Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hoxsie by Email!

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Hoxsie has a new way to annoy you – the miracle of email!

We get hundreds of potentially legitimate hits per day (and thousands of Russian spambots), but up ’til now the only way you could find out if Hoxsie had anything new to say about anything old was through our RSS feed (which, let’s be honest, is a tad undersubscribed), or by following our Twitter feed or Facebook page.

Well, you can still do both of those things, but you can also live life beyond the constraints of Facebook (and let’s face it, we all need to get beyond Facebook), by signing up to get an email alert whenever a new post is published. That’s as many as five email notifications a week, or as few as none, because consistency is not what we’re about here. But you’ll be notified as soon as we plunk the magic twanger, and have first dibs on finding typographical errors, glaring omissions, and outright falsehoods. What more could you want?

Just add your email to the widget on the right, we’ll confirm that you really want to do this, and you’ll be all set. Since we have not figured out how to make money doing this or anything else, you’ll likely never hear from us about anything other than new Hoxsie posts.

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Governor Calls for Health Insurance for Workers

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1920 NY Governor Urges Health Insurance for Workers' Protection

While scouting around for useless information in the journal of the Elevator Constructors union, we ran across this story on Governor Alfred E. Smith’s call for compulsory health insurance for workers, a call that was well ahead of its time and one based on sound reasoning that we seem to have forgotten nearly a century later.

A health insurance law to protect workers and their families against the hazards of sickness is urged as a foremost measure of reconstruction in the message of Gov. Alfred E. Smith at the opening of the 1920 legislative session in which he declares there is pressing need for “a sound program of social, industrial and governmental betterment which will remove those causes of discontent which true Americanism requires should be eradicated.”

Gov. Smith points out that two-thirds of the causes of poverty depend directly or indirectly on sickness and that illness falls with crushing weight on those least able to bear the burden.

“Health insurance,” he says, “assures some measure of that peace of mind which comes from the certainty of proper medical care, the absence of which in cases of illness is always the dread of the worker. It is clearly indicated by recent experience that health protection is essential if we are to have sound able citizens.

“If the individual is to have adequate protection, he must be prepared at all times to defray the expenses of a maximum period of illness. This maximum provision by each individual is financially impossible.

“I reiterate my belief in the principle that health insurance for industrial workers should be compulsory,” Gov. Smith continues. “Expenditures for voluntary health protection is apt to be considered a non-essential and often would prove too heavy a burden on the budgets of the workers. It does not mean that a worker will not be free under health insurance to select a physician of his own choice. It does mean that the worker is assured of the means to provide for proper medical care.”

At the last session of the New York legislature a compulsory health insurance bill passed the Republican senate with the aid of Democratic votes reinforced by Gov. Smith’s strong endorsement, but in the assembly the Speaker’s antagonism prevented it from even coming to a vote. The measure will be introduced again at the present session with the active support of the State Federation of Labor, the combined women’s organizations of the state, prominent civic and social service bodies, progressive employers and physicians, and the great metropolitan press. It is also endorsed by the Reconstruction Commission of the State of New York, a large and representative body including prominent employers, labor officials and physicians, after full investigation and public hearings.

It is reported that the first employer-sponsored hospitalization plan was created by teachers in Dallas, Texas, in 1929, nine years after Smith was speaking. The Roosevelt administration considered a national health insurance program, but it (and all insurance) was opposed by the American Medical Assocation. Employer-sponsored health plans wouldn’t rise until World War II.

Amelia Earhart Flies for Beech-Nut Gum

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Earhart Will Make Series of Tests for Beech-NutHer lecture tour in 1935 wasn’t the only connection between Amelia Earhart and the Capital District, as evidenced by this May 29, 1931 edition of the Gloversville/Johnstown Morning Herald, which proclaimed “Miss Amelia Earhart Will Make Series of Tests for Beech-Nut Packing Company.” The sub-head said that the only woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean would be in Canajoharie on June 14.

“Miss Amelia Earhart, only woman to fly across the Atlantic, received delivery Tuesday of her new auto-gyro, the “Beech-Nut,” which she announced she would fly in a series of tests for the Beech-Nut Packing company. The plane was delivered to Miss Earhart at the Newark airport. It is one of about a dozen that has been manufactured in America and the only one owned by a woman. She is the only woman who has soloed an auto-gyro and recently established a ‘ceiling’ for this type of ship by making a climb of 18,500 feet. . . The ‘Beech-Nut’ is the first of two planes which will be flown under the auspices of the Beech-Nut Packing company. The second, which will be delivered within the next two weeks, will be piloted by Captain Frank T. Coffyn, one of the first six men to fly in 1910 for the Wright brothers.”

The auto-gyro was (and is) an odd hybrid craft that uses an unpowered rotor to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller to develop thrust; it was invented to create an aircraft that could fly safely at low speeds (sez Wikipedia). The craft that Earhart flew was made by Pitcairn-Cierva of Willow Grove, PA.

It’s worth noting that in 1931, Earhart hadn’t actually piloted a plane across the Atlantic – her trans-Atlantic journey in 1928 had been as part of a three-person crew, and she acknowledged (and was bothered by) the fact that she wasn’t able to pilot the trip because it required instrument flying. Still, she was the first woman to cross the Atlantic, that much was true.

Amelia Earhart with husband G.P. Putnam and the Beech-Nut auto-gyro.

Amelia Earhart with husband G.P. Putnam and the Beech-Nut auto-gyro.

So why was Beech-Nut involved in this odd bit of pioneering aviation? Simple: Advertising for Beech-Nut gum. Earhart embarked on a transcontinental tour in the Pitcairn, from Newark to Oakland and back , sometimes making three or more stops a day. She would be the first flyer to cross the country by auto-gyro. At each one, she was greeted by press, and her picture was taken with the odd little craft, on which the name “Beech-Nut” was painted in large letters. Oddly, perhaps because of logistics, the Morning Herald’s prediction that she would be in Canajoharie on June 14 turned out to be wrong. She was in Tucson, AZ, Lordsberg, NM and El Paso, TX that day, a long way from the pot that washes itself. In fact, she didn’t come to New York state at all on this tour (all the stops are listed here).

However, Earhart’s attempt to be the first to cross the continent in an auto-gyro was beaten by a competing flyer, John Miller, by just a few days. (If you can’t get enough auto-gyro talk, the whole story is here.)



Maps to Swear By, Not At

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Jim Fisk MapsHoxsie is at the age where he has probably forgotten more than he currently knows. And then he’ll run across an old article and the light will go off: “Hey, I used to know that!” For instance, this article from the Schenectady Gazette in 1970 was a reminder that local television personality Jim Fisk, a legend among local baby boomers as the “Uncle Jim Fisk” who hosted the Freihofer BreadTime Stories show, was also the man who put the Capital District on the map. Literally. He founded JIMAPCO, which for many years was the premiere (and sometimes the only) choice for local maps.

According to his obituary (he died Jan. 8, 2011), Fisk was a Glens Falls/Hudson Falls native who studied math and theatrical set design at Yale. After serving as an officer in the Army during World War II, he came back home and started work as a staff artist for WRGB in 1945, and became the host of the Freihofer show in 1956, where he finished the “squiggles” of children.

According to the Gazette article, he began mapmaking in 1965 in an effort to clarify lines where he lived in Niskayuna. “We were located right in between various lines – town, county, postal and school and there was so much confusion that I decided to straighten things out.” By the time this article ran, business was “getting so good now that he may be able to make maps exclusively.” He was releasing an atlas of seven area maps: Balltown/Suburbia, Route 50-Suburbia, Schenectady-Scotia, Rotterdam Suburbia, Saratoga Suburbia, Clifton Park/Suburbia, and Routes 5/7 Suburbia. (Mapmaking was a strength; consistent approach to hyphens and virgules, not so much.) The atlas could be purchased as Union Book Store or Culver Office Equipment.

Jimapco 1977In the early days, the maps were certainly not beautiful, particularly by later full-color standards, but they were clean and easy to follow. The business grew, and Jim Fisk retired, leaving it to his son, David. When David and his wife Christina retired earlier this summer, the retail store on Route 9 in Round Lake closed but the online business continues and paper maps are still for sale there and at Wilderness, Water & Woods on Route 9.

The internet and online mapping is a wonderful thing, but in a future where paper maps no longer exist, how will future historians look back and figure out what was where?


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Hoxsie’s on vacation. Will be back next week refreshed and full of . . . . well, no, we’ll probably still be randomly throwing up posts about whatever catches our fancy the night before, with minimal research and plenty of typos.

In the meantime, click the archive link on the right and find something you haven’t seen before!

Geology is Destiny

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General John Burgoyne, by Joshua Reynolds (Frick Museum)

Our views of history are, to be certain, shaped by our perspectives. Whatever background we come from, whatever origin stories we tell about ourselves and our families inform our understanding of the events the past. And to an extent, even our training and careers can inform what we learn, and create interesting perspectives to share.

The Geological History of New York State (New York State Museum Bulletin 168, 1913) presents an interestingly extreme example of this: a geologist’s view of the battles of Saratoga. This was written by a Rudolf Ruedemann, who noted that anyone who studies the region with an interest in history and geology could not fail to be impressed by the close relationship between the two:

Burgoyne had two routes to reach the Hudson river and thereby Albany, his objective point: namely, first, the deep depression extending from Whitehall to Fort Edward and caused largely by the downfaulting of the Ordovicic rocks at the eastern base of the Adirondacks and, second, the fault basin of Lake George. He selected the former and entered the swamp region of Wood creek, following this creek with its immature swampy drainage up toward the Hudson. Here it was extremely easy to impede his progress by cutting trees and throwing them across the road, an opportunity of which the Americans made the fullest use. Burgoyne wasted months of valuable time and his best energy and provisions in these swamps of glacial origin. When he finally reached the Hudson he followed it on the east side until he found the place where at Thomson the river falls over a ridge of harder Normanskill shale below which a bridge could be easily built. After crossing he was again forced to the river bank by the only road available, while deep ravines cut into the thick clays of Lake Albany made excellent opportunity for a defensive position for the American army. Such a position was selected at Bemis Heights.

On the other side of the river towers Willard mountain, an erosion remnant due to the hardness of the grits and cherts of Normanskill age that compose the syncline. From this bold mountain every movement of the British army could be easily seen by the patriot Willard and signaled to General Gates.

After his defeat, Burgoyne retreated leisurely and sullenly up the river. Hessian officers advised him to leave his cannon and baggage behind and save the army by a forced retreat by way of Lake George, but the obstinate though brave general decided to return by the crossing at Thomson, allowing by his slow and undecided action the Americans to overtake him and, in using the peculiarly favorable topography of the locality, which is due to its remarkable geology, to prepare a trap for him. The most important feature of this topography is that just above the Thomson crossing a volcanic rock, known as the Northumberland volcanic plug, juts out prominently toward the river, so that it has complete command of the crossing and at the same time prevents an army from passing under it at the west bank of the river. This important strategic point was occupied by Colonel Stark. It, and Fellows’s batteries which could be advantageously placed on the bluffs of Albany clay on the opposite bank of the river, were, with Morgan’s sharpshooters in the woods to the west of the army, the principal means of forcing Burgoyne to surrender. Thus we see that the peculiar combination of a ford over a shale ridge, a volcanic rock close by and bluffs of clay aided greatly in bringing about the decisive victory of Saratoga.

The Rise of the Individual Cup

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This has nothing to do with Capital District history, but having run across this 1911 article from Municipal Journal & Public Works, I thought I should share this vision of a world that wasn’t filled with plastic bottles:

Portland Urges Using Individual Cups

Portland, Ore. – Individual drinking cups not only are becoming popular, but they are a necessity in Portland these days, and will be more so next summer. There is a State law which abolished the cup chained to the fountain in public places, but as yet there are not enough “bite the bubble” fountains to appease the public thirst. This necessitates the individual cup, the kind carried in the pocket. By next summer, before a man leaves home in the morning he will put a clean handkerchief and a clean paper cup in his pocket before going to work. One concern has ordered 50,000 paper cups, which will be distributed for advertising purposes. Paper cups are of infinite variety and of various cost. Eastern department stores sell one kind at 12 for a dime, and in the big stores of the East, the cups are held in a container, working on the penny-in-the-slot principle, and are sold for a cent each. Some cups retail for a nickel, but these have a wire handle and are short and squatty. Most of the paper cups are made of oil paper and lie flat, being without a bottom. Those with a bottom cost a trifle more. One of these paper cups is supposed to be thrown away after a drink has been taken, but a cup can be used for a week, with reasonable care. By the end of a week it has become dirty from being carried in the pocket. Collapsible metal cups are bieng sold largely to school children, although most of the schools have a “bite-the-bubble” fountain, and these fountains are also installed in many cafeterias. The paper cup has not taken a hold in Portland yet.

Christmas Cards of Yore

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1930copyrightentriesChristmas.pngThis is not local to any of our localities of interest, but looking for something else, we ran across this wonderful nugget from the Catalog of Copyright Entries of 1930. The Pyramid Card Co. of Chicago registered four greeting cards. Surely, the 1930s were a simpler, less cynical time, which would explain why one of the cards bore the legend “Same old crap Merry Christmas,” and another said “This Christmas business makes my ass tired.”

Merry Christmas!

The Scholars of Grafton

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At some point, Marcia O. Dunham, born in Grafton but decamped to Washington, D.C., received an envelope. In that envelope was a set of certificates noting the school accomplishments of her mother and other family members, and her mother’s teaching certificate. It’s impossible to know what she felt, receiving the mementos of a mother she never knew; Fannie Hayner Dunham died the same year that Marcia was born, possibly at the same time. Along with certificates recognizing her mother’s accomplishments were several others, including recognition for her father, Calvin B. Dunham, and his brother Edson and sister Mary. No surprise that they went to the same school and had the same teachers as Fannie. Calvin was two years old than Fannie, but in those days in Grafton, it’s still entirely likely they were in the same classroom. CertificateofMerit2.jpgCertificateofMerit4.jpgCertificateofMerit5.jpgCertificateofMerit6.jpg