Category Archives: Troy

French Refugees in 19th Century Troy

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It appears that early on in its history, the then-village of Troy was home to political refugees from France. In his “Troy’s One Hundred Years, 1789-1889,” Arthur James Weise says that in 1794, Troy became the temporary home of several refugees.

“The most eminent were Frédéric Séraphin, marquis de la Tour du Pin Gouvernet, and his lovely wife. The marquis had served with distinction as an officer in the French army, and at the beginning of the Reign of Terror, had loyally devoted himself to save Louis XVI from dethronement. Losing in a single day, in April, 1794, by ordered executions, his father, father-in-law, and uncle, and knowing that his own life was in jeopardy, he escaped arrest by concealing himself for six weeks in the city of Bordeaux. There is secretly succeeded in obtaining passports to America for himself, his children and their nurse. Disguised as peasants they embarked without detection and had a safe passage to the United States. The young and accomplished marchioness was also successful in securing a passport, dressed as a boy, under the name of Charles Lee, whose uncle, it was alleged, had died, leaving him property in the United States.”

Weise reports that the marquis and marchioness arrived separately in New York City, bearing only two trunks of fine towels and letters of introduction to wealthy citizens of Albany. They were referred to Troy as a pleasant and secluded residence and given introduction to Mrs. John Bird, later the wife of Colonel Albert Pawling. According to Weise, they asked her to refrain from introducing them around, and to “shield them as far as practicable from any attentions which as strangers and persons of rank might be shown them by the inhabitants.

They rented a vacant tavern at 140 River Street that was later known as Mechanics’ Hall, apparently the only vacant building in the village that was suited as a residence – it was literally boarded up when they took possession, and “The bar room, used for a parlor and dining-room, was cheaply and scantily furnished.” Weise says that the Marquis was befriended by “the nephew of Comte de Rochambeau,” who had made his home in Troy a temporary refuge. In order to better support his family, the marquis purchased a small farm three miles west of Port Schuyler (Watervliet), and moved from Troy to cultivate it, “assisted by a number of slaves.”

“At the close of the French Revolution, the marquis returned to France with his family. His confiscated property was restored to him and his political ability was again employed in the services of his country. Under the Empire, he was prefect of Amiens and Brussels, counselor to the embassy at the Congress of Vienna, minister plenipotentiary to the court of the Netherlands, and afterward to Sardinia. In 1832, he retired to Lausanne, where he died in 1837, in the seventy-ninth year of his age.”

What little we can find of Frédéric-Séraphin , Marquis of La Tour du Pin , Count of Gouvernet, doesn’t contradict Weise’s account, but doesn’t entirely confirm it, either. A Wikipedia entry (translated from the French because I love the language but can never learn it) confirms many of the basic details, saying that the Marquis was part of the LaFayette expedition “to help the revolted Americans, before returning to France to pursue his military career.” It says he was Minister Plenipotentiary at The Hague in 1792 before emigrating, his father and uncle having been guillotined. But it doesn’t say where he emigrated to, and doesn’t detail his return. Our resource on LaFayette makes no mention of the Marquis, and provides only sketchy information on the other Frenchmen who came over with him and in some instances stayed.

The National Archives has some correspondence between Marquis de La Tour du Pin and Alexander Hamilton. In sourcing it, the Archives says that the Marquis was an aide-de-camp to LaFayette during the revolution, and following the war was named colonel of the Royal-Vaisseaux and served as an aide to his father, who was the Minister of War. In 1794 he emigrated to the United States, “where he bought and operated a farm near Albany. Three or four years later he went to England.”

The Archives also helpfully provides a description of La Tour du Pin’s property that was published in an advertisement in the [Philadelphia] Courrier de la France et des Colonies, March 1, 1796, offering the property for sale:

“A farm newly occupied by the undersigned, situated in Watervleit [sic], five miles north of Albany, and two miles north of Troy; it contains 206 acres. There is a pleasant house with dependencies, in all in very good order; a large orchard full of choice trees, and a good sized vegetable garden where there are also fruit trees and bushes. The farm utensils are also for sale, a complete assortment, with several milk cows and mares that will bear….”

The letter, dated February 21, 1798, seems to indicate that La Tour du Pin was still trying to sell his property. Relying more than we’d like to on Google Translate, the letter notes that he would like to sell his farm “d’Albany,” and notes that the previous kindnesses shown by the family of Madame Hamilton “make me hope that at your request she will still be willing to render the Service to us to sell this small object.” He wrote to Hamilton on the topic again in July 1798, at which point he may have left the United States.

With the beauty of hindsight and the power of editing, we note that the farm of La Tour du Pin was located on what is now called Delatour Road, for what, in the bright light of morning, are blazingly obvious reasons. More to come on that.

From Van der Heyden Farms to the Village of Troy

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The plat for VanderheydenIf in, say, the 1780s anyone were taking bets on which local community might someday rise to rival Albany’s mercantile power, they would likely have favored Lansingburgh as the capital city’s chief competition. Schenectady was a sleepy community of broommakers and hops growers, though still a gateway to the west for the few who went that way (the terrors of the Revolution had proven a serious dissuasion to continued settlement farther west, and it took some time to recover). Other communities around the region, all huddled on the banks of one river or the other, were even less than that. The only other real seat of prosperity lay several miles up the Hudson in Lansingburgh, often called “New City,” which in 1787 had 500 inhabitants to the Old City’s (Albany’s) 3000. That was before things started expanding down at the Van der Heyden farms.

There were three of them. The northern most was between Division Street and the Piscawen Kill, near current Hoosick Street, not very visible from the River Road; its one-story dwelling, built in 1756 by Jacob I. Van der Heyden, stood on a rise of ground not far north of the Hoosick Road.

The middle farm lay between Grand and Division streets, and had a two-story board building on the east side of the River Road, opposite a ferry “which for many years had been a source of income to the family. Jacob D. Van der Heyden, then enjoying the privilege of ferrying vehicles, animals and people to and from Steene Hoeck, resided in the old house….” Steene Hoeck was a site on the west bank (later West Troy, now Watervliet) known as Rock House. Just a bit further south was the third farm, a one-story brick dwelling built in 1752 by Mattys Van der Heyden. It sat about 1300 feet north of the Poesten Kill.

According to Arthur James Weise, in his “Troy’s One Hundred Years, 1789-1889,” after the Revolutionary War, migrating New Englanders heading to Lansingburgh and beyond saw how well situated the Van der Heyden places were, particularly with regard to navigation, and pleaded to be able to lease plots of land. Few were successful. Benjamin Thurber of Providence was allowed to rent, not lease, land from Jacob in 1786 for a dwelling and a store on River Street, just south of Hoosick Street. He grew quickly, serving neighborhood farmers. Around the same time, Captain Stephen Ashley of Salisbury, Connecticut, sought to settle near the ferry, but was denied. Taking the same request to Matthias, grandson of the builder of the southern farm, Ashley found a less prosperous landowner more inclined to listen. Captain Ashley got a two year lease on the brick house, fitted it for a public house, and called it the Farmers’ Inn. Then he established a new ferry, which soon came to be known as Ashley’s Ferry. What Jacob thought of this ferrying competition, Weise does not record.

Ashley and a gentleman from Providence named Benjamin Covell realized that Jacob’s middle farm enjoyed a deeper river channel and a steeper, firmer shoreline, and started pressing Jacob to have the western part of his land laid out for the site of a village.

“After considerable reflection, he finally engaged Flores Bancker of Lansingburgh to lay out about sixty-five acres into lots, streets, and alleys. When the map of the plat was completed on May 1st, 1787, the Dutch farmer, in honor of his family, called the site of the projected village, Vanderheyden. As related by an early settler, the place was, ‘with a foresight not always observed, laid out with a view of its ultimately being a place of considerable magnitude; and Philadelphia, with its regular squares and rectangular streets, was selected as its model by the advice of a gentleman, who had made a then rare visit to that celebrated city.’

As seen on the map of Vanderheyden, the village comprised two hundred and eighty-nine lots, mostly fifty feet wide and one hundred and thirty deep, with alleys in the rear of them twenty feet wide; the streets having a width of sixty feet.”

So, important to note: one of the great things about Troy, its alleys, goes back to its very beginning.

Ashley built a new two-story wooden inn at the northeast corner of River and Ferry streets. The southern ferry business having been established. Matthias Van der Heyden put a notice in the May 10, 1788 Lansingburgh Federal Herald.

“The subscriber respectfully informs the public that as the time for which he leased his ferry to Captain S. Ashley hath expired, he proposes to exert himself in expediting the crossing of those who may please to take passage in his boat, which will ever be in readiness directly opposite the house at present occupied by said Ashley. The terms of crossing will be as moderate as can reasonably be expected, and a considerable allowance made to those who contract for the season. He has in contemplation to commence keeping a tavern in a few weeks from the date hereof, when no exertions of his shall be wanting to accommodate those who shall resort the house from which Mr. Ashley will shortly remove.

N.B. Notice for crossing will be given by sounding a conk-shell a few minutes before the boat starts.”

The new town of Vanderheyden was quickly a success. One store after another opened. Asa Crossen, a “taylor and habit-maker” from New London, Connecticut, advertised that he was carrying his business “in all its branches at Messrs. Ashley and Van der Heyden’s ferry.”

Many of these new residents were from somewhere else, particularly New England, and maybe that led to what happened next. Not even two years after Jacob Van der Heyden had agreed to split up his land into a village, the new residents started pressing for a name change.

Changing the name to Troy, 1789“Considering the name Vanderheyden too polysyllabic, Dutch, and strange, the settlers determined to select a shorter and more acceptable designation for the village. On Monday evening, January 5th, 1789, they met at Ashley’s Inn, near the north-east corner of River and Ferry streets, and voted that the action taken by them in the choice of a name should be published in the Albany and Lansingburgh newspapers . . . The summary repudiation of the original name by the settlers was harshly criticised by the members of the Van der Heyden family. Jacob D. Van der Heyden was sorely offended, and for a number of years thereafter continued using the former designation in his conveyances, by writing it, ‘Vanderheyden alias Troy.’”

A week after the renaming, a pseudonymous critic going by the name of “Nestor” published a paragraph in the Lansingburgh paper:

“Yesterday I hear’d that a neighboring village had assumed the name of Troy – for what reason I cannot conceive, as I find not the least resemblance between the old city of that name and this small village. – Some classical critic has perhaps thought fit so to style it, from dissimilitude, as lucus is derived a non lucendo. – Some wag must surely have been playing a trick with the good people of the place, and is now laughing in his sleeve at their ignorance of ancient history. Let them consider what constructions may be put upon their choice, when it is so public known how the letters of said title may be placed, and what they signify. First, Tyro, in Latin, is a novice, a fresh-water sailor, or a fair-weather soldier. Second, Ryot, (according to the old way of spelling,) and surely they are not so famous for kicking up a dust that the letters composing the name of their town designate their character. Lastly, Tory; this alone would be sufficient to induce them to reject what ever bears the least resemblance to so hated a character.”

Unfavorable anagrams notwithstanding, the name stuck, and the village of Troy continued to grow.

For Sale in 1839 Troy: Sultana Raisins and Erasive Balls

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In case you think that in the days before global trade, the Capital District was a wasteland of nothing but Albany beef, beaver pelts and soda crackers, allow this small sampling of advertising from the Troy Daily Whig,1839, to change your mind.

First, an ad from M. Cornwell of 329 River Street. He was offering oranges, lemons, and nuts received that very day. Peanuts, brazil nuts, soft and hard shelled almonds, “greenoble” walnuts, and filberts. He had preserved ginger, sweet chocolate, and cocoa, dried currants, nutmegs and cloves. Ten drums of sultana raisins! Not to mention the Havana segars. Not to mention, “Just rec’d a large and general assortment of Toys, from a Giraffe down to a red Squirrel . . . Also, 30 dozen dressed and undressed Dolls.”

The Apothecary Hall of E. Waters, Jr., was offering Turkey “Rubarb,” more a medicinal article, often a laxative, than a food item. He also sold erasive balls, “for extracting Grease or Oils from Silks, Carpets, Woolens, &c., &c.” And if you needed neither Turkey Rubarb nor erasive balls, perhaps you would care for Odoriferous Compound, “or Persian Sweet Bags – A grateful perfume for scenting clothes drawers, &c., and is an effectual preventative against moths.”

Knox, Whitlock & Rockwell was a dry goods store, run by Jonathan LeGrand Knox, Jonathan Henry Whitlock, and Gould Rockwell. On this occasion, they had a case of the new style mousseline de laine (muslin of wool). They also had pilot cloths (twilled wool with a thick nap) and flushings in blue, black and other colors. Just opened! Also crape camblets, a woven fabric also known as Camelot.

M.J. Lyman and Son, 273 River Street, were offering prime Tampico fustic. Fustic is a species of mulberry, “extensively employed as an ingredient in the dyeing of yellow colors” (according to the Tennessee Pharmacal Gazette, 1874). But they also sold lemon, raspberry and sarsaparilla syrups.

J.W. Churchill was offering fresh fish and lobsters. “Tuesday and Friday Mornings, I shall receive Fresh Fish and Lobsters, by the morning boat, until further notice. Persons wishing to change their diet from meat to fish, will do well to remember the days they can do so.” Churchill wasn’t the only source of fish – L. Mowry of 127 River Street had Connecticut River shad as well as mackerel.

Meanwhile, Dr. Heimstreet’s drug and chemical store had a number of goodies on offer. Preston’s extract of lemon, for example: purified from all bitter qualities, the most convenient concentrated form for all purposes of cooking. He also sold Phinney’s anti-dispeptic “or Family Pills.” And compound fluid extract of sarsaparilla, “the most eligible form in which this valuable medicine can be used.”

That’s just the barest sampling of what was for sale in the Troy shops. There were silver spoons and pearlash, medicinal liquors and twines. Boston rum and compound peach water. Burlaps and dove colored earthen ware. Violin strings and window glass.

African-Americans in Lansingburgh’s History

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Lansingburgh has a long and interesting history – in fact, if you told its founding fathers that the little village that became the city of Troy would rise to be one of the great powers of the industrial age, they may have doubted your sanity. Today we mostly only think of it in relation to its immediate neighbor to the south, but in fact it was long a vibrant community in its own right. And within that community, as in most of our communities, the lives and contributions of African-Americans have frequently been hidden, lost to time. And for such a tiny place, the Lansingburgh Historical Society is doing a tremendous job of highlighting some of those lives, with a set of biographies of African-American residents of Lansingburgh in history. Go there now and learn about the “Colored Temperance Convention,” the Gunn family members who modeled for Norman Rockwell, and the first African-American to serve on a Rensselaer County jury.

Knox & Mead

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Knox & Mead, Troy

For some time, this particular shot was our white whale, our holy grail. Not sure why, but we just love, love, love this unassuming little building in Troy, and we’ve never been able to get a picture of it without cars parked in front. And then, right around Christmas, there it was, a nicely unwrapped little gift: the Knox & Mead building at 10 First Street.

It didn’t start as the Knox & Mead building. According to the Rensselaer County Historical Society, the building was built in the summer of 1852, and its first occupant was the Manufacturer’s Bank of Troy. Later, the Central Bank of Troy and the Central National Bank of Troy were at the same address. Knox & Mead moved in in 1906, but that was not their first address.

Knox & Mead was an insurance company that dated back to 1855, starting as Kelly & Knox. In 1888, it was under the management of John H. Knox and Walter F. Mead, then at 253 River Street, the Burdett Building – but not the Burdett Building that is there today, for the original Burdett Building, burned rather completely in February 1896. The company then moved to 10 First Street, “the old Post Office Building,” but there’s nothing but a parking lot today. If the RCHS information is correct, Knox & Mead moved across the street 10 years later, and stayed there for quite a long time, until some time in the 1980s.

Confusingly, although it’s clear they were an insurance company, and apparently only an insurance company, we find them in a 1910 book on “Coal Advertising: A Collection of Selling Phrases, Descriptions and Illustrated Advertisements As Used By Successful Advertisers.” There they are quoted as saying:

Justice rules at our coal yards. She sees that every customer gets just what his money is worth – sometimes more. Only the Best Coal rules here from one day to another, which is equivalent to saying that A1 coal which freely burns, which knows as little of smoke, cinder and ash as any coal produces, is here subject to your order every business day in the year. No one can contradict that statement with any degree of success. Knox & Mead, Troy, N.Y.

That is, to say the least, wildly confusing. Nothing in local directories or anything else supports that quote – but it seems unlikely that the publication could have just accidentally come up with that name. Mysterious.

Of John Knox, we know only a little. He was vice president of the Troy Vocal Society, which performed at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, and served on the city’s Centennial Committee. Of Walter Mead, we know nothing.

The building is as beautiful today as when it was new. It houses Tai Ventures, which performed a gorgeous renovation.

 

This Is Not A Collar, But Still

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Cluett, Peabody display card

Did you know Benjamin Franklin founded a free library? Okay, you probably did. Did you know that library still exists, as The Library Company of Philadelphia? And did you further know that the online collections of The Library Company of Philadelphia include some items of interest to Capital District history nerds? Well, now you do.

This, for instance, which is a trade card and point-of-sale cutout from about 1900, promoting the legendary Cluett, Peabody & Co., one of the several makers of collars who made Troy the Collar City. That they chose to advertise collars with a display of a cuff might be a little confusing, but yes, cuffs were made of detachable cellulloid in those days as well. Want to advertise collars? Show a little cuff.

Cluett, Peabody was the largest, and the longest-lasting of all the collar companies. As with many Troy companies, they went through many forms and names. They started as Maullin & Blanchard, in 1851, at 310 River Street. According to Anderson’s “Landmarks of Rensselaer County,” George B. Cluett had been in charge of the manufacturing department when he was admitted to partnership in 1861, and the company became Maullin & Cluett in 1862. Joseph Maullin died the following year, and George Cluett, J.W.A. Cluett and Charles J. Saxe formed George B. Cluett, Bro. & Co., with a factory at 390 River Street.  Saxe left in 1866 and another Cluett, Robert, rose to partner. In 1874 R.S. Norton’s name was added to the firm, and they moved to 74 and 76 Federal Street, where they would remain until destroyed by fire on March 20, 1880. “Before the fire was extinguished a new location was found at 556 Fulton street.” In 1891, Geo. B. Cluett, Bros., & Co merged with Coon & Co., another prominent collar maker, to form Cluett, Coon & Co., which brought along Frederick F. Peabody. In 1899, the company became Cluett, Peabody & Co., and after 48 years of pretty much perpetual name changes, decided to settle down and focus on collars and cuffs.

By the way, the detachable collar was invented by a Troy woman, Hannah Montague.

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.

Amos Eaton: Pioneering Educator, Ex-Convict

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Amos EatonOne of the founders of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Amos Eaton, probably doesn’t get sufficient credit for developing new instructional methods relating to the practical application of science, using the radical method of learning by doing, having students experiment and deliver lectures. His initial aim in creating the Rensselaer School was to teach the teachers, and Eaton’s reputation as a speaker on natural philosophy (now the sciences) drew students from distant Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as closer New Yorkers and New Englanders, to the new institute in Troy. The school was a success from the start. In addition to a number of firsts, such as granting the first civil engineering degrees in the nation, Rensselaer may also have been the first college led by someone who had done hard time: Amos Eaton spent nearly five years in prison for forgery.

Eaton was born in Chatham in Columbia in 1776 to a prosperous farm family, and he early on showed an interest in nature and science, performing land surveys at the age of 16. Despite that, after studying natural philosophy at Williams College and dabbling in teaching, he took up the study of law and became a practicing lawyer and land agent, while continuing to develop his knowledge of the sciences, particularly botany.

The “Biographical Record of the Officers and Graduates of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1824-1886,” describes Eaton’s progression delicately:

“He was admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, at Albany, October 30, 1802, and soon after established himself as a lawyer and land agent in Catskill, N.Y. Here he remained several years, his position affording him good opportunities for cultivating his growing taste for the natural sciences. In May, 1810, he made in Catskill, it is believed, the first attempt in this country at a popular course of lectures on botany (compiling for the use of his class a small elementary treatise,) for which he was highly complimented by his former teacher, Dr. Hosack, as ‘first in the field,’ saying ‘you have adopted the true system of education, and very properly address yourself to the senses and the memory.’ Here we find Mr. Eaton, at this early day, adopting that mode of instruction which rendered him so pre-eminently successful in inspiring young men with that enthusiasm which assured success.

Owing to a concurrence of circumstances which our limits will not allow us to explain, Mr. Eaton now found his love for the details of his profession diminishing, and his interest in the natural sciences fast growing upon him; and he therefore resolved to abandon the practice of the law, and prepare himself to become an efficient laborer in the congenial pursuits of science.”

So, a thing happened that diminished his love for the details of his profession. That thing was prison. Every web source reports it pretty much the same way: while working as a land agent and surveyor in Catskill in 1811, some form of a land dispute resulted in Eaton being imprisoned for forgery for nearly five years. He was accused by a client of having forged a property release; some articles suggested that it was somehow a political frameup (although there’s little other evidence of any political activity on his part) and that he received less than a fair trial. A review of an Eaton biography in the Knickerbocker News in 1941 says that he served more than four years at Newgate state prison in Greenwich Village, New York City, and that he had received a conditional pardon from Governor Tompkins in 1815 before being fully pardoned by Governor DeWitt Clinton in 1816 (or perhaps 1817). In the conditional pardon, he was exiled from New York State, so he studied botany and mineralogy at Yale College starting in 1815, and then went back to Williams College in 1817 as a lecturer. In 1818, came back to New York, started touring around as a visiting lecturer, and assisted in creating the Troy Lyceum of Natural History.

He then connected with Stephen Van Rensselaer, who engaged him in an agricultural and geological survey of Rensselaer Manor, and that led to a geological survey of the route of the Erie Canal, where he was assisted by a young Joseph Henry. Eventually, Eaton raised the idea of creating a new kind of school to the Patroon, where Eaton would train students in the application of science to the common purposes of life. And the Rensselaer School was born, in 1824.

(There is an article that may explain the DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton connection, if you’re a subscriber to the Journal of American History or you have a spare $40 lying around to view it for one day.)

The Sale of Hoxsie to Any Armed Persons After Dark Is Prohibited

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Satirical declaration of martial law in Lansingburgh(With special thanks to an alert reader!)

On July 15, 1863, the city of Troy was rocked by a draft riot, generally thought to be the second-worst riot against the Civil War draft (New York City’s riots being the worst). Rioters drove African-American residents out of the city in fear of their lives (and may have killed some), destroyed the offices of the Troy Times, and set fires. Just a week later, however, things had calmed to the point where someone felt comfortable with lampooning the laws put in place to maintain order. It would appear that Lansingburgh, which had not been affected by the riot, had established a night watch, and passed an ordinance to close hotels and restaurants at 11 p.m., which brought a response from someone going by the designation of Major General B.B., Adjutant, S.B. Society, a Republican group. The broadsheet was posted in the village and posted to the New York Express. It purported to be “General Order 38,” a “burlesque” of the local ordinance. The order expressed that the Chief Mogul and Grand High Cockalorem declared martial law because the proprietors of hotels and restaurants in the village were ignoring the order to close, because they “didn’t see it.”

We’re interested especially because of its mention of our namesake, Hoxsie. George Hoxsie was a bottler of several drinks soft and hard, but we can only assume that this is a reference to one of his alcoholic offerings. The Order, printed in the New York Express on August 1, 1863, declares:
1st. All small boys shall be housed at dark, and larger boys soon after.
2d. No citizen will be allowed to carry more than two arms.
3d. Horse cars running after dark shall have their wheels muffled, and not disturb the slumbers of our ever vigilant night watch.
4th. The sale of “Hoxsie” to any armed persons after dark is prohibited.
5th. Milkmen are not allowed to ring their bells and disturb the quiet of our loyal citizens.
6th. Fishmongers are hereby forbid blowing their horns, even if “they don’t sell a fish” in consequence.
7th. Any crowd of two persons or less, will be dispersed by the Military.
8th. Berry-women must get a permit before crying “raspberries,” or cry it at their peril.
9th. All crying babies will be instantly confiscated—in fact any symptom of riot will be squelched.
10th. Dinner bells shall cease to ring the knell of sustenance; and the church bells must be subdued.
11th. Cats on garden walks, and noisy dogs, are respectfully requested to preserve order.
12th. Be it understood that the Major-General commanding, is decidedly in favor of a “draught,” which he will enforce, by the Eternal!
13th. The “S. E. Society,”—in case of any alarm—is to be put into the hands of good and careful nurses, for safe keeping until the danger is over.
The Major-General commanding this division is determined that peace and quiet shall reign supreme in this ancient commonwealth, the “Garden of America.” Burghers are therefore ordered to report any breach of the above orders to the High-cock-a-lo-rum, at his headquarters.
By order of
MAJOR GENERAL B. B.
S. B. LOYALTY, ADJUTANT.
LANSINGBURGH, July 23d, A. D., 1863.

Was Hoxsie particularly potent after dark? We may never know.

(Thanks to the Lansingburgh Historical Society for its full post on this interesting bit of tomfoolery.)

The Hygienic Lunch, and the Father of the Veep

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Hygienic Lunch menuFile this under: How did we not know this? Hoxsie grew up hard by Schenectady in the 1970s and was perhaps more tuned than your average teenager to both politics and local history. And yet, until this week, we had no idea that the father of Vice President Spiro Agnew, one Theodore Agnew (originally Theofraste Anagnostopolous), was once the proprietor of a couple of lunch joints in Schenectady and Troy. That seems like the kind of information that would have been floating around the zeitgeist, particularly given that Spiro (whose middle name was Theodore) was a controversial, polarizing figure who ended up resigning from the Nixon administration in a bit of a scandal.

Information on this is scant, and the timeline isn’t entirely clear. One Agnew biography says that Theodore arrived from Greece in 1902, settled in Schenectady, spent six years here and then moved to Baltimore. That timeline doesn’t quite work, as we know he was in Schenectady and Troy in 1911 and 1912.

His restaurant was called Hygienic Lunch, at a time when many restaurants, diners, and cafeterias were anything but. We first find it mentioned in Schenectady in 1911, located at 412 State Street, just below the (trolley) waiting room. (This was the old trolley waiting room at 420 State, east of the Witbeck Building. The Hygienic, we believe, was in the Hough Block, torn down to make room for the Bowtie Cinemas.)

In the Troy Times Record of March 25, 1911, we find this notice with regard to the Troy location of the Hygienic Lunch:

“The Hygienic Lunch to-day became one of the convenient eating places for shoppers and business people. Located at 319 River Street, the new lunch room is in the centre of the business district. In its equipment the Hygienic is thoroughly modern, having tiled floors and marble walls, with a kitchen equipment on which no expense or care has been spared. Small marble tables take the place of the usual wide arm chairs. The Hygienic will cater particularly to busy people, and is prepared to serve quickly a lunch or dinner, simple or elaborate. In addition to the usual sandwiches and short-order courses, patrons of the Hygienic can order a steak or portion of roast. The place is managed by the President of the company himself, Mr. Theodore S. Agnew of Schenectady, and James W. Donnan of this city. Mr. Agnew is an experienced restaurant manager, and is one of the founders of the Hygienic Lunch system, which was inaugurated in this state a few years ago.”

At the time, Agnew is found in the Troy City Directory, listed as president and manager of 319 River Street (the business was not named), and boarding at The Rensselaer (later called The Troy House).

A notice in the Schenectady Gazette from June 15, 1911, promises improvements at the Schenectady location:

“Theodore Agnew, president of the Hygienic Lunch Company is in this city after having spent some time in Troy launching a new business in that city. Mr. Agnew stated yesterday that it was his intention to as soon as possible to remodel the place of business in Schenectady and enlarge it to a certain extent. This lunch room is now capable of accommodating a large number of people, several tables have recently been installed which will seat four persons each, these replace the chairs along one entire side and a portion of the other.”

Not much else is said of the Hygienic in either location (and it’s not clear that a contemporaneous Ballston Spa operation by the same name was necessarily connected). A very brief article in the Troy Times on January 5, 1912, says that the proprietors of the Waldorf lunch system, a cafeteria style lunch joint that then had branches in eight cities from Boston to Buffalo, “to-day purchased the Hygienic Lunch from The Hygienic Lunch Company, Incorporated. George R. Donnan of Schenectady was proprietor. The new establishment will be called the Waldorf Lunch.”

That may have been the end of Theodore Agnew’s association with the Hygienic Lunch, and perhaps it was at this time that he lit out for the Charm City. It was not, however, the end of the Hygienic Lunch, for in 1914, Mr. Andrew Kansas announced the new Hygienic Lunch would be opening:

The New Hygienic Lunch

We know from the advertisements of a menswear salesman named Joe Green (and we’ll get to old Joe) that this Hygienic Lunch was also at 412 State Street, and that it continued by that name at least through 1922.

The only mention of the Spiro Agnew connection we find, other than in some biographies and birther sites (apparently there was some controversy), was an article in the Troy Times Record from October 11, 1973, after Agnew had already resigned. It was headlined “Agnew’s Father Ran Restaurant in Troy, and was filled out with just a little less information than we’ve provided above. “Agnew’s father also owned a restaurant in Schenectady but both failed to support him and his brothers. A check of the city directory of 1912 reveals Theodore Agnew moved to New York City. He eventually ended up in Baltimore, Md.”