Aerated Bread

Albany Aerated Bread Co.Some academic collections serve a maddeningly singular purpose, but in this case that purpose serves Hoxsie well. Within Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library resides The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery. Luckily for us, this fascination with architectural vignettes produces some magnificent reminders of historical buildings in the Capital District.

This is the billhead of the Aerated Bread Co. of 193, 195 and 197 North Pearl Street in Albany. Sadly, the location near the corner of Wilson Street is no more than a vacant lot today, but once it housed a graceful old building in which E. J. Larrabee & Co. (successors to Belcher & Larrabee)  made “Egg, Cream, Milk, Graham and Lemon Biscuit, and every variety of Crackers” as well as “Holmes’ Patent Ginger Snaps, Lemon Snaps, Jumbles, &c.” They were also the sole local agents for Holmes’ Patent Snap Machines.

The Larrabee companies were prominent in the development of the cookie and cracker business nationwide; Belcher and Larrabee was formed in 1860, becoming E.J. Larrabee in 1871. In procuring the newest dough-mixing technology from England, they also procured the services of John Holmes, creator of the aforementioned “snap” machines, who went on to build one of New York City’s most prominent cracker factories, Holmes & Coutts, manufacturer of the “Sea Foam” biscuit.

The billhead was printed by the prominent Albany printer Weed, Parsons & Co. It was made out in 1871, and though the handwriting is hard to follow, it would appear to be to a Joseph (?) Gibbons for one bushel of oyster crackers.

6 thoughts on “Aerated Bread

  1. I am curious if you know more about the building shown on the bill – could it be the former Saint Joseph Catholic Church that was purchased by the bakery? (It doesn’t look particularly “small,” though, which is why the church was sold and a new church built on Ten Broek Street.) I’d be interested in your opinion on this since I am trying to locate an image of the Saint Joseph’s Church which once stood at the northeast corner of N. Pearl and Livingston.

    1. Hi, Molly! Yes, I would have to assume that this is the building that once housed the church and was converted (the extent of that conversion I couldn’t say right now) into the biscuit factory. Sometimes these drawings give an odd impression, and if you look and see that the building is only six windows deep, plus the space between, and maybe make some allowance for exaggeration of the front, it may not be so large. That was also a time of tremendous growth in Albany, with the new St. Mary’s built in 1852 because the old one ran out of space, and the same could be said for the First Presbyterian Church and St. Peter’s, all in the decade before the Civil War. I’ll see if I can find anything on-point to your question.


    2. Not a picture, but a bit more information. A devastating fire destroyed the building on Oct. 30, 1887. The Argus then reported:

      The bakery which burnt is on the site of the old St. Joseph’s church, which was erected in 1842. The cornerstone of the old church is still in the foundation of the present building. The first floor contained the offices, seven ovens and the cutting machines. Below this, in the extension on Livingston avenue, is the machinery room and the carpenter shop. In the latter there was a large quantity of wood sawed and ready for making boxes. On the second floor were the mixing rooms, the flour stores and the tin shop. The third floor was taken up with the packing and stacking room; while the fourth floor was a loft used for storage. The building was about one hundred feet square.

      After that the business apparently largely removed to New York, with a small operation in Albany, but then built a new cracker factory in 1896.

  2. Thank you, Carl. This is very helpful information. I was also able to find considerable detail online in the form of a draft application for the National Biscuit Company’s inclusion on the National Historical Register. I assume you’ve already seen this, but in case others are interested this is the link that took me to a PDF copy of the application:

    This is all very fascinating. Thanks for your blog.

    1. Thanks, that’s absolutely great. I hadn’t seen that, as it was prepared several years after I did any work on the Larrabee factory. Interesting that it doesn’t have any mention of the previous church. Obviously we don’t know when the billhead was printed (this particular receipt is dated 1871), but there’s a lot more about that structure that says “church” than “biscuit factory.” But perhaps they did take the old church down to the foundation as the Argus seemed to indicate.

  3. I found at least one mention of the church – on page 12 of the PDF file that I downloaded. The photos of the later structure are interesting, too, though my primary interest was the building which served as the church and which burned in 1887.

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