Author Archives: carljohnson

Troy-built Starbucks

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Starbuck Iron Works

I suspect that, armed with a little bit of information, one could find bits of Troy’s manufacturing history in every state of the union. Here from the Library of Congress is a view of the base of a cast iron tower on the Bidwell Bar Suspension Bridge & Stone Toll House, near Lake Oroville in Butte County, California. The casting was made by the Starbucks Iron Works of Troy for what was, in 1856, the first suspension bridge west of the Mississippi. Apparently the structure was originally at the fork of Feather River, then moved to the Oroville site. When the site was inundated for a new reservoir in the 1960s, the 100-year-old structure was dismantled and warehoused, then reassembled in 1977 overlooking the reservoir.

The Starbuck brothers were pioneers in Troy’s stove manufacturing industry in the 1820s, and it is they for whom Starbuck Island is named.  That’s the island that the Green Island Bridge actually connects to; Green Island itself is no longer an island.

Follow the link for contemporary views of this lovely bridge, along with its full history.


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Freihofer's receipt

Everyone in the Capital District remembers Freihofer’s. In my mother’s day and before, they were the major home-delivery bakery. You put the Freihofer’s sign in your front window and the truck (and before that, the horse-drawn wagon) would stop and bring fresh bread, cookies and cakes right to your door. Even when I was a child in the early ’60s, the Freihofer truck still came by. At that time they were also famous for a local children’s television program featuring Freddie Freihofer. Every child dreamed of appearing on that show. Freihofer’s still exists, but no longer as a family owned bakery. Now the name may be as well known for the nationally prominent women’s 5K road race as for their breads and cookies. There’s no more home delivery, alas.

This receipt, like some of last week’s entries, was from my grandfather’s short-lived drive-in restaurant in Aqueduct.

The Silver Wrinkle is our finest receptacle

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Funeral receipts 001The contract (or, in its own parlance, “approval memorandum”) for my great grandmother’s casket, presumably supplied by the Mancini Funeral Home in Amsterdam. Mancini wasn’t big on branding his correspondence, apparently. The woman buried in it is something of a mystery to us, even though she was my mother’s grandmother and alive and living nearby until I was three. We don’t know her maiden name or even, for certain, her national origin. She apparently never learned much (or perhaps any) English, and wasn’t the warm and engaging old country grandmother type. More the scary old lady who sat in the corner and never said anything type, from what my mother can remember. This receipt is the only evidence we have for where she is buried.

Informal funeral home is informal.

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Funeral receipts 002
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the lovely and highly detailed receipt for my great grandfather’s funeral, from Schenectady’s Baxter Funeral Home.
In that same year, in a different line of the family, my great grandmother died. As seen here, the Mancini Funeral Home (presumably in Amsterdam, though I didn’t look it up), took a decidedly more casual approach to its receipting obligations. The “from the desk of” clip art is typical of its day. Forty dollars for a solemn high mass: bargain! But don’t be fooled by that total price. As we’ll see tomorrow, casket not included.

Schenectady Gazette

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Schenectady Gazette receipt 2
So while we’re enjoying a trip through my grandfather’s receipts folder, let’s have a look at this stylish invoice from the Schenectady Gazette. This is his second notice to pay for a classified ad in the Gazette in 1957. There’s a lovely cut of the Gazette building (alas, now gone), and the gentle but firm reminder that “This advertisement was charged to you as an accommodation, and prompt payment is expected. May we have your remittance in the next day or so. Thank you.” No business today asks for anything in the next day or so.

Schenectady Union-Star

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Schenectady Union receipt
Almost exactly 54 years ago, my grandfather took out a classified ad in the Union-Star, Schenectady’s evening newspaper Most likely the ad was for his drive-in restaurant near Aqueduct..
The Union-Star shut down in 1969, theoretically becoming part of the Albany Knickerbocker News (which became known as the Knickerbocker News-Union Star). I don’t think most Schenectadians cared much for getting their news from an Albany newspaper. The Knick News closed down in 1988. The Union-Star’s offices and printing plant, located on Clinton Street, right next to the Schenectady Savings Bank, were torn down almost immediately after the paper closed to make a parking lot for the bank.

Ter Bush and Powell

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Ter bush and powellTer Bush and Powell was once one of the most well-known insurance firms in Schenectady and surrounding areas. They had offices throughout New York State. No more. Whatever is left of it is now part of a company headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, just like everything else. (And if you think all that headquartering makes Wilmington a shining city on the Christina River, I can tell you different.) The Ter Bush and Powell name was unceremoniously dumped in 1984, after only 78 years of prominence. And this ghost sign, which for all I know may be gone by now too.

Gnadendorff. Again with the Gnadendorff.

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Gnadendorff stained glass 1Remember Hermann Gnadendorff, whose Schenectady apothecary was mentioned back in September? Well, sometime after he took an ad in the 1862 Schenectady directory, he removed to 14 Second Street in Troy, where he made an impression on the city that remains to this day, if you know to look for it. The handsome facade of the building, now occupied by Nicoll & McChesney Insurance, still includes a set of stained glass panels inset above the main windows on either side of the door celebrating the name of H. Gnadendorff. We know that he was working from this address by 1879, when he was listed as a member of the Rensselaer County Medical Society, and still there in 1884 when he was noted as a member of the New York State Pharmaceutical Association. He was still practicing pharmacy in 1895, when his visit to New York was mentioned in “The Pharmaceutical Era.” Hermann was a native of Prussia who was naturalized in 1856.

Gnadendorff sign 2If only the merchant princes of today were so proud of their businesses that they would leave a legacy of lasting beauty. If only there were merchant princes.

Well, at least we have big box stores to sell us cheap plastic crap. That’s gotta be something.