Category Archives: Albany

Some firsts we don’t talk about much

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Albany Perforated Roll Paper 1907.png
Jessica Pasko at All Over Albany wrote last year about how Albany is the home of rolled, perforated toilet paper. She didn’t, however, investigate whether our hometown was also the pioneer in toilet paper holders, but it seems likely. Now you’ve got a roll where you used to have a pile of papers; it couldn’t have taken long to realize that toilet paper wanted to be hung up. A year’s worth of toilet paper and a nickel-plated holder for only a dollar may have seemed a tremendous deal in 1907, but then again, the Sears catalog was free. Apparently, if you didn’t live east of South Dakota, you’d better hope you got the Sears and Montgomery Ward’s catalogs, because the Albany Perforated Wrapping Company’s offer was not for you.

38 Colonie Street, by the way, is currently as dead-end as a dead-end can be.

Bedsteads

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1862 Schenectady Directory Albany Bedstead Factory.png

You don’t hear the word “bedstead” much anymore, which could be why Albany is so shamefully bereft of bedstead factories. Not so in 1862.

But when you Google “bedstead,” one of the top entries is from the Albany Institute of History and Art, which features a magnificent example that belonged to Stephen Van Rensselaer IV.

No doubt this factory on the edge of the lumber district produced slightly more modest bedsteads. Rufus Viele was president of the Albany Mechanics Institute, and of the YMCA. He lost ten bedsteads, a crib and a cradle in the fire at New York City’s Crystal Palace in 1858, where he was among the many exhibitors at the Fair of the American Institute.

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Daguerrotype or Ambrotype? So hard to choose…

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1862 Schenectady Directory  SJ Thompson.png

In 1862, S.J.Thompson & Co. was making photographs, daguerreotypes, and ambrotypes at 478 Broadway, in a now-lost building somewhere on the north side between State Street and Maiden Lane. Daguerrotype was the first commercial photographic process. Ambrotype was a positive image on glass, using a collodion solution (and such collodion, it is said, played a role in the invention of celluloid here in Albany). And by the time this was published in 1862, there were a number of other photographic processes known to the public.

The variety of fonts in this ad is typical of the time, when a printer (most likely Joel Munsell’s steam press) showed its prosperity by the number of fonts it could afford to keep, and advertised for its business by showing them off in its publications.

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The Pencil Lead Wars of 1862

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1862 Schenectady Directory Cozzens & Lay stove polish.png

I could put in a phenomenal amount of effort to explain what was going on in the northern New York graphite mines, what sort of a stranglehold Joseph Dixon & Co. was holding over its competitors, and how he who controlled pencil leads held the fate of a free press in his hands. Or I could just explain that graphite from the Ticonderoga area was a key element of stove polish as well as pencil leads, and that Cozzens & Lay of Water Street in Albany really didn’t like Joseph Dixon. Perhaps having created the first wood and graphite pencil made him snooty (whereas stove polishing would make one sooty). Despite setting their prices to suit the times, we all know the “Dixon Ticonderoga” pencil, and their competitor only leads us to imagine a lot of 5th graders snickering when the Cozzens & Lay pencils were handed out.

By the way, the Dixon website seems to think the average American dolt can’t pronounce “Ticonderoga,” and therefore they provide elaborate instruction.

All Hoxsie, all the time

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George Hoxsie Albany Ward 4 1870.pngWhile I’m on this here Hoxsie kick, I might as well mention a little bit more about George Hoxsie, the Albanian with the audacity to think that his name alone was enough to sell mineral water (or perhaps sarsparilla) (or perhaps something else) to Schenectadians. In 1870, shortly after the rooster crowed, George Hoxsie was living in Albany’s Fourth Ward, listing himself as a mineral water manufacturer with real property worth $6000 and $500 in non-real property. For those days, that was a lot, but not nearly as much as his neighbor Abraham Koonz, the carpet merchant, who claimed $80,000 in real property. Wife Jane and mother Anelope (yes, one ‘t’ short of an antelope) lived with him, as did daughter-in-law Libbie (Elizabeth) and grandson Bismark. Yes, Bismark Hoxsie. Throughout the 1860s, George showed up on federal tax rolls, such as in 1862 when he was charged $5.62 in tax on $520 worth of root beer (apparently the soft drink tax is nothing new). George was also the Overseer of the Poor, a politically appointed city position that may have included the oversight of the Alms House. George may have seen better opportunities in the political world than in bottling, for in 1880 he was listed in the census as a foreman at the New Capitol.

And what happened to little Bismark? He won the prize for best speaker in his class at the 20th commencement exercises of Albany High School in June, 1888. He became an osteopath, married a woman named Huldah Van Doren (yes, she became Huldah Hoxsie), and moved to Bound Brook, New Jersey.