John Gavit’s engraving, printing, lithographing, and stationery operation was smack in the busiest part of the city in 1869, right at 57 State Street (now, sadly, a prominent parking lot). Like many printers of the day, they did a little bit of everything, in a quality that no doubt we would weep over today. (Inkjet printing just ain’t the same thing.) John Gavit was born in New York City on October 25, 1817, and founded his own printing company here in Albany in 1840. The “Checks, Notes, Drafts, Bill and Note Heads” must have been printed in the very best manner, indeed, for he focused on an enterprise that became the American Bank Note Company, in New York City, sometime around 1855. It became was the world’s foremost engraver and printer of bank notes and securities. “Under his direction the company furnished bonds, banknotes, revenue-stamps for the governments and banks of Spain, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, South and Central America, as well as for the government of the United States,” according to this article.
While the bank note company grew and grew, his printing business here in Albany continued on its own scale. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Dudley Observatory here in Albany. He was a secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and spent a season on the Continent representing both the Association and the Dudley Observatory before certain men of science. Apparently part of the mission, which he undertook in 1858 with a Mr. Spencer, involved bringing back sensitive measuring devices (a barometer, thermometer and heliometer) that were only available in Europe at the time. Unfortunately, they were broken in shipment, and Mr. Gavit felt the need to protest his lack of responsibility for this turn of events.
John Gavit died in 1874.