Author Archives: carljohnson

Barney’s EOM Clearance

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In 1973, H.S. Barney’s venerable establishment was also lurching to its death. The last of the great Schenectady department stores still west of the canal (Erie Boulevard), it still retained an air of down-at-the-heels class from its days serving the carriage trade, but single-store department stores were on their way out, and downtown department stores were even more on their way out. This ad would be Barney’s final spring E.O.M. clearance.

I would love to see a Barney card.

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Wallace’s Good Buys

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As mentioned before, downtown Schenectady’s landmark Wallace’s Department Store, closed at the end of 1973. The store  was significant in my personal history, as well, and I spent endless hours there in my youth, seemingly an eternity, while my mother fussed over fabrics.

This is one of the final Wallace’s ads. I’m sure a good chunk of Christmas that year came from the clearance of the old store.

By the way, I’d wager almost anything that the headline font was achieved with some form of press type, such as Letraset. It’s an astonishing example of poor kerning that only technology made possible.

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Wallace’s Department Store

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Just because, it’s 1973 week. Wallaces 99th anniversary sale.png What was happening in the Electric City a mere 39 years ago? Well, Wallace’s was holding its 99th anniversary sale. It would be its last; the store closed in the final days of 1973. As venerated Schenectady historian Larry Hart wrote back in 1996, the store was in a way much older than that, having descended from a business that began in 1822 down on Ferry Street.  It began as William McCamus Dry Goods in 1822; it moved to a new building on State Street, still west of the canal (the Schenectady Savings and Loan location), in 1840. In 1874 the business was sold and became Thomas H. Reeves and Company, and later was known as Reeves-Vedder. It is from this sale that Wallace’s traced its anniversary. The store built a sparkling new building way uptown in 1892, between North Center (now Broadway) and Jay streets, and in 1900 became Reeves-Luffman. In 1909, Andrew Wallace of the Consolidated Dry Goods Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, consolidated Reeves-Luffman into his chain of stores and renamed it Wallace’s, at the same time doubling its size with an addition to its building. And so it stood for another 64 years until the terrible collapse of downtown retail, which took out Wallace’s, H.S. Barney, W.T. Grant’s and Kresge’s, all in the same year.

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It’s 1973 Week on Hoxsie!

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For no reason whatsoever, it’s going to be 1973 week here on Hoxsie! What was going on at this time of year a mere 39 years ago? We’ll have plenty of local history to cover, but first, let’s take a moment to remember where we were when we first heard that there would be price ceilings on meat. This is from the Schenectady Gazette, March 31, 1973.

As hard as it is to imagine an effort that would send Internal Revenue agents across the land in search of stores that were selling meat above their posted prices, it’s even harder to imagine that in 1973, the major media were still referring to “the housewife:”

The administration made clear that despite its enforcement mechanism it is counting on the housewife for success of the ceiling price program. She is the one who can make sure there are no violations, a spokesman said.

Lower on the page? Some stuff about Watergate. But the meat came first.

Something you Ought to Read

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Pine Hills.pngAs this ad from The New Albany in 1891 proclaims, there is no better city on this continent to live in, all things considered, than Albany, and if you intend to make it your permanent home, here is Something you Ought to Read.

What follows is a glowing recommendation of the benefits of buying a property in Pine Hills from the Albany Land Improvement and Building Company. And who wouldn’t want to live there at the convergence of two magnificent thoroughfares, where there is pure air, abundant shade, smooth lawns, asphalt pavements, perfect drainage, detached residents, and rapid transit?

“Pine Hills is one of the distinguishing and remarkable features of the NEW ALBANY . . . This is no forced boom, no straw sales, no fictitious valuation.” Strange to say that this wasn’t just sales talk, as Pine Hills has proven to be one of Albany’s enduring neighborhoods, looking and feeling today very much like it did a century ago. Minus the streetcars, of course.

Two things about this ad that you don’t see in advertising much anymore: an admonition to “talk it over with your wife,” and the word “ought.”

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Cluett, Coon & Co.

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From Scribner’s magazine in 1890, we have this stylish ad for Cluett’s collars and cuffs for gentlemen. Your choice of the Penokee or Natillo collar, not to mention full dress Monarch shirts in flannel, cheviot, and madras.

I sometimes wish shirts still had detachable collars; it’s the first thing to go on a white dress shirt. Why did we give up this marvel of innovation?

 

Cluett, Coon & Co. was one of a number of versions of what would become the famous Cluett, Peabody & Co.

Seneca Ray Stoddard

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Nims and Knight were successors to Merriam, Moore & Co., who published a variety of things including the famous Franklin Globes from the historic (now, not then) Cannon Building in Troy. Among the offerings of Nims and Knight, as advertised in Scribner’s magazine in 1890, were a variety of books depicting the beauties of the Adirondacks through the now-legendary photography of Seneca Ray Stoddard.

No one was more important in both documenting and promoting the 19th-century Adirondack wilderness experience than Stoddard. It’s still my hope that someday, with a little luck, I’ll learn that a face gazing out of one of his photographs belongs to one of my forebears, who were among the very first Adirondack guides.

Several of Stoddard’s books are available on Google Books, including “The Adirondacks.”

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A Day in Albany

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From the “Albany Tourist’s Handy Guide,” by John D. Whish, 1900:

A Day in Albany
For the leisurely traveler, a day or more in Albany offers many pleasures. If a general sight-seer, he can walk about a bit — probably to the best advantage on Broadway, State and Pearl streets — which will give an idea of the city’s business life; continuing with a short stroll across Eagle street, through Academy Park and up Elk street which is the society quarter, going on by St. Agnes school and crossing over to Washington avenue past the Cathedral of All Saints, and thus to the Capitol. It will take an hour or two to see the great building in a general way and a guide is desirable. When the Capitol has been “done,” the walk may be continued over Eagle street to see the Executive mansion and the beautiful Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Returning and passing down State street, another hour may be spent in Geological Hall, and before luncheon, if the day be not too warm, a fine birds-eye view of the city may be had from the roof of the hotel Ten Eyck. After luncheon, a ride in a Pine Hills car will show the residence beauties of the city as mentioned in “One Hour.”  A stroll through Washington Park will repay anyone and the King fountain and Burns monument should by all means be seen.

If possessed of literary tastes much time can be spent among the rare books and manuscripts in the State library. If a collector of art, books or curios, proper credentials will open to view treasures nowhere else to be found. In fact, the individual bent can be gratified in Albany to almost any extent imaginable. For the artist there are the studios, the scenery of the near-by mountains and the beauties of the cemeteries. For the collector are offered many things according to his taste. For the engineer there are the electrical power houses of the street railway, the Watervliet arsenal and the great filter system of the city water plant. The literary man can find rare treasures in many a private collection. The scientist may visit the State museum, the observatory or the laboratory and collections of the Medical College.

In other words, to all strangers within her gates the Ancient City of Albany offers congenial surroundings and attractions to each after his kind. Even the poet is not neglected, for one of the many beautiful drives leads directly to the “Vale of Tawasentha,” made famous by Longfellow’s Hiawatha, but better known to the resident populace by the prosaic name of “Normanskill.”

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The Gurney — they love it in Pine Hills!

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Gurney heater.pngIf you live in one of the fine Pine Hills homes built by the Albany Land Improvement and Building Co. somewhere around 1890, when streetcar travel started to make the western reaches of Albany attractive to the middle class, I’d guess there’s a good chance your original boiler and radiator was a Gurney. William J. Caine of 27 Pine Avenue, who just happened to be the superintendent of the company, felt it his duty to inform the Gurney company that after using it two years, he hardly knew how to express himself, “as it combines all the good qualities NECESSARY TO MAKE A FAMILY HAPPY.” A child of fifteen could run it! Central heat, while no longer quite a novelty, was certainly a comfort that the older generation had done without and now valued greatly.

No doubt your boiler was long since scrapped (and an entire battleship made from it, by the looks of it), but there’s a good chance there are still some Gurney radiators up in Pine Hills.

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