Category Archives: Albany

A dust-up among bakers

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bakerlandsinjail.pngJust one of those things that catches the eye: an article from the Sept. 14, 1927 Albany Evening News described a fight between bakers:

“Mixing fists and a rolling pin, instead of dough, brought John Novak, thirty-two, 26 Bassett street, a baker employed at the Star bakery, into police court today charged with assault, third degree. Against him appeared Moses Herman, thirty-five, Lancaster street, a fellow baker, who had a somewhat pummeled appearance. He said Novak attacked him with his fists and the implement of their trade during an argument last night.”

The article doesn’t say where the dust-up occurred, but 200 spectators were on the scene.

Moses Herman was a Russian immigrant, born about 1888, who reported his native tongue as Yiddish. He lived in Albany at least through 1935, but by 1940 was practicing the baker’s trade in New York City and living on Quincy Street in Brooklyn.  He may have gone back and forth between New York and Albany, for in 1930 he can also be found in Queens.  He doesn’t appear to have married.

I don’t find a John Novak that I’m satisfied is a good match, but the Novaks that were in Albany, mostly listed as laborers, were Polish, Lithuanian, and Czech.

The mystery of Ivanhoe Bland

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Happened to be looking through the 1920 Albany City Directory, as one does, and looked up an address where I spent a lot of time over the past couple of decades. I knew that the building currently there had not been there that far back, and that there had been a little neighborhood of brick row houses on Monroe Street back before it turned into some warehouses and factories (and now back into housing again). And at 25 Monroe Street, I noticed the name of one Ivanhoe Bland, dyer and cleaner. It would be hard not to want to know more about someone bearing that moniker.

It seems that Ivanhoe Bland was of African-American descent, of a family that generally only spent a bit of time in the Capital District, but which produced one quite famous person.

The family patriarch was Allen M. Bland, who was born  in South Carolina (likely Charleston), with potential birthdates ranging from 1827 to 1836. He is marked as “mulatto” in the census, and is said to have been one of the first African-American college graduates. He is in fact listed in Oberlin College’s “Catalogue and Record of Colored Students,” 1835-62, and is listed as for the years 1845-48; with his name is the description “(taught in New Jersey many years; useful).” (The first student in the catalogue was James Bradley in 1835.) Beyond that, the life of Allen Bland is a little hard to track with certainty. It is known that he lived in Mannington, NJ in 1850, and Flushing, New York in 1854, but had moved with his family to Troy by 1857. With him there in 1860, when he was listed as 26 years old, were his wife, Lydia Ann Cromwell (24), who was from Delaware; daughters Frances (8) and Mary A. (6); sons James (5) and “Ivenko” (Ivanhoe, aged 3), and a one-year-old child with a name that probably wasn’t Tansant, which is what the census-taker wrote down. Frances, James, Ivanhoe and the youngest were born in New York; Mary was born in Tennessee. the family lived at 54 Albany Street in Troy; that’s now called Broadway. He was listed as the principal of the Third Ward School, noted as “African,” on Seventh Street.

In 1860, Allen is briefly mentioned in a letter, “Our Albany Letter,” published by correspondent “Justice” in a newspaper called The Weekly Anglo-African. Dated April 2, 1860, the letter includes: “Allen M. Bland, Esq., of Troy, paid us a flying visit yesterday.”

He was still in Troy in 1862. It is claimed that after a stop in Philadelphia, he moved to Washington, DC, where Allen Bland was the earliest known African American appointed as an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office, though some researchers have been unable to confirm that claim. He was also said to have attended law school at Howard University, but to have become a tailor near Howard. He is listed as a teacher in Newark, NJ’s city directory in 1863. He is listed as a merchant tailor in the 1865 Washington, DC directory, and in several other years. He is listed in the census for Charleston, SC in 1880, living with mother Frances; he’s a tailor and she’s a seamstress. The rest of his family is not there. He’s listed in the Charleston directory as a tailor in 1882. In the 1893 Washington, DC directory, Lydia is listed as the widow of Allen, living at 1632 R St. NW.

James A. Bland became very famous, known as “the black Stephen Foster” and “The World’s Greatest Minstrel Man,” touring the United States, working as a singer and banjo player in London for 20 years.  He wrote at least 50 songs (and perhaps many, many times more under other names); the best-known of them all was “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” which was the state song of Virginia until 1997. Unfortunately, after minstrel music fell out of favor, James seems to have fallen into obscurity, dying in Philadelphia in 1911; he is buried in Bala Cynwyd.

Of Ivanhoe, who started this inquiry, we know very little. It appears that he was born around 1855. In 1905, he was living at 206 W. 27th St. in Manhattan, working as a tailor; his wife Mary was an at-home dressmaker, and 19-year-old daughter Maud was listed as at school. As noted above, in 1920, Ivanhoe was in the city directory at 25 Monroe, as a dyer and cleaner. In 1925, Ivanhoe and “Mattie” were lodgers in the home of Ralph Vedder at 100 Orange St. in Albany. Ivanhoe was now listed as a cleaner and dyer, and his wife was still a dressmaker. That home was at the corner of Orange and Cross Street, later known as Theater Row, just around the corner from where he had been five years before. But by 1930, Mary was living at 24 S. Swan, with John and Leonora Bland (perhaps her son?), and is listed as the widow of Ivanhoe.

I went into this with the assumption that Ivanhoe is the son of Allen and the brother of James; one of the brief biographies of James mentions his brother Ivanhoe. Confusingly, there is an Ivanhoe Bland buried in Troy’s Mt. Ida cemetery. This Ivanhoe died Jan. 10, 1860, aged 4 years, 7 months and 7 days. Given the timing, it’s certain that this Ivanhoe was the child of Allen and Lydia, who arrived in Troy that year. The census records on the Ivanhoe who survived to adulthood are, unfortunately, imprecise about his age. In Manhattan in 1905, he’s listed as 39 years old, so born about 1866, when Allen and Lydia were already back in DC. In the 1925 census in Albany, he’s listed as 52, which would give a birth year of 1873 or so. If he is the son of Allen and Lydia, and their second son named Ivanhoe (it wasn’t uncommon then to give a child the name of one who predeceased him), why did he come back to the Albany area long after they had moved on?

It gets more confusing. In 1870, “Allan” and “Lilly”  are living in Washington, DC. Their places of birth, South Carolina and Delaware, and their ages seem to make them our Allen and Lydia. Allen is listed as a clerk in the patent office. (By the way, he lists real estate worth $2000 and $100 in personal estate). With them are Mary, 16, born in Pennsylvania, and James, 15, born in New York and going to school. Next in the household is someone listed as “Taxout E,” a 12-year-old male born in New York and also at school. Taxout would appear to be the surname. Below that, appearing to share the same surname under census conventions, are an Ivanhoe, age 9, and Josiah, age 7. All are listed as “mulatto.” Also living in the house is William Fuller, a white male age 30 who was a clerk in the Interior Department.

The “Taxout” surname would appear to just be a mistake; it doesn’t occur anywhere else in the census, ever. This is most likely the same child that a census-taker had as “Tansent” or something similar in Troy in 1860. Ivanhoe, born in New York around 1861, is most likely the second child that the Blands gave that name, the first having died in 1860.

Even that 1861 birthdate doesn’t align well with Albany’s Ivanhoe Bland, who barely appears in the records available to us. Outside of these censuses, we only know one date with certainty. The Albany Evening News listed his death as September 13, 1927. From this, we also learn that he was a member of the Black Elks, the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World, founded in Ohio in 1899 when the other Elks would not accept blacks. (The white BPOE fought the IBPOE of W, quite unpleasantly, until 1918, but still didn’t allow black members until 1976.) “Relatives and friends, also the members of Empire State lodge, No. 272, I.B.P.O.E. of W., also the Daughters of Loyal Temple lodge, No. 148, are respectfully invited to attend his funeral Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock at 38 grand street. Remains may be seen Thursday evening.” Even in this notice, we don’t get his age (apparently the style at the time).

I wanted to shed a little light on an obscure life from Monroe Street, but I’m not sure that’s possible.

Albany 1836: One of the greatest thoroughfares in the union

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Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 12.13.35 PM.pngIn 1836, J. Disturnell of New York City published “The Traveller’s Guide through the State of New York, Canada, &c.” The title wound on for a while, as was the fashion at the time. The guide gave a thorough description of travel up the Hudson, which we may touch on another day, and provided a snapshot of Albany as it stood in 1836:

Albany, the capital of the State of New-York, is eligibly situated on the west bank of the Hudson river, 145 miles north of New-York, 164 west of Boston, 225 south of Montreal, and 296 east of Buffalo, lat. 42, 28, N. long 73, 62, W. Since the completion of the Erie and Champlain Canals, in 1825, this city has much increased in population and trade. A large number of steam-boats and sloops are constantly employed in conveying freight and passengers between Albany and New-York during the season of navigation. There are also several thousand canal-boats which trade to this place by the Erie and Champlain canals. The city of Albany contained in 1835, a population of 28,109 inhabitants. The State House, situated at the head of State-street, about half a mile from the steam-boat landing, is a commanding object to the stranger, Also, the City-Hall, a few rods north-east, and the Albany Academy, directly north of the Capitol. There are 20 places of public worship, many of them elegant buildings, besides a number of fine edifices for the use of the city; Incorporated Companies, Seminaries, &c., also, six banks, three Insurance Companies, besides many other incorporated and unincorporated institutions. The principal Hotels in Albany are the Eagle Tavern, American Hotel, Adelphia Hotel, Congress Hall, City-Hotel, Mansion House, Bement’s Hotel, Park-Place House, Fort Orange Hotel, and Montgomery Hall. Steam-boats for the conveyance of passengers leave every morning and afternoon for New-York, stopping at the intermediate landings. The carriages and cars on the rail road for Schenectady start from State-street every few hours: canal boats are hourly leaving for the west and north, and stages are continually starting for the north, east, and west.

Aided by natural and artificial means, Albany has become one of the greatest thoroughfares in the union; her prosperity is now great, but for the future, the prospects of Albany are still more encouraging. The rail-road from Schenectady to Utica is now constructing, and will be completed the present season, thus extending the rail-road communication 100 miles west. Rail-roads are also constructing between Syracuse and Auburn, and between Rochester and Batavia, which will so far complete the line of rail-roads to Buffalo, that it is easy to foresee that but a short time can elapse before a continuous line will be established to Lake Erie, thus making the spring and winter facilities of transportation nearly equal to those of the summer. A company is now engaged in making surveys for a rail-road from Albany to Stockbridge in Massachusetts, which with the contemplated rail-road from Stockbridge to connect with the Boston and Worcester rail-road, will form a chain of rail-road communication between Albany and Boston, which will be of great advantage to this city, especially in the winter, when the intercourse by water with New-York is suspended. When all these roads are completed, and there is no doubt they will soon be, there will be a line of rail-road communication from Boston to Buffalo; from the Atlantic to the western lakes, of which Albany will be the business centre.

While private enterprise is doing so much to improve the communication with the west, the state government, by a late law, has authorized an enlargement of the Erie Canal, and the construction of double locks, which it is supposed will have the effect to reduce the price of  transportation 30 to 40 per cent., and greatly to augment it in quantity.

The present rate of toll on 1000 pounds of flour from Buffalo to Albany is $1.62½. The reduction will bring it to less than one half the cost, for the same distance by any other route, and the valley of the Mohawk must continue to be, as it always has been, the natural and easiest channel of commerce with the west, and Albany the depot where the exchange takes place between the productions of the interior, for those of the sea coast and of foreign countries. This exchange will be much facilitated by the improvement now making in the navigation of the Hudson, by the United States government. The removal of the bar at the Overslaugh, which is the object of this improvement, will, when completed, deepen the channel to about twelve feet, and will give to this place a West India trade, in which the productions of the islands, consumed in the west, will be exchanged for the produce brought down the canal, without being burdened by landing, storage and reshipment at New-York.

The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad commences at Albany, near the Capitol, at the head of State-street; and extends to Schenectady, a distance of 15 miles. A branch also approaches the Hudson River below the city, where the company have erected extensive warehouses for freight. This was the first railroad chartered in the State of New-York; it was commenced in 1830. The plan and profile are admirably designed, and justify the great expense which the heavy embankments and excavations have required. The greatest height of embankment is 44 feet; and the deepest excavation is 47 feet. The summit is 335 feet above the Hudson. There are two stationary engines, one near each end of the road. Locomotive engines are mostly in use, although horses are occasionally used.

Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad commences at Schenectady and extends to Saratoga Springs, via. Ballston Spa. This road was commenced September, 1831. Its length is 21½ miles. The road is mostly level, and in no case does the inclination exceed 16 feet to the mile. Steam power is used to great advantage in propelling the cars, often proceeding at the rate of 30 miles per hour.

Where’s my fire bucket?

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So, yesterday we established that if you were a homeowner or landlord in 1800 Albany, you were expected to supply leather buckets in good working order for use in fighting fires, and that the number of buckets you were to supply was essentially N-1, where N was the number of fireplaces in the dwelling. (Negative numbers were not considered for enforcement purposes.) From time to time, those buckets had to be put to use, and you were expected to pony up your buckets to help in fighting fires. That’s why putting your initials on them was one of the requirements. “All buckets used for the purpose of extinguishing fires, if the same shall not be claimed by the owners thereof, shall, within forty-eight hours after such fire is extinguished, be sent to the city-hall of the said city, and committed to the custody of the keeper of the gaol [jail], to be by him retained till the owner thereof shall claim and take the same; and that if any person other than the said gaoler, shall retain any such bucket, not being the other thereof, longer than forty-eight hours after such fire shall be extinguished, he or she shall forfeit the sum of one dollar.”

Also, the law ordained that “when and as often as any accident by fire shall happen in the said city, the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen and Assistants, shall respectively, wear across their shoulders a white linen sash, of at least the breadth of three inches; and the Mayor, Recorder, or any one of the Aldermen, or any one of the Assistants, shall and may require and direct all and every person present, at or near such fire, to employ and exert himself for the extinguishment of such fire, in such manner as such Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen or Assistant shall point and direct; and if any person so being present at or near such fire, shall neglect or refuse to comply with such direction of such Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen or Assistant, he shall forfeit and pay the sum of two dollars and fifty cents.” So, fire in the city, on go the sashes, and you have to do what the guys wearing the sashes tell you to do.

How were fires to be prevented, besides the inspection of fireplaces and leather buckets? Well, there were some rules. For one thing, it was ordained that no hay or straw should be put or kept in stacks in any yard or garden, “or in any place than in a close building.” It was also ordained that no hay, straw or Indian corn-stalks were to be within five feet of any chimney, hearth or fireplace, at risk of a penalty of $1.25 for every 48 hours the condition persisted.

Additionally, there were restrictions on another cause of fire – it was ordained “that if any person shall fire or discharge any gun, pistol, rocket, cracker, squib or other fire-work, in any street, lane or alley, or in any yard, garden or other inclosure, or in any place which persons frequent to walk, within the limits of the said city, such person shall forfeit for every such offence the sum of fifty cents; and on neglect or refusal to pay such forfeiture (if such offender has no goods or chattels) such offender shall be committed to the common gaol of the said city, there to remain for the space of three days, unless such forfeiture be sooner paid.” Again, since this language was concentrated within the general provisions on fire, we can assume the concern wasn’t that someone in the city was going to get shot, but that gunfire or fireworks could start a fire.


A Law to Prevent Accidents by Fire

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ALawtoPreventAccidentsbyFire.pngIn 1800, the Charter of the City of Albany and the Laws and Ordinances, Ordained and Established the bye Mayor, Aldermen and Commonality of said City were published. First in the section of laws was “A Law to Prevent Accidents by Fire,” which was an elaborate set of rules aimed at preventing one of the most dangerous scourges of the 18th century.

First it provided that the mayor could appoint in every ward two freeholders “who shall be called Inspectors,” and that “if any person appointed an inspector, shall neglect to take upon him the execution of the duties of the said office, he shall forfeit the sum of five dollars.” The job of the inspectors was to, at least once in every two weeks, carefully examine and inspect all “chimnies, hearths, stoves, stove-pipes, ash-houses, and other places in which fire or ashes shall be kept, within any part of the ward for which they shall be appointed.” If they found that any chimney needed cleansing, repairing or securing, or that any hearth, stove, stove-pipe, or ash-house was dangerous or not properly secured, they could give notice that it be fixed within two days. There was also the task of inspecting the leather buckets required by law (to be used for carrying water in the event of fire); the inspectors were to check every two weeks whether “the several persons enjoined to furnish leather buckets are possessed of the requisite number – and whether the same are in good order.”

The law also required that every stovepipe through any wooden floor, roof, or partition be at least an inch and a half distant from the wood, and that it should be “conducted into a chimney, wherever it can be done without great inconvenience.”

If your chimney were to “take fire and burn for want of cleaning or properly securing the same,” you would be fined $2.50 for each occurrence, but the inspectors would be punished too, forfeiting sixty-two cents and five mills, and an additional $1.25 for failing to perform any of their other duties. (Imagine if inspectors shared in the penalties today.)

There was a strict requirement that every house with two or more fireplaces keep leather buckets in good order and repair. For two fireplaces, you were required to have one bucket; for four, two; for five, three, for six, five buckets; and for every house having more than six fireplaces, five buckets for the first six fireplaces and one bucket for every fireplace more than six. Regardless of the number, the buckets “shall be marked at least with the initial letters of the owner’s name and sirname [sic]; that if such buckets shall be provided by any tenant or tenants, it shall be at the expence [sic] of his, her or their landlord or landlords; and that if any owner or tenant as aforesaid, shall neglect or refuse to procure or keep in good order and repair the leather buckets which he or she shall in and by this law be required to furnish, such owner or Tenant shall forfeit and pay the sum of seventy-five cents for every bucket deficient . . . and the further sum of 37 cents 5 mills for every ten days such bucket shall remain deficient or not in good order and repair as aforesaid…”

 This one goes out to everyone who thinks that wildly detailed bureaucracy and laws are something new, and to those who say that gender-inclusive language is just a sign of political correctness.

Outboards Race from Albany to New York City

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From British Pathé, another historic view of Albany’s riverfront, this time from 1931. The title is “Albany to New York — 117 outboards race 136 miles,” but this brief bit of newsreel only shows the first couple of minutes, giving us some fabulous views of both the Albany and Rensselaer riverfronts. On the Albany side, we first see the long-gone Maiden Lane bridge, with the Albany Yacht Club structures just to its left. Before that on the left, we can see Steamboat Square, complete with one of the big steam liners that plied the river in those days. The camera turns as it focuses in one one of the individual speedboats (which look like the driver would take a hell of a bruising over the course of 136 miles), and we again see the Maiden Lane, this time on its Rensselaer end, and we get a river’s level view of the city of Rensselaer, which hasn’t changed hugely since this was made. Then we see the Maiden Lane bridge again, with its swing span in the center. On the backs of some of the industrial buildings of Rensselaer, we see a sign for Freihofer Bread (originally from Philadelphia, by the way) and Peter Schuyler Cigars. At about 48 seconds, we return to a view of the Albany side, and see the rooftop sign of the Blue Ribbon Potato Chip Company and then Ward Coffee. A boat passes under the original Dunn Memorial Bridge, and we’re done.

Motor Boat Beats Express Train

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Well, that’s the title of this brief film from British Pathé in 1925. The description is “Motorboat beats express train. Over 142 mile run from Albany to New York. Harmon N.Y. the Express changes from steam to electric power, but boat still leads. USA (U.S.A.).” Here we see only 39 seconds, 10 of which are the title, but the rest is a rare reminder of the Albany that was. It starts on the now-gone Maiden Lane Bridge, with crowds gathered on the pier of the Albany Yacht Club to see the racing motorboat take off into the Hudson, while a locomotive steams. Cut scene to the train steaming out of Union Station, over Quay Street and along the curved approach to the Maiden Lane bridge, with St. Joseph’s in the background on Arbor Hill. That part’s a little confusing, until you realize that the Maiden Lane was double-tracked, and the train on the bridge in the first scene must have been waiting for the racing locomotive to come across. That’s my best guess.

The Wikipedia or something tells me that “Pathé” is pronounced “pate,” and that the Brothers Pathé were represented by a rooster bellowing their name, Hoxsie-style:

More of Albany’s New York State Men

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More biographical sketches of Albany notables from 1910’s “New York State Men: Biographic Studies and Character Portraits.” These are names that fans of Albany history run across from time to time, but may not really recognize.

AndrewDraper.pngAndrew Sloan Draper — Commissioner of Education, was born at Westford, N.Y., in 1848. he was graduated from the Albany Academy in 1866, and the Albany Law School in 1871; taught school, 1866-70; practiced law, 1871-86; member Board of Education, 1879-81; Legislature, 1881; State Normal College Board, 1882-86; chairman Republican County Committee, 1880-83; member Republican State Committee, 1883-84; chairman Executive Committee, 1884; delegate National Convention, 1884; Judge Court of Alabama Claims, 1884-86; State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1886-92; Superintendent of Schools, Cleveland, O., 1892-94; president University of Illinois, 1894-1904; elected Commissioner of Education, 1904; member Chicago Historical Society and State Historical Societies, New York, Illinois and Wisconsin; author “Rescue of Cuba” and “American Education;” silver medal, Paris Exposition, for monograph on American educational organization; gold medal and two commemorative diplomas for educational writings, and one of the two grand prizes for conspicuous services to education at St. Louis Exposition; president National Association School Superintendents, and North Central Association Colleges and Secondary Schools; chairman Department of Education International Congresses at St. Louis; chairman United States Board of Indian Commissioners; officer in various financial, educational and religious institutions of Albany. Honorary degree LL.D., Colgate University, 1889; Columbia University, 1903; University of Illinois, 1905. Married Abbie Louise Lyon, New Britain, Conn., 1872. Two children. Residence, 133 Lake Avenue, Albany.

WilliamBarnes.pngWilliam Barnes, Jr. — President of The Journal Company, was born at Albany, N.Y., November 17, 1866, and is a son of William Barnes, a prominent lawyer of Albany, and a grandson of the late Thurlow Weed, the founder of the Albany Evening Journal. Mr. Barnes received his education at the Albany Academy and Harvard College, from which he was graduated in 1888. Upon leaving college he obtained a position as a reporter on the Albany Evening Journal, and in December, 1888, purchased the Albany Morning Express, which he conducted for several years. On April 2, 1889, he secured a controlling interest in the Albany Evening Journal. Since the beginning of his active career Mr. Barnes has been a leader in the political affairs of Albany County. He has been a member of the Republican State Committee since 1892, and was chairman of its executive committee for eight years. He was appointed Surveyor of the Port of Albany by President McKinley, and was reappointed by President Roosevelt. He is a member of the Union League Club of New York City, Republican Club of the City of New York, and of the Fort Orange, the Albany, the University and the Albany Country Clubs of Albany. On June 12, 1888, he married Miss Grace Davis, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. Barnes resides at 229 State Street, Albany.
[The relationship between Barnes, who became as much a political boss as a journalist, and Roosevelt soured significantly, resulting in a famous libel trial in a Syracuse courthouse in 1915.]

HoraceYoung.pngHorace Gedney Young — Banker, president of the Albany Trust company, was born at Homesdale, Pa., January 26, 1854. He attended the Cornwall Heights School at Cornwall, N.Y. from 1869 to 1870, and the Edwards Place School at Stockbridge, Mass., from 1870 to 1873. He then entered the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy and was graduated from that institution with the degree of C.E. in 1877. In 1879 he entered the service of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company as assistant to the general manager, serving in that capacity for six years when he was promoted, in 1885, to the position of general manager of the company. He directed the affairs of the railroad as general manager until 1888., when he was made second vice-president, while still retaining the position of general manager. On July 1, 1903, Mr. Young resigned his position with the D.&H. Company, and in January, 1905, he was elected president of the Albany Trust Company; but in May, 1908, he relinquished the presidency of this institution and became chairman of its board of directors. March 13, 1906, Mr. Young was elected president of the Albany Bankers’ Association. He is a trustee of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, of Troy, and a member of the Fort Orange Club, the University Club of New York City, the Grolier Club, of New York, and the Albany Country Club. On October 12, 1881, Mr. Young married Miss Cornelia L., daughter of Oscar L. Hasey, of Albany. His address is 425 State Street, Albany.

WBVanRensselaer.pngWilliam Bayard Van Rensselaer — Lawyer-financier, was born in Albany, October 4, 1856. He attended the State Normal School and the Albany Boys’ Academy, at Albany; Miss Gaylord’s Boarding School, at Catskill, N.Y., and St. Paul’s School, at Concord, N.H.  He was graduated from Harvard College in 1879, and spent the next year at the Harvard Law School, in Cambridge. The following year he studied in a law office in Albany, and was admitted to the bar in 1881, beginning the practice of law the same year. He organized the Van Rensselaer Land Company in 1885, and was elected its treasurer. He was elected trustee of the Albany Savings Bank in 1883, vice-president in 1897 and president in 1900. He became a director of the New York State National Bank, Albany, in 1885 and its vice-president in 1900. He was one of the organizers and was later the vice-president of the Union Trust Company, Albany. In 1901 he was elected chairman of the executive committee of the Savings Banks Association of the State of New York and in 1904 was elected president of that association. In 1893 he organized the Albany Terminal Warehouse Company, of which he was the first president. On November 3, 1880, Mr. Van Rensselaer married Miss Louisa G. Lane, daughte
r of Professor George Martin Lane, of Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Mr. Van Rensselaer died September 25, 1909.


New York State Men (from Albany)

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In 1910, editor Frederick Hills put out a tome through the Argus Press titled “New York State Men: Biographic Studies and Character Portraits.” It opens with a slightly pompous foreword by Bishop Doane (“One reads the life story, often, in a face….”) and goes on to list any number of men of accomplishment, those still known and those forgotten, in absolutely no apparent order at all. It begins with a brief paragraph on Theodore Roosevelt and then moves on to a slightly longer paragraph revealing that our 22nd and 24th president was, in fact, Stephen Cleveland; “Grover” was but his middle name. It moves on to former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Rufus William Peckham, and then gets a bit obscure. Let’s pick through a few Albany-related names that Hills found worthy of note a century and five ago.

WilliamMilne.pngOne name still notable to those familiar with the history of the State Normal School was William James Milne. “Educator, since 1889 president of the State Normal College at Albany, was born in Scotland in 1843, the son of Charles and Jean (Black) Milne . . . [In 1889] he removed to Albany and became the president of the State Normal College in the Capital City, which position he now holds. Some of the most successful business and professional men of the Empire State have had Dr. Milne as their professor. He is the author of a series of twenty-five volumes of mathematical text-books, the first of which was issued in 1876, and which are considered standard works on mathematics. He has frequently contributed to educational journals, principally on subjects of interest to educators, and his articles have been widely read and commented upon. In 187 Dr. Milne married Miss Eliza J. Gates, or Warsaw. His address is 5 Elk Street, Albany.”

MarcusHun.pngMarcus Tullius Hun, whose name I don’t believe I’ve ever run across before, appears to have done all the things a proper 19th-century Albanian should have done:
“Lawyer, was born at Albany, N.Y., May 22, 1845, son of the late Dr. Thomas Hun. After studying at private schools in Massachusetts and at the Albany Boys Academy he entered Union College and was graduated in 1865. He attended the Albany law School, and upon graduation was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law at Albany as a partner of Orlando Meads. He afterwards entered into partnership with his brother, Leonard G. Hun, under the firm name of M.T. & L.G. Hun. After the death of his brother he was associated with Russell Johnston and Learned Hand until 1902, when Mr. Hand removed to New York and Mr. Hun formed a new firm with his son-in-law, Lewis R. Parker, and the firm name was changed to Hun & Parker. In 1874 Mr. Hun was appointed Supreme Court Reporter, which position he held until the fall of 1905. On November 16, 1909, Mr. Hun was elected president of the Albany Savings Bank, in accepting which position he resigned as a director of the New York State National Bank, having a short time previously thereto resigned as a director of the Albany Trust Company. Mr. Hun is a trustee of the Albany Law School, one of the chapter of All Saints’ Cathedral and a charter member of the Fort Orange Club. On June 13, 1905, the board of trustees of Union College conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL. D. In 1875 he married Miss Mary K. Van Der Poel, a daughter of the late Isaac Van Der Poel, at one time Adjutant-General of the State. Mr. Hun’s home is at 31 Elk Street, Albany.”

RobertCPruyn.pngAny positions in banking or society that weren’t held by Marcus Hun were held by Robert Clarence Pruyn.
“Banker and business man, was born at Albany, N.Y., October 23, 1847. He attended the Albany Boys Academy and was graduated from Rutgers’ College in 1869. He was for a time an attache to the American legation at Tokio [sic], then presided over by his father, the Hon. Robert H. Pruyn, for many years American minister to Japan. He served not he staff of Governor Dix, of New York, and on February 13, 1901, was elected by the Legislature a Regent of the University of the State of New York, and served until 1903. He was for several years a Park Commissioner of Albany. Mr. Pruyn is president of the National Commercial Bank of Albany, vice-president of the Municipal Gas Company and a director of the Union Trust Company. He is a member of the Philip Livingston Chapter, Sons of the Revolution; Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society; Holland Society, of New York; Century Association, and the University and the Metropolitan Clubs, of New York City; the Fort Orange, the Albany, the Albany Country and the University Clubs, of Albany, and is a vestryman at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. On October 22, 1873, he married Miss Anna M. Williams, daughter of the late Chauncey P. Williams, a prominent banker, of Albany. Mr. Pruyn resides at 7 Englewood Place, Albany.”

Albany’s Supreme Court Justice, and an Almost Justice

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The first Rufus Wheeler Peckham was a noted Albany lawyer, congressman and judge who perished in the sinking of the Ville du Havre. His sons also became pretty notable.

Wheeler Hazard Peckham was born in Albany on New Year’s Day, 1833. He went to Albany Academy and Union College, and was one of the earliest students of the Albany Law School. He ventured west for a spell but returned to New York, settling in New York City in 1867. He became part of the prosecution of Boss Tweed, served as a special prosecutor and then spent a brief eight days as New York County District Attorney, resigning for reasons of health. He returned to private practice and was tapped in 1894 by President Cleveland to serve on the Supreme Court, replacing Auburn’s Samuel Blatchford (who had also been secretary to Governor William H. Seward in Albany). Unfortunately for Wheeler, he was blocked by New York Senator David Hill, who had some issues with Cleveland, and he was not confirmed. He and his wife are buried in Albany Rural Cemetery in the Peckham family plot.

629px-Rufus_Wheeler_Peckham_cph.3b30513.jpgRufus Wheeler Peckham was born in 1838 and followed the family practice of law. He attended Albany Academy and then studied law in his father’s offices, and was admitted to the bar in 1859. He became Albany County District Attorney in 1869, returned to private practice, then was named to the New York State Supreme Court in 1883. Just three years later, he rose to the Court of Appeals. (Except that he did not serve in Congress, his career path very much echoed his father’s.) Rufus was an active Democrat and rubbed shoulders with folks named Morgan, Vanderbilt and Rockefeller. Senator Hill was reportedly not as influential the next time President Cleveland got to nominate a Supreme Court Justice, and his selection of Rufus Peckham in 1895, just a year after Wheeler had failed to be confirmed, sailed through the Senate.

Rufus Peckham served until his death at age 70 in 1909. He and his wife are also, like all good Peckhams, buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.