Eagle Tavern: "The House of Lords"

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EagleTavern2.pngYesterday we showed a handbill from the Eagle Tavern, sometime after 1845, promising that it had been regenerated to what it had once been. Turns out it had once been quite the place indeed. Cuyler Reynolds's "Albany Chronicles" listed any number of notable events that had taken place at the Eagle. It said that the tavern was established in 1814 and kept by Leverett Cruttenden until 1830, but that it was destroyed in the "great fire" of August 17, 1848.

Despite dating the Eagle Tavern to 1814, Reynolds reported that it hosted Commodore Perry in 1813:

"Nov. 8. Citizens and all the local military commands go to Schenectady to meet Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, styled the 'Hero of Lake Erie' by reason of his complete victory there over the British fleet on Sept. 10th, who was on his way to his native city, South Kingston, R.I. (b. Aug. 23, 1785) being but 28 years old at the time. He is met at Douw's Tavern on the turnpike, and after partaking of refreshments there the procession proceeds to the Capitol, where he is presented with an elegant sword and the freedom of the city encased in a gold box, after which ceremony the procession escorts him to the Eagle Tavern, n.e. [sic] corner of Broadway and Hamilton street, where the Mayor and Record escort him to a specially prepared suits of rooms. At night he attends a grand ball and notes the illuminated transparency over his hotel, 'We have met the enemy and they are ours.'" An elaborate entertainment was given in his honor at the Eagle Tavern on Nov. 9, and he departed for Rhode Island on the 11th."

On March 3, 1818, "Freshet so high that water stood over 2 feet deep in the barroom of the Eagle Tavern, s.e. corner So. Market (Broadway) and Hamilton streets, the ferry carried half way to Pearl street and sailing vessels floated over the dock, one family carried in its house across the river to Bath.

On August 15, 1822, "Joseph Bonaparte, Spain's ex-King, arrives at Albany on his travels, and takes rooms at Eagle Tavern, s.e. cor. Broadway and Hamilton.

On Nov. 14, 1833, "Henry Clay, great American statesman, arrives and is escorted to the Eagle Tavern, s.e. cor. Broadway and Hamilton st., where he is addressed by the Mayor on behalf of the city, by Ambrose Spencer for the older men and John B. Van Schaick for young men."

On Feb. 4, 1835, there was a meeting at the tavern "to discuss bridging the river." (Just 30 years later it would be a reality!)

On July 20, 1835, the Eagle Tavern, "made famous by Landlord Leverett Cruttenden, taken over by H.H. Crane of Rochester." When Cruttenden died in Connecticut in 1838, it was noted that he was long the landlord of Congress Hall, and subsequently of the Eagle Tavern. "His establishment known as the House of Lords because of the prominent characters stopping there, was started in 1814, and conducted by him with great éclat for sixteen years." His successor Hector Crane died that same year, at only 44 years of age.

In August 1839, Henry Clay returned to the Eagle Tavern, "arriving by way of Troy in a barouche, accompanied by John Townsend, Daniel D. Barnard and John Bay, and when nearing the city joined by a large procession, Gen. Towsend, marshal, to act as escort." Clay steamboated off the New York two days later.

On August 17, 1848, the Eagle Tavern appears to have met its end. "'The Great Fire' started by a washerwoman's bonnet at the Albion Hotel, corner of Broadway and Herkimer street, the flames spreading to the north by a strong south wind, sweeping both sides of Broadway and Church street, and crossing the water to the Pier, devastating everything to Maiden Lane and along Broadway to Hudson avenue; but at night lessened by heavy rainfall; 600 buildings burned, including the Eagle Tavern on Broadway; loss $3,000,000; burnt area 37 acres; greatest width being 700 feet west from the river on Herkimer st., and greatest length on one street being 1,600 feet along Quay st."

 

Eagle Tavern

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EagleTavern.jpgThis undated image from the Library of Congress depicts the Eagle Tavern at the corner of Broadway and Hamilton Street in Albany:


We have leased the Eagle Tavern for a Term of years, and have cleansed and regenerated it from top to bottom.

No exertion on our part shall be wanting to make the "Eagle" what it has been in "days gone by."

ALFRED HOUGHTON.
Late of the Steamboat Knickerbocker.

PETER ACKER,
Late of the Townsend House.

N. B.--A careful Porter will be in attendance to take charge of Baggage.


Though this sheet is undated, there is an 1845 New York State Register that contains a similar ad for the Townsend House ("on the site of the old Montgomery Hall") at 56 and 58 Market Street, advertised by O.W. Fisk, "late proprietor of the Montgomery Hall," and Alfred Houghton, "Commander of the Steamboat Knickerbocker." So one can presume that the Eagle, in this incarnation, came sometime after that. (Market Street was Broadway, north of State.) The Knickerbocker sank in 1856, without loss of life, near Fort Montgomery, but it's not clear whether Houghton jumped ship, as it were, prior to that time. What went on with the Eagle between "days gone by" and its promised cleansing and regeneration is perhaps better left to the imagination. But at least now they would have careful porters.


Hamilton doesn't really go all the way through to Broadway anymore.

The Rail-Road Exchange

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railroadexchange.jpgThe Library of Congress includes this flyer in its ephemera collection, with a possible date of 1847 and no more information than that. Apparently Abner A. Pond's Rail-Road Exchange offered board and lodging (single meals 25 cents) on Broadway, with its entrance at 25 & 27 Maiden Lane. "This House adjoins the square used as a depot by the Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road Company, and opposite the Ticket Office of the Boston Rail Road, and contiguous to the Steamboat Landings."

The 1850 Census listed him as Abner "Pound," who was from Massachusetts and whose occupation was "Hotell." He was 48 years old in 1850; wife Henryetta was 45. Their children were Agustus, Albert, Nancy and Thomas; Agustus, the oldest at 18, was a bartender. Pond had a number of Irish porters, hackmen and maids living on the premises as well. His Exchange was likely located on what is now a little park at the foot of Maiden Lane. It doesn't appear in the 1840 city directory.

The Brick Makers of Albany

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DunbarHouseAlbany.pngJust when brick manufacture began in New Netherlands has been the subject of considerable conjecture. It is often still taken as given that in the earliest days of settlement of the Hudson Valley, any brick that was used by the brick-loving Dutch settlers must have been imported, even though the cost to do so would have been astronomical and it seems unlikely any but the richest could have afforded to pay to have brick carried across the ocean in any meaningful quantities. A writer by the name of Robert W. Jones, writing in "Brick and Clay Record" back in 1917, said of the theory that bricks came over from Holland or England that "This interesting bit of fiction has been related so many times and so seldom disproved or questioned that it has come to be generally accepted as fact." He argued that with the tremendous need for other manufactures, bringing brick across the ocean to a land so full of clay and fuel would have made little sense, and he made note of a letter from 1628 that said that in New Amsterdam, "They bake brick here but it is very poor." He also said that in 1640 local yellow brick was being sold in Rensselaerswyck.

He did note however, an instance where brick was shipped. Arendt Van Curler, a founder of Schenectady, wrote to the patron in 1643 complaining that of 4,000 tiles and 30,000 hard bricks that were shipped from Holland, 2/3 of the bricks were kept by the ship's captain as ballast, and that the tiles "crumble all away like sand . . . The broker who purchased the tile for your honor hath grossly cheated you." The notation regarding ballast makes an excellent point, for it was often said that brick was brought over as useful ballast in these tiny sailing ships - but if they needed ballast coming to the new world, they certainly also needed it going back. Certainly some prominent homes were built of imported brick - Jones says that Crailo was among them.

Jones noted that a brickmaker was known to have come to New Amsterdam in 1653, and that there was notice that in 1657 Juffrouw (Miss) Johanna De Hulter had sold her steen bakkerij (brick kiln) to Adrian Van Ilpendam and her pannenbackerij (tile kiln) to Peter Mees. The Hoogeboom brothers were making tiles in Van Slechtenhorst's kiln in 1658, and Pieter Jacobse Borseboom sold his brick kiln in 1662 when he moved to Schenectady. So it is pretty clear that early on there was a fair amount of brickmaking right in the Albany area.

In 1728, there was a little flood of applications to the Albany Common Council to establish new brick works. Luykas Hooghkerck applied to the Albany Common Council for two acres of land on Gallows Hill, for a term of fifty years, to be used in the manufacture of brick. (Gallows Hill appears to have been land to the south of Fort Frederick, running from Eagle down to South Pearl. Howell puts the cathedral squarely within Gallows Hill.) Jones reports that Hooghkerck was in the brick business for many years before and "this yard was never completely abandoned until about 1900." According to the city records, Hooghkerck was granted that right for "twelf shillings," provided that "he doth not stup op [stop up] ye Roods & passes at or near ye sd [said] ground nor the course of ye run of water." "Roods" here meant "roads;" he couldn't block the existing roads or paths. At exactly the same time, Abraham Vosburg applied for a 25 year lease for a brick kiln on two acres "upon ye Gallo hill adjouning at both side of a small run of water being by east of ye ground of Luykas Hoghkerck." A third application was made by Wilhelmiss V.D. Bergh requested "to have ye use of a sartin small persell of ground lying to ye west of ye ground of ye heirs of Jan Gerritse, dec'd, on or near a creek or run of water which is said to be within ye limits of this corporation, for ye use of ye sd Wilhelmus & Nicolaes Groesbeeck to dig & prepare clay for bricks for ye term of six years." Ten shillings for those rights to one acre of ground.

According to "A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860," by John Leander Bishop, "The clay banks in Lydius street (now Madison Avenue) for a long period supplied numerous brick-yards in the vicinity with material for their manufacture." Bishop listed Hooghkerck's among them, and said that in 1732 or 1733, the city "granted Lambert Radley and Jonathan Broocks an acre on gallohill, west of Hooghkerck's brick-kiln, for twenty years." They were charged 20 shillings for the privilege. Bishop also noted that Jan Masse had a brick-kiln in the western part of the city, south of Foxe's Creek, in 1736, and Wynant Van der Bergh had one on the north side of the same creek (though I suspect Wynant was Wilhelmiss, mentioned above).

Jones also says that Jacobus Van Vorst's bricks were used to build a parsonage in Schenectady in 1753, and that in 1736 Abraham Harpelse Van Deusen and Hendrick Gerritse Van Ness had a kiln on the north side of Foxen Creek.. He writes that "There are no records of these early times in which any mention is made of methods or manufacture except that the open yard was naturally the method of drying and to help cut the cost of production the school boys were allowed to 'turn and spat' for the privilege of swimming in the flooded clay pit. There are a few interesting records also of a method of tempering which was dependent upon a drove of cows being driven thru the prepared clay bed until the material was worked into a condition for molding."  

All of this was before significant brickmaking began over on the Beaver Kill, site of present-day Lincoln Park.  William Moore began making bricks in Albany in 1844 (Howell, in his "Bi-centennial History of Albany," notes that this came because his carting business was in decline." He started at the head of Fourth Avenue, but with success moved to the corner of Morton and Hawk streets, where his son James succeeded him.

Howell also noted that George Stanwix started making bricks at Warren and Elizabeth streets in 1799; the business was passed down to his son and grandson, and the yard moved to Morton street in 1851. John Artcher made bricks sometime around 1840, starting on Chestnut Street, then on Jay, then on Hudson. Later on he moved to Western Avenue, where after 33 years in brickmaking he turned to brewing. James Smith and someone named Roberts made bricks at Morton and Eagle beginning in 1870. Capt. M.V.B. Wagoner made brick and slip clay at a yard his father established in 1845, bounded by Lark, Canal (Sheridan), Orange and Knox (Henry Johnson). Howell gave some other names without locations, including Edward Fisher, George Briant Basset, Ebenezer Wright, Patrick McCall, Alfred Hunter, Thomas McCarthy, Robert Marcelis and Joshua Babcock.

(Jones illustrated his story with a photograph of the "Old Dunbar House." Presumably this was some relation to Robert Dunbar, the Patroon's agent, but he didn't give the location.)

What Lord Kelvin Saw in Schenectady

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LordKelvininSchenectadyhigherres.jpgYesterday we tried to identify the many, many scientific, engineering and industrial luminaries pictured in this photograph, taken at the Schenectady General Electric Works. So, what were they all up to?

In September of 1897, Lord and Lady Kelvin were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Trask "at their country seat on Union avenue, Saratoga," according to "Electricity, a Popular Electrical Journal." A reception was given at their home, the day after which a large party descended upon the General Electric Works at Schenectady for a tour.

The Iron Age reported that on Sept. 23, Lord Kelvin and the group were conducted through the works, starting at Building No. 9, where heavy machinery was constructed. "This building was crowded with dynamo parts in all stages of completion . . . This building contains some very large planers, and the largest boring mill ever built." They then toured the testing room. "Connected to this building and forming part of it is the machine shop and shipping department, a total length of 1330 feet, all under one roof, with electric traveling cranes running from end to end carrying the unfinished parts to their respective assembling points, and the finished machines finally to the shipping department end. They viewed electrical generators and railway generators destined for the NYC Fourth and Sixth Avenue lines and Boston's transit, and transformers headed to Niagara Falls.

In Building 15, they saw how armature coils were wound and no doubt some of the advances developed by Charles Proteus Steinmetz, looking at long distance transmission equipment. "An interesting experiment in high voltage currents was then made by C.P. Steinmetz. An arc was sprung between two metallic points, some 15 inches apart, with the current at a pressure of 180,000 to 200,000 volts, and drawn out to a length of about 5 feet, until it could no longer hold." This was the artificial lightning for which Steinmetz was well known." Electrical Engineer was a bit more effusive in its description, raising the pressure to 250,000 volts, explaining that at the first test, the brass points broke down, but "the second resulted in a splendid arc, which before it snapped away twisted and coiled till it could not have been less than 30 inches in length. Tests were also shown of breaking with new fuses and Thomson magnetic blowout currents of 750 h.p. and upward, with no more fuss than is made by an ordinary arc lamp when a hard bit of carbon sticks in its crop." And we all now how little fuss that is.

Then they viewed the railway motors, going to Building 23 to see the new surface contact system. "The overhead trolley wire is superseded by a series of small cast iron disks set in the pavement in parallel rows between the rails of the track, each disk convexed to about 1 inch above the surface, at distances of about 4 feet. The disk near to one rail is the positive disk, that near the other the negative disk. In this system only those disks immediately under the car are alive; all the others are without current. The current is brought to the positive disks by an automatic magnetic switch, which is set with a number of others in a manhole, instead of being buried in the street near its own disk. The car is provided with a small storage battery and with two long shoes suspended beneath it, touching always one or two disks."

"After witnessing the operation of this system, the party mounted the search light tower, whence a splendid bird's-eye view of the entire works was had. Descending this the party was grouped at the base and photographed."

After seeing how to start a streetcar, they saw a new way to stop them, with a demonstration of the electric brake on car No. 9 of the Schenectady Street Railway. "The moment the car is stopped and no current is flowing from the controller the motors become very powerful dynamos, which turn their current into the coil of that one of the disks which is attached to the motor. It then becomes a very powerful electromagnet with a strong power of attraction..."

Electrical Engineer gave a detailed description of what was shown to Lord Kelvin, saying that among the demonstrations, "none possessed more interest to the electrical railway engineer than the acceleration test made upon the experimental track which runs along the heel path of the Erie Canal for a distance of nearly two miles." The demonstration was on a car intended for use on elevated railways, which were required to deal with quick stops and quick starts. "Quick stopping is . . . well taken care of by both air and electric brakes, leaving rapid acceleration as the point needing attention. Realizing this, the General Electric Company has been experimenting for the past several months with the idea of determining at what rate of acceleration the passengers would be annoyed."

Asked to express an opinion on his visit, Lord Kelvin said: 'I am enjoying myself very much and learning enormously. There are no shops in the world like these; they are among the great wonders of America.'"

More than 20 years later, R.R. Bowker  made a casual mention of the event in the minutes of a meeting of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, of which Lord Kelvin was an honorary member,

"whom we elders saw more or less of, both in New York and at his English home. Scotchmen always have a little bit of dialect . . . and Lord Kelvin had this also, and he was absolutely simple and modest. I suppose, really, he carried about in his head more knowledge than any man of his time, perhaps any man of any time, because he had not only the practical equipment which is so marked in Edison, but he also had the highest degree of scientific and technical educated training. Nevertheless, he was the most modest of men. I remember going with him once from New York to Saratoga, where we stayed with Spencer Trask, and then went on to the works of the General Electric Company at Schenectady, in the early days of the electric railway development. While he was at Saratoga for a time, he went out on the place and was talking with one of the farm hands, and that farm hand then had the most wonderful appreciation for this interesting gentleman. What happened was that Lord Kelvin, who was always asking questions was letting this man talk, for he had the faculty of always exacting from any an whom he met some information, which he, who knew most of all, could still utilize.

"We went on to Schenectady, and I have a mental picture of going into that old trolley car which some of you may remember at Schenectady, and Kelvin insisted that the floor should be torn up, so that he could get down on his knees and watch the operation of the motor under the car.

"It certainly is an honor to this Association that it can count that great man on its list of honorary members."

 

A Meeting of the Minds in Schenectady

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LordKelvininSchenectadyhigherres.jpgThis picture of Schenectady's industrial past pops up from time to time, usually vaguely captioned as "Lord Kelvin visits the General Electric works." That Spencer Trask is in the picture is sometimes mentioned. (The New York Public Library has one decent source for the photograph.)  That the captions rarely identify the highly notable Charles Steinmetz or any of the other notables in the picture is odd. So, what's going on here?

Lord Kelvin was William Thomson, born in Belfast in 1824. He became one of the most noted scientists of his age, developing important mathematical analysis of electricity and thermodynamics and helping to develop modern physics, while also developing telegraphy. He was knighted by Queen Victoria for his work on a transatlantic telegraph. He also found the correct value of absolute zero temperature, now named in his honor. He served as a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Science-wise, he was a huge deal. In the photograph, he is center in the light suit and hat. The lady is the Lady Kelvin, his wife.

Spencer Trask was a financier and venture capitalist who routinely backed inventors, particularly Thomas Edison. Trask served as president of the New York Edison Company (later known as Consolidated Edison) and chairman of the New York Times. Around these parts, he's a hero because his Saratoga Springs estate became the artist colony Yaddo, which wasn't created until a dozen years after his death in a train wreck at Croton. Trask here is to the left of Lord Kelvin in front, wearing the bowler and with a walking stick.

In September 1897, Lord Kelvin came to our area after having attended meetings of the British Association in Toronto. "The Iron Age" of October 7, 1897 reported on the visit to the Schenectady General Electric Company  on September 23; so did "The Western Electrician," which ran nearly the identical article. They reported that "Lord Kelvin, accompanied by Lady Kelvin, Count di Brazza-Savorgnan, Spencer Trask, Alanson Trask, R.R. Bowker and Professor Elihu Thomson, visited the works of the General Electric company on September 23d. He was met by Captain Eugene Griffin, Joseph P. Ord and E.W. Rice, Jr., the three vice-presidents of the company, and S. Dana Greene, manager of the lighting department. In addition there were present W.F. Merrill, vice-president and general manager of the Erie railroad, Dr. Louis Duncan, Dr. Cary T. Hutchinson, Frank J. Sprague, T.C. Martin, Chas. W. Price, H.G. Prout, C.T. Childs, J.J. Swan, W.J. Clark, W.B. Potter. A.H. Rohrer, C.P. Steinmetz and others."

Another article in The Electrical Engineer adds even more names from GE, including S.M. Hamill, Jr., J.R. Lovejoy, J. Conover, J. McGhie, F. Shepard, J. Kruesi and others, and sayd that Mr. H.r. Bacon of the Canal & Claiborne Railroad in New Orleans was also in the party.

For anyone familiar with the early history of electricity, that is nothing short than an assemblage of the gods.

Count Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (the article didn't get his name quite right) was an Italian-born explorer who, on behalf of his adopted France, led the colonization of Central Africa. The capital of the Republic of the Congo, Brazzaville, was named for him. In 1887, he had just been dismissed as governor-general of the French Congo. It's just possible he's pictured third from the right in a bowler, though that bears a resemblance to only one photo of de Brazza that we've seen; in others, he is quite the looker and it seems like he would stand out in this photo.  He appears to have been associated with Spencer Trask, who had an interest in the di Brazza Postal Device and Lock Company, which in a later year held a patent assignment from Detalmo di Brazza Savorgnan family in Rome. When an earthquake devastated Calabria in 1905, Spencer Trask served as a collector for funds raised to be sent to Countess Cora di Brazzà-Savorgnan, wife of Detalmo and relative of Pierre.

Elihu Thomson was an electrical inventor and founder of the Thomson-Houston Electric Company, and as much as General Electric has preferred to trace its legacy to Thomas Edison, the truth is that it was Thomson's company that really formed the basis for the modern corporate behemoth. Its merger with Edison General Electric formed the new General Electric Company in 1892. He is likely to be the gent to Steinmetz's immediate left, next to Lady Kelvin in the front row.

Alanson Trask was Spencer Trask's son, only perhaps two years old at this time; he would die by the age of five. All four of the Trask children died in infancy or childhood. He does not appear to be in this photograph.

Richard Rogers Bowker was the editor of Publisher's Weekly and Harper's Magazine, and the first president of the New York Library Club. In 1896, the year before this picture was taken, he became manager of The New York Times, thus his association with Trask. I suspect he is two heads to the right of Trask, from our viewpoint.

Edwin Wilbur Rice, Jr. was considered one of the fathers of GE (along with Elihu Thomson and Charles Coffin). He was a student of Elihu Thomson when Elihu taught in Philadelphia, and joined him in the electrical industry, growing the Lynn, Massachusetts factory of Thomson-Houston into an industrial powerhouse with 4000 employees.  At the time of this picture, he was GE's vice president of manufacturing and engineering, and is slightly honored in Schenectady through the naming of Rice Road. Eventually Rice became President of General Electric. Rice is the fellow in the round-rimmed glasses and light-colored hat just behind Lady Kelvin's right shoulder.

"Captain" Eugene Griffin would later be General Eugene Griffin, who at the time of his death in 1907 was first vice-president and manager of the sales department at GE. An 1875 West Point graduate, he entered the Engineering Corps, rising to captain. In 1889, according to "Electrical West," he resigned the army to take up electrical engineering work, joining Thomson Houston. After the consolidation, he became first vice president of GE, and became president of the Thomson Houston International Electric Company. On the outbreak of war with Spain, shortly after this photograph was taken, he organized and commanded the First Regiment United States Volunteer Engineers during the Spanish-American war and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. His is the sole clean-shaven face, immediately to Lady Kelvin's left.  

Joseph Pacificus Ord, another of the GE vice presidents. He came from an auditor's position with the West Shore Railroad, and was selected to serve as comptroller of Edison General Electric in 1890. The "General Electric Review" said that Ord "was not a trained accountant, nor did he make any pretensions to skill in finance; but this experience in the auditing department and a natural talent for the construction of forms and office routine, together with the ability to say 'No' and to stick to it . . . enabled him to render important service...." Though he left GE in 1902, he remained a director of the corporation until his death in 1913. (interestingly for the time, when he died at the age of 60 years, he left behind a daughter, his only offspring, aged 5.)

Samuel Dana Greene, general manager of the lighting department of General Electric, was also a military man. He was the son of Commander Samuel Dana Greene, second in command of the Monitor when it fought the Merrimac (most would say the Virginia). S.D. junior graduated top of his class from the Naval Academy in 1883, but only served until 1888, when he left for the allure of electricity, became chief engineer of Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company and then became associated with Thomas Edison. He also went off to war in 1891, then became commanding officer of the New York Naval Militia and joined Governor Theodore Roosevelt's staff. Tragically, he and his wife died just a couple of years after this, on Jan. 8, 1900, when they were out skating on the Mohawk River near Freeman's Bridge after dark, fell into a cut in the ice and drowned in the river. The funeral at St. George's in the Stockade was reported as the largest ever held in Schenectady; Gov. Roosevelt and his military staff attended, along with 200 officials of GE and men who served under him during the Spanish-American War. I don't find a picture of this S.D. Greene, but if he looked like his father, he could easily be mistaken for the gent immediately to Steinmetz's right, but he could also be the fellow on the very far right of the group.

William Fessenden Merrill was a civil engineer and railroad man who had served with railroads all over the Midwest. He was the general manager of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad out west before coming back east to serve as second vice president of the Erie Railroad, which he was when this picture was taken.  He may have been here because the party saw a demonstration of a new brake for electric railways. I had thought he was the fellow farthest to the left, with the bowler and umbrella, but now I think it more likely that's Frank Sprague.

Dr. Louis Duncan was another naval man who graduated the Academy in 1880 but who went to Johns Hopkins University to do graduate study in physics and electricity, where the "Electrical Review and Western Electrician" says he determined the unit of electrical resistance. (It was not the only time that the ohm, as it is known, was determined; it doesn't have an absolute value.) A professor at Johns Hopkins, Duncan helped form a battalion of engineers in the Spanish-American War, and was ranked a major. He was president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers when this picture was made, and was involved in pretty much every other scientific institute of the age. He was known as an electrical traction expert and was the consulting engineer in the electrification of the transit systems in New York City, but also worked on telephone systems. He could be the slightly blurry chap second from the left.

Dr. Cary Talcott Hutchinson would also, in 1901, serve as a consulting engineer along with Dr. Duncan in the electrification of NYC's rapid transit. He also went to Johns Hopkins, then formed the firm of Sprague, Duncan and Hutchinson; he was connected with Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company and the Edison GE at Schenectady, and was at one point vice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. The sole picture I can find of him doesn't give much to go on in picking him out of this crowd.

Frank J. Sprague was another Annapolis graduate, class of 1878, who dabbled in electricity, inventing a new type of dynamo while still in the service (a dynamo is a DC generator). He came to the attention of Edison and was lured to Menlo Park and is legendary for having brought some actual method (mathematics, for example) to the madness that the Wizard there favored. He left Edison to form the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company, which created an important non-sparking railway motor and regenerative braking, and vastly improved streetcars and, later, elevators. It appears he may be the gent farthest to the left, but I am far from certain.

Thomas Commerford Martin was also an electrical engineer whose father worked with Lord Kelvin, and TC spent time laying submarine telegraph cables. When he came to the United States in 1877, he became associated with Thomas Edison, but soon morphed into a role something like being the first evangelist of electricity: it was Martin, as a writer and editor, who fanned the flames of publicity that made men like Edison and Tesla media superstars of their day. He was editor of Electrical World from 1883 to 1909, and a founding member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. I believe he is the gent standing directly behind Steinmetz.

Charles W. Price was an editor and publisher from Chicago who published Electrical Review, a rival of Martin's Electrical World, though he took that position in 1891, so it is possible he was among this group in another capacity.

Col. Henry Goslee Prout was the editor of the Railroad Gazette for 16 years, until 1903, and so likely was on this visit in that capacity.  He was a Civil War veteran who became a civil engineer, put himself through college by working on railroad surveys and then War Department surveys of the west. According to Railway Age, he entered the ervice of the Khédive of Egypt as a major of engineers, rising to colonel, performing geodetic and topographical engineering, studies for a hospital and military prison, repairs of fortifications, and more. On his return to America he became a switch engineer, and became editor of the Railroad Gazette in 1887. Best guess for him in this picture: fourth from the right in the light hat.

C.T. Childs is noted in several early electrical journals, and wrote a book called "How and Why of Electricity." More than that I haven't found.  

J.J. Swan at this time also appears to be a bit of an enigma, but appears to have held several positions with GE; In 1922 he was noted as presenting at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on the topic of standardization of graphics.

W.J. Clark was the manager of the traction department of GE, and may have previously worked for Sprague. His job appears to have been to get GE's motors into Sprague's railways.

W.B. Potter was another traction man at GE, serving as chief engineer of the railway and traction department.

A.H. Rohrer would at some point become superintendent of the electrical works at Schenectady GE.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz, the dwarf fourth from the left, was one of the most brilliant minds in electrical history, an important figure in Schenectady politics and education, the developer of GE's approach to research and professional development, and generally an inspiration. If you don't know about him, you should.

Albany's Five State Buildings

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The Gazetteer and Business Directory of Albany and Schenectady counties for 1870-71 reported that there were five State buildings in Albany at that time: The Capitol, State Hall, State Library, Geological and Agricultural Hall, Normal School and State Arsenal. Of those five, exactly one survives.


The first was the old State Capitol, which the Gazetteer notes "was commenced in 1803 and finished in 1807 at the joint expense of the City and County of Albany and the State of New York. The original cost was over $120,000, of which $34,200 was paid by the City and $3,000 by the County of Albany. It was used for County, City and State offices until 1832, when it was fitted up for legislative and other public purposes. It stands at the head of State Street, 130 feet above the Hudson, and has in front a park of three acres, enclosed by an iron fence. It is built of stone, raced with Nyock [sic] Red Freestone. The building contains the Assembly Chamber, the Senate Chamber, Court of Appeals, and various other rooms for the Executive and Legislative Departments of the Government."

Odd that the Gazetteer gave not a mention of the construction of the new Capitol, which had commenced in 1867. Even before the new one was complete, the old Philip Hooker-designed Capitol was razed, in 1883.


state library and old capitol 1870 11082190_10155379416620187_4106103780983891934_o.jpg"The State Library is a fire-proof building in the rear of the Capitol, and connected with it by a corridor. It is constructed of brick and iron, and faced on its two fronts with brownstone. It was erected in 1853-4 and cost nearly $100,000. It was opened to the public, Jan. 2, 1855. The first story is devoted to the Law Library, and the second to the General Library. The latter contains a large number of costly presents from other Governments, a valuable series of manuscripts and parchments relating to our Colonial and early State history, and an extensive collection of coins and medals, both ancient and modern. The General Library embraces about 50,000 volumes, and the Law Library about 20,000. The Library is open from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., when any person is permitted to consult any work contained therein, but is not allowed to take books from the room."

Images of the old State Library seem to be few and far between. It seems likely to be the building pictured here sandwiched in between the old Capitol and the construction of the new one.


StateHall002.png"The State Hall, located upon Eagle Street, fronting the Academy Park, is built of cut stone, with a colonnade in front, supported by six Ionic columns, and is surmounted by a dome. The building is 138 by 88 feet, and 65 feet high. The ceilings of the basement and two principal stories are grained arches, and all the rooms except the attic story are fire-proof. The basement and attic are each nineteen feet, and the other stories each twenty-two feet high. The building cost about $350,000. It contains the offices of the Secretary of State, Comptroller, Treasurer, Auditor of Canal Department, Canal Commissioners, State Engineer and Surveyor, Division Engineers, Clerk of Court of Appeals, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Superintendent of Bank Department, Attorney General, State Sealer of Weights and Measures and Insurance Department."

This is the building at Eagle and Pine that we now know as the State Court of Appeals, which dates to 1840-42.


"The State Geological and Agricultural Hall, corner of State and Lodge Streets, was erected in 1855. It is constructed of brick, and is four stories high besides the basement. The Agricultural Rooms were dedicated Feb. 12, 1857, and the Cabinet was opened to the public Feb. 22, 1858. The building contains a lecture room, the Geological Cabinet, the Museum of Natural History, and rooms for the officers of the various departments connected with the building. The Cabinet originated in the Geological Survey, and in extent and value ranks among the first in America. The Museum is designed to embrace a complete representation of the geological formations of the State, with their accompanying minerals and fossils, and of its entire native flora and fauna. The birds and quadrupeds are preserved by a skillful taxidermist, with the attitudes and appearance of life, and the reptiles and fishes are principally preserved in alcohol. Connected with this Cabinet is an historical and antiquarian department, embracing numerous aboriginal antiquities and speciments of modern Indian art, relics of battle-fields and other objects of historical interest. The whole is under the charge of a curator appointed by the Regents. The Museum of the State Agricultural Society, in a separate apartment of the building, contains a large collection of obsolete and modern implements of husbandry, specimens of agricultural and mechanical products, models of fruits, samples of grains and soils, and drawings illustrating subjects connected with the useful arts. These collections are open to the public every week day except holidays."

We wrote a history of what came to be known simply at Geological Hall not too long back. The collections there were largely moved into the new State Education Building in 1912; it's not clear to us exactly when the old hall came down, but Diana Waite's Albany Architecture puts it at 1937.


"The State Normal School is located at the corner of Howard and Lodge Streets. The present building was erected in 1848 at a cost of $25,000. The school was established for the instruction and practice of teachers in the common schools of the State. The school is supported by an annual appropriation from the Literature Fund, and is under immediate charge of an executive committee appointed by the Regents of the University."

The school's history notes that when it opened, the building had separate entrances for men and women, a common practice at the time. The Normal School itself moved to Willett Street in 1885, where it was destroyed by fire in 1906. It then re-established itself in buildings on Washington Avenue that are now part of the State University of New York at Albany, which likes to date itself to the Normal School. The building at Howard and Lodge is reported by SUNY Albany to have been demolished in 1949.


"The State Arsenal is a fine brick building situated on Eagle Street, corner of Hudson."

That's all the Gazetteer had to say about the State Arsenal. The original State Arsenal in Albany was on Broadway and Lawrence Street, a Philip Hooker building that went up in 1799 and served as the arsenal until it was converted into P.S. 13 in 1859. In 1858, the Legislature passed an act to convey the old arsenal to the city of Albany, and to procure the land at the corner of Hudson and Eagle, and to pay the sum of $5000 toward the erection of an arsenal and armory. The Division of Military and Naval Affairs (and why, by the way, is the Navy not considered military?) reports that the architect was Adolf von Steinwehr, and that the Hudson Street Arsenal closed in 1891 (when the Washington Avenue Armory opened) and was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese, which later used it as the Catholic Union Building. After that, it became the Eagle Street Theater. It was torn down in the '60s for construction of the Empire State Plaza.

(Huge thanks to the "Albany...The Way It Was" group on Facebook, which archives its important historic photos on Flickr as the Albany Group Archive.)

Albany's Horse-Drawn Trolleys

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1893's Street Railway Journal said that Albany was "one of the first cities in the United States to rise to the dignity of passenger transport by means of a street car system." But street car didn't yet mean electric trolleys; the earliest trolleys in Albany were actually horse-drawn, run by two different companies.

The first company was the Watervliet Turnpike and Railroad Company, formed April 15, 1862 as a successor to the Watervliet Turnpike Company (formed in 1828). The original Watervliet turnpike ran from the Albany city line to Buffalo Street (now 15th Street), at the edge of the now forgotten Gibbonsville. The line was operated from 1854 with horse-drawn omnibuses, under the auspices of the turnpike company; the Turnpike and Railroad Company was the first to lay down track. It built a line from South Ferry Street up Broadway to the Lumber District and ran its first car on June 22, 1863 (according to Howell's "Bi-Centennial History of Albany"). It extended its line from Broadway up to Albany Rural Cemetery. By 1886 it had 7.5 miles of double track from South Ferry to Green Island, and a mile of single track from Broadway to the Lumber District, employing 27 cars, 150 horses and 75 conductors, drivers, and trackmen. The line served North Albany, the Cemetery, the Old Men's Home, Island Park and the Watervliet Arsenal. The Board of Directors included such Albany luminaries as James Jermain, Dudley Olcott, and Rufus King.

It was quickly followed by the Albany Railway Company, incorporated Sept. 14, 1863, and work began that winter to build a horse railway from Broadway through State, Washington, and Central Avenue to Knox Street. The first car ran February 22, 1864. The following year the line was extended to West Albany and a new line built down South Pearl to Kenwood. Another extension was built in 1866, on Pearl Street from State to Van Woert. In 1873, a line was built from North Pearl up Clinton Avenue, through Lexington to Central. In 1875, they built a Hamilton Street line to Lexington, later extended to Quali and then Partridge. In 1886, the company had 18 miles of single track, four miles of double, 44 cars and 215 horses. The Board included names like Manning, Pruyn, Ten Eyck, and Van Vechten. Around 1888, both companies began changing over to electric power.

In 1891, the Watervliet Turnpike and Railroad Company was bought up by Albany Railway Company, which now had exclusive rights in Albany. Changing to electricity required the construction of new car barns and power stations. It wouldn't be until 1899 that the Albany Railway, the Troy City Railway and the Watervliet Turnpike and Railroad Company merged to form the United Traction Company, which ran the trolleys for many years.

American_Express_Shipping_Receipt_1853.jpgDid you ever get hit with something you feel like you really should have known, something that should just be common knowledge, and yet you had no idea? So here's one of those things: American Express was started in Albany. And, there was a Wells Fargo connection as well. (Have to give thanks to a Facebook post by local newscaster Phil Bayly for the American Express information.) But maybe more importantly, Albany was the home of the very first package express delivery service.

 It turns out the earliest express companies, which arranged for the movement of freight by canal and rail, were complicated and more than a little incestuous. They went in and out of business in very short periods of time, with this agent or that principal jumping ship to another company with alarming regularity. So actually tracking the genesis of what became the American Express Company is a bit complicated. Howell, in his otherwise invaluable "Bi-Centennial History of the County of Albany," makes a bit of a mash of it, providing a wildly confusing series of names and relationships in the express business in Albany. But he is clear on one point:

 "To William F. Harnden belongs the credit of recognizing a public want before the public had any definite idea of what that want was; and not merely recognizing it, but going practically to work with energy to supply it. He was the beginner and earliest practical worker of an institution which, for rapid growth and business importance, is without a parallel," Howell wrote in 1886. "The package express of modern times was unknown until Harnden started it in 1839 . . . The origin of the express, as an institution, was brought about by the introduction of the railway, which made a revolution in former methods. Business men began to require a more rapid and safe delivery of valuable packages and sundry parcels. The old way demanded large confidence, and sometimes became a burden and an inconvenience to friends and acquaintances. There are now living those who well remember how anxious men were to send by some friend going to New York or Boston, parcels of bank notes, drafts, bills collectable, or other valuables; and it was expected to be cheerfully performed as a favor."

 According to Howell, William F. Harnden was a conductor on the first train of the Boston and Worcester Railroad in 1834. He found the confinement injurious to his health (don't imagine that the inside of an early rail car was a clean and healthy place to be), and told his friend James W. Hale he sought some more active business. Hale was somewhat of a pioneer in express himself: he carried letters at a reduced rate at a time when U.S. postage was actually fairly high. (Hale claimed to have been arrested for this act 450 times.) Hale suggested that Harnden run a parcel express between New York and Boston, which he did beginning in 1839.

HenryWells.jpgEnter Henry G. Wells, a Vermonter who was a freight agent on the Erie Canal, who encouraged Harnden to extend his growing service to Albany and Buffalo and beyond. Harnden did start an Albany service in 1841, hiring Henry Wells as his agent, but he didn't carry it further west. Wells, who had grown up near Seneca Falls and apprenticed at Palmyra, still thought the service should extend westward and suggested to a George Pomeroy that it would pay to start an express from Albany to Buffalo. This seems to have had a short run, then lay fallow, then a coal merchant named Crawford Livingston suggested it start up again, so Wells joined Pomeroy & Co.'s Albany and Buffalo Express, which shipped packages west once a week and could reach Buffalo in four nights and three days. Livingston, Wells and Pomeroy also began the Hudson River Express in 1842. "Pomeroy and Wells . . . served as the two messengers of the concern, having a desk in the Exchange Building, where the first express business was transacted in this city."

 Meantime, Harnden sold the Boston to Albany route to James M. Thompson, who had an agent named Robert L. Johnson, in 1844. He also sold his Philadelphia route, which ended up in the hands of William A. Livingston, who sold out of the business there and moved to Albany to join brother Crawford's business. They connected with the Fargo brothers, Williams, James and Charles, in Buffalo, running the Western Express Forwarders under the name of Livingston, Wells & Co., and, after Crawford's death in 1847, Wells & Co.

There was a rival company started by James D. Wasson, an Albany postmaster, and John Warren Butterfield, a Berne native who started as a stage coach driver and established stage routes throughout the state, steamboats on Lake Ontario, a street railroad in Utica, and local plank-roads. And telegraphs. And banks. To say that Butterfield might have been the biggest tycoon ever to come out of Berne would likely go unchallenged. They formed Butterfield, Wasson & Co. in 1849.

So there were at least three rival express services, some of which had been in partnership with each other, operating from or through Albany. In 1850, those three companies - Wells & Co., Livingston & Fargo, and Butterfield, Wasson & Co. - came together as a stock company and formed The American Express Company. Henry Wells was President (until 1868), John Butterfield, Vice President; William C. Fargo, Secretary; Alexander Holland, Treasurer. Of course, the company saw phenomenal growth, and very quickly established its headquarters in New York City. Over the years, it absorbed a number of rival companies, such as the United States Express Company and Pomeroy's Merchants Union Express Company. Many of these had their offices in the Exchange Building, at the northeast corner of State and Broadway now occupied by the former federal government building.

Howell wrote in 1886:

"The American Express Company doing business in Albany County is largely the growth from seed sown by such men as Henry Wells, Crawford Livingston, William A. Livingston, R.L. Johnson and George Pomeroy. More than two-score years ago, in 1841, when Harnden induced Henry Wells to serve him as agent, Wells, then young, sanguine, full of energy and willing to work, fixed his headquarters in Albany."

 Very shortly after its creation, there was an internal division; Wells wanted to extend the express operations westward to California; Butterfield and the other directors objected. Apparently, there weren't non-compete clauses back then, because Wells enlisted Fargo in creating a western express company that you may have heard of.

Wells himself doesn't appear to have spent much time in Albany; his first wife Sarah Daggett was from Schuylerville, but they lived in New York City (way out in Jamaica), in 1850, and shortly after the creation of American Express they moved to Aurora. Shortly after retiring from Wells Fargo and American Express, he founded Wells College on the grounds of his estate, one of the earliest women's colleges in the country.

Butterfield created the Butterfield Overland Mail route, carrying U.S. mail and passengers between St. Louis and San Francisco. Debt forced him to sell out to Wells Fargo and he returned to his adopted city of Utica, where he served as mayor. Butterfield's son Daniel is often credited with composing "Taps."

The Fargo brothers, originally from Onondaga County and then Buffalo, bounced around Detroit, Chicago and New York City, but mostly stayed an express train away from Albany.

Additional details from The Express Gazette, Vols. 46-47; American Biography: A New Cyclopedia, Volume 2.

FortyMiles2.pngAmong the greatest songs of Gustave Kerker (No. 14 on the Honor Roll of Popular Songwriters, according to Billboard magazine, back in 1949) was a tune he wrote, with lyrics by Hugh Morton, for an 1896 show called "In Gay New York" that was featured at the Casino Theater in New York City. Even in 1949, Billboard noted that Kerker was one of Tin Pan Alley's forgotten men. Among the songs in that show was the inexplicably titled "It's Forty Miles from Schenectady to Troy" (preserved for us by the New York Public Library).

"I'm going on the stage," said the pale-faced youth,
"I'm going on the stage, and I'll be another Booth."
"Before you go," said the second old man,
"You want to get the thickest pair of boots that you can
For it's forty miles from Schenectady to Troy
You want to keep "tab" on that, my boy;
And when you reach Troy
It's a darned long walk
To the gay Rialto in New York."

Chorus:
It's forty miles from Schenectady to Troy
you want to keep tab on that, my boy,
And when you reach Troy
It's a darned long walk to the gay Rialto of New York.

"The art of the stage is a very high art"
Said the youth as he placed his hand upon his heart
The old man said, with tears in his eyes,
"You'll find it isn't higher than the railroad ties!
For it's forty miles from Schenectady to Troy,
You want to keep "tab" on that, my boy,
And when you reach Troy
It's a darned long walk to the gay Rialto in New York."

Chorus:
It's forty miles from Schenectady to Troy
you want to keep tab on that, my boy,
And when you reach Troy
It's a darned long walk to the gay Rialto of New York.

"The actor-man is a being most rare,"
The pale-faced youth then proceeded to declare.
The old man said, "Undoubtedly he's sweet,
But he ought to be born with an extra pair of feet,
For it's forty miles from Schenectady to Troy,
You want to keep "tab" on that, my boy,
And when you reach Troy
It's a darned long walk to the gay Rialto in New York."

Chorus:
It's forty miles from Schenectady to Troy
You want to keep tab on that, my boy,
And when you reach Troy
It's a darned long walk to the gay Rialto of New York.

Of course, it isn't 40 miles from Schenectady to Troy, even if you walk it, and The Schenectady and Troy Railroad begn running in 1841, making fairly short work of the 21 miles between the Electric City and the Collar City (though at that time Schenectady was still stronger in the broom department, and Troy was pumping iron).

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