Wow, has it really been two years since I wrote about Albany’s claim to being the Piano City? I guess it has. This ad is from 1858, when Boardman and Gray had been making pianofortes for more than 20 years. The company is long gone, but the factory still stands at the corner of Broadway and North Ferry.
How fortunate that they had companion machines!
I have no idea what to make of this information. The county’s population in 1920 was 113,000, so it’s only about 4% of the population . . . but a much larger percentage of the automobile driving population. Luckily, road rage in those days was aimed at the autos, not at anything else that might be in their way.
The Friedman Building, where L.S. Blair practiced in Schenectady, is long since gone. It’s now the site of the MVP Health headquarters, across from Crescent Park, which is supposed to now be called Veterans Park. It was renamed after World War II, and yet the Crescent Park name just doesn’t seem to go away.
Back in 1844, the Mayor of Albany was Friend Humphrey, a leather merchant whose home in Colonie still exists. The City Council was made up of two aldermen per ward. That much sounds pretty much like government today. But among the city officers were a number of positions that, for better or worse, no longer exist:
- Chamberlain and Deputy Chamberlain — the Chamberlain was essentially the city treasurer.
- Overseer of the Poor — who managed the Alms-House.
- Dock Master — which was hugely important in the city that connected the Hudson to the rest of the country, by way of Erie Canal.
- Captains of the Watch — From a time when citizens formed the night watch.
- Measurers of Wood — when Albany was one of the lumber capitals of the country, there was much wood to be measured.
- Keeper of the Powder-House — the old Powder-House was on the grounds of what is now Washington Park, well away from the houses of the city.
- City Gauger — not sure how this was different from the Inspector of Weights and Measures, unless there was a forgotten fad for enlarging ear piercings in the 1840s.
- Inspector of Bread — it was considered vital that the city’s bakers were selling honest weight.
- Fence Viewer — to keep people honest about their property lines, which apparently was a constant problem.
- Weigher of Hay — No idea why this was a city interest.
Mixed in were some positions we’d still recognize, such as Collectors of Taxes, Constables, Postmaster, and even Alms-House Physician. But let’s face it, we’d all rather be a Measurer of Wood or Weigher of Hay. i bet they even had fancy badges.
The major offices were filled biennially, sent by the Mayor to the Common Council for confirmation at the next regular meeting after their appointment. Except, bewilderingly, the appointments of the Chamberlain and Receiver of Taxes, “which shall be made on the eve of the Fast-Day of St. Michael the Archangel.” Church/state separation notwithstanding, I’d love to know the reason for that.
And with every purchase over $5: souvenir spoons!
A Google search will turn up images of several of these souvenir spoons.
This ad from the Schenectady Gazette in 1923 offering the direct action gas range was from the Adirondack Power and Light Company, which eventually would be subsumed into Niagara Mohawk.
Amasa Parker, in his “Landmarks of Albany County,” informs us that John Woodward became prominent m the business circles of Albany because of his connection with the saddlery and harness business of Woodward & Hill. “This business was founded by Nathaniel Wright in 1819 and consequently is the third oldest established business in the city. In 1860 John Woodward together with Mr. W. W. Hill
bought the business from Mr. Wright and carried it on under the firm name of Woodward & Hill. . . In 1888 Mr. Hill died and John and [son] Walter M. Woodward succeeded to the ownership of the business. In 1895, after his father’s death. Walter M. Woodward succeeded to the business and now conducts it under the original name of Woodward & Hill.” Well, guess what that means? It means I was wrong. By a lot.
A few months back I undertook to determine the oldest business in Albany, and came to the reasoned conclusion that Lodge’s store, often noted as the oldest store in the city, might also be its oldest business, having been established around 1848. But that was nearly 30 years after Woodward & Hill began selling carriages and saddles, hardware and trimmings. The carriages and saddles are gone, but The Woodward Company still sells hardware (fasteners, to be precise) from its location on Burdick Drive, off Sand Creek Road right near Corporate Woods. Sorry to have been so wrong, and delighted to have found a company that has continued in business here for nearly 193 years.