Author Archives: carljohnson

One of these things is not like the others

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Look for the symbol of the Troy Restaurant Association, your assurance that your food is properly selected and properly prepared. I mean it, just look for it – you won’t find it. You won’t find a lot of “lunch systems” anymore either, and I’m not sure we aren’t the poorer for it. But you will still find Manory’s Restaurant after all these years, perhaps the only survivor of the proud days of the TRA. Serving breakfast all day!

Beck’s Pocket Guide of Troy

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“Beck’s Pocket Guides are distributed each year to every Policeman and Fireman in the city, all offices in the Court House, City Hall, Jail, Troopers, Post Office Employees, Bus Drivers, Aldermen, Supervisors, Bank Employees, School Teachers and Business Houses in the City.” In 1935, Fred A. Beck’s Pocket Guide of Troy, N.Y. had grown to 96 pages and 5000 copies distributed. Filled with ads for places that no longer exist, lists of street names, elaborate intercity bus and rail schedules, and instructions on how to turn in a fire alarm, this kind of guide was once ubiquitous to any prosperous city and has completely disappeared from the landscape.

The Palace Lunch System, Architects of Appetites, is long, long gone. So are 5 digit phone numbers (or 3 if you were in the same exchange).

I like that in Fred Beck’s mind, a printing emergency was of just about the same import as the need for police or fire.

O Oysters, come and walk with us!

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Albany Frosted Foods receipt.jpgSometime in the late 1950s, for a very brief time, my grandfather ran a drive-in restaurant on Aqueduct Road in Schenectady, not far from the Aqueduct (Route 146) bridge, and now the site of an auto junkyard. A lot of his receipts from that business were saved. In this age when everything is computer-inventoried and printed out in tremendous detail, it’s refreshing to remember a time when receipts were handwritten, had varying levels of detail and legibility, and had a little bit of personality of their own. This receipt was for a bushel of oysters from the Albany Frosted Foods Company, and fans of giant warehouse fires will recognize the address of Colonie and Montgomery Streets. The business was long since bought by gargantuan food supplier Sysco; the building is just an empty shell, lined with cork to keep things cool and waiting for redevelopment.

(And we can’t talk about oysters without mentioning Lewis Carroll.)

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Francis Calo begs leave to inform you

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1862 Schenectady Directory City Baggage Wagon.pngIn case you wondered, Schenectady residents of 1862, yes, Francis Calo is still running a baggage wagon to every part of the city. And he continues the business of carman (which under one definition would be the same as running a baggage wagon). And he hangs out across the street from Lyon’s. (Imagine a modern advertiser begging leave to inform you of anything.)

Francis Calo emigrated as a boy in 1838 from Saxony, then part of the German Confederation. He became a naturalized citizen, married, and had a son and three daughters. His wife died within a couple of years after this ad.  His baggage wagon must have done well enough that within a few years, in 1870, he had established himself as a fruit and confectionery merchant. He lived past the age of 80: in 1910,  he was living at 1009 Union Street, near Park Avenue, with two of his daughters, who never married.

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Daguerrotype or Ambrotype? So hard to choose…

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In 1862, S.J.Thompson & Co. was making photographs, daguerreotypes, and ambrotypes at 478 Broadway, in a now-lost building somewhere on the north side between State Street and Maiden Lane. Daguerrotype was the first commercial photographic process. Ambrotype was a positive image on glass, using a collodion solution (and such collodion, it is said, played a role in the invention of celluloid here in Albany). And by the time this was published in 1862, there were a number of other photographic processes known to the public.

The variety of fonts in this ad is typical of the time, when a printer (most likely Joel Munsell’s steam press) showed its prosperity by the number of fonts it could afford to keep, and advertised for its business by showing them off in its publications.

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Ticonderoga

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In case anyone needs more (and you know you do) on the relationship between Ticonderoga and the pencil that bears its name, here’s a little note from “Graphite,” a publication promoting the billions of wonders produced by the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company of Jersey City, New Jersey. In case you wondered where to get plumbago for shot polishing.

The Pencil Lead Wars of 1862

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I could put in a phenomenal amount of effort to explain what was going on in the northern New York graphite mines, what sort of a stranglehold Joseph Dixon & Co. was holding over its competitors, and how he who controlled pencil leads held the fate of a free press in his hands. Or I could just explain that graphite from the Ticonderoga area was a key element of stove polish as well as pencil leads, and that Cozzens & Lay of Water Street in Albany really didn’t like Joseph Dixon. Perhaps having created the first wood and graphite pencil made him snooty (whereas stove polishing would make one sooty). Despite setting their prices to suit the times, we all know the “Dixon Ticonderoga” pencil, and their competitor only leads us to imagine a lot of 5th graders snickering when the Cozzens & Lay pencils were handed out.

By the way, the Dixon website seems to think the average American dolt can’t pronounce “Ticonderoga,” and therefore they provide elaborate instruction.

All Hoxsie, all the time

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George Hoxsie Albany Ward 4 1870.pngWhile I’m on this here Hoxsie kick, I might as well mention a little bit more about George Hoxsie, the Albanian with the audacity to think that his name alone was enough to sell mineral water (or perhaps sarsparilla) (or perhaps something else) to Schenectadians. In 1870, shortly after the rooster crowed, George Hoxsie was living in Albany’s Fourth Ward, listing himself as a mineral water manufacturer with real property worth $6000 and $500 in non-real property. For those days, that was a lot, but not nearly as much as his neighbor Abraham Koonz, the carpet merchant, who claimed $80,000 in real property. Wife Jane and mother Anelope (yes, one ‘t’ short of an antelope) lived with him, as did daughter-in-law Libbie (Elizabeth) and grandson Bismark. Yes, Bismark Hoxsie. Throughout the 1860s, George showed up on federal tax rolls, such as in 1862 when he was charged $5.62 in tax on $520 worth of root beer (apparently the soft drink tax is nothing new). George was also the Overseer of the Poor, a politically appointed city position that may have included the oversight of the Alms House. George may have seen better opportunities in the political world than in bottling, for in 1880 he was listed in the census as a foreman at the New Capitol.

And what happened to little Bismark? He won the prize for best speaker in his class at the 20th commencement exercises of Albany High School in June, 1888. He became an osteopath, married a woman named Huldah Van Doren (yes, she became Huldah Hoxsie), and moved to Bound Brook, New Jersey.

Hoxsie! Now with 30 percent more real Hoxsie!

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Finally, a site that’s all local history, all the time. Where my somewhat oddly named site “My Non-Urban Life” is about whatever crosses my mind, I’ve long felt that I needed to make a site devoted solely to local history, both the long, well-researched (well-Google researched, anyway) articles that appear at All Over Albany, and shorter, weirder little bits of advertising and ephemera that catch my eye as I scan through old city directories, institute publications, and old postcards. (Yes, that is what I do for fun).

When I knew I was going to create a site just about Capital District history, taking in the rich heritage of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, a region where my family’s roots go back to The Norman, I knew I needed a name that was distinctive, easy to remember and spell, and that was clearly associated with local history. But instead I fell in love with this picture of a rooster proclaiming “Hoxsie!” and suddenly no other name would do. (Internet lesson 1: Don’t check a domain until you’re ready to buy it. That’s why I’m Hoxsie.org, and Hoxsie.com is parked by one of the internet’s parking lot attendants. On the internet, exit fee is set by attendant.)

This ad appeared in the 1862-3 Schenectady City Directory, published by Young and Graham of 111 State Street (now about where the scenic Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet is), and most likely actually printed by the venerable Joel Munsell of Albany. There is no further explanation anywhere in the directory, other than listing Hoxsie among Albany advertisers. In an age when verbosity was an absolute virtue in advertising, that alone makes this ad stand out sensationally. Plus, it must have meant that whoever Hoxsie was or what he sold, he was confident that readers of the directory would know what his product was; it needed no explanation. The Child’s directory of Albany and Schenectady for 1870 gives me a little more to go on, listing Geo. W. Hoxie [sic] & Co. of 25 Hamilton Street in Albany, right down near the old public market, as a maker of sarsaparilla, soda, lager beer and cider. (It also lists a George W. Hoxsie as “overseer of city poor, City Building,” and it’s intriguing to think that in the days before government cheese there may have been government sarsparilla. George also listed himself in the 1870 census as a mineral water manufacturer, so exactly what refreshing drink that rooster is crowing about is left to the imagination.

Much more to come, so set your bookmarks, grab that RSS feed, and provide me with some comments that aren’t about Coach bags or penis enhancement. Unless it’s historic penis enhancement, in which case I’d be totally fine with it.

Hoxsie!

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