjacking, murder

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While digging up info on Schenectady’s Hygienic Lunch, we ran across this charming tale of armed robbery, carjacking, and the death of a dentist. Here’s the story from the Schenectady Gazette of August 18, 1914:

Cashier Swears Conway Robbed Electric Lunch

George Volk and Hygienic Lunch Man, However, Say Prisoner Is Not the Man – Arrest Made in Albany by Detectives Van Deusen and Rooney on Warrant Sworn Out by James Stathes, Night Cashier – Conway, Police Say, Bears Excellent Reputation

John Conway, 28 years old, a core-maker, was arrested yesterday afternoon by Detectives Van Deusen and Rooney in Albany, charged with being the party who held up and robbed the cashier of the Electric Lunch in State street early Saturday morning. The two officers, accompanied by James Stathes, the night cashier, who was on duty in the lunch room when the robber secured $134.70 from the cash register at the point of a gun, were on their way to Albany in an endeavor to locate the robber. While on the car Stathes suddenly pointed out Conway, who was on the car [streetcar], as the man who did the job.

Both the officers knew Conway, who bears an excellent reputation and who has roomed in Jay street, near the city hall, for the past three years and were loath to believe the cashier. Conway left the car at Pearl street, Albany, and went into Sauter’s dru store. Van Deusen and Rooney, with Stathes, secured a point of vantage and, after again looking minutely at Conway, Stathes declared he was the man.

Conway was therefore placed under arrest and brought to this city, where a charge of robbery, first degree, was lodged against him, Stathes swearing out a warrant. George Volk, the Gazette pressman, whose automobile the robber used to make his get-away, intimidating Volk with his gun, was sent for and he denied that Conway was the man. The cashier in the Hygienic Lunch, which had also been visited by the robber just prior to his doing the job at the Electric Lunch, was also called and he was positive that Conway was not the man.

Stathes, however, insisted that Conway was the man and swore to the information upon which the warrant was issued. Conway was released under bail bond and will have an examination on August 24 at 2 o’clock.

Another story was rumored about the streets last night to the effect that the man, Charles Thompson, who had such a terrific fight in the dental office of Dr. Myers in Troy late Saturday night, both men falling from the window to the pavement, which fall resulted in the death of Dr. Myers and the serious injury of Thompson, was the man who committed the hold-up in this city early Saturday morning.

Word was received by the local police last night to this effect and an effort will be made today to identify Thompson as the man who robbed the Electric Lunch. Officers with Stathes, Volk and others will visit the Troy Hospital, where Thompson is suffering from a fractured skull, and see if he answers the description of the robber.

If it was Thompson, then he had a hell of a day: robbed two lunch joints at gunpoint, stole a car and drove to Troy, where he got into a fight with a dentist that ended in fatal defenestration. Apparently that’s just what happened, and a little more. The Troy Times of August 14, 1914, told more about the death of the dentist:

Dentist’s Tragic Death – Locked in Desperate Struggle With Supposed Burglar Dr. Charles G. Myers Plunges From Roof to Brick Pavement in Yard forty Feet Below – Dies in Hospital – Intruder Survives But Badly Injured – Conceals His Identity.

Dr. Charles G. Myers, dentist, with offices over The Troy Trust Company, died at the Troy Hospital shortly before midnight Saturday night from injuries received in a fall from the roof in the rear of his office on the upper floor of the building while grappling with an intruder, supposedly a burglar intent on stealing gold leaf from the dental offices. The latter, known only as Charles Thompson, a name he gave, was also taken to the hospital, having sustained injuries to his head, face and left arm which at first were supposed to be fatal, but which the physicians later decided were not necessarily so.

Thompson told police here wasn’t there to steal, but was looking for the bathroom, and was just attacked by Dr. Myers. The police didn’t believe him, and probably believed him less when they found out his name was Raymond J. Sampson, who also went by the name of Edward Farley and had come from Elizabeth, New Jersey. In his murder trial the next year, it came out that he had run into an ex-con acquaintance from Elizabeth who was working as a motion-picture operator up in Cohoes, by the name of William Rixon. They met on the afternoon of the Schenectady robberies.

“I said ‘Hello, Ed,’ and he said ‘Hello, Will, what are you doing here?’ I said I lived there. He said, ‘How’s pickings?’ and I said ‘Pretty poor.’ He said, ‘Show me a prominent man or house, and I will go fifty-fifty with you, and you can go home.’ I had a beer and he took a ginger ale. He showed me a roll of money, and said it was Schenectady money. Then he showed me an automatic gun.”

Not suspicious at all. They didn’t get him on murder, but did send him to prison on manslaughter. The Troy Trust Building, at the southwest corner of Broadway and Third Street, was demolished in 1952, replaced by what was then the Manufacturers’ National Bank. And, as far as we know, Conway continued to enjoy an excellent reputation.


Albany: The Ampersand City

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The derelict ampersand factory, used by Damian Van Rensselaer to vex his non-evil half-brother.

The derelict ampersand factory, used by Damian Van Rensselaer to vex his non-evil half-brother.

Hoxsie has often referred to Albany as “The City Without a Nickname.” Other than “The Capital City,” other nicknames that it may have deserved – “The Piano City,” “The Celluloid City,” “Drainage Basin of the Erie Canal” – never quite stuck. But one of its ephemeral nicknames should have stuck, because without its contributions, the modern age of commerce could never have happened. Albany was once the center of manufacture and home of a progressive movement that freed a powerful symbol for use in commerce, and thus should be known as “The Ampersand City.”

In colonial times, the ampersand was considered a luxury item; no one actually needed them, and those who wanted them were prepared to pay dearly. And so for the first couple of centuries, ampersands were imported items. Ampersands were treated very much like windowpanes, which were enumerated and taxed individually, and only the most successful businesses could afford to proclaim themselves as “Gray & Sons” instead of using the more pedestrian “Gray and Sons.” In addition to paying an annual tax to the locality, ampersand holders paid for each use, and the actual physical item – a big wooden “&” for a factory sign, for example – could cost hundreds of dollars at a time when workers made pennies a day. This lasted well into the 1800s, a growing time of commerce in the United States when all kinds of businesses were proclaiming themselves in ways that would have benefited from the ampersand. Those who held the rights to import them kept a stranglehold on supply, and domestic craftsmen who knew how to make them were virtually non-existent, until a plucky Albany businessman made the ampersand an item of mass production.

Andrew Persé was born to an otherwise unnoticeable Albany family in Sheridan Hollow around 1840. He was early apprenticed as a clerk to Bacon, Stickney & Co., a very prestigious importer of coffee and spices that did such a business it had two stores side by side on Dean Street and another on Exchange. Not only did they have an ampersand in their name, but merchant baron Samuel Bacon held the license for importing ampersands for all of New York and western Massachusetts. Any business, any printer, any signpainter who wished to make use of that single character in place of three, and convey all the prestige that carried, had to make payment to Bacon.

Bacon was a profiteer and influential. A national craze for abbreviation was already under steam when the Civil War came, and the need for brevity in letters to and from the Union soldiers threatened his hegemony over the ampersand symbol as it became possible the owners of these exclusive rights would simply be overrun by popular use. If everyone started using the ampersand, it would be impossible to collect the fees. But Bacon hit on a brilliant and very New York scheme, convincing one of the legislators he owned to get legislation passed that established a tax (which Andrew Persé went off to fight). He was able to get a law through the Legislature that established a postal surcharge for the presumed use of ampersands in correspondence. Nevermind that it was certain that New York’s law would be, and eventually was, found to unconstitutionally intrude on Federal jurisdiction. It stood long enough to make Bacon even more ridiculously wealthy, all based on the legal presumption that each letter-writer would use an ampersand at least once per letter.

Persé, serving in the Army of the Potomac and having worked for Bacon, was particularly galled by this turn of events, and frequently wrote home of his anger, in full longhand without abbreviation as a form of protest to his family. When he got back to Albany, something would be done. He used his spare time thinking about the mechanics, talking to men of practical experience, and working out how to amass the raw materials and machinery needed to modernize ampersand production. He had a vision of turning from the hand-crafted imports (still largely wooden and produced in Holland) to modern, iron-based ampersands crafted with steampower.

It happened that his company lieutenant and fireside chat-mate was Damien Van Rensselaer, evil half-brother of Stephen Van Rensselaer, who had money and a motive, to always serve as a thorn in the side of his half-sibling. DVR saw his opportunity in a stroke of genius: he would bankroll the creation of a modern factory on property he controlled just off the edge of the Lumber District in Albany – but, more importantly, immediately adjacent to the Van Rensselaer Manor.

With the war over, both returned to Albany and began their machinations. Persé hired a pair of Dutch brothers from a long line of ampersand makers to come to Albany, and DVR hired a crew of night masons to throw up a long, low brick factory within the sight line of the family estate. The activity was just far enough from the center of city activities that it wasn’t really noticed until smoke started pouring from its stacks, and it was then too late to be stopped.

Early models from the Persé factory

Early models from the Persé factory

Persé hired a wily salesman who went by the name of “Spats” Gansevoort, who offered the hitherto deprived factories, merchants and associations of Albany unbelievable cut-rate deals on ampersands; if they signed up before production began, they’d cost a tenth of what Bacon charged, and would be warranted to last forever, free of termites and dry rot. Even prosperous companies that already possessed ampersands were interested, and they were all guaranteed their money back if the plant failed to produce.

Flush with capital and orders, Persé’s factory immediately began producing ampersands of all shapes (well, really, just the one shape) and sizes, primarily of iron. Merchants from Troy, Schenectady, and even far-off Amsterdam soon heard of an alternative to Bacon’s extortionate prices, and were wiring orders in to the factory.

Of course, Bacon heard of all this, too, and was livid. He rushed to a local judge to get a cease and desist order, only to find the judge clearly in the pocket of Damian Van Rensselaer and unwilling to help. Racing up the hill to his legislators, he found that even they had become enamored of the idea of not paying for ampersands on the doors of their law practices – and they had some shiny new ones, fresh from what was called the “Andrew Persé And Factory.” Cleverly, Persé didn’t even use the word “ampersand,” just in case his scheme didn’t work and he ended up in hot water. He needn’t have worried.

The ampersand business just exploded. Boardman & Gray Pianos, Van Gasbeeck Carpets, Rugs & Curtains, Cotrell & Leonard clothing, Merten’s & Phalen’s – dozens of businesses started freely using the ampersand at Persé’s low, low prices. Bacon brought action in state court, but faced a platoon of lawyers from ampersanded firms who had taken up Persé’s case. Railroads, such as the Albany and Rensselaer and Kinderhook and Hudson Railroad, saw a real opportunity for savings and brevity, and loaned their considerable weight in the battle against Bacon. Desperate, he tried to cut costs, but importing remained more expensive than local manufacture, and his business collapsed.

But so did Persé’s. As he trained more and more workers to make the character, and machining equipment became standardized, some broke off and started their own ampersand factories on the edge of the Lumber District. The Erie Canal spread their wares to the west and south. For safety reasons, railroads had been barred from carrying ampersands, but a new act of the Legislature lifted that restriction and ampersands were carried on board when the transcontinental railroad opened. So was an itinerant ampersand-maker, who soon captured the business of the west. The profit soon went out of the business, as ampersands became more plentiful than water. When the bottom dropped out, Persé seems to have just disappeared.

The old ampersand factory still sits on the edge of the old Van Rensselaer estate. Damian Van Rensselaer continued to use it to vex his relations for some years, renting it for use by a clown college and, somewhat related, a calliope factory. After his death, it passed through a number of hands, but the faded sign on the railroad-track side of the building remains to this day.

The Albany Eagle Air Furnace

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Albany Eagle Air Furnace 1839From an 1839 edition of the Albany Argus, an advertisement from the Albany Eagle Air Furnace and Machine Shop, where William V. Many (formerly of Corning, Norton & Co.) manufactured just about everything that could be made of iron. We won’t try to replicate their emphatic use of capital letters in telling you that they manufactured to order

Iron castings for gearing mills & factories, of every description. Also, malt mills, mashing machines, steam engines, and railroad castings of every description. The collection of patterns of machinery is not equalled in the United States.

The following articles will be kept constantly for sale at the Furnace, and furnished at short notice, viz: potash kettles, single and double bottoms, from 56 to 140 gallons, cauldrons from 1 to 3 barrels, hatters’ and soap boilers’ kettles, bark mills, paper mill and other screws, press plates, oven mouths and furnace doors, hand-pumps , single and double forcing pumps, wagon, cart and post coach boxes, sash weights, 7, 14, 25, 28 30, 50, 56, and 60 lb. weights, forge hammers, sleigh shoes, stoves, hall scrapers, portable furnaces, hawser irons, mandrills for coppersmiths, bookbinders’ and notarial or seal presses.

There was also a extensive assortment of plough patterns “embracing almost every kind in use, and the company offered pig iron, fire brick, coal, amboy sand and clay to “country founders.”

Orders could be addressed to Mr. Many at No. 84 Beaver street, Albany, “or to the care of Messrs. Erastus Corning & Co.”

Albany Eagle Air FurnaceIn this advertisement, it wasn’t mentioned that the Eagle Air Furnace was also known as a temperance furnace. “Not a drop of strong drink of any description is furnished to the men or permitted to be used in the furnace, and but few of the men are in the habit of drinking at all out of the furnace, and these few but very little.” We’ve written about the Eagle Air Furnace before. The Corning connection is interesting, but Erastus Corning appears to have been no more than an agent for William Many. According to Irene Neu’s “Erastus Corning: Merchant and Financier, 1794-1872,” Corning had been employed by the previous owner of the foundry, John Spencer, as early as 1814, and he bought a partnership in Spencer’s company in 1816. Then the firm Corning and Norton was sole owner by 1825, but it was apparently not successful and he sold it to William V. Many, a Corning and Norton employee, and Robert E. Ward, but remained a merchandising agent for the firm.