Organizing Schenectady’s Restaurants, 1922

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What our organizers are doingHoxsie was perusing some back numbers of “The Mixer & Server,” the official journal of the Hotel and Restaurant Employes [sic] International Alliance and the Bartenders International League of America (as one does) and came across this September 26, 1922 report by A. Martel, International Organizer, under the banner of “What Our Organizers Are Doing.” What Organizer Martel was doing was visiting a number of Schenectady establishments. We thought this was particularly interesting as it has several mentions of the Nicholaus Hotel (spelled variously), later just the Nicholaus German Restaurant, whose landmark building at the corner of Erie and State is now in danger of destruction because of the demolition of its neighbors.

His report is a nice little tour of the Schenectady eating establishments of 1922:

Dear Sir and Brother – The following is my report for the month of September:

August 28, as per instructions, I proceeded to Schenectady; met Secretary Geo. Harper of Local 470, with whom I took up the local situation.

August 29, visited the Mohawk Hotel; found one waiter, a former member of Local 471 of Albany; got his reinstatement. Visited the Nicholaus Hotel and talked to the chef, who is a former member of Local 470. Met the proprietor of the Italian Gardens Restaurant, a new place soon to open up.

August 30, visited the Mohawk Golf Club, where I found a Boston cook, a former member of Local 34; he will go to Italy this month so he don’t care to reinstate; the bartender and a kitchen helper promised to join. Again visited the Mohawk Hotel and had a talk with the chef. There are three cooks here, all former members of Local 470; their talk was not encouraging. Visited the Seneca, Hygienic and New Electric Lunches, also the Standard.

August 31, visited the Little Electric, Plaza, Italian Gardens, Nickolaus Hotel, Pelops and Mohawk.

September 1, in company with Secretary Harper, we made the rounds. I soon found out what the trouble was here and decided to use another method, although there was nothing encouraging in sight I was determined to give the town a good trial. The Greek restaurants are in the majority here and that makes it doubly hard.

I visited the Greek clubs daily and there found box, waiter and counter men, also the cooks, playing cards together. In time I got pretty well acquainted and kept hammering at them. They are working seven days per week and twelve hours per day; they admit this is too much but don’t think we could change anything by them joining the union. In the meantime I kept after the Mohawk Hotel cooks, who proved to be a hard bunch to deal with. The others says: [sic] “Get them at the Mohawk first,” etc.

Visited the Sirker Restaurant; the boss is chef; they employ seven girls, pay them $7 per week for ten hours a day and they scrub the dining room floor. One of our girls is there and she promised to join as soon as they get out. Had a talk with the proprietor of the Seneca Lunch; I think we will be able to organize his place if we can supply him with the right kind of help.

September 12, visited the Little Electric Lunch; got the reinstatement of one counter man and the application of the night counter man; the chef also filled out his application but has not paid up for it yet.

September 13, went to Albany and visited all the cooks I could reach (to pay their dues), also looked for a competent chef for the Italian Gardens here.

September 14, had an interview with the Rev. P. Frick of the Methodist Episcopal Church; one of the organizations of his church was eating at the Pelops, and he promised to ask them to remain away. Also had a talk with the Greek priest, but nothing came from it, as it was plain that he was siding with the bosses who feed him.

September 16, the chef of the Mohawk Hotel left, so I took his place; got the reinstatements of the two cooks and an application of a bus boy.

September 18, the chef returned with better wages; got his application also – this makes the Mohawk solid again.

September 19, met the chef and second cook of the Hygienic; got their applications.

September 20, to Albany, after the cooks again; got a chef for the Italian Gardens; he was working at the Hampton, so I got him out and he joined Local 470 here.

September 21, met the second cook of the General Electric Company, who promised to reinstate. Visited several other places; got one application at the Seneca.

September 22, got the application of the chef of the Nickolaus Hotel, and when the second cook joints this house will be complete. Visited Sirker’s again; two new girls here.

Mohawk Hotel The Mohawk Hotel was on Broadway south of State, just about opposite Smith Street.

 

 

Charles Sirker was a Belgian who had come to the United States during World War I, and ran a restaurant at 155 Barrett Street. (We know this because Sirker was involved in an interesting little case of international divorce law.) That building is gone.

Pelops was located at 438 State Street, two doors from Proctor’s. Searches will turn up a postcard of the white tablecloth interior, and a matchbook.

It’d be our guess that the Seneca was the Seneca Hotel, still a landmark on Jay Street across from City Hall.

The Mohawk Golf Club was, and is, out on Union Street.

The Hygienic Lunch was located at 436 State Street, and later at 412 State Street, “near street railway waiting station.” One of its original proprietors was Theodore Anagnost, who became Theodore Agnew. His son Spiro would later become Vice President of the United States. But it would appear that Agnew was long gone from the Electric City when Martel made his visit.

Albany’s Hampton Hotel, of course, was the landmark at the foot of State Street at Broadway; the building still stands.

Of the Little Electric Lunch (such a promising name) or the Italian Gardens, we find nothing.

And the Nicholaus Hotel actually predated the currently building, which goes back to 1901 and may just survive.

Albany: The Ampersand City

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The derelict ampersand factory, used by Damian Van Rensselaer to vex his non-evil half-brother.

The derelict ampersand factory, used by Damian Van Rensselaer to vex his non-evil half-brother.

Hoxsie has often referred to Albany as “The City Without a Nickname.” Other than “The Capital City,” other nicknames that it may have deserved – “The Piano City,” “The Celluloid City,” “Drainage Basin of the Erie Canal” – never quite stuck. But one of its ephemeral nicknames should have stuck, because without its contributions, the modern age of commerce could never have happened. Albany was once the center of manufacture and home of a progressive movement that freed a powerful symbol for use in commerce, and thus should be known as “The Ampersand City.”

In colonial times, the ampersand was considered a luxury item; no one actually needed them, and those who wanted them were prepared to pay dearly. And so for the first couple of centuries, ampersands were imported items. Ampersands were treated very much like windowpanes, which were enumerated and taxed individually, and only the most successful businesses could afford to proclaim themselves as “Gray & Sons” instead of using the more pedestrian “Gray and Sons.” In addition to paying an annual tax to the locality, ampersand holders paid for each use, and the actual physical item – a big wooden “&” for a factory sign, for example – could cost hundreds of dollars at a time when workers made pennies a day. This lasted well into the 1800s, a growing time of commerce in the United States when all kinds of businesses were proclaiming themselves in ways that would have benefited from the ampersand. Those who held the rights to import them kept a stranglehold on supply, and domestic craftsmen who knew how to make them were virtually non-existent, until a plucky Albany businessman made the ampersand an item of mass production.

Andrew Persé was born to an otherwise unnoticeable Albany family in Sheridan Hollow around 1840. He was early apprenticed as a clerk to Bacon, Stickney & Co., a very prestigious importer of coffee and spices that did such a business it had two stores side by side on Dean Street and another on Exchange. Not only did they have an ampersand in their name, but merchant baron Samuel Bacon held the license for importing ampersands for all of New York and western Massachusetts. Any business, any printer, any signpainter who wished to make use of that single character in place of three, and convey all the prestige that carried, had to make payment to Bacon.

Bacon was a profiteer and influential. A national craze for abbreviation was already under steam when the Civil War came, and the need for brevity in letters to and from the Union soldiers threatened his hegemony over the ampersand symbol as it became possible the owners of these exclusive rights would simply be overrun by popular use. If everyone started using the ampersand, it would be impossible to collect the fees. But Bacon hit on a brilliant and very New York scheme, convincing one of the legislators he owned to get legislation passed that established a tax (which Andrew Persé went off to fight). He was able to get a law through the Legislature that established a postal surcharge for the presumed use of ampersands in correspondence. Nevermind that it was certain that New York’s law would be, and eventually was, found to unconstitutionally intrude on Federal jurisdiction. It stood long enough to make Bacon even more ridiculously wealthy, all based on the legal presumption that each letter-writer would use an ampersand at least once per letter.

Persé, serving in the Army of the Potomac and having worked for Bacon, was particularly galled by this turn of events, and frequently wrote home of his anger, in full longhand without abbreviation as a form of protest to his family. When he got back to Albany, something would be done. He used his spare time thinking about the mechanics, talking to men of practical experience, and working out how to amass the raw materials and machinery needed to modernize ampersand production. He had a vision of turning from the hand-crafted imports (still largely wooden and produced in Holland) to modern, iron-based ampersands crafted with steampower.

It happened that his company lieutenant and fireside chat-mate was Damien Van Rensselaer, evil half-brother of Stephen Van Rensselaer, who had money and a motive, to always serve as a thorn in the side of his half-sibling. DVR saw his opportunity in a stroke of genius: he would bankroll the creation of a modern factory on property he controlled just off the edge of the Lumber District in Albany – but, more importantly, immediately adjacent to the Van Rensselaer Manor.

With the war over, both returned to Albany and began their machinations. Persé hired a pair of Dutch brothers from a long line of ampersand makers to come to Albany, and DVR hired a crew of night masons to throw up a long, low brick factory within the sight line of the family estate. The activity was just far enough from the center of city activities that it wasn’t really noticed until smoke started pouring from its stacks, and it was then too late to be stopped.

Early models from the Persé factory

Early models from the Persé factory

Persé hired a wily salesman who went by the name of “Spats” Gansevoort, who offered the hitherto deprived factories, merchants and associations of Albany unbelievable cut-rate deals on ampersands; if they signed up before production began, they’d cost a tenth of what Bacon charged, and would be warranted to last forever, free of termites and dry rot. Even prosperous companies that already possessed ampersands were interested, and they were all guaranteed their money back if the plant failed to produce.

Flush with capital and orders, Persé’s factory immediately began producing ampersands of all shapes (well, really, just the one shape) and sizes, primarily of iron. Merchants from Troy, Schenectady, and even far-off Amsterdam soon heard of an alternative to Bacon’s extortionate prices, and were wiring orders in to the factory.

Of course, Bacon heard of all this, too, and was livid. He rushed to a local judge to get a cease and desist order, only to find the judge clearly in the pocket of Damian Van Rensselaer and unwilling to help. Racing up the hill to his legislators, he found that even they had become enamored of the idea of not paying for ampersands on the doors of their law practices – and they had some shiny new ones, fresh from what was called the “Andrew Persé And Factory.” Cleverly, Persé didn’t even use the word “ampersand,” just in case his scheme didn’t work and he ended up in hot water. He needn’t have worried.

The ampersand business just exploded. Boardman & Gray Pianos, Van Gasbeeck Carpets, Rugs & Curtains, Cotrell & Leonard clothing, Merten’s & Phalen’s – dozens of businesses started freely using the ampersand at Persé’s low, low prices. Bacon brought action in state court, but faced a platoon of lawyers from ampersanded firms who had taken up Persé’s case. Railroads, such as the Albany and Rensselaer and Kinderhook and Hudson Railroad, saw a real opportunity for savings and brevity, and loaned their considerable weight in the battle against Bacon. Desperate, he tried to cut costs, but importing remained more expensive than local manufacture, and his business collapsed.

But so did Persé’s. As he trained more and more workers to make the character, and machining equipment became standardized, some broke off and started their own ampersand factories on the edge of the Lumber District. The Erie Canal spread their wares to the west and south. For safety reasons, railroads had been barred from carrying ampersands, but a new act of the Legislature lifted that restriction and ampersands were carried on board when the transcontinental railroad opened. So was an itinerant ampersand-maker, who soon captured the business of the west. The profit soon went out of the business, as ampersands became more plentiful than water. When the bottom dropped out, Persé seems to have just disappeared.

The old ampersand factory still sits on the edge of the old Van Rensselaer estate. Damian Van Rensselaer continued to use it to vex his relations for some years, renting it for use by a clown college and, somewhat related, a calliope factory. After his death, it passed through a number of hands, but the faded sign on the railroad-track side of the building remains to this day.

The Albany Eagle Air Furnace

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Albany Eagle Air Furnace 1839From an 1839 edition of the Albany Argus, an advertisement from the Albany Eagle Air Furnace and Machine Shop, where William V. Many (formerly of Corning, Norton & Co.) manufactured just about everything that could be made of iron. We won’t try to replicate their emphatic use of capital letters in telling you that they manufactured to order

Iron castings for gearing mills & factories, of every description. Also, malt mills, mashing machines, steam engines, and railroad castings of every description. The collection of patterns of machinery is not equalled in the United States.

The following articles will be kept constantly for sale at the Furnace, and furnished at short notice, viz: potash kettles, single and double bottoms, from 56 to 140 gallons, cauldrons from 1 to 3 barrels, hatters’ and soap boilers’ kettles, bark mills, paper mill and other screws, press plates, oven mouths and furnace doors, hand-pumps , single and double forcing pumps, wagon, cart and post coach boxes, sash weights, 7, 14, 25, 28 30, 50, 56, and 60 lb. weights, forge hammers, sleigh shoes, stoves, hall scrapers, portable furnaces, hawser irons, mandrills for coppersmiths, bookbinders’ and notarial or seal presses.

There was also a extensive assortment of plough patterns “embracing almost every kind in use, and the company offered pig iron, fire brick, coal, amboy sand and clay to “country founders.”

Orders could be addressed to Mr. Many at No. 84 Beaver street, Albany, “or to the care of Messrs. Erastus Corning & Co.”

Albany Eagle Air FurnaceIn this advertisement, it wasn’t mentioned that the Eagle Air Furnace was also known as a temperance furnace. “Not a drop of strong drink of any description is furnished to the men or permitted to be used in the furnace, and but few of the men are in the habit of drinking at all out of the furnace, and these few but very little.” We’ve written about the Eagle Air Furnace before. The Corning connection is interesting, but Erastus Corning appears to have been no more than an agent for William Many. According to Irene Neu’s “Erastus Corning: Merchant and Financier, 1794-1872,” Corning had been employed by the previous owner of the foundry, John Spencer, as early as 1814, and he bought a partnership in Spencer’s company in 1816. Then the firm Corning and Norton was sole owner by 1825, but it was apparently not successful and he sold it to William V. Many, a Corning and Norton employee, and Robert E. Ward, but remained a merchandising agent for the firm.

A Cure for What Ails Strangers and Seamen

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An odd little item from the Albany Argus of July 17, 1832 stood out to us:

Albany Argus July 17 1832 Dr. Cooke Albany Lock HospitalAlbany Lock Dispensary, No. 2 Green, two doors from State street, and No. 2 Store lane, two doors from Green street. Exclusively devoted to the treatment and prevention of a certain class of diseases. DR. COOKE continues to be consulted as usual, at his offices, in all delicate diseases arising from an impure state of the blood, and undertakes to cure positively and effectually, without confinement or hindrance from business, a certain disease, which alone engages his whole attention, in all its stages, on moderate terms. Recent cases he removes in a few days, without the aid of mercury.

Mercury was a common treatment for syphilis – but then again, it was a common treatment for everything. The name “Lock Dispensary” is oddly specific but apparently associated with the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (previously widely known as venereal diseases) – such an institution was established in London in the early part of the 19th century, and more in Britain and Ireland.  There was also a New York Lock Dispensary in New York City, which was also apparently devoted to a certain class of diseases. Yes, again, venereal diseases. In 1844, Dr. George Cooke was listed as associated with a Lock Hospital, and Dr. Lacroix with the Lock Dispensary.

Strangers are respectfully apprised that Dr. C. has had thirteen years’ continued experience in this line of his profession, was educated in London, for many years actively employed in H.B.M. foreign medical service, in extensive hospitals, and latterly in connexion with the New-York Lock, and Dr. Evans’ Old Galen’s Head Dispensaries, establishments of celebrity and repute, where his skill was vastly distinguished, inasmuch as to suppress the most obstinate, malignant and doubtful venereal cases, solely with the aid of pure vegetable physical powers, which afford the most certain, expeditious and favourable results ever yet placed at the disposal or in the hands of man, for the effectual prevention and removal of this loathsome class of diseases . . . none need despair of a complete recovery and sound constitution, by applying at his Dispensary, where a medicine is also prepared which will prevent the formation of venereal disease in any shape or form, if used within twenty-four hours, according to direction. Separate offices provided, so that invalids can not be exposed to each other’s observations . . . No dieting required in ordinary cases, and the most honourable secrecy at all times strictly observed.

Dr. Cooke offered his services in “personal attendance” from 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily, at No. 2 Store Lane. (Store Lane was once known as Nail Street and Church Street, and later became called Norton Street, running east from South Pearl to Green St. In an 1839 notice in the Argus, Dr. Cooke, boasting of the degrees of M.D., D.D., and LL.D., posted:

The unfortunate are respectfully informed that the Albany Lock Hospital, established and modeled after the much celebrated European Lock Hospitals, has many years since been founded at Head Quarters, No. 3 Norton street, Albany, N.Y. To those unacquainted with this institution, it is necessary to mention that it has for its object the cure of all such diseases as syphilis, scrofula, strictures, diseases of the urethra, lumbago, flour albus [sic], impotency, diseases of the womb, seminal weakness of both sexes, nodes, caries of the bones, gonorrhea, gleets, with all venereal complaints in general, etc.

He promised the “most perfect secrecy may be depended on,” and that each patient would be received in a separate apartment, and at no time, unless at the request of the patient, would a third party be permitted to be present.

Perhaps because Albany was very much a port city, Dr. Cooke wasn’t the only one providing such services. In that same issue, V.B. Lockrow, M.D., with offices as 56 Beaver Street, 2 doors above Pearl Street, advertised “No Cure, No Pay!” at his Old Galen’s Lock Dispensary.

Dr. LOCKROW may be confidentially consulted, and particularly upon those diseases of the human frame of a private nature, viz: Syphilis, Gonnorrhea, Glets, Lues Venerea, Impotency, Seminal Weakness, with all the Venereal Complaints in general, etc. etc.

Dr. L., we were assured, has been “regularly educated to the medical profession, and graduated at one of the first Colleges in the United States.” That it should remain nameless is interesting. Nevertheless, he also offered private rooms for his patients and said that post paid communications stating their case and enclosing a reasonable fee for advice and medicine would be met with prompt attention. In addition, he had something Dr. Cooke didn’t have: Old Galen’s Box.

Old Galen’s Box is a neat small portable box, that can be carried in the pocket, containing medicine, and printed directions minutely detailing the symptoms and treatment of gonorrhea, in so plain and simple a manner that no mistake can occur. To strangers and seamen it is of the greatest importance, as they can pursue their journey and continue in their respective avocations, and in the mean time be their own physician, and thus avoid exposure and supercede the necessity of any surgical advice, farther than may be obtained from the concise and brief description of the disease, and its cure contained in the directions The above Box can be sent to any part of the Union, and the medicine contained in it may be relied on, as a positive cure.

[Galen was the most celebrated physician of the Roman Empire; he had no particular connection to STD treatment, but at the time his name was connected to all manner of things medical.]

Paula Lemire’s “Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves” Facebook page had this to say about old Dr. Cooke who, like all good Albanians, lies in eternal repose in the Albany Rural Cemetery:

Born in England on February, 8, 1787, George Cooke came to New York in 1830 and relocated to Albany not long after. He variously identified himself as a lawyer, a doctor, a professor, and (as stated on his headstone), a general.

A purveyor of medical elixirs of his own formulation (such as a “Pectoral Essence of Boneset For Coughs, Colds, Etc.”), he was quite a self-promoter, placing scores of ads, articles, and letters in the local newspapers over the course of his career. The walls of his office at 3 Norton Street were, according to the Albany Evening Times, covered with “degrees and diplomas without number.”

As Albany’s oldest consulting physician, he was quite successful; he was able to leave a generous bequest to purchase 1,000 books for the library of the Albany Young Men’s Association and commissioned a marble medallion of himself by Erastus Dow Palmer to be placed in the Association’s rooms.

Cooke died on January 12, 1873 at the age of 84. His obituary in the Albany Evening Times referred to him as “an old and eccentric citizen” of the city who “rapidly acquiring wealth and possessing himself of a fine wardrobe…was seen everyday walking on Broadway attired in knee britches, silk stockings, shoes with gold buckles, his hair white and flowing, the observed of all observers.”

General George Cooke was buried in Lot 241, Section 95 on the North Ridge of the Rural Cemetery five on May 19, 1873. His interment record notes, “Monument on lot has sculpted likeness resembling Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

And thanks to Paul Nance for providing this synopsis of the Oxford English Dictionary’s etymology of a lock hospital:

Lock, in the sense of a hospital, dates from the 14th century, when it referred to an isolation hospital in Southwark, constructed to keep lepers out of the city. The meaning extended to wards for the treatment of venereal diseases in the 18th century.

Murdering the Electrician

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Electrician Brutally Killed in RensselaerMost things on Hoxsie are found when we’re looking for other things. This is one of those things: while searching for some background on the Albany and Hudson Railroad, we came across a brief mention in the San Francisco Call of May 17, 1907 of the murder of the railroad’s chief electrician, Alonzo Hewitt. Turns out the local papers covered that little event, too.

Hewitt was a resident of the city of Rensselaer, who had previously worked as a lineman for the power side of the business that eventually became the A&H Railroad. He was also the foreman of the Mink & Claxton Hose Company and superintendent of the fire alarm system of Rensselaer. He invented a new style of shoe for a train’s contact with the third rail that prevented the formation of ice, in 1901.

At about 7:30 on a Thursday night in May, the 16th to be exact, in 1907, Alonzo Hewitt went to his home at the corner of Glen and Fourth streets and, according to the Amsterdam Evening Recorder,

going into the sitting room, removed his coat and shoes and laid down on a lounge. In a few minutes the door bell rang, and his 12-year-old daughter, May, answered the ring. She saw a man standing on the piazza, whom she later described as in general resembling her mother’s cousin, Peter Lozon. The man asked for her father and she turned to call him.

On his daughter’s call, Hewitt sprang up and went to the door, May standing back of it. As he appeared in the doorway, the unknown assassin fired a shot gun at him point blank, shooting him in the throat. The murderer then fled.

Hewitt died half an hour later, and the police scoured the city for Lozon. The Recorder reported that

the supposed motive is found in a family quarrel. Hewitt was to have appeared this morning in court to answer to a charge of assault preferred by Roscoe Lansing. It is alleged that Hewitt had assaulted Lansing on the street because Lansing had been circulating stories in the saloons that Hewitt had beaten his wife. Lozon, the suspected murderer, is a brother-in-law of Lansing, and is also a cousin of Hewitt’s wife.

The Troy Daily Times, reporting on the 20th that there was a warrant for the arrest of Lozon, said the district attorney and police were satisfied that the crime was the outcome of a family feud and that the murder had been premeditated for some time, possibly with the involvement of others. Mrs. Hewitt, who was left with six children to tend to (May was the eldest), made a statement corroborated by neighbors that Mr. Hewitt had been under threat of his life for some time.

Wednesday night [the night before the murder] Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt were awakened from sleep by incessant ringing of the doorbell, and only through the persuasions of his wife was Mr. Hewitt prevented from responding to the call. They had just dozed again, says Mrs. Hewitt, when they were startled by the report of a revolver, and a bullet whizzed past the bedroom window. Someone was heard prowling about the yard and barn for some time after, but Mr. Hewitt did not get within range of the windows. Neighbors, who corroborated the statement, said that for some time the Hewitts were persecuted by some unknown persons and were frequently aroused in the night by the ringing of the doorbell.

On the afternoon before the murder, Hewitt told a saloon keeper on Partition Street that he had just had an argument with Lozon. “It is said that Lozon and Hewitt were the best of friends until Hewitt, an electrician for the Albany and Hudson Railway, discharged Lozon.”

Lozon’s plan always had to have been to skip town, because he hardly kept his plans quiet. For starters, he borrowed the murder weapon, which he dropped in the street nearby, from someone who lived nearby at Catherine and Fourth. In Joseph Ayers’s saloon at First and Harrison, Lozon ordered a drink and made a show of paying for it with a $2 bill, which apparently was about $2 more than he normally had on hand – he had previously in the day tried to get a haircut on credit.

Lozon said to Mr. Ayers, “You’ll be a witness,” but when asked what he meant he failed to explain. He called in two or three other men from a rear room to drink with him and repeated his declaration that they would be “witnesses.” They laughed and one asked, “What are you going to do, the Dutch act?” (meaning suicide.) “No,” replied Lozon, “there’s something doing,” and he put his hand on his coat pocket significantly. A little later Lozon was seen going over Catherine Street, and he went to the home of William F. Arris at Catherine and Fourth Streets and borrowed his gun, saying he was going coon hunting. Mr. Arris remarked that it was a poor night for hunting, but Lozon was insistent and asked for some shells.

Hewitt was buried in Albany Rural Cemetery. Lozon, as far as we can tell, was never found; police believed he had headed directly for the rail yards and grabbed a freight out of town. The 1908 Rensselaer Directory, in listing the rest of his family at 59 Pine Street, notes that Peter Lozon “moved from city.”

Improper Diversions, 1800

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Another of the notable laws of Albany in 1800: A law to suppress improper diversions in the streets and lanes. It was ordained

That if any person or persons shall at any time or times hereafter make any noise or disturbance in any of the streets or lanes of the said city, or promote the same, or shall play, act or perform, or shall assist in the performance of any game or improper diversion, to the annoyance of passengers or otherwise, or shall obstruct and interrupt, by assembling in crouds [sic] or circles, for any of the purposes aforesaid, in any of the streets or lanes, each and every person so offending, shall in such case and for every offence forfeit and pay thirty-seven cents and five mills;

Improper DiversionsIf the offender was not above 21 and failed to pay, the parent, master or mistress was to pay the same. If the offender was above 21, and “has not goods or chattels whereof to levy the said forfeitures with costs,” a warrant for his arrest would be issued and he was to be “committed to the common gaol [sic: archaic spelling of “jail”] there to remain for the space of two hours, unless the said forfeitures with costs shall be paid or surrendered, or both as the case may be.”

The law leaves it unclear just what constituted an improper diversion. Gambling? Dice games? Street-corner magic acts? Not a clue, but since they didn’t feel the need to spell it out, we can assume that it was pretty well known what they meant, and that you’d better just knock it off or face two hours in gaol.

Wharfage

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Wharves and WharfageAgain mining the laws of Albany from 1800. Are they interesting, or is Hoxsie just overwhelmed with other work? Doesn’t matter: here we go, with the law for regulating the manner of using the wharves and fixing the rates of wharfage.

Each year, specifically on the second Monday of March, the owners and proprietors of the docks and wharves in Albany were to appoint “some suitable person to be their Dock-master.” It was the job of the dock-master to collect fees from “any vessel, craft, boat or flat, (canoes, two handed batteauxs and three handed batteauxs excepted) which shall come to lie at or within any of the said docks, wharves or slips…” Such fees could be paid by the season or by the day. The seasonal rate was $1.06 for every vessel five tons and under, and 20 additional cents for every ton of “burthen” thereafter. The daily rate was two cents per ton per day for any boat 20 tons or under. Boats between 20 and 40 tons were charged a cent and a half per ton per day. Boats above 40 tons got the discounted rate of one cent and a quarter per ton per day.

No vessel, craft, boat or flat was to lie within the dock, wharf or slip “longer than shall be necessary for the convenient lading or unlading the same.” If your vessel, etc., prevented any other vessel from coming in or going out, you were obliged to pay for every tide that such other vessel was prevented from coming or going, at $2.50 per tide.

Cast or deposit on any of the docks, wharves or slips any ballast, lumber, stone, filth, dirt, or any other thing, and not remove it within the required time, and you would forfeit the sum of $1.25.

You couldn’t just avoid the wharfage fees by anchoring in the river either, though you could get a discount. Any vessel lying at anchor in Hudson’s river “from or to which vessel, craft, boat or flat, any goods or merchandize shall be landed or embarked, on or from any such dock, wharf or slip, shall be liable to pay half the rate of wharfage for every day in which such dock, wharf or slip shall be used for the purpose aforesaid.” Perhaps that was just a way to deal with overcrowded docks.

By the way, “wharfage” is totally a word.

The Ornamental Hair Store

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Ornamental HairHey, Schenectady! Need ornamental hair? You’re in luck. In 1840, John Xavier opened a new ornamental hair store at 92 State Street, three doors west of the post office. Everlasting curls, plain and curled frizetts, puffs, everlasting and curled ringlets . . . he had it all, kept constantly on hand or supplied at the shortest notice.

John Xavier was born in 1821 in Portugal, so when he opened this store he was merely 19. By 1870, he was listed as owning a “Fancy Store” (at 128 State Street in 1884), possessing $20,000 in real estate and a $15,000 personal estate.

Time to Build the Highway, Citizen

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Repair Public HighwaysRemember how residents of the city of Albany in 1800 were required to pave not only their sidewalks, but half their streets? That’s nothing compared to their obligations with regard to the city’s highways.

The laws of 1800 don’t make it clear exactly what was considered a public highway – it was likely at least the King’s Highway (think of Washington Ave. heading west), and possibly the extensions of Broadway north and south. But they do make it clear that most people in the city were responsible for working on the roads.

There was a complicated formula. The Mayor, aldermen and council were commissioners of the highways, and they were charged with forming a list of “all freeholders, housekeepers and other persons exercising any trade, business or labor for themselves or on their own account, or receiving wages for such labor, (Ministers of the gospel excepted).” They were to take an assessment of 1200 days of work for the highways, and “shall affix to the name of each respective person mentioned in such list, the number of days which each person shall be liable to work on the roads, for the said twelve hundred days during the continuance of this law, and the same assess in proportion to the estate and ability of each person.” No one was to be rated at more than twenty days.

The list was to be delivered to the chamberlain, who was, within three days of receiving it, to cause public advertisements to be put up in at least two places in each ward, announcing when and where he would be in attendance to receive payments.

Oh, did you think everyone was actually going to be required to work? Not quite. Anyone on the list could pay two shillings (within the time prescribed in the advertisements) would be exempted from working on the roads, and the moneys received were to be applied to repairing and improving the public highways by contracts or otherwise. The chamberlain, by the way, got 2.5% for his troubles.

So, once it was determined who had paid their way out of work, the list was sent on to overseers appointed by the commission.

“Such overseer or overseers of the highways shall from time to time warn such and so many persons, not less than thirty, whose names shall be contained in such list to be delivered to such overseer or overseers by the said chamberlain as may be necessary from time to time to make and repair such roads or parts of roads as the said Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty shall . . . designate and for that purpose direct, and shall employ such persons as shall from time to time appear to work in consequence of such warning, until each person so rated . . . shall have worked the whole number of days at which he or she shall have been so rated as aforesaid; and that the said overseer or overseers shall from day to day (Sundays excepted) continue to employ, weather permitting, so many of the said persons as shall be necessary to work on such road, until the whole shall be completed, or until all the persons so rated shall have worked out the number of days at which they shall be so rated as last aforesaid, in the manner herein after mentioned.”

In fairness, you could send someone in your place – “some able bodied man to be by him or her employed for the said purpose.” Failing to appear (or send an able bodied man), ready to work and with such proper tools as the overseer shall have directed, would cost 62 cents and five mills. You should also have expected to work at least an eight hour day.

In addition to having to show up, you could also be required to provide a wagon and two horses with an able-bodied man, or a cart and a horse with an able-bodied man, to be used to move materials needed to repair the highways; providing a wagon with two horses and a man reduced your assessment by four days, and providing a cart, horse and man reduced it by three days. If you had a wagon or cart and a “horse proper for drawing the same” and refused to furnish them, you would forfeit 75 cents.

We don’t know how long this arrangement existed, but it wasn’t unusual, as we have seen similar arrangements in other towns.

A Remarkable Winter

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From Joel Munsell’s Annals of Albany, a reminder that another winter was pretty mild, a mere 214 years ago:

A meteorological table was kept for the month of January, 1802, and published in the Gazette, by which it appears that the lowest range of the thermometer was 10°, and the highest 55½° above zero. The winter was so remarkably mild as to have more the appearance of April, the river was navigable 17 days, so that vessels passed from Albany to New York, and at no time was the ice strong enough for any team to pass on it, and not more than 1¼ inches of snow fell within two miles of the city during the months of December and January.