Category Archives: Cohoes

Troytown Shirt Corporation

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Troytown Shirt Corp 1957Just a quickie today, but this ad from 1957 caught our eye. It’s from a time when there was still enough garment manufacture in the area that a call for women with industrial sewing experience would not have gone unanswered. Yes, this was a time when employment ads were separated into male and female categories, and the males were “men” and the females were “girls” or, if lucky, “ladies.”

Don’t know much about Troytown Shirt Corp., which operated out of Harmony Mills. State records indicate that Troytown was incorporated in 1946, and renamed TTS Shirt Corp. in 1988.

The Centennial Exhibition Awards Capital District Manufactures

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Centennial ExhibitionLast week we mentioned that Edgar Smith’s dry air refrigerator, a product of Albany manufacture, was featured at the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, what was essentially the first world’s fair held in the United States and a celebration of the tremendous progress, particularly industrial and agricultural progress, the young country had made in the course of its first century, and the extremely promising future that events seemed to portend. Thousands of items of manufacture were presented at the Exhibition; of those, hundreds were singled out for awards by an international jury – the awards were given in categories like “Clothing, Furs, India-Rubber Goods, Etc.” and “Agricultural Machines, Implements of Agriculture, etc.” Smith’s refrigerator (“Will keep ice Twenty Days, and fresh meat Two Weeks”) was a long way from the only item featured at the Centennial Exhibition.

The firms below were all recognized with awards – after their names are the things they were awarded for; in some cases, Burr’s “Memorial of the International Exhibition” gave us some idea of what else they had shown.

Albany was represented by:

Newton and Co.: fire brick linings for stoves, ranges, and heaters. They were on Rathbone Street, and here’s their great letterhead from 1863.

Mrs. Treadwell and Co.: seal skins (though the reference to Mrs. Treadwell is confusing; the company was well-known as George C. and then George H. Treadwell).

Graves, Bull and Co: shoe lasts and patterns.

Thomas Feary [sic: Fearey] and Son: shoes. We’ve spoken of Thomas Fearey, makers of the Hatch flexible shoe, before.

Smith Refrigerator Co.: dry air refrigerator, “containing fruits and meats that have been long kept.”

Jason Gould [sic: Goold] and Co.: sleighs. The Goold family was renowned for making the Albany sleigh, the very model of Santa’s sleigh, and after the horseless carriage took over, they got into auto bodies and existed until 1951. they showed sleighs, carriages, and coaches on runners, seven in all worth $8000.

Henry Q. Hawley, gas heating and cooking furnaces and water motors. We couldn’t find anything about Hawley, until we found a “Memorial of the International Exhibition” that said that Hawley was a Philadelphia agent for the actual company,  Henry A. Haskell. The engine was “a motor that costs $40, to run sewing machines, &c., by the supply through the pipes of city water works.” The gas apparatus, ascribed to Hawley, was a furnace for heating and cooking by gas. “Cost, two cents an hour. Burns without flame and does not poison the air.”

P.K. Dederick and Co.: perpetual baling press. Dederick’s company was the Albany Agricultural and Machine Works, a massive factory in Tivoli Hollow. Three sizes of the baling press were shown: hand, horse, and steam. “The largest will press twenty tons of hay per day, requiring to operate six horse power. In a building located east of Agricultural Hall is a large display of farm wagons, portable steam engines. All the machines are well built.”

Wheeler, Millick and Co.: horse hay rake and straw preserving rye thresher. Also given as Wheeler & Melick Co., New York State Agricultural Works. They were established in 1830 (according to the Memorial), employed 125 men and had capital of $186,000. They exhibited “threshing machines, one-dog power, double and single horse powers, a rye thresher that leaves the straw straight for binding, tread and lever powers, a combined thresher and cleaner, thresher and shaker, and forms. The entire display has been sold to the Japanese Government.”

William A. Wood Co.: reaping machine.

Charles Fasoldt: astronomical tower clock. He exhibited “very handsome and accurate astronomical and tower clocks.”

E.D. [Erastus Dow] Palmer: sculpture. To say the least.

Regents of the University of N.Y.: Full set of reports and documents (in the category of Education and Science).

Dudley Olcott: Native English Setter Dog (who received a special award – he was a good dog, Brent).

Mrs. C. Hewitt Pfordt: embroidery. We’ll speak more of her soon.

Troy was represented by:

The Albany and Rensselaer Iron and Steel Company was demonstrating its Bessemer steel and wrought iron rails, bars, forgings, axles, spikes, nails and horseshoes. This was the company of Amasa J. Parker. They also showed “a fine array of rails, twisted to show their quality.”

Henry Burden (though it was typed as Burgden) and Sons were awarded for wrought iron bars and horse and mule shoes, and for its horseshoe machine model. We’ve written about Henry Burden quite a bit.

The Henry J. Seymour Chair Co.: chairs.

E. Waters: Paper cans for kerosene oil, and of course paper boats. The “Memorial” said “The firm has been established about nine years, and employs 15 men. Their exhibit consists of one six-oared coxwain gig, forty-six feet six inches long, twenty-five inches wide, and weighs 195 pounds. Value, $350. One four-oared shell, thirty-eight feet long by sixteen inches wide, weighs 78 pounds. Value, $260. Double shell, thirty-four feet long and fourteen inches wide, weighs 39, and is worth $160. One single shell, twenty-eight feet long by twelve inches beam, weighs 30 pounds. Value, $115. Also, a single scull, twenty-six feet long by eleven and a quarter inches beam, weighs 20-1/4 pounds. One Adirondack gig. All the boats are made of paper and furnished with the latest improvements. In all the races in the United States this year, the winning boats were made by this firm. They also exhibit kerosene oil cans and camp stools made of paper. Also, a water-tight joint, in which the tongue is made of prepared paper, and fits into a groove, where it swells when touched by water.”

Harrison and Kellogg: castings of malleable iron and coach wrenches. They also showed gearing and screw-wrenches.

Ludlow Valve Manufacturing Co.: sliding stop valves and fire hydrants. Ludlow had a lovely letterhead. They showed a large water valve of 36 inches, and a full set of small brass valves.

Empire Portable Forge Co.: portable forge.

Albert L. Betts: wire machine. He was showing ready-made wire fencing.

W. and L.E. Gurley: transits, levels, compasses, etc. Not sure why we’ve never written about Gurley before – they may be the only area business that exhibited at the Centennial Exposition that is still in existence. They showed “Civil Engineers’ and Surveyors’ instruments exhibited in a neat room in the aisle. Value of exhibit $15,000. Hands employed, 114. Capital used, $350,000.”

Swett, Quimby and Perry: graphic parlor stove and Empire heating range.

Fuller, Warren and Co.: stoves, furnaces, ranges, etc. One of the area’s major stove manufacturers, Fuller, Warren lasted until 1951. They also had operations in Chicago, Cleveland and New York at the time of the Exposition. “The building containing this exhibit is located on Fountain avenue, west of Machinery Hall. It has the sides of glass, thus affording light sufficient to minutely examine the concrete. The decorations are chaste and elaborate, and make one of the most attractive edifices on the grounds. In the interior are shown their theaters, ranges, cooking and parlor stoves of every description. Upon many of these the most prominent parts have been nickel plated. Several of the stoves were kept running during the entire exhibition, so that they might be easily understood by visitors. To make and continue this display the firm have been to an enormous expense, though the praise elicited from all, and the favor with which they have been received have partially reimbursed them.”

West Troy, now known as Watervliet, was represented by:

James Roy and Co.: shawls. They showed “Woolen cloths and shawls in profusion, and very elegant.”

J.M. Jones and Co.: street car for two horses. It was described in the Memorial as a “Handsomely finished street car.”

Schenectady, not yet really an industrial town, had only one representative awarded in the exhibition: G. Westinghaus [sic] and Co., showing their horse and steam powered threshing machines. George Westinghouse definitely left his mark on Schenectady and was very well regarded in the agricultural implement world. His son became just a little more famous.

Cohoes was represented by:

William Harrabin: anti-friction top rollers. The Memorial listed him as “Wm. T. Horrobin,” and said he was a maker of top rollers and other appliances for cotton factories, pipe cutting and threading machines, transverse wheel card grinder, miniature knitting machines, and Snow’s standard water-wheel governor. They had been 16 years in business and employed 150 hands, with capital of $200,000.

Star Knitting Co.: underwear. Star was one of about 17 mills running in Cohoes at the time.

Campbell and Clute: upright rotary knitting machine.

Cohoes in the 1870s: Mills and More

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Harmony Mill No. 3

Harmony Mill No. 3, photographed in 1971.

Well, we’re on a bit of a Cohoes jag, and why not? The Spindle City sometimes had a bit of an inferiority complex, failing to get the respect of the Capital City or the Collar City, and after its boom it was always a working class mill town. But what a working class it had. The canals built by the Cohoes Company provided cheap power to mills throughout the city, and the grandest of them all was built at the head of the canals.

First opened in 1837, the Harmony Manufacturing Company grew for years; with a change in ownership in 1850, it acquired other mills in the city while growing itself. “The existence of a manufacturing concern of such magnitude has of course been of the utmost benefit to Cohoes in a business point of view, and contributed largely to its prosperity. Through its means large accessions have been made to the population, and the constant expenditures made by the corporation in wages, in the erection of buildings and in various improvements have been of marked advantage to the commercial interests of the place,” Arthur Masten wrote in his The History of Cohoes, New York. “Their factory buildings are all handsomely constructed, and the grounds connected with them tastefully laid out; the streets and sidewalks adjacent to their property are kept in the best condition, and the well built blocks of tenements which have been erected in different localities – more particularly on the West Harmony – are creditable additions to the buildings of the city. Of these tenements, which are nearly 1000 in number, over half have been erected since 1860… The tenements are let to the operatives at a merely nominal price, and in this, as in all other respects, the company has manifested a laudable regard for the comfort of those in its employ.”

In the 1870s, Harmony owned seven mills. One, Two and Three were built by the company; Four was the former Ogden mill, and Five was the former Strong mill. There was also a jute mill and a bag mill. Despite an economic downturn in the mid-1870s, Harmony employees took a reduction in wages but saw minimal layoffs, and the mills in total employed 4,121 operatives in 1876, working at 5,650 looms and 258,054 spindles. Mill No. 3, the Mastodon mill, employed 1639 people at 2,654 looms, with 125,936 spindles in its expanse. The company processed 13,700,000 pounds of cotton and 2,240,000 pounds of jute that year, producing: 79,500,000 yards of printing cloths, percales, wigans, and jaconets; 600,000 seamless bags; 2,130,000 pounds of jute goods; and 3,000 bales of cotton batting. Annual production was said to be $3 million.

Though by far the largest, Harmony was hardly the only operation that gave the Spindle City its nickname. Many of the improvements in the manufacture of fabric were made in Cohoes, and the knitting machines themselves were made there. Masten, writing when the Long Depression was still going strong, said “It is impossible at present to give accurately the statistics of production of the seventeen knitting mills which are now in operation. Since the panic [of 1873] many of them have been shut down for greater or less periods, and the number of operatives employed, and amount of wages paid, have varied; the grade and style of the goods manufactured have been changed from time to time to suit the market, so that the amount of annual production cannot be exactly named.” But he did name the mills themselves, which were:

  • The Troy Manufacturing Company
  • The Root Manufacturing Company
  • H. Parsons & Co.
  • The Atlantic Mill
  • The Ranken Knitting Co.
  • American Hosiery Mill
  • The Victor Mill
  • The Empire Mill
  • The Star Knitting Co.
  • The Adams Mill
  • The Ontario Mill
  • The Mohawk Mill
  • The Erie Mill
  • The Enterprise Mill
  • The Diamond Mill
  • The Globe Mill
  • The Pine Grove Mill

In 1867, things got so bad that all the 15 mills then open in Cohoes agreed to shut down at once. The Troy Times reported that they employed 2,000 people (which doesn’t line up with Masten’s count; I think it’s the amount still employed, and about the same number was laid off), and that all

“have agreed to shut down by the 15th of August. Some of them have already ceased running, and all will do so as they respectively use up the stock on hand. The proprietors are buying no new stock whatever. The stock of shirts and drawers on hand is now enormous. They have been accumulating for months, because no profitable or even saving market was open to them. The proprietors show that it costs them $11[.]20 per dozen to manufacture shirts and drawers, and these are now and for some time have been selling in the great markets at $10[.]50 per dozen.”

The troubles continued at least through October of that year, when Harmony was running at some strength but other mills were laying off, and it was reported that 2,000 were out of work.

Textiles were hardly the only manufactures in Cohoes. Daniel Simmons and Horace Silliman established an axe and edge tool factory in 1835 (succeeding the original Simmons business in far-off Berne), and their products were said to have a worldwide reputation. The Weed & Becker Manufacturing Co. produced 100 dozen axes and 75 dozen tools daily in 1876. The Empire Edge Tool Works made up to 15,000 dozen axes and tools a year. The Ten Eyck Axe Manufacturing Company made 500 tools a day. The Cohoes Rolling Mill put out 6000 tons of bar and band iron a year. The Empire Tube Works made 3,000,000 feet of gas and steam pipe. Campbell and Clute made knitting machinery for the mills. The Cohoes Iron Foundery [sic] and Machine Shop made cotton, woolen and flouring mill machinery as well as architectural iron work. Tubbs & Severson made knitting machinery.

In those days before corporate names were conglomerated into meaninglessness, pretty much every company in Cohoes had what it did right up there on the sign: The Cohoes Knitting Needle Factory, the Sash and Blind Factory, the Cohoes Bedstead Factory, the Cohoes Straw Board Company, McMartin Flouring Mill, American Soap Company, Cohoes Lime and Cement Company, the Cohoes Warp and Thread Company. Trost and Bezner Manufacturing broke that trend, making furniture and other wooden items. There were five paper box factories, all with some intimation that they made boxes contained in their names.

Remarkably, Cohoes was then home to one daily paper and four weeklies, including one in French, as Cohoes had attracted a significant French Canadian population. It was also the home to four banks in 1876.

MOUS?* I do not believe they exist.

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Cohoes Mastodon

Not everyone was elated by the discovery of the Cohoes Mastodon in 1866. Some went so far as to call it a humbug, which was saying something in those days.

Arthur Masten reported in his The History of Cohoes, New York that there were a number of letters published in several newspapers by people who claimed that the skeleton was, indeed, a humbug. They knew it was because they had talked to old inhabitants, usually unnamed. (This “I know a guy who knows a guy who knows the real story” thing continues, of course, to this day.) Masten quoted one particular example, an 1870 letter published in the Rutland Herald. This was a few years after the discovery, and the mastodon was now residing in Albany, but it’s likely the then-recent furor over the Cardiff Giant hoax had stirred the pot again.

There is another sell in Albany, quite equal to the cardiff [sic] giant – but not got up expressly for the occasion. I mean the Cohoes mastodon, so called, now on exhibition in the Geological rooms in this city. It will be recollected that in 1866, as a party at Cohoes were digging to secure a reliable place as a foundation for a factory, the workmen struck upon the bones of a large animal, which some of the savans declared to be those of a mastodon, but all were not agreed upon this name. Henry M. Gaine, a geologist of Saratoga, wrote two or three articles for the newspapers in which he asserted that the teeth of this fossil were not those of the extinct mastodon. But he was ridiculed for expressing such sentiments and the term mastodon was applied to the skeleton of the animal when it was set up for exhibition. It seems a great pity to take away this name, for with it departs the great antiquity of these bones, and with it the finely wrought theory of their having been taken from that huge pot hole of peat by an immense glacier, that separated the different animal parts, and deposited them in many different places.

But we will tell a story related to us by Mr. Wm. J. Bradley, of Ballston, N.Y., a respected and truthful citizen of that place, aged sixty-four years. He says he peddled tin for Wm. J. Benedict, of Schenectady, for two or three years, and for several years he followed a caravan – June, Titus, and Angevine’s. It was his custom to travel from place to place in the night and sell his wares each day at auction near the tent of the caravan. In the fall of 1833, he was going from Schenectady to Troy, following the elephant, which in those days was taken from place to place in the night to escape observation – and when near what is now Cohoes, but which then had only a house or two, he found that the elephant had fallen dead in the road. The keeper had sawed off the tusks and was cutting the body into pieces that it might be drawn out of the road. This was no small job, for the elephant was one of the largest ever exhibited in this country. Mr. Bradley had a nice span of Canadian ponies on his peddler’s cart. He took them off, and assisted by Aaron Ackley, then of Troy, who led one of the frightened horses while Mr. B. led the other, they drew the body off by piece meal, and dropped it into a bog hole some six or eight rods distant, the identical one, as Mr. B thinks, in which this so called mastodon was found.

Among the several things wrong with this conspiracy theory (such as that the tusks would surely have appeared to have been cut, if that were true), recent investigation of protein taken from the mastodon’s left femur shows, according to the State Museum, that the “elephant” died 11,070 years ago, give or take 60 years. That would make Mr. Bradley well over 64 years old, calling into question just how truthful he really was.

*MOUS: Mastodons of Unusual Size. See, The Princess Bride.

A Mastodon Unearthed

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Old Albany NY Cohoes mastodon 1920s NYS Museum

In 1866, the Harmony Company of Cohoes set about building its Mill No. 3, a new cotton factory on the east side of Mohawk Street across from their first building. While the foundation was being excavated, the skeleton of a mastodon was discovered, “an event which awakened great interest here, and caused Cohoes to be for some time quite prominently before the public,” as Arthur Masten put it in his 1877 The History of Cohoes, New York….

At the north end of the building it was found that the layer of rock was thin and rested upon a large bed of peat, with a view to the removal of this, a small section was excavated to a depth of about sixty feet, and in so doing numerous relics of earlier ages were exhumed. The first discoveries, made in the middle of September [1866], were decayed stumps and limbs of trees which lay imbedded in the rich loam; a week later, near the bottom of the bed, the jaw-bone of the mastodon was unearthed.

Masten then quoted from the Sept. 29 issue of the wonderfully named Cohoes Cataract, the long-gone newspaper of the Spindle City:

Assuredly there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy! Those who, during the present generation, have trod the earth of Cohoes have never taken into their wildest imaginings the strange things that were concealed beneath the surface. But the late excavations made by the Harmony Co., have brought to light the fact that a huge mastodon once dwelt where our village now stands, in an age that has been followed by the mightiest convulsions and upheavals. Fifty feet below the surface the jaw of this monster has been found, and has created in our village such a sensation as few events ever excited … The jaw is somewhat decayed and flaky but the teeth are in excellent preservation; the length of each jaw bone is thirty-two inches; the breadth across the jaw at the broadest point twenty inches and the extreme depth about twelve inches. On one side is a single tooth four inches in length and two and a half in width, and on the other two teeth one of which is six and a half inches long, the other four, and each uniform in width and shape with its neighbor opposite. The holes or cavities for the dental nerves are from an inch to an inch and a half in diameter….

More was found over the weeks: the skull, tusk, leg-bones, ribs and “enough other bones of the animal to make the skeleton nearly complete were found, most of them in a pot-hole distant some sixty feet from the one in which the jaw bone was buried,” Masten wrote.

The bones were kept for some time at the office of the Harmony Mills, where they were visited by hundreds of persons, among whom were Profs. [O.C.] Marsh of Yale college, [James] Hall of Albany and a number of other scientific men. They were also placed on exhibition in Troy, at the county fair and in Harmony Hall … Several offers were received by the Harmony Co. from public institutions for the purchase of the remains, and it was thought at one time that they would be sold and the proceeds given to the Union Sunday School. It was finally decided, however, to present them to the state. The legislature voted an appropriation of $2,000 for completing the search for the bones, and mounting the skeleton, and passed a joint resolution tendering thanks to Mr. Wild and the Harmony Co. for their generosity. In the following year the skeleton was placed in position in the State Cabinet of Natural History, at Albany.

The Cohoes Mastodon was first displayed at the State Museum and Geological Hall in 1867. It moved with the museum to the State Education Building in 1915, but when the museum moved once again to the Cultural Education Center at the Empire State Plaza in 1976, the mastodon was removed from public view. It made a triumphant return to the entry hall of the “new” museum in 1998, but it was soon found conditions there weren’t optimal for 11,000-year-old bones, and it was put into a back hall of the museum where it is displayed today. There’s a great time-lapse video of the mastodon being assembled on the State Museum’s mastodon page.

The Cohoes Company Canals

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Cohoes view north along power canal 1969

View north along power canal. Harmony Mill #3 (Mastodon Mill) on right background. – Cohoes Company Power Canal System, Level 2, North Mohawk Street, Cohoes, Albany County, NY

If you’re going to build hydropower canals, you’ve got to have water. (We started to touch on this topic yesterday.) From the earliest days of the Cohoes Company’s canal operations, they had control of a wing dam that diverted water from the river into their canals. About 1866, they constructed a sophisticated gatehouse that exists to this day. In fact, the original equipment was still in place when the hydropower plant at the site was redeveloped just a few years ago, and a fellow by the name of Bruce G. Harvey was not only fortunate enough to document the site for HAER, he has shared a number of his photographs here. Click on through to see the beauty of 1866 mechanical works.

According to Mr. Harvey’s documentation, the original complex from the 1830s was upgraded in 1866 into a gatehouse that straddled the power canal, immediately downstream from a new dam they built that same year. The gatehouse allowed the Cohoes Company to control the flow into the canal. That gatehouse was expanded in 1922 by the Cohoes Power and Light Company, which developed hydroelectric power at the site.

Engineering News in 1915 described the impending redevelopment of the old hydraulic canal in Cohoes, which after 85 years was being redeveloped into use for hydro-electric generation. The article noted that the original system was designed by James B. Francis, “the father of modern hydraulic engineering,” a detail that seems to have eluded other accounts. It noted that the first power canal was completed in 1834, 1¾ miles long with a fall of 18 feet. In 1843, a second-level canal was added and the first one altered so both could make use of the old Erie Canal bed, which had been secured by an exchange of land during the enlargement. A third canal was built the same year using part of the old Erie Canal, half a mile long with a fall of 23 feet. The fourth and fifth levels, half a mile long and giving a drop of 20 feet, were added around 1880.

The article says that power was supplied at $20 per horsepower-year to tenants induced to settle on the Cohoes Company’s land. “As a result, the expenses for motive power and ground rent of the largest mills in the earlier stages scarcely exceeded $1000 per year.” The power of that water was not endless, however. “In recent years [to 1915] the land of the company has been largely occupied and the low-stage flow of the Mohawk has been practically all utilized. Indeed the largest mill, in order to obtain extra power required by the development of its business, was obliged to build a steam station.”

By 1915, of course, this style of hydropower was almost hopelessly obsolete; the 10,000 horsepower it could produce was equaled by one unit of the proposed new electric generation station. The wheels it turned were inefficient, water had to flow constantly without respect to the demands of the mills, there was considerable leakage, “and in winter considerable water was wasted in ridding the canal of ice.”

The plan for hydroelectric power described in Engineering News was substantially the plan that exists today, with a feeder canal bringing diverted river water into a series of penstocks feeding electric generators. The Erie Canal still existed (as did all of the Cohoes Company canals), but its replacement, the Barge Canal, was already being developed.

By the way, the generation station built there was considerably advanced for its time. It managed 96 feet of hydraulic head, and included three 10,000-horsepower generators at the outset, with room for the placement of two more. Power was generated at 12,000 volts without use of step-up transformers, as power was intended to be supplied within a radius of 10 miles; that created some efficiency at the outset.

Power Canal showing intake to Harmony Mill #2

Power canal showing intake to Harmony Mill No. 2. – Cohoes Company Power Canal System, Level 2, North Mohawk Street, Cohoes, Albany County, NY

By the way, what’s remarkable about these photographs from the Library of Congress (there are more) isn’t that they exist and show the relationship of the old Cohoes Company canal to the south (above) and the north (here) sides of the Harmony Mills complex – it’s that these photos were taken in 1969. These portions of the canals, at least, survived that long.

Cohoes: The City of Canals

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The 1843 map of the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers contained some great detail about Cohoes, the city that grew up on the legendary falls and came to be known as the Spindle City for its role in the textile industry, much of which enjoyed hydropower well before steam engines were available.

Cohoes canals in city overview

At the top of this map from 1843, we can see the Enlarged Erie Canal. Enlargement was made necessary within a dozen years of the canal’s opening in order to accommodate the high levels of traffic. Below it, you can see the “Old Erie Canal Now Used By The Cohoes Company.” Throughout the streets, we can see a series of other canals, each labelled with a letter. While the path of the Erie is still pretty easy to see in Cohoes, there doesn’t appear to be much sign left of the rest of these canals.

So, who dug all this?

In his history of Cohoes from 1877, Arthur H. Masten noted that up until 1811, “there had been no indications of the importance it was destined to assume as a manufacturing town . . . there was little to distinguish the place from other farming settlements in the neighborhood.” But along came the Cohoes Manufacturing Company, formed by a group of gentlemen from nearby Lansingburgh in 1811. They bought sixty acres on the river bank, part of the Heamstreet farm, along with water rights, and bought further land on the other side of the river from Jacobus Van Schoonhoven, and Simmons Island, situated between Cohoes and Van Schaick. Property belonging to the patron was transferred to Gerret Peebles, one of the trustees of the company.

The Cohoes Manufacturing Company was formed for the purposes of manufacturing “Cotton, Woolen and Linen good, making bar-iron, Anchors, Mill Irons, nail rods, Hoop-iron and Iron Mongery.” The company’s first enterprise was the manufacture of screws and the construction of a wing dam to provide power. It appears the company’s plan was always to encourage other manufacture on their lands, using their water, but for this particular company that never really came together. Then came the Champlain and Erie Canals, completed in this area in 1823, which provided new opportunities. Cohoes Manufacturing’s screw factory burned down and the replaced it with a cotton factory; that also burned down, in 1829, and the company seems to have stopped doing much of anything.

A similar enterprise called the Cohoes Company had popped up in 1826, with directors including Peter Remsen, Charles E. Dudley (of observatory fame), Stephen Van Rensselaer Jr. and others; this company received the rights to erect a dam across the Mohawk River above the Cohoes Falls, and had authority to

“cut, construct and make a canal or canals from said river upon the lands of said corporation, to supply water for all the purposes of said corporation, and to cut, construct and make upon the lands of said corporation as many lateral canals connected therewith as may be necessary to supply water for the manufacturing establishments which may be erected, and also to afford such water communication with the Erie and Champlain Canals as shall be approved by the canal commissioners . . . and may also at any time hereafter purchase, build, or hire for the use and in the name of the said corporation houses, factories, warehouses, wharves and other necessary buildings . . . .”

The Cohoes Company seems to have acquired the holdings of the Cohoes Manufacturing Company, and in 1831, things started to happen.

A Mr. Wilkinson opened a machine shop on Mohawk street powered by water from a waste gate on the Erie Canal near the north end of what would be the Harmony Mills site. A saw mill soon followed. Canals of the Cohoes Company were under construction, completed in 1832.

“The principle one, Basin A, extended from a point in the rear of the present Harmony Mills carpenter shop, on Mohawk street, to a short distance north of Factory street. The other, Basin B, was of less importance, serving principally to receive the water from Basin A and convey it to the river. It is on Remsen street and forms the fourth level of the Cohoes Company’s present system. The first factory to obtain its power from Basin A was one (now occupied by Holsapple’s bedstead factory) which was erected in the early part of the year by E.L. Miller, a wealthy gentleman of Charleston, S.C., who intended to engage in cotton manufacture.”

In 1833 another canal was built, running on the east side of the Erie and parallel with it, to a point a few hundred feet above “the Two Locks,” near School street, where it was taken under the canal then continued in its present course, terminating near the middle lock of the Three Locks, in the rear of Harmony Mill No. 2. The Cohoes Iron Foundry, run by John L. Wilkinson and Nathaniel Wheeler, was located where the Harmony Mills were constructed. Blacksmith Daniel Simmons built an axe and edge tool factory from which the Simmons Axe became famous. His partner was Levi Silliman. A veneering and sawing mill was built near Remsen and Mohawk streets.

By 1840,  the enlargement of the Erie Canal was underway, and the State swapped its old canal for Cohoes Company land, as can be seen in the map above. The “Old Erie Canal Now Used by the Cohoes Company” and its connected waterways weren’t designed for transportation, but for the transmission of hydropower to all the mills that could be attracted to Cohoes. In these days before steam engines were common, water power was a huge attraction.

We’d love to know if there is any evidence of these old canal structures (beyond the well-known Erie Canal locks) in Cohoes today, other than what is immediately around Harmony Mills. Up in that area, the canals lasted a very long time, as we’ll see tomorrow.


More Mappage: Confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk, 1843

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Hudson and Mohawk River Confluence 1843

Hoxsie is on a bit of a map jag. Again thanks to the resources of the NYS Archives, we have a very detailed representation of the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers with the villages and islands, published by Luther Bliss, bookseller of Lansingburgh in 1843. Once again, click on it to zoom in. Another day soon, we’ll focus on the tremendous details of the canals of Cohoes but for now we’ll hit just a few highlights.

Cohoes or Van Schaicks Island

This overview shows “Cohoes or Van Schaicks Island,” now known as Van Schaick Island, positioned between the branches of the Mohawk the flow below Cohoes Falls and the Hudson. It’s a little surprising that all these dams were already in place in 1843 and are still here today. Some of the smaller islands are different but the major waterways are the same. Across the bottom of the island is the line of the Troy, Ballston and Saratoga Railroad; the line persists today as a bike path with the Black Bridge crossing the second branch and roadway continuing north.

Haver Island Peebles

To the north, Haver Island. You know it as Peebles Island, now a state park that was once the site of a Cluett and Peabody shirt bleaching operation, some buildings of which still stand. The City of Cohoes website says that “haver” was Dutch for “oats.” The railroad line still exists as a road and bridge over to Waterford.

Cohoes Falls

This inset to the map shows the Cohoes Falls, the enlarged Erie Canal, and the hydraulic canal of the Cohoes Company, which developed extensive hydropower to attract industry to what became the Spindle City. More on that to come.

Cornelius Lansing's Mansion

Meanwhile, over at the north end of Lansingburgh, the Union Bridge connected it to Waterford (in the same place the bridge stands today). This was the first bridge across the Hudson River at any point, built on a design by Theodore Burr in 1804. Burr was cousin of the more famous Aaron Burr, but if you’re a bridge fan, he also built the long-standing wooden bridge between Schenectady and Scotia in 1808. Near the bridge was what is shown here as Cornelius Lansing’s mansion; he was a farmer (presumably a prosperous one) and descendant of Abraham Jacob Lansingh, who received the original patent from the patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer.

Rensselaer Institute near State Dam

Also on the map, very close to what was then the State dam (later replaced by the Federal lock and dam further up the river), the original location of the Rensselaer Institute, now RPI. It was then in the former Farmer’s Bank building, way up on the north end of Troy, which Arthur James Weise (in “History of the City of Troy…”) placed on the northwest corner of Middleburgh and River Streets, now the site of the nondescript building housing Snyder Printers.

Jan Gowsen Island

A little up the river from the dam, Jan Gowsen Island, which was apparently barely an island, often underwater. It was eliminated when the new dam was built.

Van Schaick cemetery

Most charming thing on the map: this little sketch of a tombstone representing the Van Schaick cemetery. It looks like George Harriman drew it.



Olendorf’s Tourist Home, Cohoes

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Olendorf's Tourist Home Cohoes 1.jpg Another pair of postcards from the Boston Public Library collection. These depict Olendorf’s Tourist Home on Route 9 in Cohoes (but really, Latham). The tourist home was a standard fixture of the major routes in those days, and back before the highways came through Route 9 was the only road north to the Adirondacks from these parts, so it was lined with these little cabin colonies. This one was run by Oscar and Lillian Nicholson Olendorf for more than thirty years until they retired in 1967. I don’t know much about Oscar, but Lillian was a nurse who was trained at the Brady Infant Home in Albany, and then worked for Dr. John Phelen as a baby nurse. She died in 1991 but her obituary didn’t give her age.
Olendorf's Motel Cohoes.jpg If anyone knows just exactly where Olendorf’s was located, I’d be glad to hear from you. Email me through the link or just tweet me, @HoxsieAlbany.
Olendorfs Tourist Home Cohoes I A friend of the site was good enough to send along the back of an Olendorf’s Motel postcard, which helps locate it a little bit anyway.  The directions are:

On Northway Route #87 going North Exit Route 9 R Going South turn left on Route 7 to Route 9 Proceed 1 mile North.

Seems like that would put it about a mile north of Latham Circle.

This gives the owners’ names as Dupre (not Oscar) and Lillian. It promises not only heat and air conditioning in each unit, but summer stock theatre with name casts, and a bowling alley!

The Markers Speak: Loudon’s Ford

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Loudon's Ford markerIf it weren’t for this historical marker, we might have completely forgotten about Loudon’s Ford, which is on the Mohawk River just a bit above Cohoes Falls.

The sign is for “Loudon’s Ford / British and Continental / army ford protected / August – September 1777 / by Generals Enoch Poor / and Benedict Arnold”.

A Flickr friend did a bit of research on the precise location and importance of Loudon’s Ford; as little as could be found, it does raise the question of why Gen. Schuyler’s name isn’t on the marker, as it was apparently his preparations for the fight against Burgoyne that saw the need to hold the mouth of the Mohawk.

Pure speculation, but one can assume it picked up the name of Loudon’s Ford (or Ferry) from the Earl of Loudoun, perhaps as part of his preparations for the attempted seizing of Louisbourg in 1757. It is for him that Loudonville is named.

Today, Enoch Poor is nearly as obscure as the location of Loudon’s Ford.