Category Archives: Albany

Albany Iron and Saw Works

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Albany Iron and Saw Works.pngPruyn’s Albany Iron and Saw Works down on Pruyn Street was a substantial operation when this ad ran in 1858. The iron works manufactured just about everything that could be manufactured from iron, from boilers to bridges to bedsteads, and the saw works made tools ranging from tobacco cutters to water wheels to saws of every description. Pruyn’s sprawling factory also had some role in the early production of celluloid products, as the Albany Embossing Company shared space down on Pruyn Street.


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Bonnet Bleaching

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Ladies! What to do when your beloved Barnum Blake bonnet becomes besmirched, bespotted or besoiled? Best betake yon bonnet to the Boston Bonnet Bleachery, where ladies’ straw, leghorn, chip and neapolitan bonnets were bleached and pressed in the best manner. N. Ware would gladly bleach and press them at short notice, and make them over into fashionable shapes, if required. His 1858 location at Union Street is lost to us now; Union was formerly Cow Lane, running parallel to and between Green and Liberty streets.

Albany Eye and Ear Infirmary

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Knowing what we now know about what doctors didn’t know in the mid-19th century, it’s easy to imagine the Albany Eye and Ear Infirmary of 1858 as a chamber of horrors that could have involved a combination of bloodletting and mercury poisoning. And pneumatic extraction. “Dr. Gilbert’s celebrated Combination Pneumatic Extractor and Ear Syringe, for the permanent cure of deafness, sent to any part of the world.” Still, if you were in need of their services, perhaps an artificial eye or ear drum inserted, and you were down on your luck, Drs. Gilbert and Graves were open to charity cases six hours a week. Lydius Street was the stretch of what is now Madison Avenue between the river and Pearl Street.

Albany Brush Factory

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1858. J.B. Armour, Brush Manufacturer, keeps constantly on hand a large assortment of brushes of all kinds and descriptions. When I was growing up, brushes were still a big thing. There were still Fuller brush salesmen, going door to door. Today, even though we still use brushes for all sorts of things, it seems like they’ve gone underground, or aren’t thought of as a class of object. My shoe brush, bottle brush, toilet brush all came from different places (and, originally, from China). Not from Armour’s Albany Brush Factory.

Fuller Brush, by the way, had a Capital District presence. Its plastic bottle and toothbrush factory was in Philmont, Columbia County, and at some point Fuller bought out the Mohawk Brush Co., then in the Industrial Building at 1031 Broadway, which made hairbrushes and industrial floor brushes.

Washington under the elms

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Washington Elm
Once upon a time, there was an elm tree in Albany’s Lafayette Park (just across from the Capitol). That tree’s grandparent (whatever that may mean) was a leafy witness to history.

“Washington first took command of the American Army under the grandparent of this elm at Cambridge, Mass. July 3, 1775

and presented by Maryland D.A.R. Marked by New York State D.A.R. This
tree is planted as part of the 200th anniversary of the birth of George
Washington 1732-1932.”

The tree, sadly, is no longer there, no doubt felled by Dutch elm disease, which did almost as much to change the look of our cities as urban renewal did.

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Hoxsie bottle!

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Do not want (at least not at $57), but I was pleasantly surprised when a Google alert brought me the news that there is a Hoxsie bottle out there for sale. Perhaps there are thousands, bottle collecting is not my thing. If you want to know what a cool, refreshing bottle of Hoxsie looked like, here’s your chance.

Albany, City of the Bald?

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1862 Schenectady Directory Hair Restorer

If you believe what Professor Henry A. DeMunn had to say in 1862 (and I demand to know the provenance of his doctoral degree), that he had been working for a year and a half with the worst cases of baldness to be found “in this or any other country,” then you have to wonder just what was going on in our fair city that caused such aggressive hair loss. Legislative stresses? Kerosene in the drinking water? The establishment of an alopecia colony? No clue is given, nor does he make clear whether his dollar-a-bottle hair restorer was to be applied to the head or taken as a tonic — a common enough approach that, if amply fortified, would help the user to forget the dollar he had spent.

The stretch of Orange Street where the Professor once practiced his scientific endeavors is long gone under the I-787 on-ramp. He boarded at 35 Van Schaick, where he listed his profession as “hair restorer.”

German dailies in Albany

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Considering that Albany has been a one-newspaper city for more than 20  years (with some fringe elements clinging stubbornly to the superior quality of the Daily Gazette or the Sound-Off column of the Troy Record), it’s amazing to think of all the decades when the city had anywhere between five and eight daily papers, and even more amazing to think that in 1905, two of them were in German. The Albany Freie Blaetter lasted from 1852 until 1912; the Taeglicher Herold started in 1869. The Sonntags Journal began in 1884 as an independent weekly and was eventually merged with the Herold.

The State Library has a decent listing of the many, many Albany newspapers that are available on microfilm; we can only hope that someday they’ll be digitized.

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