Category Archives: Albany

Albany Beef

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Albany Beef NYT 8-19-1881.pngAtlantic sturgeon was once so plentiful in the Hudson River that it was well known as “Albany beef.” This 1881article from the New York Times reprints an item from the Hudson Register on the supply of Albany beef in the river that summer.

“When it is well prepared and has not become stale it is a very nutritious and palatable edible.”


Voluntary power

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posture.pngMore from the Albany Public Schools Syllabus of Physical Training, 1914:

“For those children who have not the voluntary power for assuming correct posture, the teacher must give individual correction. It is necessary that this class of children be placed in the correct position by someone else until they have acquired the voluntary power to do so themselves. (See Posture Outline.)”

The execution of corrective exercises so they are correct is the object of all gymnastic work for posture. It is the only means of developing weak muscles and changing faulty co-ordination. It is the test of a teacher’s teaching ability whether she merely gives commands or uses each exercise for accomplishing some definite purpose with each pupil.”

Albany Public Schools Physical Training, 1914

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Albany Public School.pngFrom 1914, the Albany Public Schools Syllabus of Physical Training presented a highly prescriptive program for physical education. If it reflects the inclinations of its arranger, Laurence S. Hill, we can assume he was something of a stern taskmaster. A few examples from “Instructions to the Teachers”:

“Ventilation and Temperature: Ventilate the rooms thoroughly before beginning the lesson, be sure that the air in the room is pure, or becomes so before the lesson is far advanced . . . During exercises the temperature should not register above 70 nor below 65 degrees. Insist upon the pupils removing overcoats, overshoes, cloaks and wraps of all kinds. Impress upon them the evil effects of wearing such things indoors, also the wearing of tight-fitting garments of all kinds.”

“Teaching gymnastics without paying attention to accuracy, correct direction, position and form is a failure. Accuracy of movements, for the purpose of securing co-ordination and full mental control over our muscles and movements, is of more importance than anything else in Physical Training. The execution of any exercise simply for its own sake is, therefore, wrong; the way it is performed is the prime object and of the greatest benefit to the pupil.”

“When an exercise is to be executed in rhythmic succession (as for instances some marching exercises), give the command: ‘In-Time – Begin!’ and immediately begin the count: ‘1-2 etc.’ When the exercise is to cease, give the command: “Class Halt!” instead of the last count; as ‘1-2-3-4, 1-2 Class Halt!’ If pupils are marching give the command ‘Halt!’ when the right foot is placed on the floor. They should then take one more step with the left foot and close with the right.”

First Plastic — but not here

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First Plastic MarkerI always used to love seeing this historical marker for “First Plastic,” way out on Albany’s Delaware Avenue. At the time there was a Friendly’s on the site of the old billiard ball factory, which I still vaguely remembered from before it was torn down in the ’80s. Then I finally went to take a picture of the marker, and it set me to wondering how it came to be that the first factory to manufacture celluloid was so very far from all other manufacturing in downtown Albany; this site was fairly remote farmland at the time. Wondering turned into research and research revealed that the marker is telling LIES! Lies, I tell you! Not about what happened, but where it happened. So much more on the story in this pre-Hoxsie post from 2010.

In other plastics news: Dr. Edith Boldebuck!

Albany Grease

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Albany Grease Logo.png“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.)

The Livingston Avenue Bridge

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This article originally appeared at All Over Albany; somehow I never posted it here at Hoxsie.

The Livingston Avenue Bridge, the graceful and anachronistic swing bridge that carries trains across the Hudson River at Albany and still swings open to let larger ships reach Troy, has been part of the landscape longer than anyone now alive. It is often cited as dating to the Civil War.

Like many local legends, that’s partly almost true.

The earliest bridge across the Hudson was completed in 1804, at Waterford, by Theodore Burr, who also built the first bridge across the Mohawk at Schenectady. Despite being a wooden bridge, span at Waterford remained in service for more than 90 years.

Waterford was, as its name indicates, a good place to cross the river, but the bridge was too far from the population centers of Albany and Troy to satisfy their needs, and soon there arose a call for a bridge across the Hudson at Albany. Legislation was introduced to provide for its construction in 1814, but the booming city of Troy objected vociferously, believing that a bridge at Albany would obstruct navigation to what was still to become the Collar City.

The issue was taken up again and again over the years, and Troy found allies in the growing ferry business. As railroads grew up on both sides of the river, ferrying became big business, and the ferry operators had no desire to be put out of business by a bridge. But industry was booming in both cities, and the need to connect the shores by rail became ever more evident.

After decades of arguing, the Hudson River Bridge Company was finally incorporated in 1856 for the purpose of erecting and maintaining a railroad bridge from Albany to the opposite shore. The bridge was to be set at least 25 feet above the common tide, “so as to allow under it the free passage of canal-boats and barges without masts, with a draw of sufficient width to admit the free passage of the largest vessels navigating the river.” (The “draw” is the bridge section that moves.)

Daniel Edgar SicklesBridge opponents did not give up once the bill was passed. A lawsuit seeking to restrain the company reached the U.S. Supreme Court. And as late as March 8, 1864, a legislative amendment proposing to reduce the width of the draw was taken up in the state Senate, the subject of a speech by long time opponent Major General Daniel E. Sickles. (Sickles served in the state Senate before going to Congress, where he shot Francis Scott Key’s son over a love triangle and invented, with his attorney Edwin Stanton, the temporary insanity defense. That’s him on the right.)

The bridge was finally built and opened on February 22, 1866. It had no particular name (and no need for one, being the only bridge). It spanned 1953 feet, with a draw 257 feet wide — and cost $750,000, a nifty 50 percent overrun from its allocation of a decade earlier. With this connection in place, all passenger trains — the Hudson River, Harlem and Boston lines — departed from the New York Central depot at the foot of Steuben Street.

original livingston ave bridge in harpers weekly

Apparently the bridge caused some offense, as an act passed in 1868 directed the bridge company to build a new bridge and to demolish the previous bridge as soon as possible. If it did not do so, Albany or Troy had the right to do so and bill the company. Something must have changed by 1869, however, as another act authorizing a new bridge was passed. The Upper or North Bridge remained and was joined by another bridge at the foot of Maiden Lane in Albany, which opened December 28, 1871. Less than a year after that, in October 1872, the Union Depot opened. The “new” Union Station that stands on that spot was constructed in 1899.

Eventually the two bridges were given specific assignments: the upper bridge carried freight and foot traffic (at two cents a crossing), and the lower bridge, with its easier access to the Union Station, carried passengers.

As a side note, there were some who argued that Albany, not Troy, suffered from the construction of the bridges. In prior times, freight crossing the river had to be offloaded on one side or the other, ferried across, and loaded again onto another train. This required massive amounts of manpower, which became unnecessary once trains could cross the river. The ferries, too, suffered, but did not disappear completely for some decades. It was the 1882 opening of the Greenbush bridge (at the now-ironically-named Ferry Street), the first bridge to allow regular vehicular traffic across the Hudson, that sounded the death knell for the ferry business.

livingston avenue bridge down the tracks

Many articles on the Upper Bridge, which eventually came to be known as the Livingston Avenue Bridge for the adjacent street that then ran all the way to the waterfront, claim that the bridge dates to the Civil War, but that the superstructure is from 1901. A letter in The Bridgemen’s Magazine in July, 1902, indicated that

the A.B. [American Bridge] Co. are making fine progress with the Livingston avenue bridge across the Hudson. The last through span has been riveted up and there remains but seven girder spans to go in on this contract, besides the draw, which will be placed in position after the close of navigation.

It is not clear if the limestone piers from the original bridge were maintained, or perhaps reduced in number; through filling, the river is now considerably less wide and the bridge appears to have only eight or nine piers. But the current piers look so much like those illustrated in Harper’s Weekly (above) as to raise the likelihood that the piers are original.

The last bridge to be built was the first bridge to go. The Greenbush bridge was replaced, I believe, by a later Greenbush bridge, which was replaced by the original Dunn Memorial, which was replaced by the current skyway that still goes by the name Dunn Memorial. The Maiden Lane passenger rail bridge was demolished very shortly after passenger service was removed to the Rensselaer side of the river.

And although its days may be numbered, the 145-year-old — or perhaps 110-year-old — Livingston Avenue Bridge still carries passengers across the river and swings open to let the big boats through.

There is an active and important effort to restore the pedestrian walkway that would give us a much-needed alternative for walkers, runners and cyclists to cross the Hudson without having to climb the daunting, awful Dunn Memorial. Check out the effort here.

livingston avenue bridge long


Livingston Ave Bridge photos: Bennett V. Campbell
bridge illustration: Harper’s Weekly via Wikipedia
Sickles photo: National Photographic Art Gallery via Wikipedia

Albany, Troy, and the bridge

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In 1841, the residents of Albany were still hoping for a bridge, and the residents of Troy were still hoping they wouldn’t get it. Troy and Waterford had the only bridges across the Hudson at the time, which were considered a tremendous commercial advantage. In addition, it was certain that a bridge at Albany would impede the travel of ships up the Hudson, and kill commerce at Troy. (Before steam became the primary means of locomotion, sailing ships plied the river, and getting a sailing ship through the small opening of a lift or swing bridge is no easy task.) So it was that the American Masonic Register, published here in Albany, lamented the narrow-mindedness of our neighbors to the north:

The question of a Bridge at Albany, as we expected, is now agitating their minds . . . In fact every effort is making by them to prevent the construction of the bridge . . . The idea that a Bridge at Albany will injure Troy they know to be untrue; unless it be that they count upon the travel which is forced that way at certain seasons of the year, owing to the impossibility of Ferrying at Albany . . . One of the resolutions passed at a meeting of theirs, plainly shows a selfish spirit, and proves that it is the particular interest of Troy they seek to advance, to the prejudice of Albany. The resolution says, “On the ground of public convenience, Troy already having a bridge across the Hudson River by means of a rail road from Greenbush connecting with the Schenectady road, will when the great Eastern rail road is completed, offer every facility to travellers.” The citizens of Albany have loaned the credit of their city for the construction of the West Stockbridge rail road. Troy by defeating the bridge and connecting with the road is determined to enjoy the benefit of our enterprise. Is it right – is it just?

Between the concerns of Troy and the powerful ferry lobby (snicker not!), it would be another 25 years before Albany finally got a bridge across the river, the now-historic Livingston Avenue Bridge.

Home of H.O. Wilkins

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Wilkin's_home,_241_State_St._of_Albany,_N.Y,_from_Robert_N._Dennis_collection_of_stereoscopic_views corrected.jpgFrom the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, we have the home of one H.O. Wilkins. Undated like so many others, this lovely looking structure was at 241 State Street in Albany, probably just about where the Alfred E. Smith building currently imposes its bulk. More about Mr. Wilkins, or why his home rated a stereoscopic view, I have been unable to ascertain.

(This version is highly corrected from the version posted by the collection.)