Author Archives: carljohnson

Electric pumps? Excellent idea.

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Imagine a time (and that time was 1906) when people had to be convinced that having electric pumps to supply water for firefighting was a good idea. In case the advantages over handpumps or getting a steam-operated pump up to pressure weren’t obvious, The Insurance Press in 1906 felt the need to print the New York Edison Company’s thoughts on why electricity was a good idea:

Claims Made for Their Efficiency in Fighting Fires.

Referring to the advantages of electric pumps for fire protection, the New York Edison Company claims:

“The electric pump is the only apparatus through
which it is possible to carry out any predetermined method for the
instantaneous supply of water during the earlier stages of any fire.
Plans regarding the organization of a boiler-room force may not be
followed; fires may be banked, re miring some time to get the full
pressure of steam; or the people in charge may be required, at the time
of the fire, to lend their assistance in putting it out. All this means
that the important matter of supplying water under the highest possible
head is being neglected.

“Not so with the electric pump. It requires no
human presence, no high-pressure steam, nothing but the fall of water
below a fixed point, in either the pressure or gravity tank, to provide
an inexhaustible supply of water for instantaneous application in
extinguishing the fire.

“Properly installed, such a pump, receiving its
power from generators located miles away, should continue in operation
long after it has been possible for any human being to remain in the
building. A large number of these pumps located over a given area would
be the source of protection, not only to the building to which they are
directly attached, but, in the event of necessity arising, would aid in
the suppression of fire in adjoining buildings.

“Circumstances are readily conceivable, under
which they might prevent a very widespread conflagration, and it would
be unusual, where so installed, to find that they did not greatly
restrict the fire losses.

“The insurance and
building laws of New York City permit the installation of electric
pumps on a par with steam-pumps. Formerly, steam only was specified,
But, keeping abreast of the improvements in this apparatus, the city and insurance authorities have both agreed that they were justified in making the change.”

Family empire, or drug wars?

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McClure Wholesale Druggists.pngMcClure drugs.png

In the 1858 Albany City Directory, McClures of one form or another are all over the Albany drug trade. And by drugs, we also mean paints, oils, varnishes, alcohol, camphene, “burning fluid,” etc. Whether these likely adjacent businesses on State Street were friendly extensions of a family business or warring offshoots of a family feud, there’s no way to know.
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Steam Scouring – In New York Style!

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Steam Scouring

1858. No doubt, there was no need to explain to the audience of the day exactly what made steam scouring in the New York style. (Or perhaps it was the fancy dying that was done in the manner of Gotham.) It was certainly a different time if New York prices were considered an advantage. Well, E. McGregor of 40 Orange Street must have thought so.

Positively Fire-Proof!

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Ten Eyck Hotel

There’s much more of a story to tell about the Ten Eyck than I can fit in this week. Unlike many fire-proof hotels in these parts, it appears to never have burned. It was one of Albany’s grand hotels, designed by architect H. Neill Wilson, who also built the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and a number of great estates of the Berkshires. It was expanded greatly in size from this appearance, and became part of the Sheraton chain. So, of course, like all grand things, it was destroyed in the ’70s to make way for a brick monstrosity. At least it’s still a downtown hotel.
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Peoples Line Steamboats: Now Two Great Choices!

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1862 Schenectady Directory Peoples Line.png

The People’s Line ran steamboats up and down the Hudson from Albany to New York and back every day (except Sundays, at least as late as 1862, when this ad ran in the Schenectady directory). The Isaac Newton, built in 1846,  was noted as the first ship on the Hudson to use gas for illumination. The New World originally ran from the terminus of the Hudson River Railroad at Poughkeepsie down the rest of the way to New York, but then was converted into a night boat to do the full run of the river.

For more on these steam boats, check out this page.

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Mother’s little helper

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I’ve previously lamented the loss of the word “apothecary.” Here’s another one, S.T. & A.M. Smith Apothecaries, which sold both drugs and medicines. They had all the finest patent medicines of the day, not least of which were Dr. F.G. Johnson’s French Female Pills (I’m guess non-French females used them as well). Aromatic coated pills and adhesive salve, all in one place. Their principal depot was at 49 Washington Avenue. Auxiliary depots are not mentioned.

Hair Jewelry

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I would love to have seen some of the creations of Theodore Yauman, artist in hair jewelry. In 1858 he was at 580 Broadway, opposite the Delavan House, one of the leading hotels of the day.

Jack of all trades

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John Rodgers Machine Shop.png

In 1858, John Rodgers continued to manufacture with increased facility, at his old establishment, steam and fire engines, pumps, boilers, heaters, and machinery in general. And tobacco cutting engines, presses, and stem rollers. And he did iron turning and planing.

Lumber Street is now Livingston Avenue, replaced by the railroad line that crosses the river at the Livingston Avenue Bridge.

Practice your scales

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J. Maxwell, Jr. sold scales of every description from his store at 136 South Pearl Street in Albany, comprising in part, counter scales, druggists’ scales, confectioners’ scales, grain measurers’ scales, butchers’ scales, platform scales, jewelers’ scales, post-office scales, and bank scales. Bank scales? Guess they were weighing gold. 1858.