Back in 1844, the Mayor of Albany was Friend Humphrey, a leather merchant whose home in Colonie still exists. The City Council was made up of two aldermen per ward. That much sounds pretty much like government today. But among the city officers were a number of positions that, for better or worse, no longer exist:
- Chamberlain and Deputy Chamberlain — the Chamberlain was essentially the city treasurer.
- Overseer of the Poor — who managed the Alms-House.
- Dock Master — which was hugely important in the city that connected the Hudson to the rest of the country, by way of Erie Canal.
- Captains of the Watch — From a time when citizens formed the night watch.
- Measurers of Wood — when Albany was one of the lumber capitals of the country, there was much wood to be measured.
- Keeper of the Powder-House — the old Powder-House was on the grounds of what is now Washington Park, well away from the houses of the city.
- City Gauger — not sure how this was different from the Inspector of Weights and Measures, unless there was a forgotten fad for enlarging ear piercings in the 1840s.
- Inspector of Bread — it was considered vital that the city’s bakers were selling honest weight.
- Fence Viewer — to keep people honest about their property lines, which apparently was a constant problem.
- Weigher of Hay — No idea why this was a city interest.
Mixed in were some positions we’d still recognize, such as Collectors of Taxes, Constables, Postmaster, and even Alms-House Physician. But let’s face it, we’d all rather be a Measurer of Wood or Weigher of Hay. i bet they even had fancy badges.
The major offices were filled biennially, sent by the Mayor to the Common Council for confirmation at the next regular meeting after their appointment. Except, bewilderingly, the appointments of the Chamberlain and Receiver of Taxes, “which shall be made on the eve of the Fast-Day of St. Michael the Archangel.” Church/state separation notwithstanding, I’d love to know the reason for that.