Mourning goods

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Betts & Medbury Dry Goods in Troy

I don’t know where I’d go for mourning goods today, but in 1870, I’d have gone to Betts & Medbury, in the Mansion House Block in Troy. Dry goods of every description, but mourning goods were their specialty. Mourning was big business in those days.

When you need bar belt dressing

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Stephenson Bar Belt Dressing.png

We’ve seen ads where the advertiser begs leave to inform you of the availability of his humble product. That may be good enough for the other guys, but Stephenson Bar Belt Dressing didn’t go in for that namby-pamby stuff. Every mill suppliers should carry it. There’s something wrong with him if he doesn’t. And if he won’t give you a free sample,  just let Stephenson know, and they’ll send around a couple of the boys to convince him. Oh, he’ll carry it, all right.

Wells & Coverly

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Wells & Coverly Troy 1895.pngThe first time I became aware of Wells & Coverly, a pretty high-end gentlemen’s clothing store, was when I moved to Syracuse in the late ’70s, where I believe they had a store in Shoppingtown Mall and may have still had their South Salina Street location. It was a top name for quality and service, and pops up in a number of Syracuse-related searches; people were proud of their Wells & Coverly clothes and their Nettleton shoes. So I was surprised to find that in fact, Wells & Coverly was from Troy.

Weise’s “Troy’s One Hundred Years, 1789-1889” says that in 1890,¬† Frederick Wells and James Coverly, took over the men’s and boys’ clothing business of Morris Gross at 336-338 River Street and 13-17 Fourth Street in Troy. (Curiously, there was also a Boston hardware concern some years earlier by the name of Wells, Coverly & Co. It was around in the 1850s, and other variations including the Coverly name continued through 1864, when it became Frye, Phipps & Co. I can’t find the connection between the hardware and the clothes.) In 1907 they added to their location in Troy, had a location in Hoosick Falls, two stores in Oswego, and opened their Syracuse store in the Betts Block on South Salina Street (it still stands).

With the renovations, their store in Troy had 80 feet of frontage on both River and Front streets. “The showcase equipment of the store commands admiration. Another innovation is the most modern type of the electric cash carrier system with six stations. The electric lighting is provided for by an entirely new plant formed by Nernst lamps. Large mirrors on all sides enable customers to get a full view of their new suits from head to foot. Toilet rooms are also among the conveniences provided for patrons. The room set aside for children is a very handsome apartment. The doors and drawers of the cabinets and cases require no more than the touch of a little finger to move them.”

I suspect its location was probably where the Uncle Sam Atrium parking garage is today, directly across from Frear’s Cash Bazaar; I’d love to hear from someone who knows.

Thanks to a posting over at the Nostalgic Syracuse Facebook page, we were twigged to another piece of the Massachusetts connection. George B. Dowley, who began with a clothing store in Hyde Park, went to Worcester, Mass., and bought out the venerable Ware-Pratt Company, Worcester’s oldest and largest clothing store. According to the “History of Worcester and Its People,”¬†Dowley “bought the Wells-Coverly company and incorporated the business, April 1, 1914. This company operates stores in Troy, Syracuse, and Oswego, New York. George B. Dowley is the president of this corporation and his son is treasurer. Mr. Dowley added to his strong of clothing stores by purchase, May 2, 1918, another place in Springfield, Massachusetts, which will be run by the Ware-Pratt Company of Springfield.”

Of interest, here in 2015, we happened across an antiques shop in New Hope, PA, that had a number of printing related items, and among some cast-off lead type cuts was this logotype for Wells & Coverly:
Wells & Coverly logo cut

The cure may be worse than the disease

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Surgery Eye and Ear.pngOr not, because look at that disease. I’ve posted this image from an 1860-something Albany directory before over on My Non-Urban Life, but it deserves a second look. I don’t know what’s wrong with
the eye on the right, but I’ll say this: I don’t want it. Also, whatever
the surgical cure would have been in the time of the Civil War, I don’t
want that, either. Catarrh (excessive buildup or discharge of mucus in the nose or throat) was practically a blessing compared to the other ailments that Dr. Liston treated in his offices on Grand Street. I’m not saying he wasn’t a good doctor, I’m just saying there may have been a reason he had the largest selection of artificial eyes in the country.

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Walker’s – for everything

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1862 Schenectady Directory Walker Groceries.png

In the 19th century, Schenectady’s main business district was all concentrated west of the canal. And it would seem that most things that were for sale were concentrated in James Walker & Co., wholesale and retail dealers in groceries, agricultural implements, house furnishing goods, wood and willow ware, rope, twine and cordage, coal oils and lamps, bird cages, fishing tackle, brushes, &c., &c.

In 1862, he was located on the main business block on State Street between South Church and South Ferry. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that the downtown we know, between the filled-in canal at Erie Boulevard and Crescent Park, began to form.

At the time of this ad, James Walker was near the end of his run. In the 1870 census, he was listed as a 61-year-old retired merchant, living with wife Mary, with real estate worth $40,000, and another $40,000 in personal estate. (Depending on how you calculate it, that might be a comfortable $8 million to $18 million today.)

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Again with the steam

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1862 Schenectady Directory Eureka Steam Mills.png

Oh, steam! Is there nothing you don’t make better? I’m not sure exactly what they actually milled at Eureka Steam Mills, which was at Broadway and Division Streets (possibly where the defunct Adirondack Trailways terminal is), but they were one of a number of dealers in coffee, spices, cream tartar, mustard, &c. in downtown Albany in 1862.

It seems to me that in a time when everything was run by steam, Albany was at its most prosperous. Nowadays, with steam mills and steam crackers impossible to find, times aren’t so good. I’m just saying, maybe it was the steam.

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Bears in the news

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Bears in the news? Nothing new. The Cohoes Cataract, 1849, reported on a resolution of the trustees of the village of Cohoes:

“Complaint having been made that Wm. H. Bortell has a bear near his house which is not safely secured, therefore Resolved: That the police constable be, and he is hereby ordered to direct the said Bortell in the name of the village to secure the said bear or remove him so as children and passengers shall not be exposed any longer.”

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