Ransom & Rathbone Stove-Works

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Ransom and Rathbone Stove Works
Albany and Troy were once the stove capitals of the United States. The growth of iron works and the ability to transport goods by river, canal and, later, rail positioned the cities perfectly for the time when growing wealth in the expanding nation meant more and more homes heated and cooked with stoves rather than an inefficient open hearth. One study found that over the 130 year history of the stove industry here, there were 349 recorded manufacturers in the two cities. Ransom & Rathbone was one of the larger enterprises, which operated under a multitude of names from its establishment in 1830 as Hermance, Rathbone & Co. Eventually Ransom and Rathbone went their separate ways, creating two separate companies. Rathbone’s cupola furnace was one of the first in the country for making stove castings, and by 1883 it was melting 90 tons of iron a day, producing 75,000 stoves a year. It employed 1350 men at that point.

Among the other stove companies in Albany: McCoy & Quackenboss, Learned & Thacher (guess who the intersecting streets were named for), The Albany Co-Operative Stove Company, and the Temperance Furnace. The Albany Institute of History and Art occasionally shows its fine collection of Albany- and Troy-built stoves.

For more on the location of the Ransom works, click here.

Media market, 1844

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Newspapers Published in Albany 1844

In the 1840s, Albany was the ninth most populous city in the nation. Its position at the terminus of the Erie Canal made it a vital connection between the growing west and the cities of the Eastern seaboard. Local politicians played an outsized role in national policy, and as has been noted before, there was very little on offer in Boston or New York that couldn’t also be found within a few blocks of Broadway in Albany.

Though it was a big city, there were only 15,000 people living here (the entire county was only 33,000 people). And yet there were at that time six daily newspapers and a smattering of less frequent publications. Of those, two had exceptional longevity. The Albany Argus, first published in the Exchange Building (still standing at Broadway and State) moved to its own building in the newspaper district, just off the market, which is also still standing. Begun as a semiweekly in 1813, it went daily in 1824 and ran until 1921. For a time, publisher Crowell served as State Printer, a notable plum and an irritation to rival publisher/politician Thurlow Weed. Even after the paper ceased publication, the printing part of the business continued further up Broadway in a magnificent Marcus Reynolds building that stands today waiting for reuse. (The building is currently on Historic Albany Foundation’s Endangered Historic Resources List.)

The Albany Evening Journal is no less storied, and also left a mark on Albany architecture — the southern end of the SUNY Administration Building was originally the home of the Evening Journal, and is decorated with notable names from the history of printing. I can’t do justice to Thurlow Weed in just a few paragraphs — his role in the formation of the Republican Party and the nomination of Abraham Lincoln is worth a chapter itself. He was an old-school party boss and kingmaker who ran his newspaper as a party organ, the way it was done in those days. In addition, Samuel F.B. Morse asserted that the Evening Journal first proposed the word “telegram” to describe his new form of communication in 1852. Many articles that attained national prominence were first published in the Albany Evening Journal. The paper ran from 1830 to about 1925, when it merged with the newer Evening News and, I believe, only lasted a short time after that.

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Joseph Gall, Optician

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Joseph Gall Optician

Conveniently located opposite the bath house, Joseph Gall (J.G. to his continental friends) was another merchant of the “respectfully informing” school. Now I would expect that an optician of the day would, as indicated, have on hand gold and silver spectacles, and that he would attend to repair every optical instrument, and that he would direct his particular attention to the construction and adaptation of spectacles for the various defects of the vision. And okay, perhaps thermometers and barometers are a little out there, but he is a man of science and instrumentation, so perhaps that wasn’t an unusual sideline for an optician. But sacarometers? I’ll admit, I had to look that one up. And if in 1844 sacarometers were being used, as Wikipedia would indicate, primarily by winemakers and brewers to measure sugar in solution, then perhaps J.G. was attending both to permanent and more transient defects of vision.

What is this spam of which you speak?

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It may well be that back in Mrs. Dundon’s day, if you wanted to pollute a neighborhood with a commercial message, you needed cash to buy the paste. But spam, unbelievably, is free. At least to the sender. To those of us who manage multiple websites, it eats up a surprising amount of our time and attention. I check on my comments a number of ways, depending on which is convenient, so every time I get a pending comment that’s spam, I get it on my site, through an RSS feed, and through email. And then I have to clear it from all those pathways. Well, lately the bills being posted have been voluminous, even more annoying than usual, and they’re taking up a lot of my time. So for a little while at least, I’m having to turn off comments here on Hoxsie.Like the schoolmarm said, it’s a shame a few bad apples have to ruin it for everybody.

I’ll put them back up in a couple of weeks and see if the attacks stop, but for now if you have something to say and want to reach me, click on the “Contact Me” link.

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The Banks of Albany

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Banks In Albany.png

As I’ve ranted before, banks were once truly the backbone of the community, and every growing city was proud of its lending institutions. They regularly reported their assets and how much they had invested in the community. In 1844, the busy city of Albany had eight banks, all conveniently located in pretty much the same place, down at the end of State Street.

If you know any Albany history, the names of some of those bank presidents should look very familiar. The Ten Eycks and Olcotts were among the oldest families in Albany. Railroad tycoon Erastus Corning did more than a little banking (and mayoring, though not as much as as his great grandson did). And we have Rufus King to thank for the Moses Fountain in Washington Park.

Albany Medical College

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Albany Medical College.pngThe Albany Medical College was chartered Feb. 16, 1839; “the charter empowers the trustees to confer the degree of doctor of medicine on the recommendation of the faculty, and three of the curators. The college edifice which is of brick, three stories high, 120 feet front by 50 feet deep, belongs with its grounds, to the city of Albany, and has been leased to the trustees of the college for twenty years at the nominal rent of $1 per year. It is very eligibly located in Eagle street, a short distance from the capitol.”

The hospital’s “fitting up” was defrayed by voluntary contributions from the citizens of Albany. Then the Legislature appropriated $15,000 to improve the building, museum, and library — “the museum and apparatus are now as complete and extensive as in any other institution in the United States.”

And if in 1844 you were interested in visiting the medical college’s museum, you were in luck: “Strangers are admitted to the museum on application to the Janitor.”

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Albany Female Academy

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Albany Female Academy

Another of the gems that is no longer there, the Albany Female Academy was on North Pearl Street. According to Wilson’s Albany City Guide, “This beautiful and classic edifice was erected for the purposes of a Female Academy in the year 1834, and is one of the greatest ornaments of our city . . . It is beautifully located in North Pearl, the most pleasant street in the city. The Academy was founded in the year 1814, being 30 years ago, so that a majority of our ladies received their education at this institution.”

Originally known as the Union School when founded on Montgomery Street, just north of Columbia, in 1814, its subscribers agreed to pay Ebenezer Foot 24 dollars for each scholar. It grew to 70 students in just two years, and  became the Albany Female Academy in 1821.

There’s an excellent history of the Albany Female Academy, including its connection to the Dudleys, the Olcotts of Ten Broeck Mansion, and other 19th century Albany luminaries. And, oh yes, that other Albany Academy, too — just click here.

The first tuition-free public alternative, Albany High School, didn’t open until 1866.

By the way, if you had family or friends in the Albany Female Academy’s class of 1867, you might want to check out this eBayer’s collection of class portraits.

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Pease’s Leviathan Variety Store

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Peases Leviathan Variety StoreThe copy in Wilson’s Albany City Guide of 1844 says:

“For richness and extensive variety of novelties, combining the Beautiful, the Useful and the Ornamental, this establishment excels any in town. Mr. P. has many fancy articles which are surpassingly rich; exceeding anything in elegance, that we have ever thought, dreamed or read of. All the powers of the Parisian artist seem to have been brought into requisition to cater for the establishment. Ladies rich portable writing desks, gentlemen and ladies toilet cases, gentlemens’ walking sticks with an umbrella folded inside, so as to answer for the purpose of a walking stick and umbrella, and every variety of walking canes. The ladies will find every thing pertaining to their toilets, with rich bead purses, workbags, &c. To the rich Berlin iron goods we would cite their special notice. His perfumeries exceed any assortment in the city, having over 100 varieties of different extracts. The Odd Fellows will find every variety of the different emblematic devices used at their lodges, with tassels, fringes, stars, bullions, &c. A rich assortment of French Jewelry and steel ornaments. Gentlemen will find every variety of soaps, &c. for their toilets, such as dressing combs, brushes, tooth brushes, curling tongs, tweezers, &c.; toilet mirrors in great variety. His assortment never has been so rich and desirable as at the present time, and the facilities he is able at all times to command, enable him to put them to his customers at much less than former prices, at wholesale and retail.

“Mr. Pease also executes Wood Engraving in a superior style; specimens may be seen all over this city, as well as some in this work.”

Indeed, Pease was a hell of a wood cutter, and he is widely acknowledged as having produced the first machine printed Christmas cards in the U.S., sometime around 1850.

I cover the waterfront

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Waterfront businesses
Albany was always a river city. In 1844, the city itself still didn’t stray too far west of the river, and the movement of people and goods up and down the Hudson, not to mention the vital connection to the Erie Canal, was what made Albany one of the most important cities in the country. In this ad from the Albany City Guide, we have Savage & Benedict, flour and produce merchants, operating from one of the many piers then on the waterfront; the Albany and New York line of steam tow-boats, which could move canal packets and barges down to New York ; and William C. Hall, a ship chandler.

“Chandler” originally meant “candler,” as in one who makes or supplies candles. The general working of fat and grease from that business also applied itself well to nautical endeavors — treated rope, oakum, caulking — and so “chandler” also became the word for a ship’s supplier.

Barnum Blake, Bonnetteer

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Barnum Blake
Or “bonnetter?” Either way. In 1844, Barnum Blake made bonnets, Florence straw and silk and velvet bonnets. He had French and American artificial flowers, ribbons, etc. He was located nearly opposite the new Delavan House hotel and the Eastern and Western railroad depots (for a “union” station was still a long way off). I’m a little confused by his claim to employ “in the business season One Hundred hands.” It’s hard to comprehend an America in which every season was not the business season, but we have to presume that Blake’s audiences knew what he meant. More confusing is the 100 hands – is that 50 two-handed people, or 100 railroad casualties, or something in-between?

Country milliners and merchants were invited to stop in on their way to the big city, which his location across from the train stations and not far from the wharves must have made enticing. In those days, there was very little you could get in New York that you couldn’t get in Albany, good, bad or somewhere in the middle.