Category Archives: Albany

Pruyn, Vosburgh & Co.

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Another wonderful billhead from The Biggert Collection, this one from 1855 showing the venerable establishment of Pruyn, Vosburgh & Co., No. 39 State Street, importers of hardware.

In 1829, John Pruyn, hardware merchant, gave over his business to Lansing Pruyn, Isaac Vosburgh and Abraham Wilson.

In his 1866 “History of the County of Albany, ” George
Rogers Howell tells us that Isaac W. Vosburgh was born in Albany in 1801 to a
father of old Dutch stock and a Scots mother. He began his business career in
the hardware store of George Humphrey on State Street. “here he applied himself
assiduously to business and familiarized himself with the hardware trade as it
then existed.” The firm of Pruyn, Wilson & Vosburgh was formed, and
continued in business for more than thirty years, doing business at No. 39
State Street.

Their ad in the 1843 New York State Register advertised them
as importers of hardware, cutlery, steel &c. “Also, constantly on hand,
Ruggles’, Nourse & Mason’s superior Ploughs, of different sizes and
patterns, manufactured at Worcester, Mass. Together with Sub-soil and Side-Hill
Ploughs, Cultivators, Straw-Cutters, and other Farming Utensils.”

Included on this receipt: slates, pencils, brass kettles, thumb latches, fish hooks, and 3 (or 4) kegs of nails. These were sold for the princely sum of $28.09 to Jacob Settle, a merchant of Berne who is well-known and well-regarded in Amasa Parker’s “Landmarks of Albany County”:

Jacob Settle was engaged in mercantile business in Berne from 1812 to 1864, in which he was uncommonly successful. He was prominent in public affairs, held the offices of justice, supervisor, member of assembly, and was for thirty five years postmaster. It was largely through his influence that the plank road was constructed through this town from Schoharie, and connected with the Albany road. He was in every way a public spirited and valuable citizen.

39 State Street would have been about across from Jack’s Oyster House. The building is long gone, likely subsumed by the Museum Building.

Price & Weatherhead

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This billhead from The Biggert Collection is from the first year of operation of Price & Weatherhead, dealers in brandies, wines, cigars, ale and porter. Not to mention family groceries, fine teas, java coffee, oliv oil, foreign pickles, sauces, preserved fruits, and Mumm and Heidsick champagnes. Constantly on hand!

According to Howell’s “Bi-Centennial History of Albany,” Frederick Vine took over the store of E.R. and E. Satterley in 1840 and moved to 7-9 North Pearl Street in 1856. He sold out to Joseph J. Price and Hilon L. Weatherhead in 1862, who moved the business up the street to 19 North Pearl. This only lasted until 1866, when the partners went their separate ways and opened competing stores.

At the time, people still weren’t sold on the spelling of “cigar,” which is spelled on the letterhead as “Cigars” and written on the receipt as “Segars.” Major Frederick Townsend was laying in some supplies, having just returned from the Civil War battlegrounds to serve as acting assistant provost marshal general.

Taking a close look at that vignette, I’m pretty sure the building still stands, either expanded or with its cornice joined to its old neighbor, which wasn’t an uncommon practice.

Letters from Keeler’s

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Yesterday Hoxsie got so wrapped up in Keeler’s story of ice and fire that I didn’t get to focus on the letterhead from the Biggert Collection.

This letter on hotel stationery from 1901 sends Friend Hatcher some directions:

“I get to write you today to say that I will not be at home until the last of the week Friday or Saturday Expect to be there Friday if all works right. Did you see C.M. [?] Sumner and send those dowel rod down they should be 3/4 inch diameter and are for the trus[s] back of the Board. I suppose he has them in length long enough for two rods up the back of the board. . . .” And there our fascinating conversation about dowels ends.

Keelers letter.jpgA later letterhead gives us a better impression of exactly where Keeler’s stood, showing the streetcars on Broadway and the Capitol in the background. This note from 1917, just a bit more than a year before the end of Keeler’s, smacks of corporate intrigue:

“Dear Sir: He says he has no objection It don’t make any diff. if he has as long as the vote is three to one. If there is nothing doing on this deal I shall employ Amesbury [?] lawyer and have him sell, so as to get my share no matter what it costs. A case of have to with me.”

Keeler’s Hotel

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For a long time, Keeler’s was the hotel in Albany, even among other highly respected establishments such as The Kenmore and The Ten Eyck. As Dr. William Henry Johnson wrote in 1900, “Keeler’s Hotel, corner Broadway and Maiden lane, is one of the finest hotels in the State, complete in every particular.”

Keeler’s was on the west side of  Broadway at Maiden Lane, about where the Arcade Building is today. William Henry Keeler was born in 1841. According to the Albany Rural Cemetery website, “In 1863, he opened Keeler’s Oyster
House at State and Green Streets, which soon became the most popular and famous
oyster house in upstate New York.  He
sold the oyster house to his brother in 1870.  In 1886, he opened a restaurant at 26
Maiden Lane.  In 1890, he purchased
the property from his restaurant through to Broadway and built Keeler’s Hotel.” He died in 1918 and is buried, like any good Albanian, in the Rural Cemetery.

Possibly unique among Albany hoteliers, Keeler had his own supply of ice, a vital necessity in the days before electric refrigeration. An article from the January 1906 edition of the perhaps not widely read “Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal” reported that that winter’s prospects were “very favorable for Mr. Keeler’s filling his ice houses from his ‘Maceland Kill,’ as it is called, with from 10 to 12 inch ice. Mr. Keeler supplies a large city patronage, aside from his hotel needs. The Maceland Kill, which was formerly the chief supply of the water reservoir that for many years was utilized as the main supply of Albany’s drinking water, is situated about a mile and a half north of Albany and about 2,000 feet west of the river.” The article refers to the Maizelandt Kill (sometimes “Maiselandt”), which was indeed a part (not the chief supply) of the Albany Water Works as it was made up in 1850. keelers.jpg

All that ice didn’t help on June 17, 1919, when Keeler’s Hotel burned spectacularly to the ground. The New York Times wrote:

“The interior of Keeler’s Hotel at Broadway and Maiden Lane, one of Albany’s landmarks and a hostelry known throughout the country, was completely destroyed by fire in less than two hours early today. The 226 patrons, all men, escaped. One fireman was buried beneath falling walls and killed. The loss is estimated at more than half a million dollars. The fire was one of the most spectacular in the city’s history. Parts of the building had stood on the present site for generations and offered fine material for the flames. The blaze, of unknown origin, was discovered soon after 3 A.M. in the cabaret, a building which adjoins the sleeping quarters on the south. For a time it was confined to this building. This gave opportunity to arouse the patrons, many of whom gathered, scantily clad, in the main lobby of the hotel, only to be driven out into the street. Others who remained in their rooms to dress were later forced to throw their suitcases from windows and make their exits by way of the fire escapes.”

As can be seen in the marvelous image of Keeler’s from the Library of Congress Collection and here reproduced very large by, finding a fire escape was not a problem.

Note that right next door to Keeler’s was Cotrell and Leonard, the firm that invented the American cap and gown.

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John G. Myers

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John G. Myers’s dry goods store was one of the long-time anchors of the North Pearl Street shopping district in downtown Albany. The store was founded in 1870 and was rivaled only by Whitney’s. Today it’s probably best remembered for its terrible collapse in 1905, which killed at least 13 people. The store was rebuilt, and in 1917 merged with Fowler’s of Glens Falls.

On this billhead from 1882, a J.C. Hughson of “1 Lumber Dist.” bought 85 cents worth of lace — 5-1/2 yards worth. The address, not a real street address, makes one wonder if Hughson was outfitting curtains for an office window, but perhaps it was for one of the small residences that did exist down in the lumber district.

Gloeckner & Co. Furniture

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Another glorious billhead from the Biggert Collection, this one from B. Gloeckner & Co., Inc., a furniture dealer at 81-83 South Pearl St. in Albany. It would appear that on Feb. 24, 1915, Mr. J.H Vrooman, Jr. of 294 Hamilton Street bought a refrigerator (#942) for the princely sum of $28.00.

In 1870, the firm of Gloeckner & Wolf, at 115 S. Pearl St., were listed as manufacturers and retailers of furniture, “their stock of Mattresses, Spring and Feather Beds is of the best quality.”

According to the Albany Rural Cemetery’s site, Bernard Gloeckner was born in 1842 in Darmstadt, Germany. He came to the U.S. and served in the Civil War at age 19. He later was chairman of a committee to raise funds for a monument to Civil War General Adolph von Steinwehr at the cemetery. Gloeckner died in 1911 and is buried in the cemetery.

The building, sadly, is long-gone, but was most likely right around Market Street, where the South Mall Expressway construction took out a couple of blocks of once-vital business district.

Here’s an ad from Gloeckner and Wolf in the 1870 Albany directory:

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Fort Orange Milling Company

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Rather than a billhead or a receipt, this specimen from The Biggert Collection is a sight draft, a term that has fallen out of favor but which was essentially a check that was payable immediately (rather than at a future date certain), or “at sight.” This was made out to the Loomis Bros. of Granby, Connecticut, for $341.09 to be charged to the account of the Fort Orange Milling Co., a flour roller mill operation on the riverfront. It was signed by Charles B. Woolverton, a member of the firm, June 4, 1890.

A little more than two years later, Mr. Woolverton would be terribly burned in an explosion and fire that brought down the Fort Orange Milling Company on Dec. 19, 1892. As The New York Times reported:

At 12:30 o’clock this afternoon a terrific explosion occurred in the elevator shaft of the Fort Orange Milling Company’s building backing up on the Erie Canal basin. The sparks set fire to the dry grain and flour. In an instant the blaze rushed up the shaft, and before an alarm was sent in the entire structure was a mass of flames. Charles B. Woolverton, a member of the firm, was in the office at the time, and when the explosion occurred started for the rear of the office to close the safe. Before he could get out he was surrounded by flames, and when he managed to fight his way through them he was burned in a most terrible manner.

The fire burned through the afternoon, and as the men of Steamer Company No. 4 were ordered home, the 60-foot-high east wall toppled over, buried seven firemen. Three were killed immediately, and one more was expected to die from his injuries. No one from Fort Orange Milling other than Woolverton was injured; he was, The Times put it, “terribly burned,” and died January 2.

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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