For now. He’ll be back when he can.
From the collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia, an 1875ish breakfast menu from Albany’s leading temperance hotel, the Delavan House, in the era when Charles Leland was running it (which puts this between 1867 and 1882).
Founder Edward Delavan was a rabid temperance advocate who brought prohibition to the state of New York long before that other prohibition everyone is so familiar with, but only for a very short time.
The hotel ended in tragic fire in 1894.
As for the menu, maybe we’ll just have a salad. No salad? Toast, then. The toast looks safe.
It’s been a while since we did a Phoenixville Phriday. So, a couple of cool bits of local history news came out of our new hometown region this week.
The first was the amazing news that little Phoenixville was, for 17 years, hiding a secret treasure trove. Revolutionary War muskets, cannons, paintings, sculptures, uniforms, and George Washington’s frickin’ portmanteau were stored just a couple of blocks from our home. Now they’ve been transferred to the new Museum of the American Revolution, which will open next spring. You can read all about it here.
The second was that south of Philadelphia, the Lazaretto, the oldest surviving quarantine center and intake center for tens of thousands of immigrants who came in through Philadelphia, is going to be saved and repurposed. Read all about it!
The third isn’t exactly news. But, it is a good little list of facts about the encampment at Valley Forge, published at the Journal of the American Revolution. Since Hoxsie now spends more time in Valley Forge than you could imagine, it’s useful to remember why we preserved this rolling landscape along the Schuylkill. Check it out.
But we haven’t forgotten our origins. Fan of Washington Irving and headless Hessians? Check out this story on the Revolutionary Beginnings of the Headless Horseman.
Again from Ben Franklin’s Library Company of Philadelphia, we have this interesting envelope featuring a bird’s-eye view of Albany, along with two women holding grain over the legend “Empire State.” Did they represent the plenty provided by the state’s farms? Not clear.
The envelope was created by Charles Magnus of Frankfort St., New York City, who, it turns out, made a lot of this sort of thing. The Library Company says this is Civil War era, but doesn’t ascribe a specific date; it says this was cited in a collection of Union Civil War patriotic covers.
According to the Winterthur Library, Charles Magnus, [1826-1900], “was a print publisher, map dealer, bookseller and stationer working in New York City from 1850 to 1899 who issued over a thousand different letter sheets, maps, song sheets, envelopes, and separate prints. His best known works were city views and Civil War-related material. Much of his work was copied from other printmakers. During the Civil War, Magnus produced around 700 patriotic envelopes and over 300 illustrated song sheets. He used images of allegorical figures, battle scenes, political cartoons, portraits and state emblems, frequently using the same images in different combinations.”
There are so many reasons to love the Smithsonian Institute – and not just that its first secretary was Albany’s Joseph Henry. It’s a treasure trove of wonderful objects like this one: a token from the People’s Line. The Smithsonian has no opinion on the date of this token, but does know that it was made by the Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut – the button people.
The front says “New York and Albany / People’s Line of Steam Boats.” The back, charmingly, provides the schedule: “Time Table / Leave N.Y. 6 P.M. / Leave Albany 7 ½ P.M.”
Howell’s “Bi-Centennial History of Albany” holds that the People’s Line was established in 1834 as a day line, in opposition to the Hudson River Association Line, a consolidation of several lines that ran both day and night boats and involved “Commodore” Vanderbilt. With his typical lack of explanation, Howell reports that the People’s Line was sold to the Hudson River Association Line in 1835, but that in 1836 it was “revived” as a night line by Daniel Drew, with the ships West Chester and Emerald. The line grew quickly, and eventually Daniel Drew controlled most of the passenger liners on the river. In 1863 the Hudson River Day Line began with the acquisition of the Daniel Drew.
These tokens can be found on eBay; they generally claim to be from the Civil War era, but I haven’t found particular backing for that. It’s entirely possible there was another token for day runs, but all the tokens we’ve found are from the night line.
Did you know Benjamin Franklin founded a free library? Okay, you probably did. Did you know that library still exists, as The Library Company of Philadelphia? And did you further know that the online collections of The Library Company of Philadelphia include some items of interest to Capital District history nerds? Well, now you do.
This, for instance, which is a trade card and point-of-sale cutout from about 1900, promoting the legendary Cluett, Peabody & Co., one of the several makers of collars who made Troy the Collar City. That they chose to advertise collars with a display of a cuff might be a little confusing, but yes, cuffs were made of detachable cellulloid in those days as well. Want to advertise collars? Show a little cuff.
Cluett, Peabody was the largest, and the longest-lasting of all the collar companies. As with many Troy companies, they went through many forms and names. They started as Maullin & Blanchard, in 1851, at 310 River Street. According to Anderson’s “Landmarks of Rensselaer County,” George B. Cluett had been in charge of the manufacturing department when he was admitted to partnership in 1861, and the company became Maullin & Cluett in 1862. Joseph Maullin died the following year, and George Cluett, J.W.A. Cluett and Charles J. Saxe formed George B. Cluett, Bro. & Co., with a factory at 390 River Street. Saxe left in 1866 and another Cluett, Robert, rose to partner. In 1874 R.S. Norton’s name was added to the firm, and they moved to 74 and 76 Federal Street, where they would remain until destroyed by fire on March 20, 1880. “Before the fire was extinguished a new location was found at 556 Fulton street.” In 1891, Geo. B. Cluett, Bros., & Co merged with Coon & Co., another prominent collar maker, to form Cluett, Coon & Co., which brought along Frederick F. Peabody. In 1899, the company became Cluett, Peabody & Co., and after 48 years of pretty much perpetual name changes, decided to settle down and focus on collars and cuffs.
By the way, the detachable collar was invented by a Troy woman, Hannah Montague.
Dudley Olcott was a member of the Olcott family that owned the Ten Broeck mansion, Arbor Hill. Born in 1838, he attended the Albany Academy and took a course in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and then joined the family business (well, one of them) as an assistant cashier at the Mechanics’ and Farmers’ Bank, and then became cashier before ascending to succeed his father Thomas as president of the Mechanics’ and Farmers’ Bank in 1879. During the Civil War he was a captain in the Twenty-fifth New York Volunteers, made a brevet major and then a lieutenant colonel. He was a member of the board of governors of the Albany Hospital, president of the Albany Cemetery Association, and a trustee of the Home for Aged Men, the Albany Orphan Asylum, and the Albany academy for Girls. He was president of the Park Commission of Albany, enlarging and improving Washington Park. He vacationed every year by going salmon fishing on the Ristigouche River in Canada.
Yes, yes, that’s all fascinating. But the reason we’re talking about Dudley Olcott today is because of a dog. In the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Olcott received an award for showing a Native English Setter Dog. The dogs were shown September 4-8. According to “The Illustrated History of the Centennial Exhibition,” setters were “more largely represented than any other variety of the dog race, and there are many fine, highly-bred animals here. . . Many English setters are exhibited, and some of them not only show the points of good dogs, but have pedigrees of remarkable extent.” In the “Reports on Awards,” Olcott was noted for his American-bred setter dog Guy Mannering, over one and under two years old, which won the Scott special prize for best native English setter at the Centennial Bench Show.
An article in Scribner’s Monthly magazine in November 1876, “Some American Sporting Dogs,” In discussing a variety of breeds, the author specifically described Dudley Olcott’s dog:
As a specimen of the high-bred dog from imported stock, I have chosen “Guy Mannering,” bred by Charles H. Raymond, Esq., of Morris Plains, N.J. This dog is the produce of “Pride of the Border” and “Fairy,” – a pair of celebrated Laveracks, imported by Mr. Raymond from the kennels of the gentleman whose name is given to the strain and who has bred them in purity for more than fifty years.
The setters known as the native English (a misnomer, as native American would be more proper) are generally in color, orange and white, lemon and white, black and white, red and white, liver-colored and white, or all black; although they are to be found of a liver and tan, or in fact of almost any known combinations of the colors mentioned except those of orange and lemon and black.
The writer then went into extreme detail on how such setters are judged in this country, which you can peruse yourself if you care to. Thanks to the Google, we can pretend that we knew that “Guy Mannering (or, The Astrologer)” was a novel by Sir Walter Scott, so the name was less random than it may have seemed. The article only identified the breeder, but the cutline for the illustration of Guy Mannering clearly identified him as Olcott’s dog.
As you can see, he was a good dog, Brent.
Yesterday we noted that one of the awardees in Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition in 1876 was Mrs. C. Hewitt Pfordt of Albany. For embroidery she submitted, she was commended “for great taste in design and workmanship, displaying extraordinary skill.”
A supplement to Scientific American described her submission: “A white silk flag is elegantly worked with the national emblems, by Mrs. C. Hewitt Pfordt, Albany, N.Y.”
That’s all we find in the record of awards about her embroidery work, other than that it hung in Section D of the Women’s Pavilion. It would appear that “C.” stood for “Catherine,” also known as Mrs. Joseph Pfordt. The banner she made was apparently originally created for the St. Jean Baptiste Society. The Albany Daily Evening Times of July 13, 1875, described “A Splendid Embroidered Banner”:
Since the seventh of May last Mrs. Joseph Pfordt has been incessantly at work embroidering a handsome silk banner for the St. Jean Baptiste society, originally intended to be carried by them at the celebration of St. John’s day on the 24th of June, but which, owing to some alterations ordered by the society, could not be finished in time and will be unfurled to the public gaze for the first time on the occasion of the picnic of the St. Jean Baptiste societies of Troy, Cohoes and Albany, at the fair grounds, on the 27th inst. The banner has now reached so near completion that a just and accurate description of it can be given, and having, through the kindness of Mrs. Pfordt been allowed to give it a critical inspection we unhesitatingly say that without doubt it is one of the finest, if not the finest, of embroidered banners in the state. It is seven feet in height and five feet in breadth, the body being composed of heavy white corded silk. Upon the front side is a medallion, one yard by three-quarters of a yard, within which stands a figure of St. John as he is supposed to have appeared in early manhood. In one hand is a staff, from the top of which hangs a scroll containing the words “Ecce Agnus Dei,” while the other is extended gracefully forward as if its owner were proclaiming the coming of Our Lord. In front is a lamb, emblematical of our Savior, and two palm trees, while in the background looms up a range of mountains at a great distance. The design of this medallion, as was also that of the one on the opposite side, was prepared by Mr. E. Prentice Treadwell of this city, and is decidedly complimentary to the taste and skill of that artist. The work of Mrs. Pfordt in reproducing upon the banner Mr. Treadwell’s design was almost equal in difficulty to the preparation of the design itself, since in addition to the necessity of making it life-like and natural the colors had to be selected by the embroiderer, which required the exercise of great care and taste. That Mrs. Pfordt has succeeded in her attempt the results of her labors are a sufficient testimonial. Over the medallion is a scroll bearing the inscription “Society St. Jean Baptist D’Albany, N.Y.,” and underneath it a similar one with “Fondee Le 1er Janvier, 1868.” The upper and lower corners of this side of the banner contain remarkably accurate representations of the famous passion flower and leaves copied from nature.
Upon the opposite side of the banner is a medallion, similar in size to the other, bearing the coat of arms of Canada — a beaver knawing [sic] the roots of a maple tree. Over this is the inscription “Aidons Nous Les Un Les Autres,” and beneath, “L’Union Fait La Force.” On each corner are maple leaves.
The banner, which is worked throughout in silk and chenille, will be trimmed with heavy bullion fringe and braid, while from the bottom points will be suspended heavy bullion tassels. Altogether it is a perfect model of embroidery skill. It was the original intention of the society to send to France to have a banner made, but upon reflection it was determined to encourage home talent, and so the difficult task was awarded to Mrs. Pfordt. That their conclusion was a wise one is evinced by the result, and the work is sufficiently praiseworthy to find a place in Philadelphia at the centennial as an exhibition of Albany talent, taste and skill.
Well, that certainly made it sound like the intent was to present the St. Jean Baptiste Society banner at the Centennial Exhibition, but what little description of what was presented makes it seem like that was not the case. The Chicago Tribune, in its coverage of the Exposition on May 16, 1876, gushed about her work:
There are two remarkable works on exhibition in the Woman’s Pavilion. They both represent in different ways such a vast amount of labor and long-acquiring skill as to produce a feeling of real pain in the mind of the beholder. In the presence of these works, one is overcome rather with awe than with admiration. They are located close together, near the south entrance, on the left. One is a banner nearly 6 feet square. The material is white satin, and upon this ground is wrought the most delicate and ingenious embroidery that I ever saw. There is a fringe around the whole piece, of golden-tinted silk, tastefully and elaborately designed. In the centre is a representation of the Great Seal of the United States, so faithfully worked out as to convey the perfect impression of a fine painting. Of course it is in many colors, yet all rich and harmonious. One side of the banner shows the coat-of-arms, the double eagle, and the shield, with the eternally grand motto, “E Pluribus Unum”; while underneath are twin sprigs of oak, leaved and acorned, forming a graceful half-wreath. The opposite side shows the Pyramid rising out of the desert. Nothing could be more perfect, as a work of art. It was made by C.H. Pfordt, of Albany.
Catherine Pfordt was born about 1840 and was married to Joseph B. Pfordt, a florist (Pfordt’s Florist continued at least through 1922, when it was run by Marcella Pfordt, on Broadway between North Ferry and Thacher) . It appears Catherine died in 1887 and is buried in St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.
Last week we mentioned that Edgar Smith’s dry air refrigerator, a product of Albany manufacture, was featured at the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, what was essentially the first world’s fair held in the United States and a celebration of the tremendous progress, particularly industrial and agricultural progress, the young country had made in the course of its first century, and the extremely promising future that events seemed to portend. Thousands of items of manufacture were presented at the Exhibition; of those, hundreds were singled out for awards by an international jury – the awards were given in categories like “Clothing, Furs, India-Rubber Goods, Etc.” and “Agricultural Machines, Implements of Agriculture, etc.” Smith’s refrigerator (“Will keep ice Twenty Days, and fresh meat Two Weeks”) was a long way from the only item featured at the Centennial Exhibition.
The firms below were all recognized with awards – after their names are the things they were awarded for; in some cases, Burr’s “Memorial of the International Exhibition” gave us some idea of what else they had shown.
Albany was represented by:
Newton and Co.: fire brick linings for stoves, ranges, and heaters. They were on Rathbone Street, and here’s their great letterhead from 1863.
Mrs. Treadwell and Co.: seal skins (though the reference to Mrs. Treadwell is confusing; the company was well-known as George C. and then George H. Treadwell).
Graves, Bull and Co: shoe lasts and patterns.
Thomas Feary [sic: Fearey] and Son: shoes. We’ve spoken of Thomas Fearey, makers of the Hatch flexible shoe, before.
Smith Refrigerator Co.: dry air refrigerator, “containing fruits and meats that have been long kept.”
Jason Gould [sic: Goold] and Co.: sleighs. The Goold family was renowned for making the Albany sleigh, the very model of Santa’s sleigh, and after the horseless carriage took over, they got into auto bodies and existed until 1951. they showed sleighs, carriages, and coaches on runners, seven in all worth $8000.
Henry Q. Hawley, gas heating and cooking furnaces and water motors. We couldn’t find anything about Hawley, until we found a “Memorial of the International Exhibition” that said that Hawley was a Philadelphia agent for the actual company, Henry A. Haskell. The engine was “a motor that costs $40, to run sewing machines, &c., by the supply through the pipes of city water works.” The gas apparatus, ascribed to Hawley, was a furnace for heating and cooking by gas. “Cost, two cents an hour. Burns without flame and does not poison the air.”
P.K. Dederick and Co.: perpetual baling press. Dederick’s company was the Albany Agricultural and Machine Works, a massive factory in Tivoli Hollow. Three sizes of the baling press were shown: hand, horse, and steam. “The largest will press twenty tons of hay per day, requiring to operate six horse power. In a building located east of Agricultural Hall is a large display of farm wagons, portable steam engines. All the machines are well built.”
Wheeler, Millick and Co.: horse hay rake and straw preserving rye thresher. Also given as Wheeler & Melick Co., New York State Agricultural Works. They were established in 1830 (according to the Memorial), employed 125 men and had capital of $186,000. They exhibited “threshing machines, one-dog power, double and single horse powers, a rye thresher that leaves the straw straight for binding, tread and lever powers, a combined thresher and cleaner, thresher and shaker, and forms. The entire display has been sold to the Japanese Government.”
William A. Wood Co.: reaping machine.
Charles Fasoldt: astronomical tower clock. He exhibited “very handsome and accurate astronomical and tower clocks.”
E.D. [Erastus Dow] Palmer: sculpture. To say the least.
Regents of the University of N.Y.: Full set of reports and documents (in the category of Education and Science).
Dudley Olcott: Native English Setter Dog (who received a special award – he was a good dog, Brent).
Mrs. C. Hewitt Pfordt: embroidery. We’ll speak more of her soon.
Troy was represented by:
The Albany and Rensselaer Iron and Steel Company was demonstrating its Bessemer steel and wrought iron rails, bars, forgings, axles, spikes, nails and horseshoes. This was the company of Amasa J. Parker. They also showed “a fine array of rails, twisted to show their quality.”
Henry Burden (though it was typed as Burgden) and Sons were awarded for wrought iron bars and horse and mule shoes, and for its horseshoe machine model. We’ve written about Henry Burden quite a bit.
The Henry J. Seymour Chair Co.: chairs.
E. Waters: Paper cans for kerosene oil, and of course paper boats. The “Memorial” said “The firm has been established about nine years, and employs 15 men. Their exhibit consists of one six-oared coxwain gig, forty-six feet six inches long, twenty-five inches wide, and weighs 195 pounds. Value, $350. One four-oared shell, thirty-eight feet long by sixteen inches wide, weighs 78 pounds. Value, $260. Double shell, thirty-four feet long and fourteen inches wide, weighs 39, and is worth $160. One single shell, twenty-eight feet long by twelve inches beam, weighs 30 pounds. Value, $115. Also, a single scull, twenty-six feet long by eleven and a quarter inches beam, weighs 20-1/4 pounds. One Adirondack gig. All the boats are made of paper and furnished with the latest improvements. In all the races in the United States this year, the winning boats were made by this firm. They also exhibit kerosene oil cans and camp stools made of paper. Also, a water-tight joint, in which the tongue is made of prepared paper, and fits into a groove, where it swells when touched by water.”
Harrison and Kellogg: castings of malleable iron and coach wrenches. They also showed gearing and screw-wrenches.
Ludlow Valve Manufacturing Co.: sliding stop valves and fire hydrants. Ludlow had a lovely letterhead. They showed a large water valve of 36 inches, and a full set of small brass valves.
Empire Portable Forge Co.: portable forge.
Albert L. Betts: wire machine. He was showing ready-made wire fencing.
W. and L.E. Gurley: transits, levels, compasses, etc. Not sure why we’ve never written about Gurley before – they may be the only area business that exhibited at the Centennial Exposition that is still in existence. They showed “Civil Engineers’ and Surveyors’ instruments exhibited in a neat room in the aisle. Value of exhibit $15,000. Hands employed, 114. Capital used, $350,000.”
Swett, Quimby and Perry: graphic parlor stove and Empire heating range.
Fuller, Warren and Co.: stoves, furnaces, ranges, etc. One of the area’s major stove manufacturers, Fuller, Warren lasted until 1951. They also had operations in Chicago, Cleveland and New York at the time of the Exposition. “The building containing this exhibit is located on Fountain avenue, west of Machinery Hall. It has the sides of glass, thus affording light sufficient to minutely examine the concrete. The decorations are chaste and elaborate, and make one of the most attractive edifices on the grounds. In the interior are shown their theaters, ranges, cooking and parlor stoves of every description. Upon many of these the most prominent parts have been nickel plated. Several of the stoves were kept running during the entire exhibition, so that they might be easily understood by visitors. To make and continue this display the firm have been to an enormous expense, though the praise elicited from all, and the favor with which they have been received have partially reimbursed them.”
West Troy, now known as Watervliet, was represented by:
James Roy and Co.: shawls. They showed “Woolen cloths and shawls in profusion, and very elegant.”
J.M. Jones and Co.: street car for two horses. It was described in the Memorial as a “Handsomely finished street car.”
Schenectady, not yet really an industrial town, had only one representative awarded in the exhibition: G. Westinghaus [sic] and Co., showing their horse and steam powered threshing machines. George Westinghouse definitely left his mark on Schenectady and was very well regarded in the agricultural implement world. His son became just a little more famous.
Cohoes was represented by:
William Harrabin: anti-friction top rollers. The Memorial listed him as “Wm. T. Horrobin,” and said he was a maker of top rollers and other appliances for cotton factories, pipe cutting and threading machines, transverse wheel card grinder, miniature knitting machines, and Snow’s standard water-wheel governor. They had been 16 years in business and employed 150 hands, with capital of $200,000.
Star Knitting Co.: underwear. Star was one of about 17 mills running in Cohoes at the time.
Campbell and Clute: upright rotary knitting machine.
One of the founders of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Amos Eaton, probably doesn’t get sufficient credit for developing new instructional methods relating to the practical application of science, using the radical method of learning by doing, having students experiment and deliver lectures. His initial aim in creating the Rensselaer School was to teach the teachers, and Eaton’s reputation as a speaker on natural philosophy (now the sciences) drew students from distant Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as closer New Yorkers and New Englanders, to the new institute in Troy. The school was a success from the start. In addition to a number of firsts, such as granting the first civil engineering degrees in the nation, Rensselaer may also have been the first college led by someone who had done hard time: Amos Eaton spent nearly five years in prison for forgery.
Eaton was born in Chatham in Columbia in 1776 to a prosperous farm family, and he early on showed an interest in nature and science, performing land surveys at the age of 16. Despite that, after studying natural philosophy at Williams College and dabbling in teaching, he took up the study of law and became a practicing lawyer and land agent, while continuing to develop his knowledge of the sciences, particularly botany.
The “Biographical Record of the Officers and Graduates of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1824-1886,” describes Eaton’s progression delicately:
“He was admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, at Albany, October 30, 1802, and soon after established himself as a lawyer and land agent in Catskill, N.Y. Here he remained several years, his position affording him good opportunities for cultivating his growing taste for the natural sciences. In May, 1810, he made in Catskill, it is believed, the first attempt in this country at a popular course of lectures on botany (compiling for the use of his class a small elementary treatise,) for which he was highly complimented by his former teacher, Dr. Hosack, as ‘first in the field,’ saying ‘you have adopted the true system of education, and very properly address yourself to the senses and the memory.’ Here we find Mr. Eaton, at this early day, adopting that mode of instruction which rendered him so pre-eminently successful in inspiring young men with that enthusiasm which assured success.
Owing to a concurrence of circumstances which our limits will not allow us to explain, Mr. Eaton now found his love for the details of his profession diminishing, and his interest in the natural sciences fast growing upon him; and he therefore resolved to abandon the practice of the law, and prepare himself to become an efficient laborer in the congenial pursuits of science.”
So, a thing happened that diminished his love for the details of his profession. That thing was prison. Every web source reports it pretty much the same way: while working as a land agent and surveyor in Catskill in 1811, some form of a land dispute resulted in Eaton being imprisoned for forgery for nearly five years. He was accused by a client of having forged a property release; some articles suggested that it was somehow a political frameup (although there’s little other evidence of any political activity on his part) and that he received less than a fair trial. A review of an Eaton biography in the Knickerbocker News in 1941 says that he served more than four years at Newgate state prison in Greenwich Village, New York City, and that he had received a conditional pardon from Governor Tompkins in 1815 before being fully pardoned by Governor DeWitt Clinton in 1816 (or perhaps 1817). In the conditional pardon, he was exiled from New York State, so he studied botany and mineralogy at Yale College starting in 1815, and then went back to Williams College in 1817 as a lecturer. In 1818, came back to New York, started touring around as a visiting lecturer, and assisted in creating the Troy Lyceum of Natural History.
He then connected with Stephen Van Rensselaer, who engaged him in an agricultural and geological survey of Rensselaer Manor, and that led to a geological survey of the route of the Erie Canal, where he was assisted by a young Joseph Henry. Eventually, Eaton raised the idea of creating a new kind of school to the Patroon, where Eaton would train students in the application of science to the common purposes of life. And the Rensselaer School was born, in 1824.
(There is an article that may explain the DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton connection, if you’re a subscriber to the Journal of American History or you have a spare $40 lying around to view it for one day.)