Category Archives: Troy

Mrs. Entwistle, Clairvoyant Physician

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Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.02.49 PM.pngIn the Troy directory for 1860, we find this listing for Mrs. Mary Entwistle, Clairvoyant Physician. She lived at 611 River Street, and that is all we want to know about her. Jaded readers will be unsurprised to learn that some clairvoyant physicians were subject to malpractice suits. It would be nice to think we’ve moved past this, but of course we haven’t.

Miss J. Kimmey, Costumer

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MissJKimmey1902directory.pngAn image from the 1902 Albany directory, which included some Troy listings as well. Miss J. Kimmey was a masquerade and theatrical costumer, with thorough knowledge of the business and twenty years experience. She had shops at 342 River and 11 Fourth streets in Troy; presumably the Santa Claus outfits were available in both.

The Justice Bell

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Valley Forge Oct 5 2014 DSC_1110 axSome months ago I promised myself to get all the way over to Valley Forge National Park, a distance of nearly three miles from my current domicile, and finally get a picture of the Justice Bell, which was cast by the Meneely Bell Foundry in Troy (not the other one in West Troy). And so here you have it, presented prominently at the entrance to the Washington Memorial Chapel.
Valley Forge Oct 5 2014 DSC_1104Glad to see one piece of local history collide with a different local history.

Colonel Roosevelt’s “flying trip” to Rensselaer County

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There’s some sort of hubbub about Roosevelts these days, so we may as well recall the time when Colonel Roosevelt, not yet Governor of the Empire State, made what the New York Tribune called “The Colonel’s Flying Trip to the Rensselaer County Fair,” in 1898. At that point flying was entirely metaphorical.

Troy, N.Y., Oct. 14. – Colonel Theodore Roosevelt had a cordial reception to-day on his first visit to the interior of the State since he was nominated for Governor. The report had been sent out from New-York late last night that he would be in Troy to-night, and would make a political address, but this was an error. He had simply accepted an invitation to visit the fair of the Rensselaer County Agricultural Society at West Sand Lake. Notwithstanding the circumstance that his visit here was not of a political nature and was unexpected, great interest was manifested in his presence, and the heartiness of the greetings tendered him indicated beyond question his popularity.

Colonel Roosevelt departed from his home at Oyster Bay early this morning, and caught the Empire State Express on the Central Railroad for Albany. He arrived in Albany at 11:11 o’clock, and remained in the city forty-five minutes. During every second of his brief stay in the capital there were cheers, hurrahs, flag-wavings and shouts of enthusiasm in his honor ….

When Colonel Roosevelt was seen the gathering sent up a mighty shout of “Hurrah for our next Governor!” “Hurrah for Roosevelt!” Three cheers for Colonel Roosevelt!” Three cheers were given; another three were called for and came with deafening force; another three cheers brought forth the demand for a tiger, which was given with vigor. Colonel Roosevelt gave a hundred hearty handclasps to those who were presented to him by John Knickerbocker, of the Troy Committee, and Edward B. Cantine, representing the Albanians present. A sturdy policeman made a path for the Colonel, who, flanked by Mr. Knickerbocker and Mr. Cantine, and followed by a cheering crowd, passed through the station yard and the arcade to the trolley-car which was to bear him and the committee to Troy ….

Colonel Roosevelt was told that Governor Black was at the Executive Chamber. “Let’s go up and see the Governor,” he said, and a cab was obtained to drive him to the Capitol … The party was ushered into the Governor’s private room. Governor Black smilingly greeted Colonel Roosevelt, who acknowledged the kindly telegrams of the Governor sent after the Saratoga Convention. Governor Black and Colonel Roosevelt then had five minutes of private conversation, during which the Governor assured the Colonel that all his influence would be exerted for the Colonel’s election ….

Colonel Roosevelt was taken on his arrival here [in Troy] to the Troy Club. In the clubroom an informal reception was held. Many officers and members of the 2d New-York Regiment greeted the Colonel, and the leader of the Rough Riders expressed himself as exceedingly glad to meet the soldiers.

Colonel Roosevelt then departed for West Sand Lake. At Albia the party changed cars, taking a car of the Troy and New-England Railway. Many persons had assembled at Albion. On the journey to West Sand Lake the Colonel conversed with members of the party, and seemed to enjoy the trip ….

The car arrived at the Brookside Park station in West Sand Lake, about 1:15, and as the Colonel alighted Doring’s Band welcomed him with the strains of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Coaches were immediately taken, and the party was conveyed to the fair grounds. Colonel Roosevelt had a cordial reception along the way, and upon reaching the fair grounds the coaches proceeded around the racetrack so that everyone could have an opportunity to see the distinguished guest. Colonel Roosevelt acknowledged the welcome he received, but on account of the lateness of the hour it was imperative that he should not speak, as he was obliged to proceed as quickly as possible to Rensselaer, that he might make sure to catch his train for New-York. He had an important engagement to speak in the metropolis this evening. There were loud cries of “Speech! Speech!” from the crowd, but he was compelled to decline the invitation. His reception everywhere on the fair grounds was cordial, and he evidently enjoyed his visit to the fair.

A few weeks later, Roosevelt defeated Augustus Van Wyck, though not by a whole lot.

What’s up in the publishing world, 1919

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Ran across an edition of “The American Printer” from August, 1919, which featured a series of short blurbs informative of what was going on with printers and publishers in New York State that summer. Among them:

  • The Schenectady Union-Star has changed its mechanical equipment to print an eight column, 12½ em page, instead of a seven column, 13 em page.
  • Fire in the composing room of the Albany Times-Union did several hundred dollars’ damage recently. The blaze started at 5 o’clock in the morning, but was soon under control.
  • George Edward Rines, editor of the “Encyclopedia Americana,” which is printed by the J.B. Lyon Printing Company, of Albany, told at a dinner of the Rotary Club of Albany recently how the big work is printed.
  • Leon M. Burt, of the job department of the Schenectady Union-Star, recently joined the benedicts. The bride was Miss Gertrude Bangs, of Springfield, Mass. Fellow workers presented Burt with a kitchen set.
  • Beginning September 1, the Schenectady Division of The Capital District Typothetae will meet every Monday night. Estimating classes will be formed, under direction of H.C. Alvord, secretary-treasurer of the Capital District Typothetae.
  • The Schenectady newspaper publishers and the International Typographical Union have agreed to a raise for the Schenectady printers amounting to four dollars a week. The scale is now $29 for day work and $32.50 for the night shifts. The contract runs to Dec. 15, 1920.
  • The plant of the Schenectady Gazette Press is being enlarged, and it is expected the job department will be twice its present size when the work is completed. The newspaper composing room is also being enlarged. Fred Frost, chairman of the Schenectady section of the Capital District Typothetae, is superintendent of the job department.
  • Albany printers are watching with interest the development of a Junior Printers’ Association, which was devised by youngsters interested in the “art preservative.” Many of the youngsters have their own small presses, and they plan get-together meetings to learn the game, hoping eventually to land with some of the printshops in Albany or vicinity. Raymond Warshaw is president and John H. Bielman secretary. Both are sons of employing printers in Albany.
  • Several thousand dollars’ damage was done by a fire in the plant of the Budget, which conducts a job printing plant as well as prints a weekly newspaper, at Troy, July 21. The fire damaged the main press, consumed twenty rolls of paper and two barrels of ink, and threatened at one time to spread to other departments of the paper. The Budget was recently purchased by Thomas H. Curry and Albert A. McNaughton, after being controlled for more than a century by the family of Major Charles A. MacArthur.

So, for you young’uns who never slung hot lead across a Ludlow (and, in all honesty, neither did I, at least not in real production), here are a few things you may not know:

  • A “typothetae” was a common name for a master printers’ association.
  • “Estimating” was a critical skill, not only in the days of lead type, but in photo-typesetting as well. When you laid out a page, you didn’t know how long an article was going to be; you had to estimate how long it was going to come out. The only thing that was guaranteed was that you’d be wrong. Now if you’re wrong, you just push a virtual button and change everything; then that was simply impossible.
  • Narrow columns (eight, rather than seven, for the Union-Star) were all the rage into the ’60s and ’70s. It was big news when The New York Times finally abandoned its rigidly gray, intensely vertical format, and, to my mind, even bigger news when The Schenectady Gazette did the same.
  • An em is a printing measure. It’s equal to the height of the type size being used; so if you’re using 8-point type, an em space is 8 points. But when the size isn’t specified, it’s 12 points.
  • A “benedict” was a newly married man who had long been a bachelor, taken from Benedick of “Much Ado About Nothing.” A kitchen set is a perfectly good thing to give a benedict.

An old-time newspaperman

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While perusing old editions of Editor and Publisher, we came across this little reminder that in the old days, there tended to be two kinds of newspapermen: the ones who were lifers at a single publication, and the ones who worked all over the place. Here’s the obituary of one of the latter type who made his career in the tri-cities, John A. Sleicher.

Albany, N.Y., May 5 [1921] – John A. Sleicher died at his home here to-day. He was in his 73rd year. Mr. Sleicher was born in Troy, N.Y. on October 4, 1848, and began his newspaper training on the old Troy Whig, afterward the Record. Later he became city editor of the Troy Whig, then the Press, still later the Times and subsequently a part owner of the Times. He eventually sold his interest in the Times and bought the Schenectady Union.

Having thus had considerable experience on small city daily papers, he became editor and part owner of the Albany Evening Journal. When he came to New York City, it was as editor of the Mail and Express, which position he held until he became supervisor of the City Record. In May, 1905, Mr. Sleicher was made president of the Judge Company, which published Leslie’s Weekly and Judge. He resigned as editor of the Mail and Express to become Supervisor of the City Record under Mayor Strong.

Mr. Sleicher had been ill for some time. When on February 23, last Judge Manton of the federal court appointed a receiver for the Leslie-Judge Company, it was said that the company’s embarrassment was largely due to Mr. Sleicher’s illness.

So here was a journalist who worked for six newspapers in the Capital District, had ownership in three of them, and then went on to run the company that published two of the largest circulation publications of their day. Not many could say that today, though it must be said that it’s amazing that three daily newspapers continue to serve the three cities.

River travel before steam: wind, white-ash breeze, and kedging

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In “The History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County,” Arthur Weise described river travel before the age of steam. In periods of calm winds, the tides of the river could be, a little bit, the traveller’s friend, but then sometimes they had to resort to kedging:


“Anyone taking passage in a sloop or schooner sailing to New York, or from that city to Troy, at this early day, generally expected, if the wind was favorable, to make the voyage in two days at the furthest, but should the wind be variable and continue to blow in the opposite direction to that in which he was going, the journey was often lengthened to several weeks. When there was a head-wind and the tide against the vessel, the sloop would be compelled to lay to. If there was a period of calm weather, she went with the tide six hours and then anchored six hours. Sailing with ‘a white-ash breeze’ was a burlesque phrase to express that the men employed on the vessel were rowing with long white-ash oars, or ‘sweeps,’ as they were called. These sweeps were about 20 feet in length, and when used in connection with the drift of the tide, about 14 miles a day could be made by a sloop in calm weather. Oftentimes the large anchor of the sloop was let go, and a boat sent ahead to a bar, with a line and a small anchor called a kedge. The kedge being dropped on the bar, the large anchor was taken up and the sloop by means of the line attached was towed forward. The operation of moving a vessel in this way was called kedging. It was a very tiresome and slow process, slower, in fact, than the movement of a canal boat. A sloop generally had accommodations for conveying from 10 to 15 passengers, having as high as 14 or 16 berths in a cabin.”

At those kinds of speeds, it’s a wonder everyone in the 18th century wasn’t suffering from sloop-lag.

The Photography Stylings of Zeph Magill

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zephmagillcabinetcard.jpgA couple of weeks back we ran across the photograph of Hugh McCusker, dealer in carpets, who did his carpet-dealing from River Street in Troy. We said at the time we didn’t know much about the photographer, Zeph Magill, other than that he worked out of the Keenan Building. There was also a milliner in the building by the name of Thomas Magill, around about 1886, so it’s possible Zeph was one of the Magill boys.

But I did find another photo by Magill on the site “Who Were They? Lost and Forgotten Photos From the Past.” It’s a shame the name of this lass has been lost.

Magill also took a fairly famous photo, at least if you’re a local history buff, of General Grant’s steel coffin. Annoyingly, it’s one of a very small number of photos that the Library of Congress only makes available as a thumbnail, but other versions do exist.

A number of other cabinet photos by Magill can be found through the miracle of the internet.

Troy’s Earliest Merchants

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According to Arthur James Weise, in his “The History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County,” the first merchants of Troy came to the riverside town almost before it was even a town. At that time, Lansingburgh was actually where it was at. In 1786, the present site of Troy was known as Ferry Hook and was occupied by the three farms of Jacob I., Jacob D., and Matthias Van der Heyden, who looked north and saw Abraham Lansing prospering by attracting New England immigrants onto building lots. The Van der Heydens decided to do the same, and it wasn’t long before these new settlers needed a place to buy things. Possibly the first was opened by Benjamin Thurber, whose advertisement in the June 4, 1787 Northern Centinel and Lansingburgh Advertiser shows the kind of wide-ranging inventory and liberal payment policies that were required in those pioneering times; in fact he says far less of what he has to offer than of what he is willing to take in payment:

Benjamin Thurber Hereby acquaints the Public that he continues to sort his New Cash Store, at the sign of the Bunch of Grapes at the Fork of Hoosack Road, near Mr. Jacob Vanderheyden’s with East, West-Indian and European goods of all kinds. For which he will receive, in lieu of Cash, black Salts, Shipping Furs, Wheat, Corn, Rye, Butter, Cheese, Flax and Flax Seed, Tallow, Hogs’ lard, Gammons, Pork, Bees-Wax and old Pewter. He also continues to receive ashes, as usual, to supply his newly erected Pot and Pearl Ash factory and will pearl black Salts in the best manner on Equitable Terms; and also will give the highest Price for black salts.

N.B. – A number of New French Muskets for sale at the above store.

Shortly after him came Benjamin Covell, who set up shop on the west side of River Street, between Ferry and Division streets. He wrote to his brother about the conditions he found:

Ferry Hook, Nov. 16, 1786. – I arrived here the 2d. This country is the best for business I ever saw. I will go into my store the 18th of November; hired it for six months for £12 lawful money. Done more business in one day than in one week in Providence. The night of the 15th, after sundown, took in twenty dollars. Got my goods first from Albany, but in the spring will go to New York. I am one mile from Benjamin Thurber’s down the river. They are all well. I board to Stephen Ashley’s, the same man that I hire of. He appears to be a clever man, and keeps a large tavern, which is a great advantage to me.

“Black Salts,” by the way, refers to a form of potash, which hardly defines anything to the modern reader. Potash is made by burning wood to ashes in a pot, and was used in the manufacture of soap, glass and fertilizer. A “gammon” is the lower end of a side of bacon.

Fulton Street, somewhen

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Fulton Street Looking East.jpgAnother great local postcard from the Boston Public Library, from a past date known only to those who are skilled in car-bonnet-dating. This is from Third Street, looking east up Fulton Street. On the left, you can see a cigar store, the Fanny Farmer store, and a store called Weinberg’s. The lovely buildings in the left foreground are no longer there, replaced by the Uncle Sam Garage. On the right, Frear’s Troy Cash Bazaar. Mid-background is the building housing the NIte Owl News at the corner of Fourth. Up the hill, beyond the approach, depending on when the postcard image was taken: Troy Hospital, or, after 1922, Catholic Central High School. After 1952, it became RPI’s West Hall.