Category Archives: Troy

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
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.”

How to Google Things in 1973

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The kids and their interwebs these days. They have no idea how the world worked before there was a worldwide web. Well, here’s how it was done. Say you wondered where to find a particular oven cleaner. You could just wander aimlessly from grocery store to grocery store, hoping to find what you needed. Or, you could write a letter to the Troy Record’s Hot Line. (Yes, a letter, to a Hot Line that lacked a phone number.) For just the cost of a stamp and the random chance that yours was the question they answered that week, that elusive oven cleaner information could be yours.

In search of oven cleaner

Seriously. This is how things worked. The other scintillating question on this day was from Mrs. Ruby Austin of Johnsonville, who wondered where she might find gloxinia bulbs. (Yonder Farms on North Greenbush Road. “Phone 283-4267 to find if they’ll mail them to you.”

19th Century Railroads: Unsafe at Any Speed

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Rairoad train heading west  just past northern boulevard albany ny c 1900

In 1865, every railroad in the state made a report to the railroad commissioners of the State of New York. There are lots of facts and figures about capital stock, funded debt, length of road laid, numbers of passenger cars and snow plows, etc. They even give the average rate of speed and the average weight of full size cars. Fascinating. But what’s really interesting are the detailed descriptions of the dozens of ways that passengers, employees, and ordinary citizens trying to cross the tracks were parted from life and limb, quite literally. Here are just a few examples from Albany area railroads, that don’t even begin to touch on the dozens of horrific ways people were killed or maimed by the iron horse that year.

Albany Railway
1864. Sept. 14. John T. Siegmann, of New York, in leaving the front platform of car No. 2, descending State street, opposite Tweddle Hall, without proper notice to the conductor or driver, was thrown down and his right arm so injured as to require amputation. The conductor and driver were exonerated from blame.
Oct. 21. John Mooney was injured in a drain excavation in the Bowery [renamed Central Avenue in 1867] by the falling of the horses of a car. No fatal result occurred.

Albany and Susquehanna
April 26, 1865. John Van De Bogart, a brakeman, while standing on the steps of a passenger car, was struck by the bridge near Guilderland, and instantly killed.

Albany and West Stockbridge
1865. Feb. 19. A boy by the name of John Kildan, in trying to get upon a stock train at Chatham fell between the cars, was run over and killed.
Aug. 30. A man by the name of John Kiley, in trying to get upon a freight train at Greenbush, fell between the cars, was run over and killed.
Sept. 22. A man by the name of Michael Behan, of Pittsfield, in trying to cross the track at Shaker’s Village, in front of a train, was truck by the engine and killed.

Hudson and Boston
1865. Sept. 9. Jacob M. Rivenburgh was struck by the morning train from Chatham while driving his cattle from the track in Ghent; being aware that a train was coming, and supposing at the time that it was a Harlem train until it was too late for him to escape, the engine struck him, injuring him fatally; he lived about five hours, perfectly rational, blaming no one but himself for the accident.

Hudson River Railroad
1864. Oct. 2. John Bowman jumped from the cars near Troy, and was run over and severely injured.
1865. January 31. Anson Norcutt, brakeman, stepped from his train, near Castleton, on to the opposite track, and was struck by a down train and killed.
March 9. An express train, going south, was thrown from the track near Stuyvesant, and a brakeman, named O. Jenkins, had one of his legs broken.
March 15. George Comstock, while walking on the track near Castleton, was struck by an express train, and so severely injured as to cause his death.
May 29. Patrick Kennedy, employe, while riding on a hand car between Catskill and Hudson, came in collision with a locomotive and was seriously injured.
[Many other accidents up and down the Hudson were recorded.]
Most of the accidents which have occurred are attributable to the carelessness of the persons injured, particularly to their walking on the track.

New York Central
1864. Nov. 5. Christian Shilling, a laborer, in attempting to pass from a car of a wood train to the engine, while the train was in motion near West Albany, fell upon the track, was run over and killed.
Dec. 16. John Rahill, an employe, while shoveling snow from the north track in the rock cut east of West Albany, in order to avoid a gravel train moving west, passed over to the south track just in front of the Buffalo express train moving east, was run over and killed.
1865. Feb. 25. Andrew Smith, a brakeman, was killed by striking against the Johnstown and Fultonville bridge, under which his train was passing.
March 30. Thomas Merritt, an employee, got off an engine on the north track at West Albany, and while passing across the south track, was run over, by an engine backing, and killed.
April 3. Mathew Kennedy, an employe, jumped from a moving engine at West Albany car shops, fell upon the track, was run over and injured in the leg so as to render amputation necessary.
April 14. Timothy Dewelly, a brakeman, fell from a freight train moving east, about five miles west of Albany, and was killed.
May 13. Joseph Myers, while walking on the track, about a mile west of Schenectady, was struck by the engine of a moving freight train, and had one of his legs broken.
July 5. Stephen Bush was found dead on the track near Crescent Station. It is supposed he was run over the night previous by the New York mail train moving west, blood having been found upon the pilot to the engine of that train.
August 24. Baltus Flesh, a boy aged six years, got upon the tender of an engine backing, in Railroad avenue, in Albany, and while attempting to get off, fell upon the track, was run over and killed.
September 2. Matthew Smith, a baggageman, was killed near Centre, between Albany and Schenectady, by the baggage car being thrown from the track by the breaking of an axle.
September 3. Ferdinand Netterman, was found dead near the track west of Schenectady. It is supposed he fell off the Cleveland express train moving east.
September 21. Patrick Dollan stepped upon the track at Schenectady, in front of a baggage car that was being slowly moved in making up a train, was run over and killed.

Rensselaer and Saratoga
1865. Sept. 3. A lad, name unknown, at play in the rear of a freight train at Schenectady, was squeezed against the bumper post and instantly killed.
Sept. 23. Charles Lambert, an employe of the Company, while at work on a car on the track at Green Island, was so seriously injured by a train backing against the car on which he was at work, that he died in a few hours.

Troy and Boston
1865. March 21. A woman named Kulchan walked on to the track at Walloomsac Station just as the up express train was passing, was struck by the engine and instantly killed.
July 6. Roddy Godfrey, while intoxicated, fell from platform of accommodation train up, when near Schaghticoke, and was so seriously injured that he lived but a few hours.
Aug. 11. William H. Stephens, a freight conductor, fell from his train near Hoosick Junction, receiving injuries from which he died the 21st of same month.
Aug. 19. John Kent, a man known to have been drunk an hour before the accident, was run over by a freight train near Eagle Bridge; when first seen by the engineer he was lying across the track.

Van Doren’s Patented Sewing Machine Motor

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EIVanDorenSewingMachineMotor.pngThis ad from the Troy Daily Times in 1917 touts the patented factory sewing machine motor of E.I. Van Doren of River Street. “Saves one-third of current because motor stops and starts automatically every time sewing machine does.” Imagine!

In an article on the same page (not an uncommon practice in those days for a newspaper to feature its advertisers in editorial content), Mr. E.I. Van Doren spoke more about the improvements his patented motors brought:

“‘Electric motors for power transmission in factories and industrial enterprises generally are proving a great saving over the belts and shafting which has been the method in use for ages,’ said Mr. E.I.Van Doren, electrical expert, with office and warerooms at 332 River Street, to-day.

“‘With the old system the average factory has a friction loss of from sixty to seventy-five per cent, and do not realize it, from the fact that shafting will get out of line, belts will stretch  and slip constantly, and no amount of mone spent on efficiency experts and high-priced help will avoid it under those conditions; it is impossible to increase the output, and instead of a reduction of cost price there is an ever increasing one . . .

“‘All this is eliminated by having the direct electric drive. It calls for very little expense to install a motor for individual drive, or several motors for group driving, depending upon the local conditions and decision of the engineer.

“‘The manufacturers, however, foreseeing the change that is coming are preparing to fill the requirements. We have sold the ‘Lincoln Motor,’ Peerless Single Phase Motors, The Fidelity, Individual Factory Sewing Machine Motor, no transmitter required.”

 Just the next year, an article in Electrical World announced that:

“E.I. Van Doren, who for several years past has been at 332 River Street, Troy, N.Y., with a line of electric motors and supplies, announces the opening of his new ground-floor store, ‘The Edison Shop,’ on or about Nov. 9 at 81 Fourth Street, where the will offer a new and varied line of electrical motors, ‘Mazda’ lamps, heating devices, etc.”



Careers, 1911

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We now live in a place that still uses an ancient occupation tax, and as a result its list of occupations includes a number of jobs that don’t exist any more, such as  IBM Key Punch, Paste-Up Artist, Teletypist and Photolithographer. It also lists a number of jobs that technically may still exist but certainly cause one to question how many people are included under the title, such as Roller Skate Instructor, Tire Builder, and Paper Boy. (Did we mention that the titles remain wildly sexist?) And then there are some that are just confusing, such as Tool Out Man and Night Counselor.

But that’s all down here in Chester County, PA. In looking through the 1911 directory for Troy, NY, it’s easy to find numerous jobs that simply don’t exist anymore. In the course of just a couple of pages of the directory, we find these jobs that no one aspires to in the 21st century:

  • Shirtironer
  • Collar worker
  • Collar cutter
  • Collar turner
  • Last maker [shoemaking]
  • Stitcher
  • Carriagetrimmer
  • Horseshoer
  • Coremaker
  • Buttonhole maker
  • Oilcloth printer
  • Stamper
  • Grinder
  • Paster
  • Starcher
  • Brushmaker
  • Buffer

Kids today aren’t likely to have to discuss any of those careers with their guidance counselors.

Wagar’s Confectionery

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WagarsConfectionery1909.pngThumbing (digitally — although thumbs are digits, too, one supposes) through the 1909 Troy City Directory, we ran across this ad for Wagar’s Confectionery, which sounded vaguely familiar despite its way-backness. Turns out there’s a reason.

At this time, the name of D. Lester Sharp was attached to Wagar’s Confectionery, “Manufacturer of Absolutely Pure Confectionery and Ice Cream,” both wholesale and retail, and they were located at 99-101 Congress St. (Today we know the building as Manory’s Restaurant.) But D. Lester was neither the first nor last word in the Wagar’s story, and thankfully, in 1926 the company took out a verbose and only mildly hyperbolic full-page ad in the Troy Times in order to make “The Most Important Announcement Ever Made By An Ice Cream Manufacturer.”

Wagar'sicecreamTroyNYTimes1-21-1926.png“We find the public wants a richer ice cream, an ice cream containing more butterfat. Wagar’s promise in their new high quality ice cream to satisfy the most discriminating in this respect. The cost of the extra amount of heavy cream we are going to use this year in our product would allow a person to live most comfortable on the interest of it.” Forgive our failure to follow their excessive capitalization; they didn’t know it was rude.

Proudly proclaiming their intent to make a higher quality ice cream — nay, a “SCIENTIFICALLY DEVELOPED FOOD” — the ad also gave us some of the company history.

“Mr. W.S. Wagar came to Troy forty years ago with a fifteen quart freezer, the same freezer he had assisted his father with so many times in making ice cream for Sunday School picnics, etc., at West Sand Lake. It was here he conceived the idea that by coming to Troy and making the same kind of ice cream he could succeed. By hard work and long hours after coming to Troy he was able to make 100 quarts of ice cream a day, with this old freezer.

“Thirty-two years of his life he devoted to his own retail stores, his success in this business is to [sic] well known to go into details. Eight years ago in a very limited way he entered the wholesale field, making ice cream for fifteen other confectionery stores. At this time he was able to freeze ice cream at the rate of 800 quarts a day. And from this modest start eight years ago his business has grown until today in one of the most modern factories in the World Wagar’s are able to freeze ice cream at the rate of 12,000 quarts a day, and with reserve capacity for almost double this amount. Such growth as we have enjoyed during the past eight years is, you will admit, phenomenal. We believe it because we have always been more concerned about the QUALITY of our cream than the extra profit we might derive from an inferior product.”

That we have an ad right in front of us saying Wagar’s was wholesaling in 1909 we shall choose to ignore; for all we know that was wishful thinking. While Wagar’s had several locations, one well-known location was in the Ilium Building at the corner of Fourth and Fulton streets, long-time home of the Night Owl News. The location of their modern sunlit factory, which was under the ownership of Winfield S. and Mrs. Mary E. Wagar in 1926, was 553-557 Federal Street. (Remarkably, no old buildings stand in that old section of Troy, straight off the Green Island Bridge.)

But even that didn’t seem like all there was to the Wagar’s story; the name sounded too familiar. It turns out, there was another outfit by the name of Wagar’s Confectionery that started up in Lake George in 1978 and lasted until 2004, founded by Malcolm Laustrup, Sr., the grandson of Winfield Wagar. (An appreciation of Mr. Laustrup appears here.)

Schneider’s Blood Purifier

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SchneidersBloodPurifier.pngYou’re a resident of the Collar City in 1909, and you feel like your blood is just a little . . . impure. Perhaps a dose of Schneider’s Blood Purifier would be just the thing! Made up of sarsaparilla, cherry, dandelion, burdock, mandrake, prickly ash, “&c.,” three tablespoons a day probably couldn’t do much damage. (And, if it was like most patent medicines of the day, it was likely that the “&c.” was primarily alcohol.)

Don’t know too much about Frederick Schneider. 86 Third Street still stands, most recently (though not all that recently) home to Heritage Stationery, and immediately next door to the former First Baptist Church, and just down from Barker Park. It’s clear he was active in the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association, where he attended at least one annual meeting and served on the Committee on Paints, Oils, and Glass, and, in 1903-4, the Committee on Adulterations (representing Schneider & Macy Drug Co.).

FrederickSchneider.pngAn article in the April 21, 1904 edition of The Pharmaceutical Era contained this image of Schneider on the occasion of his 40th year in business. Have to agree, he doesn’t look in his 60s here, so maybe that Blood Purifier worked after all.

Sejo Ice Cream

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Sejo Ice Cream.pngThe Al-Tro park program from 1909 included this ad for Sejo Ice Cream, which made us curious because we’d never heard of it. Perhaps we never heard of it because it was sold only at the ice cream cone stands at Altro Park (it was styled both with and without hyphens; and if you don’t know about Al-Tro, it was a fabulous amusement park in its day, on the river in Menands, reachable by steamboat from both Albany and Troy).

So fancy it had its own march and two-step, perhaps it’s not surprising Al-Tro also had its own ice cream. Unfortunately, we can’t find much about Sejo, and don’t even know what the name means. It was located on Front Street at the foot of Fulton in Troy (though those don’t intersect anymore, making pinpointing it difficult), and was partially destroyed by fire May 13, 1910; the Ice Cream Trade Journal noted that “the stock of tubs is a total loss.” After that, it went into receivership, owing the Union National Bank a sum of money. There was a court case revolving around the insurance claim that is like a rash on Google, but it tells us little more about Sejo. An entry in the 1909 Troy directory tells us its up-to-date plant was a model of cleanliness, and that they had the same number on both phone systems, but that’s about it. Its directory listing doesn’t say anything about being exclusive to Altro Park, however.


Uncle Sam

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UncleSam_Full.pngJust in time for Independence Day, Gettysburg Flag Works sent us a note highlighting their recent blog entry with a brief history of ol’ Sam Wilson, who put the “Sam” in “Uncle Sam.”  The full entry is here.

Gettysburg Flag Works is located in East Greenbush, not too far from the encampment where, during the War of 1812, it is believed that the provisions stamped for the “U.S.” crossed up with the nickname “Uncle Sam,” and the appellation for our national symbol was born. Although one of the cantonment buildings still stands as a private residence, East Greenbush doesn’t say much about its role in history; Troy, on the other hand, is all about Uncle Sam Wilson, and the graphic at left includes a number of Uncle Sam-related sites in the Collar City.