Author Archives: carljohnson

Fuller, Warren & Co. Stoves

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Fuller, Warren & Co. was a major manufacturer of stoves in Troy, at a time when the Capital District was the national center of stove making. This billhead from The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery shows their riverfront factory in Troy. The works, originally Johnson, Cox & Fuller, and known as the Clinton Foundry, was along the river between Madison and Monroe Streets, an industrial area just below the Poestenkill. Their offices and showroom were at 257 River Street, in the Monument Square area.

They held the patents of Philo Stewart, who had perfected the cast iron kitchen cooking stove in 1838, and sold their stoves as “Stewart’s Air-Tight” summer and winter cooking stoves. As a leader in the industry, they were wary of having their stoves copied outright — so wary that they presented on their billhead this admonition: “For use as a manufactured article and not as a pattern to cast from.” So be warned!

The company went out of business in 1934, and its last president, William H. Warren, died in 1951.

Fort Orange Milling Company

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Rather than a billhead or a receipt, this specimen from The Biggert Collection is a sight draft, a term that has fallen out of favor but which was essentially a check that was payable immediately (rather than at a future date certain), or “at sight.” This was made out to the Loomis Bros. of Granby, Connecticut, for $341.09 to be charged to the account of the Fort Orange Milling Co., a flour roller mill operation on the riverfront. It was signed by Charles B. Woolverton, a member of the firm, June 4, 1890.

A little more than two years later, Mr. Woolverton would be terribly burned in an explosion and fire that brought down the Fort Orange Milling Company on Dec. 19, 1892. As The New York Times reported:

At 12:30 o’clock this afternoon a terrific explosion occurred in the elevator shaft of the Fort Orange Milling Company’s building backing up on the Erie Canal basin. The sparks set fire to the dry grain and flour. In an instant the blaze rushed up the shaft, and before an alarm was sent in the entire structure was a mass of flames. Charles B. Woolverton, a member of the firm, was in the office at the time, and when the explosion occurred started for the rear of the office to close the safe. Before he could get out he was surrounded by flames, and when he managed to fight his way through them he was burned in a most terrible manner.

The fire burned through the afternoon, and as the men of Steamer Company No. 4 were ordered home, the 60-foot-high east wall toppled over, buried seven firemen. Three were killed immediately, and one more was expected to die from his injuries. No one from Fort Orange Milling other than Woolverton was injured; he was, The Times put it, “terribly burned,” and died January 2.

DeGolyer Varnish Works

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Another elegant billhead from The Biggert Collection. This sample from 1930 is from the DeGolyer Varnish Works, manufacturers of varnishes, japans, shellacs, &c.  Apparently a G.W. Peters was in need of two gallons of E-kon-o-me Remover, which ran him a neat $3.60 plus parcel post. According to the billhead, the company was established in 1840, and had its office and factory at 77-79 13th St. in Troy. That would be just east of RPI’s current campus. That’s now a residential street but there was historically manufacturing mixed in in that area up the Congress Street hill.

I don’t find much information about DeGolyer, other than a 1923 Federal Trade Commission complaint that the company was selling shellac that was less than pure excretions of the lac beetle without saying so. Arthur Weise in his “City of Troy and Its Vicinity” listed brothers Joseph and Watts DeGolyer as a varnish manufacturer at 113 Sixth St., and mentions that Joseph served on the building committee for the Troy Railroad Young Men’s Christian Association in 1882.

I love that companies used to be named very simply — there was a family name, perhaps, and a product. Thus, “DeGolyer Varnish Works.” Today the marketers would consider that too old-fashioned, too limiting, too much of an association with varnish and some people don’t like varnish so shouldn’t we call it DeVarnCo?

Capitol, Capital – as long as it’s sweet!

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Another entry from The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery, and another one from the establishment of Jacob Kreischer. Coming nearly twenty years after our previous entry, this one has a great depiction of the smoking Albany of used-to-be, with a lovely view of Mr. Kreischer’s building at 31 Hudson Avenue. It’s a curious drawing, laid out more to capture the painted signage on the side of the building and the smoking factories behind it than the building itself.

This letter was written June 11, 1895, to the First National Bank in Cooperstown: “Mr. Cashier, dear Sir, Last week I sent you two notes of $36.29 and $34. 75 order of John M. Eldred due on June 6th, Kindly let me know whether those papers have been paid or not. Respectfully Jacob Kreischer”

In the ensuing years either Mr. Kreischer or his printer decided to make it “Capital” rather than “Capitol,” a confusion that reigns to this day.

In addition to the wonderful cut, admire the type in this billhead; it’s just marvelous, particularly the script “Albany, N.Y.”

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Capitol City Steam Confectionery

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Ah, steam! Is there nothing you can’t do? As the last word in modernity (at least as far as the 19th century was concerned), the application of steam made every process seem more efficient, modern and marvelous. And so here we have a billhead from the Capitol City Steam Confectionery of Mr. Jacob Kreischer, patentee and manufacturer of  The Famous Dessert Fruit Confect. His imposing general office was located at 31 Hudson Avenue, and the factory was at the corner of Hudson and Quay Street, down by the river. The former is parking, the latter highway.

On March 20, 1876, Kreischer was obliged to write to F.L. Palmer, Esquire, perhaps a collection agent: “Dear Sir  Inclosed please find E.D. Shumway note for collection amt. $68.00. After deducting exchange please forward my draft and oblige. Yours Respectfully Jacob Kreischer”

Previously in the Albany steam chronicles:

This is another entry from The Biggert Collection.

C.W. Billings Slate & Wood Mantel Works

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Another magnificent billhead from the Biggert Collection. C.W. Billings was the proprietor of a factory that made slate and wood mantels, as well as tile  hearths, brass fire plates, and fine finish grates. In the age before central heating, when every home had a fireplace and the well-to-do might have several, being in the mantel business was not a bad gig. And being that marble was expensive, being able to fake it with slate was an even better gig.

Billings operated at North Third (now gone) and Hutton Streets, somewhere just south of where the Collar City Bridge and Route 7 connect to Hoosick Street today. In 1893, you (presuming you were William Van Vleck) could procure an antique oak mantel, a tile hearth, an aldine grate of antiqued brass, a special damper attachment, a spark guard, a second mantel and a bronzed frame all for the low, low price of $135.75. (The average wage for a worker in New York in 1893 was $460.41.)

Arthur Weise, who in his “The City of Troy and Its Vicinity” was, we must admit, given to gushing, gushed over C.W. Billings:

C. W. Billings, manufacturer of marbleized slate mantels, southeast corner of North Third and Hutton streets. The art of counterfeiting the handiwork of Nature has been attained to such perfection as to cause no little astonishment to those who for the first time inspect the excellent imitations made by man. By mechanical and chemical processes a marbleized slate is made at the manufactory of Charles W. Billings which seems not only to possess the varied tracery of veined marble and all the effects of the natural stone, but, singular, as it is true, it preserves its lustre longer and is not discolorable as the latter. The slate is obtained from quarries in Vermont, and is subjected at the works in Troy to the tools of the pattern designer and afterward to the processes of undertoning and marbling, and finally to the action of heat. The marbles of Spain, of Egypt, and of this country are so faithfully imitated that it is difficult to detect the dissimilarity existing between the real and the manufactured specimens. The imitations of rosewood, walnut, and other ornamental wood also manufactured at the establishment, are very attractive and beautiful. The mantels constructed with them and the marbleized slate are very elaborate and artistic. Mounted in brass or other metallic frames, with fenders of the same metal, they ornament a parlor, sitting-room, or library in a handsome manner. Besides manufacturing marbleized slate and wood mantels, C. W. Billings also employs his skilled workmen in making marbleized bureau, wash-stand, and table slabs, hearth tiles and facings, floor-tiles, improved grates, and many other useful and decorative specialities.

The manufactory is a large, three-story, brick building, fronting seventy-eight feet on North Third Street and extending one hundred and thirty to North Fourth Street. The business was begun, in 1860, by Edwin A. Billings, the father of the present proprietor of the works, at No. 421 River Street. In 1861, he moved to the building on the southeast corner of North Third and Hutton streets, previously the Pond Brothers’ foundry. In 1866, his son, C. W. Billings, succeeded to the business, who afterward renovated and enlarged the building to meet the demands of the rapidly increased patronage which his enterprise and productions had obtained.

I wonder how many of the grand homes of Troy still have a Billings slate mantel, looking just like fine marble?

Troy Stove Works

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From 1864, the Biggert Collection has preserved this wonderful billhead from the Troy Stove Works of Burdett, Paris & Co. The office and showroom were at 253 River Street, a building which still stands on Monument Square and is known as the Burdett Building. (Curiously, “Burdett, Son & Co. also operated a wholesale wine and liquor business from the same address, circa 1870.) The factory location is harder to discern, as North Fourth Street is lost to time. As might perhaps only have been possible in Troy, North Fourth Street ran parallel to, and between, Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street. No, I have no explanation.

As you can see, Mr. Paris must have worn out his welcome but there was plenty of billhead left, and the clerk of the works was obliged to cross out “Paris” and replace it with “Potter, Smith,” as the firm was now known as “Burdett, Potter, Smith & Co.” (Daniel Paris, down but not out of the stove biz, could be found at 277 River Street, serving as the manager of the Double Reservoir Stove Co., in 1870.)

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Avery, Snell & Co.

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Avery, Snell & Co. began as a crockery store in Amsterdam, NY known as Avery & White in 1874. Mr. Snell bought out Mr. White, and removed the wholesale department to Schenectady, leaving the retailing in Amsterdam. Presumably they branched beyond crockery; in 1878 they were listed as a dealer in bicycles as well. The building must have been about where State and Church intersect; given the appearance of the little hill I’d say it might even have been at Mill Lane, but maybe it was further west. Another great image from The Biggert Collection.

The Argus Company

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Argus.jpgThe Argus was one of Albany’s prominent newspapers and publishing houses for decades. In addition to publishing The Argus since 1813, they printed numerous other publications and provided general printing, binding, electrotyping and stereotyping service. (How many people refer to a “stereotype” every day without knowing what one is? And without knowing that “cliché” shares the same printing heritage?)

This May 28, 1880 invoice to John A. Mapes, Esq., of 24 Park Place, New York City, was for a “trading notice”. Coming again from The Biggert Collection, it features a lovely rendering of the Argus Building. While the successor to this building, Argus Litho on Broadway, appears to be left for dead, the original is still intact and a lovely part of lower Broadway. Its prominent clock was not yet in place when this cut was made, but the building is still there.
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Albany Agricultural and Machine Works

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Peter K. Dederick’s Albany Agricultural and Machine Works was one of the first major agricultural implement factories. Dederick held several patents, beginning in 1843, and his works made the first commercial hay press. The works in Tivoli Hollow were massive, and a significant chunk of the old factory remains. The train tracks seen in this view to the south of the factory are still there today. A Google search for P.K. Dederick will turn up a significant amount of ephemera and memorabilia.