Author Archives: carljohnson

Albany Eye and Ear Infirmary

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Knowing what we now know about what doctors didn’t know in the mid-19th century, it’s easy to imagine the Albany Eye and Ear Infirmary of 1858 as a chamber of horrors that could have involved a combination of bloodletting and mercury poisoning. And pneumatic extraction. “Dr. Gilbert’s celebrated Combination Pneumatic Extractor and Ear Syringe, for the permanent cure of deafness, sent to any part of the world.” Still, if you were in need of their services, perhaps an artificial eye or ear drum inserted, and you were down on your luck, Drs. Gilbert and Graves were open to charity cases six hours a week. Lydius Street was the stretch of what is now Madison Avenue between the river and Pearl Street.

Albany Brush Factory

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1858. J.B. Armour, Brush Manufacturer, keeps constantly on hand a large assortment of brushes of all kinds and descriptions. When I was growing up, brushes were still a big thing. There were still Fuller brush salesmen, going door to door. Today, even though we still use brushes for all sorts of things, it seems like they’ve gone underground, or aren’t thought of as a class of object. My shoe brush, bottle brush, toilet brush all came from different places (and, originally, from China). Not from Armour’s Albany Brush Factory.

Fuller Brush, by the way, had a Capital District presence. Its plastic bottle and toothbrush factory was in Philmont, Columbia County, and at some point Fuller bought out the Mohawk Brush Co., then in the Industrial Building at 1031 Broadway, which made hairbrushes and industrial floor brushes.

Washington under the elms

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Washington Elm
Once upon a time, there was an elm tree in Albany’s Lafayette Park (just across from the Capitol). That tree’s grandparent (whatever that may mean) was a leafy witness to history.

“Washington first took command of the American Army under the grandparent of this elm at Cambridge, Mass. July 3, 1775

and presented by Maryland D.A.R. Marked by New York State D.A.R. This
tree is planted as part of the 200th anniversary of the birth of George
Washington 1732-1932.”

The tree, sadly, is no longer there, no doubt felled by Dutch elm disease, which did almost as much to change the look of our cities as urban renewal did.

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Hoxsie bottle!

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Do not want (at least not at $57), but I was pleasantly surprised when a Google alert brought me the news that there is a Hoxsie bottle out there for sale. Perhaps there are thousands, bottle collecting is not my thing. If you want to know what a cool, refreshing bottle of Hoxsie looked like, here’s your chance.


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I’ll try for just a moment to focus only on the non-sexist elements of this Rinso detergent ad that ran in the Schenectady Gazette in 1921.

Oh, wait. There aren’t any.

Albany, City of the Bald?

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1862 Schenectady Directory Hair Restorer

If you believe what Professor Henry A. DeMunn had to say in 1862 (and I demand to know the provenance of his doctoral degree), that he had been working for a year and a half with the worst cases of baldness to be found “in this or any other country,” then you have to wonder just what was going on in our fair city that caused such aggressive hair loss. Legislative stresses? Kerosene in the drinking water? The establishment of an alopecia colony? No clue is given, nor does he make clear whether his dollar-a-bottle hair restorer was to be applied to the head or taken as a tonic — a common enough approach that, if amply fortified, would help the user to forget the dollar he had spent.

The stretch of Orange Street where the Professor once practiced his scientific endeavors is long gone under the I-787 on-ramp. He boarded at 35 Van Schaick, where he listed his profession as “hair restorer.”