Author Archives: carljohnson

Rathbone, Sard & Co. – The Acorn Line

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Rathbone Sard and CoThe first Rathbone in the stove business in Albany, Joel, was highly sucessful; his country estate, Kenwood, later became a Catholic convent and girls’ academy. His nephew John also went into the stove business, and with Grange Sard manufactured the Acorn line of stoves and ranges. Not only can you find their advertising ephemera through a quick Google search, you’ll also find some of the stoves are still available. The firm dated back to 1830 with various other names partnering up with a Rathbone. It became Rathbone, Sard & Co. in 1873. Howell, writing in 1885, mentions that the North Ferry Street factory, near the canal, had were five modeling floors, five cupola furnaces, 90 tons of iron melted daily, and 75,000 stoves a year produced.

Grange Sard didn’t do too badly for himself, either, the son of a tailor who quickly became a partner in an established stove business, ultimately becoming its president, and who had his city home, familiar to anyone who was walked State Street near the park, built for him by H.H. Richardson, who usually spent his time on things like the State Capitol and Albany City Hall.

Not entirely clear what was going on in this 1887 correspondence from the Biggert Collection, though it would appear that Mrs. Luke Tower wrote directly to the Rathbone, Sard factory, perhaps trying to get around the local Youngstown, NY distributors of William Ripson and Son.

R.C. Reynolds Furniture

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R.C. Reynolds was once a major furniture store in both Albany and Troy, selling carpets, stoves, upholstery, china, glass, etc. When Mr. I.H. Vrooman of 294 Hamilton St. in Albany picked up 5-1/3 yards of linoleum remnant in 1914, Reynolds had stores at 36-38 N. Pearl Street in Albany and in the landmark McCarthy Building on Monument Square in Troy. One of Don Rittner’s great Arcadia picture books of Albany shows Reynolds in the building that now houses the 74 State Street boutique hotel.

R.C. Reynolds was a citizen of note. he was a director of the Troy Trust Company. He was on the board of the Troy Automobile Club in 1908, when there were 270 auto owners in Troy. He was an honorary vice president of the Mohawk and Hudson Humane Society. He was actively involved in maritime interests, and served on the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association. A local ferryboat, built in 1896 and running from Maiden Lane to Troy, was named for him. That was possibly ironic, as a 1903 Troy fire that started on the steamboat pier burned his building and several others on River Street. He opened his new store in 1904 and 10,000 people attended the grand opening, which was recounted in the American Carpet and Upholstery Journal:

“The store is a five-story structure . . . with a polished
terra-cotta front . . . An interesting feature is an unique Oriental room
finished in Moorish style and richly furnished with Oriental draperies and
furniture. The upholstery section is fitted with the latest display devices,
while in the rug department the track system, which displays eighty rugs at the
same time, is in use. A large space on the north side of the main floor is
devoted to an artistic combination of furnishings in a model five-room
apartment house, consisting of a parlor, reception-room, library, dining-room
and bed-room. The parlor is noticeable for its flowered tapestries and carved mahogany
furniture, the reception-room in gold, the library with its golden oak outfit,
the weathered-oak dining-room suite and the bedroom with heavy brass bed,
complete lace bed set and bird’s-eye maple furniture.”

Pruyn, Vosburgh & Co.

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Another wonderful billhead from The Biggert Collection, this one from 1855 showing the venerable establishment of Pruyn, Vosburgh & Co., No. 39 State Street, importers of hardware.

In 1829, John Pruyn, hardware merchant, gave over his business to Lansing Pruyn, Isaac Vosburgh and Abraham Wilson.

In his 1866 “History of the County of Albany, ” George
Rogers Howell tells us that Isaac W. Vosburgh was born in Albany in 1801 to a
father of old Dutch stock and a Scots mother. He began his business career in
the hardware store of George Humphrey on State Street. “here he applied himself
assiduously to business and familiarized himself with the hardware trade as it
then existed.” The firm of Pruyn, Wilson & Vosburgh was formed, and
continued in business for more than thirty years, doing business at No. 39
State Street.

Their ad in the 1843 New York State Register advertised them
as importers of hardware, cutlery, steel &c. “Also, constantly on hand,
Ruggles’, Nourse & Mason’s superior Ploughs, of different sizes and
patterns, manufactured at Worcester, Mass. Together with Sub-soil and Side-Hill
Ploughs, Cultivators, Straw-Cutters, and other Farming Utensils.”

Included on this receipt: slates, pencils, brass kettles, thumb latches, fish hooks, and 3 (or 4) kegs of nails. These were sold for the princely sum of $28.09 to Jacob Settle, a merchant of Berne who is well-known and well-regarded in Amasa Parker’s “Landmarks of Albany County”:

Jacob Settle was engaged in mercantile business in Berne from 1812 to 1864, in which he was uncommonly successful. He was prominent in public affairs, held the offices of justice, supervisor, member of assembly, and was for thirty five years postmaster. It was largely through his influence that the plank road was constructed through this town from Schoharie, and connected with the Albany road. He was in every way a public spirited and valuable citizen.

39 State Street would have been about across from Jack’s Oyster House. The building is long gone, likely subsumed by the Museum Building.

Price & Weatherhead

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This billhead from The Biggert Collection is from the first year of operation of Price & Weatherhead, dealers in brandies, wines, cigars, ale and porter. Not to mention family groceries, fine teas, java coffee, oliv oil, foreign pickles, sauces, preserved fruits, and Mumm and Heidsick champagnes. Constantly on hand!

According to Howell’s “Bi-Centennial History of Albany,” Frederick Vine took over the store of E.R. and E. Satterley in 1840 and moved to 7-9 North Pearl Street in 1856. He sold out to Joseph J. Price and Hilon L. Weatherhead in 1862, who moved the business up the street to 19 North Pearl. This only lasted until 1866, when the partners went their separate ways and opened competing stores.

At the time, people still weren’t sold on the spelling of “cigar,” which is spelled on the letterhead as “Cigars” and written on the receipt as “Segars.” Major Frederick Townsend was laying in some supplies, having just returned from the Civil War battlegrounds to serve as acting assistant provost marshal general.

Taking a close look at that vignette, I’m pretty sure the building still stands, either expanded or with its cornice joined to its old neighbor, which wasn’t an uncommon practice.

Pioneer Broom got a new letterhead!

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Pioneer Broom Co Amsterdam.jpgJust a year later than the letterhead we saw yesterday, Amsterdam’s Pioneer Broom Company had a fabulous new letterhead made up for 1917, with crisp new cuts, elaborate typography, and P.B.Co Inc. logo.

The letterhead (from the Biggert Collection) may have changed, but the subject had not. Rockwell Gardiner still wasn’t so good at maintaining his accounts with them. But if he sent Pioneer the $10.50 he owed, they would be pleased to forward the gun which came by express some time ago.

Pioneer Broom

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The Schenectady area was once the broom corn capital of the country, back when the low-lying farms west of the city and in Scotia and Reeseville provided the raw materials for a highly necessary product.

Out in Amsterdam, the Blood Brothers started up the city’s broom industry in the 1860s. Pioneer Broom Company was started by the Blood family relatively late, in 1902 according to Bob Cudmore, first on Washington Street and then in 1904 with the large factory at West Main and Pine Streets shown on this letterhead from The Biggert Collection. To judge by the claims of the letterhead, Pioneer had a daily capacity of 300 dozen brooms and 200 dozen whisk brooms.

Also to judge by this letter, the Pioneer Broom Company was having a little trouble with its sales force up Watertown way.

The Retail Price List of Brooms proudly shows off the two factories — no mixing of regular brooms and whisk brooms here!
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Ludlow Valve

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Ludlow Valve.jpgAnother beautiful letterhead from the Biggert Collection, this one from the Ludlow Valve Manufacturing Co. of Troy. The Biggert Collection actually has three pieces of correspondence between Jason H. Caldwell, Vice President of Ludlow Valve, and Mr. Eugene Carroll, Superintendent of the Butte Water Company of Butte, Montana.  Ordering pipe and valves by correspondence was, apparently, a tedious process.

“We received yesterday your blue print of August 23rd, 1900, showing the size of hub wanted on the 26″ Check Valve for wood pipe, also the drilling of the 24″ Flange Hydraulic Lift Valve. On looking over this drilling we find that the bolt holes come so close to the metal in the body of the valve back of the flange, that you will be unable to use bolts and nuts and stud bolts will have to be used. The valve which we propose furnishing on this order is from our List #5 1/2, and the standard flange for same is 34″, while the flange you call for is only 31 1/4″ in diameter. We, of course, can make up the valve in accordance with your wishes, but thought best to call your attention to this matter before going ahead and getting out the body of the valve, as perhaps you do not care to use stud bolts. We enclose you a sketch showing just how the bolt holes will come, which will explain the matter more fully.”  A nice way to ask if you’re sure that’s what you want.

It took a bit of time and some more questions, but on Nov. 21st Mr. Caldwell sent this missive:

“”We are happy to inform you (which we have done by wire to-day) that your complete order goes forward to-day, and that we have requested shipment traced to destination. We trust it will reach you without any delay.”

Ludlow valve.pngLudlow Valve’s office and works were at the foot of Adams Street in Troy. They had another plant in Cohoes. The operations closed abruptly in 1960, putting 500 people out of work. As far as I can see, nothing remains of the old factory.

RPI holds a collection of the papers of Ludlow Valve, and offers a brief history, which you can see after the jump:

Letters from Keeler’s

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Yesterday Hoxsie got so wrapped up in Keeler’s story of ice and fire that I didn’t get to focus on the letterhead from the Biggert Collection.

This letter on hotel stationery from 1901 sends Friend Hatcher some directions:

“I get to write you today to say that I will not be at home until the last of the week Friday or Saturday Expect to be there Friday if all works right. Did you see C.M. [?] Sumner and send those dowel rod down they should be 3/4 inch diameter and are for the trus[s] back of the Board. I suppose he has them in length long enough for two rods up the back of the board. . . .” And there our fascinating conversation about dowels ends.

Keelers letter.jpgA later letterhead gives us a better impression of exactly where Keeler’s stood, showing the streetcars on Broadway and the Capitol in the background. This note from 1917, just a bit more than a year before the end of Keeler’s, smacks of corporate intrigue:

“Dear Sir: He says he has no objection It don’t make any diff. if he has as long as the vote is three to one. If there is nothing doing on this deal I shall employ Amesbury [?] lawyer and have him sell, so as to get my share no matter what it costs. A case of have to with me.”

Keeler’s Hotel

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For a long time, Keeler’s was the hotel in Albany, even among other highly respected establishments such as The Kenmore and The Ten Eyck. As Dr. William Henry Johnson wrote in 1900, “Keeler’s Hotel, corner Broadway and Maiden lane, is one of the finest hotels in the State, complete in every particular.”

Keeler’s was on the west side of  Broadway at Maiden Lane, about where the Arcade Building is today. William Henry Keeler was born in 1841. According to the Albany Rural Cemetery website, “In 1863, he opened Keeler’s Oyster
House at State and Green Streets, which soon became the most popular and famous
oyster house in upstate New York.  He
sold the oyster house to his brother in 1870.  In 1886, he opened a restaurant at 26
Maiden Lane.  In 1890, he purchased
the property from his restaurant through to Broadway and built Keeler’s Hotel.” He died in 1918 and is buried, like any good Albanian, in the Rural Cemetery.

Possibly unique among Albany hoteliers, Keeler had his own supply of ice, a vital necessity in the days before electric refrigeration. An article from the January 1906 edition of the perhaps not widely read “Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal” reported that that winter’s prospects were “very favorable for Mr. Keeler’s filling his ice houses from his ‘Maceland Kill,’ as it is called, with from 10 to 12 inch ice. Mr. Keeler supplies a large city patronage, aside from his hotel needs. The Maceland Kill, which was formerly the chief supply of the water reservoir that for many years was utilized as the main supply of Albany’s drinking water, is situated about a mile and a half north of Albany and about 2,000 feet west of the river.” The article refers to the Maizelandt Kill (sometimes “Maiselandt”), which was indeed a part (not the chief supply) of the Albany Water Works as it was made up in 1850. keelers.jpg

All that ice didn’t help on June 17, 1919, when Keeler’s Hotel burned spectacularly to the ground. The New York Times wrote:

“The interior of Keeler’s Hotel at Broadway and Maiden Lane, one of Albany’s landmarks and a hostelry known throughout the country, was completely destroyed by fire in less than two hours early today. The 226 patrons, all men, escaped. One fireman was buried beneath falling walls and killed. The loss is estimated at more than half a million dollars. The fire was one of the most spectacular in the city’s history. Parts of the building had stood on the present site for generations and offered fine material for the flames. The blaze, of unknown origin, was discovered soon after 3 A.M. in the cabaret, a building which adjoins the sleeping quarters on the south. For a time it was confined to this building. This gave opportunity to arouse the patrons, many of whom gathered, scantily clad, in the main lobby of the hotel, only to be driven out into the street. Others who remained in their rooms to dress were later forced to throw their suitcases from windows and make their exits by way of the fire escapes.”

As can be seen in the marvelous image of Keeler’s from the Library of Congress Collection and here reproduced very large by, finding a fire escape was not a problem.

Note that right next door to Keeler’s was Cotrell and Leonard, the firm that invented the American cap and gown.

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Julius Saul, clothier of Troy

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The Biggert Collection has preserved this custom commercial envelope from the firm of Julius Saul, depicting his building at 326 River Street in Troy (probably the Atrium parking garage today). Saul was born in Posen, a province of Prussia around 1835 and came to America in his youth. He opened stores in Hudson and Catskill, and then came to Troy in 1867.

Weise’s 1888 “City of Troy and Its Vicinity” says: “At the large clothing house of Julius Saul, any one can be convinced that the greater number of the male inhabitants of Troy buy their clothing ready-made. The attractive, four-story, brick building extends 150 feet to Fourth Street. The spacious sale-room on the first floor is stocked with seasonable coats, vests, and trousers to supply the numerous customers which the popularity of this well-known clothing house attracts. The custom department is on the second floor, where patterns may be selected from the stock of cloths and other stuffs to be made into such fashionable styles as may be desired . . . ToSaul's.png obtain all the advantages of a prosperous clothing manufacturing house, he removed his manufactory from Troy to New York, where he has recently established one of the largest manufactories in the metropolis.” He retired from the business in 1895, living at 401 West End Avenue in New York City, and spent the remainder of his life traveling with his wife and, once she died, a daughter. He died December 15, 1914, and his obituary appeared in the New York Times.

Weise’s book used the same cut as appeared on the envelope, so I’ve presented a clearer version here. A Google search will turn up numerous Julius Saul trade cards.

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