Category Archives: Albany

Capitol, Capital – as long as it’s sweet!

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Another entry from The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery, and another one from the establishment of Jacob Kreischer. Coming nearly twenty years after our previous entry, this one has a great depiction of the smoking Albany of used-to-be, with a lovely view of Mr. Kreischer’s building at 31 Hudson Avenue. It’s a curious drawing, laid out more to capture the painted signage on the side of the building and the smoking factories behind it than the building itself.

This letter was written June 11, 1895, to the First National Bank in Cooperstown: “Mr. Cashier, dear Sir, Last week I sent you two notes of $36.29 and $34. 75 order of John M. Eldred due on June 6th, Kindly let me know whether those papers have been paid or not. Respectfully Jacob Kreischer”

In the ensuing years either Mr. Kreischer or his printer decided to make it “Capital” rather than “Capitol,” a confusion that reigns to this day.

In addition to the wonderful cut, admire the type in this billhead; it’s just marvelous, particularly the script “Albany, N.Y.”

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Capitol City Steam Confectionery

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Ah, steam! Is there nothing you can’t do? As the last word in modernity (at least as far as the 19th century was concerned), the application of steam made every process seem more efficient, modern and marvelous. And so here we have a billhead from the Capitol City Steam Confectionery of Mr. Jacob Kreischer, patentee and manufacturer of  The Famous Dessert Fruit Confect. His imposing general office was located at 31 Hudson Avenue, and the factory was at the corner of Hudson and Quay Street, down by the river. The former is parking, the latter highway.

On March 20, 1876, Kreischer was obliged to write to F.L. Palmer, Esquire, perhaps a collection agent: “Dear Sir  Inclosed please find E.D. Shumway note for collection amt. $68.00. After deducting exchange please forward my draft and oblige. Yours Respectfully Jacob Kreischer”

Previously in the Albany steam chronicles:

This is another entry from The Biggert Collection.

The Argus Company

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Argus.jpgThe Argus was one of Albany’s prominent newspapers and publishing houses for decades. In addition to publishing The Argus since 1813, they printed numerous other publications and provided general printing, binding, electrotyping and stereotyping service. (How many people refer to a “stereotype” every day without knowing what one is? And without knowing that “cliché” shares the same printing heritage?)

This May 28, 1880 invoice to John A. Mapes, Esq., of 24 Park Place, New York City, was for a “trading notice”. Coming again from The Biggert Collection, it features a lovely rendering of the Argus Building. While the successor to this building, Argus Litho on Broadway, appears to be left for dead, the original is still intact and a lovely part of lower Broadway. Its prominent clock was not yet in place when this cut was made, but the building is still there.
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Albany Agricultural and Machine Works

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Peter K. Dederick’s Albany Agricultural and Machine Works was one of the first major agricultural implement factories. Dederick held several patents, beginning in 1843, and his works made the first commercial hay press. The works in Tivoli Hollow were massive, and a significant chunk of the old factory remains. The train tracks seen in this view to the south of the factory are still there today. A Google search for P.K. Dederick will turn up a significant amount of ephemera and memorabilia.

Aerated Bread

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Albany Aerated Bread Co.Some academic collections serve a maddeningly singular purpose, but in this case that purpose serves Hoxsie well. Within Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library resides The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery. Luckily for us, this fascination with architectural vignettes produces some magnificent reminders of historical buildings in the Capital District.

This is the billhead of the Aerated Bread Co. of 193, 195 and 197 North Pearl Street in Albany. Sadly, the location near the corner of Wilson Street is no more than a vacant lot today, but once it housed a graceful old building in which E. J. Larrabee & Co. (successors to Belcher & Larrabee)  made “Egg, Cream, Milk, Graham and Lemon Biscuit, and every variety of Crackers” as well as “Holmes’ Patent Ginger Snaps, Lemon Snaps, Jumbles, &c.” They were also the sole local agents for Holmes’ Patent Snap Machines.

The Larrabee companies were prominent in the development of the cookie and cracker business nationwide; Belcher and Larrabee was formed in 1860, becoming E.J. Larrabee in 1871. In procuring the newest dough-mixing technology from England, they also procured the services of John Holmes, creator of the aforementioned “snap” machines, who went on to build one of New York City’s most prominent cracker factories, Holmes & Coutts, manufacturer of the “Sea Foam” biscuit.

The billhead was printed by the prominent Albany printer Weed, Parsons & Co. It was made out in 1871, and though the handwriting is hard to follow, it would appear to be to a Joseph (?) Gibbons for one bushel of oyster crackers.

City and County Savings Bank

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Once upon a time, banks had a single location. When we didn’t get around much, and lived pretty close to where we worked, that really wasn’t much of an issue. As cities spread, banks were eventually allowed to charter additional branches, each of which I believe required government approval. So we find in 1935 that City and County Savings Bank had branched out, having not only its elegant headquarters at 100 State Street (still standing, still elegant), but also a homey little branch office way out on New Scotland Avenue. That’s still there and still a bank.

City and County started as the Albany City Savings Institution in 1850. It changed its name to City Savings Bank of Albany in 1922. In 1935 it merged with Albany County Savings Bank and became, sensibly enough, City and County Savings Bank. Things stayed stable until its merger in 1981 with Home Savings Bank, at which point the “County” would be forgotten and Home and City Savings Bank was created. 10 years later it was merged with Trustco, the former Schenectady Trust Company. While the downtown Trustco branch is a few doors up from its legacy headquarters, the uptown branch remains a Trustco.

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War stories

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In journalism school, we always referred to tales of ink-stained wretches and newspapers gone by told by our professors as “war stories.” But a teacher of French at the Albany Female Academy in the 1830s had some real war stories to tell: General Henri La Fayette Villaume Ducoudray Holstein.

He was a native of Germany who entered the French service and acquired the confidence of Napoleon and had a relationship with Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette. Joel Munsell reports that on the restoration of the Bourbons, he went to South America, “where he found scope for his military skill.” That’s shorthand for a plot to liberate Puerto Rico from Spain, establish it as the Republic of Boricua, and turn a profit. This became known as the Ducoudray Holstein Expedition. The Spanish got wind of it, asked the Dutch government of neutral port Curacao to intercede, and Ducoudray Holstein found himself under arrest in Curacao. Over a series of trials and appeals, he was found guilty of mercenary acts and sailing under false Dutch papers, and sentenced to death. It is said that Lafayette and the government of the United States interceded with the Netherlands on his behalf, and Ducoudray Holstein found himself sailing for a new home in the United States. After a time teaching military tactics, he settled his family in remote upstate New York, where he became a professor of the French, Spanish and German languages and literature at Geneva College in Ontario County.

The General taught there for a number of years and then came to the Albany Female Academy (now known as the Albany Academy for Girls), where he taught French for six years until his death, and (again according to Munsell), “won the esteem of all who knew him.” While in Albany he wrote “The New French Reader, for the use of Universities, Colleges, Academies and Schools,containing original and selected anecdotes, biographical sketches and character portraits of persons distinguished by their genius and their knowledge.” And that was just the title. Luckily, the rest is available to us through Google Books.  He also contributed to a periodical called “The Zodiac.” He died May 23, 1839, at the age of 76, and was buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

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At the intersection of science and art

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James Eights.pngA couple of weeks ago, I wrote about all the other Albanies that were named for our Albany. One of the most distant places on the planet was named, not for Albany, but for a prominent Albany native: The Eights Coast of Antarctica was named for prominent scientist and artist James Eights.

His exact year and place of birth are in question, but it’s fair to say he was born around 1798. The son of a physician (and possibly a physician himself; he was often referred to as “Doctor”), Eights was early associated with Amos Eaton‘s exploration and collection of the geology of the Erie Canal, and was on the board of the Albany Lyceum of Natural History, formed in 1823. He showed great skill as a draftsman, contributing detailed drawings of Lyceum specimens. He also helped in the development of the Albany Institute of History and Art.

He moved on to New York City, where he was involved with the Sketch Club, an artists’ gathering, and the New York Lyceum. With the support of Stephen Van Rensselaer (Amos Eaton’s partner in the creation of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Eights was appointed as naturalist on an expedition to explore the South Seas that set out in October, 1829. While this was a time when the continent of Antarctica was still hypothetical, his investigations in the South Shetland Islands turned up the first fossils from that region. In honor of that early exploration, the Eights Coast of Antarctica was named in his honor more than a century later.

His South Seas exploits hardly registered here in Albany, but he is remembered for the paintings he made of Old Albany. Later in his life, around 1850, he made a series of paintings from memory of how Albany looked when he was a boy. These beautiful watercolors are in many instances the only references we have for the long-lost old Dutch city.

A very detailed life of James Eights by Daniel McKinley is available here.

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Edward Willett, hat-maker and poet

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Joel Munsell’s “Annals of Albany, Vol. 10” from 1859 includes items of interest from the newspapers of the years gone by, including this delightful bit of commercial doggerel attached to an item from Nov. 13, 1835:

The hat factory of Edward S. Willett, corner of Green and Basset streets, was burnt. He was the first to commence the manufacture of silk hats in this city. To show that Mr. Willett was not alone a man of fur merely, but also a poet, his advertisement is introduced. As a man of law he can speak for himself.

If e’er a man in earnest sought
To make a hat as workmen ought,
Substantial, and with beauty fraught,
            ‘Tis Willett.

And well may he take pains to please
When hosts of Fashion’s devotees
Are daily swarming like bees,
            At Willett’s.

Hundreds and hundreds who’ve surveyed
The hats in other stores displayed,
Have left them all and come to trade
            At Willett’s.

Ask the genteel where’er you go,
Who made that elegant chapeau?
And ten to one he’ll say, I trow,
            ‘Twas Willett.

Who showed those hats, so rich and rare,
That took the prize
twice at the fair,
Causing the craft to wince and stare?
            ‘Twas Willett.

The Eagle with the hat that won
The prize that dimm’d a certain
Sun,
Displays a taste that’s touch’d by none
            But Willett.

The corner of Green and Bassett, an old, old part of the city, doesn’t retain much of its 1835 look today.