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."

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."

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."

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).

The State Agricultural Society

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1853CountryGentlemanStateAgSociety.pngEarlier this week we talked about how the original State Museum was in a space crunch from the first. It couldn't have helped that it shared space with the New York State Agricultural Society in Geological Hall at State and Lodge streets. You might wonder just how much space an agricultural society could take up - but in fact it was every bit as busy, and laden, as the museum was.

In an 1853 notice in Albany's The Country Gentleman, the State Agricultural Society gave notice of its laboratory facilities, which would provide analyses of soils, manures, peat, marls, limestone, gypsum, &c., "together with all other information connected with the science of agriculture, which practical chemistry at its present state is capable of affording." In order to get that analysis, all you had to do was send them your materials. "For analysis, enough of the above materials should be sent to make from half a pound to a pound, when dry. Of mineral or spring water, about one gallon is required."

So the Agricultural Society had people sending them their dirt. That wasn't all.

At an 1851 meeting of the Society (Ezra Prentice, President), the Executive Committee expressed thanks "most cordially tendered to the respective donors and contributors" of some of the following items (recorded in this mis-titled Google book that contains the Journal of the New York State Agricultural Society):

  • E.A. Doolittle, Esq., Albany, samples of farina, from Indian corn, by Stafford's steam drying process, with directions for preparation and use.
  • Dr. Kirkpatrick, Inspector National Schools in Ireland, Report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland for 1849, a valuable document of 320 pages, folio.
  • E.H. Ernst, Cincinnati, sample of a new and celebrated variety of winter wheat from England; it is said to have yielded in England, nearly double that of the ordinary varieties. Mr. Hall has carefully tested and will give the results. (We are much indebted to Mr. Ernst for this sample.)
  • Homer Adams, address by Valentine Mott, delivered at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, N.Y., Nov. 7, 1850.
  • Wm. Baker, application for premium on barley, at annual meeting.
  • W.D. Osborn, Port Byron, scions of the Whiting apple, a fall seedling, said to be of a very superior character, highly commended by David Thomas.
  • Kingsley & Longbottom, 235 Broadway, N.Y., American Practical Mechanics' Pocket book and Almanac, or the Scientific Year Book of Facts, for 1851; published annually. This is a very useful and valuable work, and should be possessed by every mechanic, and will be found interesting and useful to every class of citizens. (108 pages.)
  • Master Hyman Herman, Albany, fine specimen of Dog-tooth Spar, from the Mississippi river, similar to specimens found at Lockport, in this State.
  • F.R. Elliott, Esq., Cleveland, Ohio, box of apples for winter exhibition, and samples of corn oil, and starch.
  • Charles Lee, Penn-Yan, box of Wagener apples, for winter exhibition.
  • Dr. P.B. Nixon, Watervliet, left as a matter of curiosity, a pair of children's shoes, made in Dutchess county in 1787, and worn by Polly Rider, now a resident of this county. They give a striking illustration of the advance made in this branch of business, when compared with the work of the present day.
  • E.M. Bradley, East Bloomfield -- Northern Spy and "Cypress" apples for winter exhibition. Statements of farm crops, viz., Oats, Peas and Barley.
  • Oswego Starch Company -- Box of corn Starch.
  • Joseph T. Chamberlain, Superintendent N.Y. Institution for the Blind forwarded for the museum, a fine display of willow ware, paper boxes, &c., the work of the inmates of that most excellent institution.
  • Valentine Halleck, North East, Papers for Prem. on Ruta Bagas.

That was not nearly all. So you can see how there might not have been a lot of room for the Cohoes Mastodon in the old Geological Hall.


The State Museum would have you know that they still have the box of Oswego corn starch, and can prove it:

Kids These Days

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Are there any boys nowadays? We have sometimes been inclined to doubt it. Real, child-like, fun-loving boys, we mean; such as some we used to know in our early days; eager questioners upon subjects of natural history, and upon the mysterious complicities of strange machines, and upon the wonders of the earth and the heavens? Boys whose very immaturity of thought struck one as beautiful! It seems to us there are very few such of late years. In times that we can remember, children were children, and were true to their childish instincts. Their genial frolicsome ways softened slowly into soberness; they grew grave gradually. The shadows of manhood  stole over their young faces so imperceptibly that the spiritual still seemed to predominate over the earthly. There is not half so much flying of kites, trundling of hoops and playing at marbles, as there used to be. Even "I spy," "prisoner's base," and "hide and seek," are fast falling into desuetude. Whistling, the child's earliest attempt at musical expression, we seldom hear now, either in city or in country. Instead of whooping, hallooing, and those shouts of merry laughter, which were wont to conjure up delicious reveries in aged bosoms, we have now an unchildlike thoughtfulness, or, what is still worse, a chattering pertinacity.

-Arthur's Home Gazette, reprinted in Albany's The Country Gentleman, 1853.

Yes, in 1853, they were complaining how kids these days were missing out on all the fun.

Invariably, it seems that any discussion of the current New York State Museum engenders moans and wails from those who miss the "old" museum in the State Education Building, now nearly forty years gone, a magical place of dioramas, mastodon bones, and endless varieties of arrowheads. Well, there were earlier generations who may have bemoaned the loss of the "real" museum, which also displayed the mastodon, because the New York State Museum has had a few locations.

The Museum's own website identifies its first location as the Old State Hall. (The fact that the State's most noted geologist and paleontologist bore the name Hall gives Google some hiccups, and we really can't be sure that there weren't some wags in the day who might have given him the nickname of James "Geological" Hall.)

The "Old" State Hall was authorized by the State Legislature by a bill signed on Feb. 14, 1797 to establish a permanent seat of government for the State. A site was chosen on the corner of State and Lodge streets, and according to Howell's "Bi-Centennial History of the County of Albany," ground was broken early in 1797, and the building, designed by William Sanders, completed in the spring of 1799. The Legislature met there until the State Capitol was completed in 1808.

"In this building were the State departments - Secretary of State, Comptroller, State Treasurer, Attorney-General, State Engineer and Surveyor, and Surveyor-General. And here, for a time, was the Executive Chamber. It continued to be occupied by those officers until 1840, when they were moved to the new State Hall, under the recommendation of Governor Seward."

Howell says the State Museum was organized in 1836 and placed in the Old State Hall. "This museum embraces nearly all the natural productions of the State of New York, in the several departments of botany, zoology, geology, and mineralogy. The OId State Hall was thus made the deposit of the collections in these departments.

"At a later period the State Agricultural Society was authorized by law to occupy a part of the building. The two organizations - the State Museum and the State Agricultural Society - occupied so much space that the building was inadequate to their accommodation; whereupon the legislature made appropriation for a new building, to be erected in the rear of the Old Capitol; and the libraries, antiquities and other collections, especially those of a literary and art nature, were removed to it in 1858."

Howell wrote as if the original building were still standing in 1886, but the Old State Hall was demolished in 1855 and a new Geological and Agricultural Hall opened in 1856 on the same site; today the site on the southwest corner is occupied by the modest First Niagara Bank building.

In 1865 the Legislature passed resolutions making the State Cabinet of Natural History a museum of scientific and practical geology and comparative zoology; in 1870 it passed a law organizing the State Museum of Natural History.

Phelps's "Albany Hand-book for 1884" had a thorough description of the Geological Hall:

The wing on Lodge street, in the rear of the building, is three stories high. On the ground floor is a large lecture-room, while in the other stories is the Museum, containing the agricultural implements and products in the stories above. On the lower or basement floor, and on the same level as the lecture-room, at the east end of the main building, are two rooms occupied with the work of cutting and preparing thin sections of fossils of minute structure for the purpose of microscopic study in the Museum . . . The first floor of the main building is occupied by the offices and libraries of the State Museum and of the State Agricultural Society; and, in the rear of the former, a large working-room is furnished with about 300 drawers for the reception of collections in process of preparation and arrangement. The main entrance hall exhibits a collection of dressed blocks of granite, marble, freestone, etc., the products of New York and adjacent States.

The second floor is occupied by the collection illustrating the geology and paleontology of the State. The wall cases, and a single series of table-cases around the room, are occupied by the rock specimens, whether fossiliferous or otherwise, and are arranged in such order that in going from left to right they show the geological superposition of the formations, each right-hand case containing specimens of the rock or formation lying next above the one on the left . . . The entire arrangement is simple, instructive, and easily understood. The collection of fossils (paleontology) occupies the tables, the table cases in the central portion of the floor, and also a large number of drawers beneath the table cases . . .

The third floor is occupied by collections from geological formations above the coal measures, both American and European, and by the mineralogical collection. The fossil series represents the period from the new red sandstone to the Pleistocene. The Pleistocene of North America is represented by the Cohoes mastodon skeleton, and other remains of mastodon and fossil elephants from different points . . . .

The fourth story is occupied by the zoological collection. The western part of the room is devoted especially to the New York fauna, which is represented in its mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, crustaceans, and shells. The eastern part of the room is occupied by a case containing a large collection of birds, with some mammals, which were presented to the Museum as a special collection by Mr. de Rham, of New York, and is known as the De Rham collection. The ethnological and historical collections occupy some wall cases on the north side of the room, and the central north side by cases of corals, etc. The center of the room contains the two double ranges of table cases, comprising the Gould collection of 6,000 species of shells, of more than 60,000 specimens. Since 1866 the collections in the Museum have more than doubled in every department. At present every available space in the Museum is filled. All the collections are arranged for study and comparison, and the museum is strictly an educational institution.

The Museum's website reports that space shortages in the Geological Hall, only 26 years old, prompted the Legislature to authorize the Museum to move to the "new" State Hall in 1883, as the previous occupants of State Hall (you know it today as the Court of Appeals at Eagle and Pine streets) moved across the street to the new Capitol. Like many things involving New York State government, moving did not go entirely according to plan; some occupants of the State Hall refused to leave, and in time some moved back from the Capitol, so the move of the Museum was never complete. In 1901 the decision was made to give the building over to the Court of Appeals, and Museum exhibits were spread amongst the Geological Hall, the new Capitol, and the State Normal School. The Museum website reports that "seven separate buildings, including the Old Malt House on Grand Street, were given over entirely to storage. One geologic specimen weighing about 2 tons had to be kept in an abandoned railroad depot in Menands."

Space for the State Museum was already planned for the new State Education Building, under construction, when the 1911 Capitol fire destroyed the State Library and also destroyed a large part of the Museum's archaeological and ethnographic collections on display there. The Education Building was completed the following year, giving over its fourth and fifth floors to the Museum. Under one roof for the first time, the exhibit halls opened in October 1915. The Museum didn't outgrow its space for another decade, but this time it would have to wait, and wait, and wait for the construction of the Cultural Education Center. Completed in 1976, it wasn't even part of the original plan for the Empire State Plaza.

After the move, the Cohoes Mastodon was stored with the collections, out of the public eye, which was viewed as a serious deficiency by those who loved the "old" museum. The pillar of salt from New York's abundant underground salt mines, tongued to a faretheewell by generations of schoolchildren, was also put away. It would be another 22 years before the mastodon re-emerged in 1998, his salt lick being re-presented in the museum the year after.

The Country Gentleman

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CountryGentlemanandCultivatorMasthead.pngWe've talked about some of the other popular newspapers from when Albany was awash in newspapers, but we've rarely mentioned The Country Gentleman. At one time, The Country Gentleman was one of the leading publications for the agricultural world, published in Albany.

Luther Tucker was a Vermonter, born in 1802, who apprenticed as a printer at 14 and moved with his employer to Palmyra, New York, in 1817 (according to Appleton's Encyclopedia). He moved around the mid-Atlantic and New England States before settling in Rochester, where he published the first daily west of Albany, the Daily Advertiser, beginning Oct. 27, 1826. He ventured into both farming and farm reporting, first with The Genesee Farmer, which was combined with Albany's The Cultivator, and then the weekly The Country Gentleman, which was published every Thursday, while The Cultivator was a monthly that used a number of articles that had been included in The Country Gentleman, with which it was merged in 1866.

Mott's "A History of American Magazines, 1850-1865" says that in 1852, Tucker had sold off a general interest weekly and only had the Cultivator monthly. "Clearly, this was unsatisfactory, especially since his son, Luther Junior, was now eighteen and in training for farm-paper work. A new agricultural weekly was therefore announced, to be published under the name of the Country Gentleman."

The paper launched January 6, 1853. "The farm section dealt with agronomy, stock raising, machinery, and meetings of agricultural societies; for the gardeners there was advice about methods, as well as information about new varieties of vegetables and fruits. A new seedling grape developed by E.W. Bull, of Concord, Massachusetts, to be known as the Concord grape, was announced by the Country Gentleman in its second year." So we can say that the Concord grape was announced to the world by an Albany publisher.

Tucker had moved his publishing to Albany in 1840 and his sons were raised here. Luther Jr. was born around 1835. Willis Gaylord Tucker was born here in 1849, and did the usual rounds of Albany educational establishments: graduated Albany Academy 1866, Albany Medical College in 1867; became professor of inorganic and analytical chemistry and toxicology there, then becoming a founder and professor of chemistry at Albany College of Pharmacy. He taught chemistry at Albany Academy, Albany Female Academy, Albany High School and St. Agnes school. He also held positions with the State Board of Health, the Albany Medical College, the board of governors of Union University, the State Board of Medical Examiners. You know, the usual.

Luther Tucker and Gilbert Milligan Tucker followed their father into the publishing business, and in 1900 Gilbert was listed as the publisher of The Country Gentleman from 395 Broadway, with his home at 304 State Street. The paper was recognized as the oldest agricultural weekly in the country when it was purchased by Philadelphia's Curtis Publishing Company in 1911, which promptly moved operations to Philadelphia.

The Alms-house

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almshousemap1876.pngThis Hopkins map from 1876 features the Albany County Alms-house (center left), which stood out in the wilds past Snipe Street. You'll recognize the curving road (then a plank road) as today's New Scotland Avenue (then Road), running between Snipe and Perry and then beyond. Snipe is gone today, and Perry is South Lake. The small pox hospital and pest house (for people infected with various contagious diseases) were on the grounds of what is today Albany Medical Center. The Alms-house was about where the Albany College of Pharmacy is today.

"The Albany Hand-book: A Strangers' Guide and Residents' Manual" from 1884 had this to say about the Alms-house:

Alms-House, The, is situated on the plankroad, south of Washington park and west of the Penitentiary. The Alms-house farm contains 116 acres of good land. The buildings include the poor-house, lunatic asylum, hospital, pest-house, etc. The city pays 60 and the county 40 percent. of the cost of maintenance. The average number of inmates is 250. State paupers (such as have not been residents of any county for 60 days) are received here and boarded at $2.50 per week. There are about 50 insane. Incurable cases are sent to the asylum at Ovid. A new pest-house, erected on the outskirts of the farm, will accommodate 50 persons. Cattle and geese are expounded here, and the unclaimed dead of the streets, the river and the Penitentiary find here a burial. Visitors are admitted every day except Sunday.

You might think that those visitors would have been few and far between, but apparently it was common enough that there was a standard fare, also listed in this guide, for hacks running from Broadway between State Street and Maiden Lane. By city ordinance, the cost for a ride to the Alms-house and back, with the privilege of detaining the carriage at the Alms-house for one hour, was $2. (Going to the nearby Penitentiary only cost 75 cents, but only waited half an hour.)

Albany High School Detroit Publishing.jpgAs we've noted before, this beauty of a high school, Albany's first, was designed by architect Edward Ogden and opened in 1876. By 1909, however, it was deemed woefully inadequate to handle the number of students, and the Board of Education was looking for a new building.

On March 30, 1909, the Board of Education offered this resolution to the Common Council:

"Whereas, The Albany High School now has a registered attendance more than three hundred (300) in excess of the number which it was originally designed to accommodate, and

"Whereas, In its present overcrowded condition, it presents entirely inadequate facilities for the healthful study of the academic, commercial and industrial arts, lacking proper facilities in study hall and recitation rooms, cloak rooms and hall space, and has no adequate gymnasium or provision for lunch rooms, and, in its crowded condition, with its auditorium on the upper floor and by its intersecting and narrow halls, is a constant menace to the health and life of the pupils attending thereat, and

"Whereas, It is not centrally located so as to properly accommodate the pupils residing in the westerly section of the city desiring to avail themselves of High School instruction, and has no recreation grounds connected therewith; therefore be it

"Resolved, That, in the opinion of the Board of Education, the building in inadequate and unsuited to the present needs of the city, and the Board of Education therefore recommend to the Common Council that provision be immediately made for the purchase of a suitable site situated at some place in the city west of Lark street of sufficient size to provide adequate recreation grounds in connection therewith, and that provision be immediately made for the erection thereon of a new High School building suitable to the needs of the city.

"Resolved, That, in the opinion of the Board of Education, such High School, when constructed, should be fireproof in its character, should provide suitable accommodatinos for at least one thousand students, and the lot upon which the same should be erected should be of sufficient size to furnish adequate recreation grounds in connection therewith, and, in the judgment of this Board, provision should be made for the expenditure of at least $350,000 for the purchase of such lot and the erection and equipment of said building."

High School Lake Avenue.pngBy 1913, a new high school was in place on Lake Avenue. The cost was around a million dollars, considerably north of $350,000. It was considered crowded beyond its capacity by 1922, resulting in the need to create junior high schools.

Sidewalk Injury

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Perusing the petitions before the Albany Common Council in 1909, we find this petition from a Barbara Andres, city resident, who wished to respectfully show:

"That, on or about the 6th day of January, 1909, at about seventy-thirty [sic] or eight o'clock in the evening of that day, your petitioner was walking down the southerly side of Washington avenue towards Quail street, upon the sidewalk of said street . . . and when about one hundred fifty-five feet from the west side of Quail street, your petitioner struck with the side of her foot against a nail in a loose or broken board in said sidewalk, the nail passing through your petitioner's shoe and penetrating her foot to a considerable depth.

"That the point in the sidewalk where the injury referred to took place had been more or less broken by teams driven over and across said walk to the vacant lots along which said walk passes.

"That your petitioner, because of said injuries, was, for several weeks, confined to her house and unable to do any work.

"That your petitioner, because of said injuries, was compelled to expend a considerable sum in employing medical aid and for medicines in an attempt to become cured of said injuries.

"That your petitioner has been injured thereby to the extent of five hundred dollars ($500.00).

"Wherefore, your petitioner prays that she be allowed the sum of five hundred dollars ($500.00)."

The record does not show if she was successful, and we already know the city was deluged with claims that month from the backup of the Patroon Creek sewer.

Researching the Dey Ermand paint company, we came across the interesting information that Hugh Dey Ermand, head of the company around the turn of the century, lived at 248 Hudson but also owned a string of residential properties on the near north side of the city. Specifically, he owned 13 residential buildings known as Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 26 Pleasant Street.
We know this because on or about the 20th day of February 1909, the Patroon's Creek sewer, "which consists of an arch or culvert over the Patroons creek, extending from North pearl street to the Hudson river, and which was built by and under the direction of the city of Albany about twenty years ago, beame completely obstructed by means of logs of wood and other materials which accumulated therein by reason of the negligence of the city of Albany, its officers, agents and servants, in the construction and maintenance of said sewer, and in consequence thereof the water which on that date entered the same from Patroons creek, and also the sewage which was emptied therein from five connecting sewers, was discharged therefrom through the manholes over the same and from the entrance to said sewer and overflowed the surrounding streets and premises, pouring into the basements and other parts of each of said several buildings and flooded the same to the depth of several feet, thereby causing great damage to the structure of each of said buildings and requiring an expenditure of at least three hundred and sixty-six dollars ($366.00) for the purpose of necessary repairs to said buildings...." Dey Ermand petitioned the Albany Common Council for payment for his damages. Thinking about it, $366 doesn't seem like a heck of a lot of damage, even in 1909 dollars, and in fact it paled in comparison to some other claims made for the same flood.

For instance, Mary A.D. McGaughan, owner and resident of 1098 Broadway, "a brick and wooden building consisting of a store and dwelling-house," cited the same effect from the same event, in somewhat more graphic detail. "During the night of February 19 and the morning of February 20, 1909, . . . a great many telegraph poles, railroad crossties, sections of trunks of trees and other large blocks and logs of wood floated into said sewer and lodged therein near a bend or curve in the line thereof a short distance west of a manhole which is located between the Erie canal and the lands on which are laid the tracks of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Company, and completely prevented the further passage of the water and sewage then in said sewer in its course to the outlet in the river...." Mary McGaughan sought $407.65 in damages and loss of stock, which was not described.

The Harry E. Campbell Company of 403 North Pearl Street, doing business in the buildings and premises on the southwest corner of North Pearl and Tivoli streets since 1906 as a foundry and maker of architectural iron work, took it a step further and said that the city had on numerous occasions been told about such deposits of debris, and "although they occasionally removed some of such obstructions, failed to protect the opening at the westerly end or mouth of said sewer by a grating or other suitable guard designed to prevent the entrance of such materials into the same . . . ." Campbell claimed the loss of a motor and rheostat, tools, 15 tons of coal, 2 tons of sea coal, 1 ton of flour, 1 dozen crucibles, 10 tons of foundry sand, 1 barrel of French sand, 1 barrel of plumbago, 1 barrel of charcoal facing, 400 tons of moulding sand, damage to their sheds, flasks, boards, the pattern-shop floor, and the loss of closing the foundry for two days. In all, they asked for $1,522.50 in damages.

Sarah A. Pryor, residing at the southwest corner of Learned and Thacher streets where she had a dwelling and a saloon, said that the water flowed with such force that "the covers on the tops of the several manholes on Manor street beame detached therefrom by reason of the pressure of water undearneath and same, and the water therein gushed forth into said Manor and adjoining streets with great force, flooding the same and abutting premises, including the building occupied by the claimant and situated on the southwest corner of Learned and Thacher streets . . . ." She sought $2345.10 for damage to her property.

Ann Jane Haskell of 1086 Broadway sought $75.00 in damages.

We don't know what the city ultimately paid, or if after that time they put a grate on the sewer entry.

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