More Schools of Albany, 1894

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(Part One, which covered Schools One through Eight, is here.)

SchoolNo10.pngSo we were working our way through "The Public Schools of Albany, N.Y.," a souvenir volume from 1894. For reasons known only to the compilers, a few of the schools that existed at the time are entirely skipped over, including School No. 9, whose building at 333 Sheridan Avenue still stands today. School No. 10, only four years old when this guide was compiled, is pictured here. It stood at the corner of Central Avenue and Ferry Street, which we can now take for N. Lake. Another work of Fuller & Wheeler, it's one of the handful of buildings still serving its original purpose as a school, now home to Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls.

SchoolNo11.pngSchool No. 11 was another Ogden & Wright work, at 409 Madison Avenue. Dating to 1873, it still stands today as a condominium. It was ventilated by gravity, which is about the same as being ventilated by luck.

SchoolNo12.pngSchool No. 12 was recently converted into lovely apartments, but it wasn't the School No. 12 shown here. This older structure, built by Wollett & Ogden in 1858, had been replaced by 1922. This is itself quite lovely.

SchoolNo13.pngWe previously noted that in 1922, there was no School No. 13, and put it down to superstition. But it turns out there once was a School No. 13, another quite nice edifice that dated to 1799 at the corner of Broadway and Lawrence Street. The guide notes that it was originally a state arsenal, remodeled into a school building in 1859, which seems like the oldest building in the inventory in 1894.

SchoolNo14.pngSchool No. 14, 70 Trinity Place, was a bit different from School No. 14, 69 Trinity Place. The odd-numbered School 14, of course, still stands as the Schuyler Apartments. Was 70 Trinity directly across the street? This was the work of William Ellis (remodeled by A. Fleischman) in 1861. (Walter Dickson, who built School No. 3 in 1887, served an apprenticeship in the practice of Ellis.)

SchoolNo15.pngSchool No. 15, another work by Ogden and Wright, was built in 1871 at the corner of Herkimer and Franklin streets, deep in The Pastures. In 1960, it was to be abandoned for school purposes, replaced by the new school on South Pearl that is now Giffen Memorial Elementary. At the time, it was planned to house the Albany County Welfare Department. It survived until it was destroyed by fire in 1979, if Wikipedia is to be believed.

SchoolNo17.pngIn 1922, there was a School No. 16, at 41 N. Allen St., which is still a school today. Given there was a 15 and a 17 in 1894, it stands to reason there was a School 16 then, too. But this guide makes no mention of it.
School 17, however, it mentions. Built in 1878 by Charles B. Nichols, it still stands today at Second Avenue and Stephen Street, sadly neglected.

SchoolNo20.png18 and 19? Also not mentioned. Here's School No. 20, built in 1880 at the corner of North Pearl and North Second Streets. At some point it was replaced by a newer structure that still stands in use as a school, the North Albany Academy.

SchoolNo21.pngSchool No. 21 at 666 Clinton Avenue dated to 1875, the work of architect Frederick W. Brown. Imposing but plain, today it is merely a vacant lot.

Schools of Albany, 1894

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Some time back, we took a look at the inventory of Albany schools as they stood in 1922, along with some pictures of the ones that still stood in 2013. We've just found a guide to Albany schools from 1894 that provides pictures along with more detailed information about each school that was in the system that Albany was very proud of at the time. (Particularly proud of the ventilation, in fact.)

SchoolNo1.pngThe first school in the guide was School No. 1. It was built in 1889 (the work of architect Franklin Janes, who also built 1 Englewood Place), had 13 school rooms, and still stands today, and it still says "Public School Number One" on the portal. The crenellations, sadly, have not survived.

SchoolNo2.pngSchool No. 2 was at 29 Chestnut Street, another lovely example of the work of architect Albert W. Fuller, who built the YMCA building and a whole lot more. It dated to 1884, when it cost a whopping $30,000. Not sure at all where it was located, but we are sure it's gone.

SchoolNo3.pngSchool No. 3 is one of the few schools that probably looks nicer today than it did back when it was built in 1887. The entryway, gotta say, looks like an afterthought. It's currently the Henry Johnson Charter School.

SchoolNo4.pngSchool No. 4 was the work of Edward Ogden & Son, prominent architects in Albany at the time it was built, 1892. It stood on Madison and Ontario, but by the time of the 1922 guide, it was listed as having burned. Apparently, once a school is burned its number is retired.

School No. 5, at 206 N. Pearl Street, was built in 1882 and still stands as the Quackenbush Condominiums. So one just has to wonder at why it wasn't included in the book. But it wasn't. Perhaps a mere oversight, but a fairly significant one.

SchoolNo6.pngSchool No. 6, at 105 Second Street, was an imposing work of Fuller & Wheeler built in 1893. In the heart of Arbor Hill, the neighborhood is oddly unrecognizable today, having lost so many of its old structures, including this lovely building.


School No. 7, from 1886, still stands at 165 Clinton Avenue, where it is the home of New Covenant Christian Fellowship. Architect Ernest Hoffman also designed a nicer looking townhouse at 333 State Street.

SchoolNo8.pngSchool No. 8, from 1881, was also the work of Franklin Janes. It's, well, interesting. It is long gone, just a parking lot today.

The Smead System of Warming

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smeadsystem.pngNot precisely Albany, but we couldn't help but notice this advertisement in the 1894 guide to Albany schools for the Smead System of Warming, Ventilation and Sanitation for School Buildings. They were very concerned about the physical state of teachers. "For teachers and children to breathe over and over air loaded with foul gases and organic impurities thrown off by lungs and skin, is just as filthy as if they should drink the water in which they have bathed, and is much more injurious to health."

Luckily, there was a solution. The Smead System, in fact. It was no experiment, but precisely what it was is not explained here. It is explained in a voluminous 1889 tome by Isaac Smead of Toledo, Ohio, with the fittingly voluminous title of "Ventilation and Warming of Buildings, Upon the Principles as Designed and Patented by Isaac D. Smead." (Yeah, it's on Google Books.)

The book is more of a hoot than this ad, beginning with a fictional interview question from an unnamed Dr. ____:

"Good morning, Mr. Smead; I am glad to find you in your office and alone. [Creeper alert] I am told that you are the largest manufacturer of warming and ventilating apparatus in America; and, being very much interested in the subject, I have called to get such information as you may feel disposed to give."

Mr. Smead, you'll be surprised to learn, was more than disposed to answer his fictional doctoral alter ego:

"I am glad to see you, Doctor, and if you are disposed to be influenced by facts rather than by theories, and will devote the necessary time to a full investigation, and then state your conclusions in a positive, definite manner, I will devote an hour or two a day to the subject, and when we are through I have no fear concerning the opinion you will hold."

Oy. It does go on. Albany already had 5 buildings using the Smead system. We can assume the teachers working in those buildings maintained the rose in their cheeks.

Lurie's: No More Stamps for 1925

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LuriesadsSchenectadyGazette1-3-1925.pngLurie's was a little remembered Schenectady department store at the corner of State and Ferry, which would have put it right in the vicinity of Barney's. (It's possible it was related to the M. Lurie Company of Amsterdam, and it's possible it wasn't.) They sold all kinds of clothing and fabrics, and gave away their own trading stamps. At least, until 1925. On January 3, they put the public on notice -- they would redeem all Lurie stamps, but there would be no more stamps for 1925.

Entertainment, 1891

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1891amusementsAlbanyTimes.pngSo, what were the entertainment options for the family of leisure in Albany, back in January of 1891? You couldn't complain there was nothing to do.

At Proctor's Theatre (oh yes, Albany had one of those, too), 45 South Pearl St., Henry E. Dixey was performing "The Seven Ages." Sounds very tame and refined, no? Turns out Mr. Dixey was something of a sensation, not least for performing in tights.

The Encyclopedia of The Musical Theater says of Henry Dixey:

"He was one of the 'hottest' male stars in operetta history, he made ladies in the audience swoon with his flesh coloured tights in the production of Adonis, a boylesque retelling of the famous Galatea saga that Franz von Suppé had used for his legendary one-act show in Vienna. Broadway offered Mr. Dixey as an emancipated male alternative."

If you want to learn more about "boylesque," you're on your own. Whatever was on display, 1600 people could have fit into that theater to see it.

He was to be followed by Lydia Thompson, who brought us Victorian burlesque, and for that I'm gonna let you go ahead and Google it yourself.

Over at H.R. Jacobs' Opera House, a slightly smaller 1300-seater, Whalen & Martell were putting on some kind of extravaganza under the name of "Great London & American Combination." Probably best known for another extravaganza called "The South Before the War," depicting the happy lives of slaves and they joy they took in entertaining us through song, perhaps it's just as well that the content of this particular show doesn't yield to an easy search. Following that, the well-known Rose Coghlan would be performing in three different pieces over the course of a weekend, a common approach to entertainment then that would seem simply absolutely impossible today.

At Harmanus Bleecker Hall, we had the spectacular revival of "H.M.S. Pinafore," first performed in 1878. Interestingly, no stars are named, and it might be safe to assume that none were involved. History doesn't tell us what happened in 1891, but a letter from 1879, on State Senate stationery, details the disgusting state of affairs that Albany had been lowered to through the advent of "Pinafore-mania." We're not kidding.

Co-education and Fur

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coeducation.pngAnother ad from 1894, in a publication about the Albany school system, proving that ads could be ridiculous and just a little inane even 120 years ago.

The Walsh family was selling furs and more at 58 State Street at least as early as 1870, and continued on at other locations (North Pearl and upper State) at least into the '40s.

In 1887, the "Fur Trade Review" included this write-up on the Walsh business:
"Messrs. W.E. Walsh and Sons, 58 and 60 State Street, have a very fine, large store with every facility for the display of a choice selection of fur garments in all fashionable shapes, small furs, robes and novelties in furs. They are preparing for a good fall trade, which they will undoubtedly realize, as their goods have an extended reputation for general excellence."

Milton Bradley

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albanyschools.pngThere's no real Albany connection to the Milton Bradley Company, well-known game-makers of Springfield, Mass., but in 1894 they took out an ad in a book celebrating Albany public schools. It was a lovely bit of typography. Obviously, they made more than games, and Milton Bradley himself was a strong advocate of the kindergarten movement, and was himself a kindergarten teacher. Although he left to focus on teaching, the company moved into producing equipment for kindergarten, thus the ad we see here.

accoaspirin.jpgSo we mentioned that during the Albany Chemical Company's reign as the top producer of chloroform in the country, they were embroiled in some patent battles. Well, some decades later, they were to be found in patent court once again, this time trying to enforce a patent they didn't really hold. They were pioneering patent trolls.

By 1920, the Albany Chemical Co. was selling "Acco Genuine Aspirin." In their advertising, they warned that "'ASPIRIN' is the registered trade-mark property of the Albany Chemical Company. The Albany Chemical Company are manufacturers of 'GENUINE (Trade-mark Registered) ASPIRIN' Tablets. Any statement to the contrary made by any other manufacturer is a misrepresentation of truth." Did that sound like they were protesting just a bit much? That's because they were.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with trademark law knows of aspirin as perhaps the most famous case of a brand name losing its trademark protection ("heroin" being another). Aspirin was created by The Bayer Company in Germany, which sought patent and trademark protection wherever it was available in order to differentiate and protect their product from (somewhat ironically named) patent medicines. They brought their product to the United States and began manufacture of aspirin in scenic Rensselaer in 1903. Then there was that pesky war (the first one), and many German-owned assets were seized and sold by the government of the United States, the Bayer Company holdings among them. The Rensselaer plant and Bayer's patents and trademarks were auctioned off, and aspirin landed in the hands of, naturally, a patent medicine company called Sterling Products. (Bayer didn't get their own name and trademarks back until 1994, paying a reported $1 billion for the privilege.)

The patent on aspirin expired in 1917. In that same year, under challenge that the term had become generic (and possibly with a tiny bit of anti-German sentiment), the trademark was cancelled. "Aspirin" became a generic term, and hundreds of brands of aspirin suddenly appeared on the market.

In stepped the Albany Chemical Company, which in 1920 began petitioning various states for registration of the word "aspirin," following which it plastered ads all over the place claiming aspirin was its trademark and that it was the only company from which it was safe to purchase the painkiller. In addition to their advertising, they peppered their competitors with cease and desist letters.

The Federal Trade Commission issued this neat little summary of the docket on April 19, 1921:

Where a corporation engaged in the manufacture and sale of drugs, including acetyl salicylic acid, popularly known as "aspirin," registered the word as a general trade-mark in a large number of States, accompanying its applications for registration with affidavits that it alone had the right to use the word, and thereafter -

(a)    Advertised generally that "Acco Aspirin," its product, was the only genuine aspirin;

(b)    Advertised that the word was its general trade-mark; and

(c)    Threatened numerous druggists and dealers with suits for infringement if they used the word on the products of any other concern;

Notwithstanding the fact that long prior to such attempted appropriation thereof, the word had been continuously, openly, and notoriously applied by numerous other manufacturers and dealers to the product acetyl salicylic acid and the exclusive right there to openly asserted and pressed by the successor to another company, the original patentee of the product and registrant of the word.

Readers will be shocked to learn the FTC didn't find in Albany Chemical Company's favor.

Albany: Chloroform Capital

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Albany was once America's leading city for an awful lot of things. We moved the most lumber. We led the country in the manufacture of stoves and pianos. And it turns out that Albany was once the chloroform capital of the country.

The Albany Chemical Company was listed in 1888's "The Empire State: Its Industries and Wealth" as a manufacturer of fluid extracts, elixirs, chemicals, etc., located then at 65 and 67 Green Street.  "No department of commercial enterprise in the city of Albany is  of more direct value and importance to the community than that in which the practical manufacturing chemist brings to bear his professional skill and experience." Or something.

 The business began in 1878 as Albany Pharmaceutical Co., which then occupied a four-story building with laboratories "admirably equipped with all the latest improved apparatus, appliances and machinery known to the trade."

"The company makes a specialty of producing large quantities of mercurial ointment, solution of the chloride of iron, concentrated spirit of nitre, ether, chloroform, etc. They have a patent for the manufacture of chloroform, and turn out annually about half the quantity that is used in the United States." Chloroform was an early anesthetic, which for a time replaced ether.

The company also had a plant somewhere on Van Rensselaer Island (in the current Port of Albany). In 1905 they were listed as occupying 2-24 Broadway. Because of the tangle of highways it's hard to tell where that was.

Twice, the Albany Chemical Company (chemist G. Michaelis, President, and W.T. Mayer, Secretary-Treasurer) was involved in patent issues. First, for chloroform. In 1899, The Albany Chemical Company was involved in a complicated patent infringement case against the Larkin & Scheffer company. Commenting on the case, Dr. E.R. Squibb (yeah, that Squibb) said "This subject of chloroform is so mixed up, it's a pretty bad business. The patent on the process of making it from acetone was one of the most invalid ever granted . . . The patent on chloroform from acetone was granted to Roessler & Hasslacher. Chloroform had been made from acetone before they were born, but they got the patent, in spit of such invalidity . . . They had no more right to one in America than Behring had to the patent he obtained last year on antitoxin. But it has always seemed to be easy enough to patent almost anything in this country, if you only have money enough."

That's from an article in "The Pharmaceutical Era," March 16, 1899, which goes on to quote Dr. Squibb: "The Albany Chemical Co., and Roessler & Hasslacher were litigants for several years over infringements of patent rights in chloroform. Before they got a decision that was satisfactory to either party to the suit they combined and made Pfizer the agent for all the chloroform produced by both concerns. I made chloroform for years, but I had to stop on account of a patent which had no real validity."

Albany Chemical must have won that fight, because a 1905 article (in the "Paint, Oil and Drug Review") speaks of the patents still held by Albany Chemical and another company that were about to expire. At that time there was talk of moving production to Niagara Falls, the source of the bleaching powder needed for the process. "It takes twelve pounds of bleaching powder to one pound of acetone to make about a pound of chloroform . . . Instead of shipping the powder elsewhere to be used in the manufacture of chloroform, the new plan is to manufacture the anaesthetic at Niagara Falls and thereby save considerable in freight charges."

Another patent case tomorrow.



Fred Happel's Contribution

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SocialSecurityCard1935.jpgFranklin D. Roosevelt, who spent a little bit of time in Albany himself, signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935. Social Security Cards were first issued in November, 1936.

They may not look like much, but think of it: someone had to design the Social Security Card.

That someone was Fred Happel. Fred lived in Albany.

According to the Social Security Administration, Fred Happel was commissioned to submit three designs, for which he was paid $60. (That'd be about $1000 today, so not too shoddy. Plus also, there was still that pesky Great Depression going on.) Happel is also credited with designing the Flying Tigers logo used by General Chennault's forces during World War II (though which version of the logo he designed is way less than clear).

So how did an Albanian come to design one of the iconic documents of the modern state? Fred Happel was a partner in Empire Engraving Company, 39-41 Columbia Street, Albany. This building, which now houses the Albany Center Gallery, was also home to Weed, Parsons & Co., a hugely important publishing house of the 19th century. Whether there was a connection between the companies or they just shared a building, I don't know. It appears that the company had a number of important contracts; for example, they created the plates for the United States Liberty Loan Campaign. So they had that going on.

In 1900, Fred was listed as an artist working at 82 State St., and boarding at 138 Clinton St. He was the son of a German furrier, born around 1878. In 1905, at the age of 27, he was living with his parents on Benjamin Street, and listed as an engraver. Interestingly, and ironically, I don't find him listed in the Social Security Master Death Index.

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