Edmund Huyck: No Nostradamus

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As we were running down a little bit of information on Rensselaer’s Huyck Felt Mill, once one of the principal employers in that railroad town (other than the railroads, of course), we came across this little snippet from a 1919 edition of Textile World. A section called “The Personal Page” highlighted notable events in the lives of America’s textile makers, including this brief story relating what the mill’s Edmund Huyck learned from a trip to Japan:

Edmund N. Huyck, president of the F.C. Huyck & Sons Felt Mills, Rensselaer, N.Y., who recently returned from a tour of Japan, was the principal speaker at the luncheon of the Albany Rotary Club last week, and gave an interesting account of his experiences in that country. Mr. Huyck treated the subject of his address from the standpoint of a business man, and one of the points brought out was the evident lack of efficiency in the large manufacturing centers. He said that the work in that country did not equal that of the American industrial world and could not be compared in any manner. Mr. Huyck spoke of the growing military power of Japan, saying that America need have no fear from this direction as the utter lack of production in Japan would prove the undoing of that country in the event of a war, since Japan depends entirely upon its international commerce.

In fairness, Japan’s broader post-WWI military adventurism was another decade off, and its rise as an industrial power even further off in the future. But still, interesting to see how wrong you can be.

At Present Only Girls Are Needed

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Huyck's Mills help wanted adFor those of you not old enough to have searched through newspaper classifieds looking for work, you probably wouldn’t know that the Help Wanted sections were strictly divided by sex. From 1946, this help wanted ad wasn’t in any way unusual for the time, from Huyck’s Mill in Rensselaer, advertising any number of positions open – for girls. The page of the Knickerbocker News this was taken from is filled with them: Sears, Roebuck & Company, New York Telephone, even Capitol Tomato Corp. were all advertising strictly for female help.

Huyck’s Mill (also known as Huyck Felt Mill) made felt used in paper-making. Between Huyck and Albany Felt (later Albany International), Albany was a hotbed of large-scale felt, known in the business as “machine clothing.” Much of the complex still stands and is used as State offices.

True crime, 1914: Armed robbery, carjacking, murder

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While digging up info on Schenectady’s Hygienic Lunch, we ran across this charming tale of armed robbery, carjacking, and the death of a dentist. Here’s the story from the Schenectady Gazette of August 18, 1914:

Cashier Swears Conway Robbed Electric Lunch

George Volk and Hygienic Lunch Man, However, Say Prisoner Is Not the Man – Arrest Made in Albany by Detectives Van Deusen and Rooney on Warrant Sworn Out by James Stathes, Night Cashier – Conway, Police Say, Bears Excellent Reputation

John Conway, 28 years old, a core-maker, was arrested yesterday afternoon by Detectives Van Deusen and Rooney in Albany, charged with being the party who held up and robbed the cashier of the Electric Lunch in State street early Saturday morning. The two officers, accompanied by James Stathes, the night cashier, who was on duty in the lunch room when the robber secured $134.70 from the cash register at the point of a gun, were on their way to Albany in an endeavor to locate the robber. While on the car Stathes suddenly pointed out Conway, who was on the car [streetcar], as the man who did the job.

Both the officers knew Conway, who bears an excellent reputation and who has roomed in Jay street, near the city hall, for the past three years and were loath to believe the cashier. Conway left the car at Pearl street, Albany, and went into Sauter’s dru store. Van Deusen and Rooney, with Stathes, secured a point of vantage and, after again looking minutely at Conway, Stathes declared he was the man.

Conway was therefore placed under arrest and brought to this city, where a charge of robbery, first degree, was lodged against him, Stathes swearing out a warrant. George Volk, the Gazette pressman, whose automobile the robber used to make his get-away, intimidating Volk with his gun, was sent for and he denied that Conway was the man. The cashier in the Hygienic Lunch, which had also been visited by the robber just prior to his doing the job at the Electric Lunch, was also called and he was positive that Conway was not the man.

Stathes, however, insisted that Conway was the man and swore to the information upon which the warrant was issued. Conway was released under bail bond and will have an examination on August 24 at 2 o’clock.

Another story was rumored about the streets last night to the effect that the man, Charles Thompson, who had such a terrific fight in the dental office of Dr. Myers in Troy late Saturday night, both men falling from the window to the pavement, which fall resulted in the death of Dr. Myers and the serious injury of Thompson, was the man who committed the hold-up in this city early Saturday morning.

Word was received by the local police last night to this effect and an effort will be made today to identify Thompson as the man who robbed the Electric Lunch. Officers with Stathes, Volk and others will visit the Troy Hospital, where Thompson is suffering from a fractured skull, and see if he answers the description of the robber.

If it was Thompson, then he had a hell of a day: robbed two lunch joints at gunpoint, stole a car and drove to Troy, where he got into a fight with a dentist that ended in fatal defenestration. Apparently that’s just what happened, and a little more. The Troy Times of August 14, 1914, told more about the death of the dentist:

Dentist’s Tragic Death – Locked in Desperate Struggle With Supposed Burglar Dr. Charles G. Myers Plunges From Roof to Brick Pavement in Yard forty Feet Below – Dies in Hospital – Intruder Survives But Badly Injured – Conceals His Identity.

Dr. Charles G. Myers, dentist, with offices over The Troy Trust Company, died at the Troy Hospital shortly before midnight Saturday night from injuries received in a fall from the roof in the rear of his office on the upper floor of the building while grappling with an intruder, supposedly a burglar intent on stealing gold leaf from the dental offices. The latter, known only as Charles Thompson, a name he gave, was also taken to the hospital, having sustained injuries to his head, face and left arm which at first were supposed to be fatal, but which the physicians later decided were not necessarily so.

Thompson told police here wasn’t there to steal, but was looking for the bathroom, and was just attacked by Dr. Myers. The police didn’t believe him, and probably believed him less when they found out his name was Raymond J. Sampson, who also went by the name of Edward Farley and had come from Elizabeth, New Jersey. In his murder trial the next year, it came out that he had run into an ex-con acquaintance from Elizabeth who was working as a motion-picture operator up in Cohoes, by the name of William Rixon. They met on the afternoon of the Schenectady robberies.

“I said ‘Hello, Ed,’ and he said ‘Hello, Will, what are you doing here?’ I said I lived there. He said, ‘How’s pickings?’ and I said ‘Pretty poor.’ He said, ‘Show me a prominent man or house, and I will go fifty-fifty with you, and you can go home.’ I had a beer and he took a ginger ale. He showed me a roll of money, and said it was Schenectady money. Then he showed me an automatic gun.”

Not suspicious at all. They didn’t get him on murder, but did send him to prison on manslaughter. The Troy Trust Building, at the southwest corner of Broadway and Third Street, was demolished in 1952, replaced by what was then the Manufacturers’ National Bank. And, as far as we know, Conway continued to enjoy an excellent reputation.

 

The Hygienic Lunch, and the Father of the Veep

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Hygienic Lunch menuFile this under: How did we not know this? Hoxsie grew up hard by Schenectady in the 1970s and was perhaps more tuned than your average teenager to both politics and local history. And yet, until this week, we had no idea that the father of Vice President Spiro Agnew, one Theodore Agnew (originally Theofraste Anagnostopolous), was once the proprietor of a couple of lunch joints in Schenectady and Troy. That seems like the kind of information that would have been floating around the zeitgeist, particularly given that Spiro (whose middle name was Theodore) was a controversial, polarizing figure who ended up resigning from the Nixon administration in a bit of a scandal.

Information on this is scant, and the timeline isn’t entirely clear. One Agnew biography says that Theodore arrived from Greece in 1902, settled in Schenectady, spent six years here and then moved to Baltimore. That timeline doesn’t quite work, as we know he was in Schenectady and Troy in 1911 and 1912.

His restaurant was called Hygienic Lunch, at a time when many restaurants, diners, and cafeterias were anything but. We first find it mentioned in Schenectady in 1911, located at 412 State Street, just below the (trolley) waiting room. (This was the old trolley waiting room at 420 State, east of the Witbeck Building. The Hygienic, we believe, was in the Hough Block, torn down to make room for the Bowtie Cinemas.)

In the Troy Times Record of March 25, 1911, we find this notice with regard to the Troy location of the Hygienic Lunch:

“The Hygienic Lunch to-day became one of the convenient eating places for shoppers and business people. Located at 319 River Street, the new lunch room is in the centre of the business district. In its equipment the Hygienic is thoroughly modern, having tiled floors and marble walls, with a kitchen equipment on which no expense or care has been spared. Small marble tables take the place of the usual wide arm chairs. The Hygienic will cater particularly to busy people, and is prepared to serve quickly a lunch or dinner, simple or elaborate. In addition to the usual sandwiches and short-order courses, patrons of the Hygienic can order a steak or portion of roast. The place is managed by the President of the company himself, Mr. Theodore S. Agnew of Schenectady, and James W. Donnan of this city. Mr. Agnew is an experienced restaurant manager, and is one of the founders of the Hygienic Lunch system, which was inaugurated in this state a few years ago.”

At the time, Agnew is found in the Troy City Directory, listed as president and manager of 319 River Street (the business was not named), and boarding at The Rensselaer (later called The Troy House).

A notice in the Schenectady Gazette from June 15, 1911, promises improvements at the Schenectady location:

“Theodore Agnew, president of the Hygienic Lunch Company is in this city after having spent some time in Troy launching a new business in that city. Mr. Agnew stated yesterday that it was his intention to as soon as possible to remodel the place of business in Schenectady and enlarge it to a certain extent. This lunch room is now capable of accommodating a large number of people, several tables have recently been installed which will seat four persons each, these replace the chairs along one entire side and a portion of the other.”

Not much else is said of the Hygienic in either location (and it’s not clear that a contemporaneous Ballston Spa operation by the same name was necessarily connected). A very brief article in the Troy Times on January 5, 1912, says that the proprietors of the Waldorf lunch system, a cafeteria style lunch joint that then had branches in eight cities from Boston to Buffalo, “to-day purchased the Hygienic Lunch from The Hygienic Lunch Company, Incorporated. George R. Donnan of Schenectady was proprietor. The new establishment will be called the Waldorf Lunch.”

That may have been the end of Theodore Agnew’s association with the Hygienic Lunch, and perhaps it was at this time that he lit out for the Charm City. It was not, however, the end of the Hygienic Lunch, for in 1914, Mr. Andrew Kansas announced the new Hygienic Lunch would be opening:

The New Hygienic Lunch

We know from the advertisements of a menswear salesman named Joe Green (and we’ll get to old Joe) that this Hygienic Lunch was also at 412 State Street, and that it continued by that name at least through 1922.

The only mention of the Spiro Agnew connection we find, other than in some biographies and birther sites (apparently there was some controversy), was an article in the Troy Times Record from October 11, 1973, after Agnew had already resigned. It was headlined “Agnew’s Father Ran Restaurant in Troy, and was filled out with just a little less information than we’ve provided above. “Agnew’s father also owned a restaurant in Schenectady but both failed to support him and his brothers. A check of the city directory of 1912 reveals Theodore Agnew moved to New York City. He eventually ended up in Baltimore, Md.”

How to Google Things in 1973

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The kids and their interwebs these days. They have no idea how the world worked before there was a worldwide web. Well, here’s how it was done. Say you wondered where to find a particular oven cleaner. You could just wander aimlessly from grocery store to grocery store, hoping to find what you needed. Or, you could write a letter to the Troy Record’s Hot Line. (Yes, a letter, to a Hot Line that lacked a phone number.) For just the cost of a stamp and the random chance that yours was the question they answered that week, that elusive oven cleaner information could be yours.

In search of oven cleaner

Seriously. This is how things worked. The other scintillating question on this day was from Mrs. Ruby Austin of Johnsonville, who wondered where she might find gloxinia bulbs. (Yonder Farms on North Greenbush Road. “Phone 283-4267 to find if they’ll mail them to you.”

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.”