September 2012 Archives

Hoxsie!

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Hoxsie is the namesake of this site, primarily because of a magnificent ad that featured a rooster, the name "Hoxsie," and nothing else. Hoxsie was a bottler of beer, root beer, sarsaparilla, soda and cider.

An antique bottle auction site recently listed this fine example of a George W. Hoxsie Premium Beer bottle. Norman C. Heckler Co. reported this bottle sold for $211.

Hoxsie!
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The Jackson Corps

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English: Andrew Jackson - 7 th President of th...

English: Andrew Jackson - 7 th President of the United States (1829-1837) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the mid-19th century, there was a proliferation of military organizations, usually politically affiliated militias. They owned armories and guns, they marched in parades and were called on during unrest. One of those was Albany's Jackson Corps, which was formed from the Young Men's Democratic Association in 1868 and named for General Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans. A group of Civil War veterans came up with the idea of organizing as a military company; Munsell reports that "the idea was received with enthusiasm, and pushed forward with vigor, resulting int he organization of the Albany Jackson Guards, August 13, 1868." Among the officers, by the way, was one George W. Hoxsie, the namesake of this site.

To modern ears, having organized groups of armed men with political affiliations sounds like something less than a good idea. But the organization, and others like it, was held in high regard. "For a year of two the organization was known as the Jackson Guards, after which the name was changed to the Albany Jackson Corps. In political campaigns the organization formed the popular Jacksonians, and took part in all the great political demonstrations occurring during the ensuing ten years." They also marked in just about every parade, escorted governors to inaugural ceremonies,  attended the laying of the cornerstone of the New Capitol, and were the Guard of Honor as the body of General Grant lay in state in it. When there was rioting during the railroad strike of 1877, the Jackson Corps was dispatched to guard the upper railroad bridge (the Livingston Avenue Bridge) to prevent sabotage.

As noted earlier this week, the building that had served as its armory, at 38 Beaver Street, was transformed into the Hotel Columbia, which burned along with the Second Dutch Church Building in 1892. 


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Nurse!

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From Munsell's Albany Directory for 1853, the very first entry after the index is this listing of nurses. "The above are all that have been found."

Fire!

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As we noted yesterday, there used to be a Second Dutch Church down on Beaver Street, along with a once-sizable burying ground. The graves were mostly moved, and the church was remodeled into a printing office after 1881, which was home to J.B. Lyons, then the official state printer, and the then-small shop of C.F. Williams. On Sept. 12, 1892, the whole thing went up in flames, taking several other buildings, burning clear through from Beaver to Hudson, and destroying several State commissions' annual reports that had been printed and bound in Lyons' shop.

"This building ran through from Beaver Street to Hudson Avenue and had been remodelled some years ago from the old Dutch Reformed Church to a commodious building five stories high on Hudson Avenue and two stories on Beaver Street, having a frontage on both streets of about 125 feet," the New York Times reported. "Mr. Lyons's establishment occupied the Beaver Street side of the building, except the northeast corner of the ground floor, which was occupied by the C.F. Williams Printing Company."

The printers weren't the only establishments; on the Hudson Avenue side of the building were Russell Lyman, shirt and collar manufacturer; Hughes & Simpson, paper-box manufacturers; the Albany Caramel Company; F.G. Mix, agent for the Columbus Wagon Company; W.C. Gell, umbrellas; John Ingmire, paperhanger; and H.H. Walsh, saddlery.

"The flames spread through from street to street with frightful rapidity, and in twenty minutes the whole interior of the building was a seething crater. As the heavy machinery and burning timbers fell they crushed through the lower floors, carrying tons of blazing woodwork."

The fire spread to the back of the Hotel Columbia on Beaver Street, formerly the armory of the Jackson Corps, and on into the Hotel Fort Orange. "High above stood the old church belfry. About 2:30 o'clock there was a warning cry from the outskirts of the crowd on Hudson Avenue, and a second later the lofty wall swayed for an instant, then bulged in the middle and came crashing into the street. The warning had just given the firemen at work time to flee. Other sections of the wall followed. The debris crashed through store windows on the opposite side of the street."

J.B. Lyons was offered the facilities of the Argus, owned by Mayor Manning, until he could get on his feet. Williams Printing continued on as well. Happily, even the Albany Caramel Company survived at least another few years.


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The Second Dutch Church

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The natural progression of the Dutch Church in Albany, as we think of it today, was from the old church at the foot of State Street to the building on North Pearl known as First Church in Albany. But there was a second Dutch Reformed congregation as Albany grew, and it built this edifice on Beaver Street, probably near the corner of Green, in 1806. The site was adjacent to the old cemetery on Beaver Street, which continued in use until the Albany Rural Cemetery was opened in 1841. At that time many of the graves were moved to the new cemetery, and the land was redeveloped. But even that early, there was a somewhat casual attitude toward the final resting places of our ancestors, as Joel Munsell noted in a news item he reprinted from 1836 in the "Annals of Albany:"

"In digging to make improvements in the north area of the Second Dutch church on Beaver street, a number of grave stones were thrown out, among which were the two following, the first being that of the second mayor of the city. . . ."

The inscriptions, if not the stones themselves ("thrown out"!!) were preserved:

"Here lies the body of John Abeel who departed this life ye 28 day of Jan'y, 1711, and in the 44 year of his age.
Dient begin van wel te leven
Uyt den Hemel was gegeven
Gingh der weer den Hemel waert
Storf maer verliet de aert."

"Here lies the body of Jeremiah Field, deceased Oct. 16, 1762, aged 32 years."

It was used as a church until 1881, after which it was remodeled (and perhaps joined to another building) to form a large building for the James B. Lyons printing company.

George Washington Slept Here

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John Glen HouseIn fact, he did. This historic marker from Schenectady's Stockade tells you just where, too: the northeast bedroom, on the second floor. The "History of the County of Schenectady, N.Y." tells us that:

"The 'Father of Our Country' visited Schenectady at three different times. The first occasion was soon after the revolutionary war, in the interest of the defence of the frontier. He was the guest of John Glen, who was then quartermaster of the department. The second occasion was by invitation of the citizens of Schenectady. He, in company with Gen. Philip Schuyler, rode in a carriage from Albany, on June 30, 1782. He was received with great honor by the civil and military authorities, and a public dinner given him at a hotel then situated on the south corner of State and Water streets, one of the houses spared in the great fire of 1690. It was kept at the time by Robert Clinch, formerly a drum-major under Gen. Braddock, and well known to Gen. Washington. The principal citizens of the place dined with him . . . ."

"The third visit was in 1786, when Washington made a tour with Gov. George Clinton, Gen. Hand, and many other officers as far west as Fort Stanwix. In passing through Schenectady, he stopped at the same hotel as on his former visit."

Humble beginnings

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Albany's first Erastus Corning was only mayor for four years, not the 40-odd years his namesake great grandson would serve. He could be forgiven, one supposes, since he was busy founding and running the Albany State Bank, The Rensselaer Iron Works, the Utica and Schenectady Railroad, the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, some other banks and insurance companies, and, eventually, the New York Central Railroad. He was also a Regent of the University, a State Senator, a United States Congressman, a land speculator (Corning, New York, was among the lands he speculated in), and probably a whole lot more.

Erastus Corning, Mayor of Albany.

Erastus Corning, Mayor of Albany. Photograph by Matthew Brady (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But he started out in the hardware business. In this listing from the American Advertising Directory for 1831, Erastus Corning & Co. is listed at 389 S. Market Street as manufacturers of "Cut Nails, Hoop and Band Iron, Spike and Nail Rods, Horse Shoe Shapes, &c.; Dealers in Hardware, Saddlery, Cutlery, Dutch Bolting Cloths, Mill Irons, Bar Iron, Steel, &c." South Market Street was the stretch of what is now Broadway below State, running through The Pastures.

I'm not sure of the relation of nearby merchant Edward Corning. There is a thorough Corning family genealogy here.


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North River Engine & Boiler Works

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In 1858, steam was king. In order to make steam, you needed a boiler. To make something move with steam, you needed an engine. John Punshon's North River Engine and Boiler Works made engines and boilers at 16 and 17 Quay Street, which is one of the streets that sort of still exists but is mostly just part of the I-787 ramp system now.

H.W. Churchill, Engraver

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From the 1858 Albany City Directory, an interesting advertisement for H.W. Churchill, Wood Engraver. And stove engraver. Creator of views of buildings, animals, fowls (perhaps the original Hoxsie?), and this thing, which appears to be some kind of dog with a beard.

Churchill also published a "Guide through the Albany Rural Cemetery," apparently.

Help Save Bannerman's Castle

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2009 Bannerman Castle hudson riverHoxsie takes a rare step outside the Albany area, but only because he was asked. There's an effort afoot to get funding to preserve Bannerman's Castle, one of the most-recognized and least-understood landmarks of the entire Hudson River. If you've ever taken the extremely scenic Amtrak ride along the river and wondered why there's a castle in the river, the answer goes back to Francis Bannerman.

According to the highly specific genealogical volume "Scots and Scots' Descendants," the Bannerman family were a proud clan that claimed their surname from Bannockburn, "where an ancestor rescued the clan pennant, whereupon Bruce cut off the streamer from the Royal ensign and conferred upon him the honour of 'bannerman.'" The eldest son in each generation was named Frank, making things very simple (or impossible) for future researchers. Francis V brought him family to the United States in 1854, settling in Brooklyn. Francis VI left school at 10, when his father went to the Civil War in 1861. In addition to working in a law office and selling newspapers, young Frank dragged the river with a grapple for bits of chain and rope which he sold to junk dealers. His father returned from war disabled, and became a dealer in his son's collected materials, and this business grew into a ship chandlery.

In 1872, Francis VI started a new business, buying up at auction useful weapons and war materiel that were being auctioned for their scrap value. He started sending out an illustrated catalog for collectors, and also started converting rifles into fowling pieces for frontiersmen and Quaker guns for boys' brigades and military schools. His business grew with stores in New York City, where he fitted out many regiments for the Spanish-American War. At the conclusion of that bit of military theater, he bought up more than 90 percent of the captured war material and a little island in the Hudson Highlands called Pollopel's Island. (Spell it how you like.) The name was changed to Bannerman's Island, and here he erected arsenals "patterned after the Scottish baronial castles." The island became his summer home, and he directed the creation of an incredible castle, reportedly seeing to every detail.

In 1905, he bought 501 Broadway from the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum, who "greatly reduced the price in recognition o fhis maintenance of a Free Public War Museum." There were seven stories of museum and salesroom, containing weapons both ancient and modern. His terms were cash: "Even the Standard Oil Company in purchasing had to send check with order."

Bannerman became an acknowledged expert on weapons as well as perhaps the world's largest dealer in them; the author of his biographical sketch wanted it known that Bannerman "has consistently refused to sell to revolutionists, or to minors or irresponsible persons." He was also called "a great lover of boys," which had a distinctly different ring in a more innocent age, or at least one in which the boys were heavily armed.

Until recently, the name "Bannermans Island Arsenal" could be clearly seen along the eastern wall, but significant portions of the structure have collapsed in recent years.  You can help support the stabilization and restoration of this incredible historic structure by voting in the Chase Community Giving process, http://www.bannermancastle.org/ or on Facebook.

If you're not familiar with it, there's a pool of pictures of Bannerman's Castle on Flickr.



 

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Road Street

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Road Street.pngJust a quick side note, since our story on the proposed Sheridan Park made mention of the oddly named "Road Street" in Albany. Road Street is, for most of its length, nothing more than a footpath on the map, but one with a history that Paula LeMire dug up a couple of years back.  I hardly ever give it a thought, even though I go by it from time to time, forgetting that it's a real street. You could be forgiven for thinking it's a bike path, and a fairly forbidding one at that, given that the state of that part of the city is enough to have made it the answer to a Jeopardy question, "What is blight?" But where cyclists fear to tread, Google Street View does not -- apparently one of Google's vehicles found its way down Road Street. There are still some fairly commonly used stretches of road that Street View has missed, but some intrepid driver must have been armed with a map that insisted that this was, indeed a street, and by gosh, he (or she) was going to go down it.

At least Road Street is, as one would expect, a street. There is also a Street Road, which is not a road but a hamlet outside of Ticonderoga.

Oh, you wanted more park?

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Arnold Brunner, in proposing a vast series of improvements to the city of Albany nearly a century ago, took a good look at what had been a wasted hillside leading down to Sheridan Hollow and proposed a grand promontory. "The peculiarity of Sheridan Park, which extends from Dove to Swan Streets and from Elk Street to 100 feet from Sheridan Avenue, is that it is nearly 100 feet higher at Elk and Dove Streets than at Road Street. It is also a perfect illustration of the axiom that the property of least value for buildings may be the most valuable for parks, as it was acquired because the land was considered to be too steep for building and part of it had begun to slide." And so he proposed a grand plan for Sheridan Park. Then, having looked at his improvements to Sheridan Park, he apparently thought his vision could be even grander. "It is strongly recommended that the city acquire the property between the present park boundary and Sheridan Avenue and also that the park be extended as shown on the map . . . Sheridan Park will be large enough for some time, but in the future its extension will be necessary as it is in the center of a thickly populated district. This can be realized by standing on the Hawk Street viaduct and noting the spread of the city toward the north." Ahh, the Hawk Street Viaduct . . . how I wish it were still there today.

"At the foot of Eagle Street there can be an overlook with a composition of sculpture and architecture to close fittingly the vista of this important street, which should be considered as a parkway connecting Sheridan Park with Capitol Park." Okay, that didn't happen either. Eagle Street unceremoniously ends, and the only vista there now is a view of the new Sheridan Hollow parking garage.
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Whatever happened to Sheridan Park?

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Sunken Garden wasn't the only vision of Arnold Brunner that didn't come to fruition. He also presented a plan for Sheridan Park that would almost certainly have transformed Sheridan Hollow. When he drew up these plans in 1914, there was already a Sheridan Park. It's still there today, a nearly forgotten slab of concrete alongside part of Dove Street and the oddly named Road Street. A hundred years ago, the entire hillside up to Elk Street was considered part of Sheridan Park, and Brunner had a grand plan for the land bounded by Elk Street on the south, Sheridan Avenue on the north, and Dove and South Swan Streets on the ends:

"There is to be a wide terrace with two walks and a central grass plot 10 feet below Elk Street with which it is connected by steps and ramps. The central portion of the terrace is extended and provides a fine esplanade and also an excellent site for a future monument. Beyond this the ground slopes steeply to the line of Spruce Street where there is a walk shaded by two rows of trees on the other side of which are to be playgrounds for boys and girls." What his plan makes clear is that he intended separate playgrounds, one for boys and one for girls, with yet a third playground for small children in between the two.

"Elk Street is widened to provide an overlook so that vehicles stopping to permit their occupants to enjoy the view will not interfere with the through traffic on the street." As someone who travels up that section of Elk Street every day, I can assure no one is stopping to enjoy the view today.

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Oh, god, just imagine. "Some parks are enclosed by heavy foliage so as to shut out the surroundings that might be incongruous and mar their beauty. Others are intended to look out from and in this case, as the view from Sheridan is unusually attractive, the park is designed so as to afford every opportunity for its enjoyment . . . The site for a monument on the terrace should make a strong appeal to the public and there is another site for a memorial of a different character found at the termination of Swan Street. It has been suggested that a public or semi-public building be placed at the end of Dove Street and this is an admirable location for one, as it not only centers on Dove Street but another facade faces the long terrace on a lower level, thus providing a fine opportunity for a charming piece of architecture."

Yeah, didn't happen.
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Whatever happened to Sunken Garden?

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Sunken Garden plan.pngBack in 1914, Arnold Brunner's "Studies for Albany" presented an ambitious plan for a park that would be called "Sunken Garden." Brunner wrote that the three blocks between Lancaster and Chestnut streets, from Main Avenue to Ontario, had been acquired by the city of Albany; "The rectangular form of this piece of land seems to dictate a formal treatment." And you couldn't get more formal than the "Study for Pavilion at end of Sunken Garden" proposed by Brunner, shown here.

The "Municipal Journal and Engineer" revealed that this "sunken garden" was made possible through the construction of a major municipal sewer, the longest concrete sewer ever constructed in Albany at the time, over 3,000 feet long. The sewer eliminated an open creek that passed through the land, which had "for years carried away practically all of the sewage of the Pine Hills district." The article also noted that "The lowest portions of the tract probably will be converted into a dumping grounds and later trees set out under the direction of the superintended of parks. This will give the trees an opportunity to grow and the city an opportunity to fill in all ravines."

Sunken Garden plan 2.pngBrunner at once presented a grand vision, and acknowledged it was unlikely to come to fruition:  "The design is perhaps unnecessarily ambitious and ornate . . . but the scheme may be much simplified and the main characteristics still be retained. As the cost of maintenance of flowers, paths and streets in a city is considerable, some of the details and sub-divisions may be omitted and an expression of a Sunken Garden secured by the sloping sides and lawns at a level lower than the streets."

Sunken Garden (or Gardens) was referred to in numerous documents in the early part of the 20th century. So where did it go?

Well, it's there. Kinda. Google Maps refers to part of it as "St. Mary's Park," reflecting its previous ownership by the Albany Catholic Diocese. It appears from satellite as a series of soccer, football, and baseball fields, with a few tennis courts thrown in, behind Albany High School.

The controversy over saving limbs

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Amputation saw, with bow frame, similar in des...

Amputation saw, with bow frame, similar in design to a hack saw. Has fancy wing nut holding blade in place and scalloping to the furthest pointing side of the frame and smooth ebony handle. Made by Lesueur. Typical of eigthteenth century amputation saw designs. Very similar style of saw to that in the anonymous painting of the Male Operating Theatre of St Thomas' Hospital circa 1776. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to arguing against the routine amputation of limbs -- which, in his day, was practiced with alarming regularity -- Albany's Dr. John Swinburne fought the medical establishment on the subject of "resection" "extension" of broken limbs. For major fractures of the arm and leg, it was established practice to apply a splint and let the fracture heal in place, almost no matter what angle the bone had come to, or to amputate. This resulted in people with shortened and crooked limbs who were hobbled for the remainder of the lives by a simple broken bone. Dr. Swinburne adopted and proselytized for a new technique, known as resection, extension and counter-extension, by which the bone was set back in place as it should have been, the bone and muscles allowed to heal in their natural position. He had ample opportunity to practice his method on the battlefields of the Civil War, where bullet frequently shattered bone, and where amputation was applied like Band-aids. The results were nothing short of phenomenal. One would think the medical community would have been anxious to adopt a technique that not only didn't kill the patient (as amputation did with, again, alarming regularity), but allowed him to go through life without the nickname "Gimpy." Dr. Swinburne's papers on the subject, and his instruction of others in the technique, brought vehement opposition.

The "Medical and Surgical Reporter" in 1862 praised Dr. Swinburne's technique:

"We have seen limbs that were badly wounded, in which amputation seemed almost unavoidable, but which were saved in spit of all the disadvantageous circumstances that followed their dressing. A few days ago we met one man belong to a New-York regiment, who had the upper portion of the humerus shattered by a minie-ball. How few surgeons on the battle-field would have thought of any thing but amputation in this case! Yet exsection of the humerus was performed [by Dr. Swinburne], several inches of bone removed, and dressing applied; and the man passed through all the ordeals mentioned above, and now has an arm that is useful for many purposes. He does not even ask his discharge from the army, but intends going home on a short furlough, and then entering the cavalry service, where he says he can manage his horse with the injured arm, and wield a sword with the sound one. How much better that than amputation at the shoulder-joint!"

His advances brought highly critical correspondence his way, which is well-chronicled in "A Typical American." Their tone, particularly with regard to his practice of doing away with splints and allowing the muscle to support the bone, made it seem as if he had angered the splint lobby, as doctor after doctor wrote to assert that his results were impossible or dangerous. One wrote of Swinburne, "His honest efforts to prove the opposite state of things only shows how skilfully he can ride his 'hobby.' . . . Dr. Swinburne must pardon me when I give it as my conviction that he is indeed a bold surgeon to advocate a plan of treatment which is so universally acknowledged to result in non-union. In reference to the good results obtained by this practice as applied to this bone, I can only express my astonishment." The letter was signed "Splints."

But others did support him, and the numbers showed why. Dr. W. Van Steinburgh of the 55th New York Volunteers adopted Swinburne's method on the battlefield. He reported that of 21 cases of compound fractures he treated with Swinburne's method, 19 recovered with tolerably useful limbs. Of twelve amputations he performed, ten died; of thirteen "excisions of the shaft, all but one resulted fatally."



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Mayor Swinburne

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John Swinburne.jpgJohn Swinburne, for whom Albany's Swinburne Park and New York Harbor's Swinburne Island are named,  led a life of medical accomplishment -- a founder of Albany Hospital as well as of his own private dispensary, a professor at Albany Medical College, a noted expert in what would become forensics, chief medical officer of the Port of New York, and savior of countless limbs of American and French soldiers. He was greatly esteemed here in Albany -- so greatly that they implored him to run for mayor of their ancient city in 1882. As his usually breathless biographer put it:

"...the people of the city of Albany, groaning under the oppressive taxation and the misrule of a corrupt and heartless ring, saw in the great surgeon the patriotic and fearless citizen, who had in every instance proved his devotion to the masses in his aims for good government in professional and political administration, -- the man to lead the hosts against the heartless and intrenched enemy. In 1882 they tendered him, as the only man able to lead them to victory, the nomination for mayor of the city of Albany. He had no taste for politics; but, on the persistent pleading of the people that he would be their leader out of the dark land of political corruption in which they were held, he accepted for their sake, in the interest of good government, and entered into the contest with a zeal that won for him the title of 'The Fighting Doctor' . . ."
And it does go on. He ran on the Republican line (there once were Republicans in Albany). The election was hotly contested and apparently there was some (or a lot) of fraud involved. Michael Nolan, the Irishman who had presided over City Hall since 1878 (including, quite literally, its burning), claimed another victory, but few believed it. The New York Times wrote:

"There is a great deal of excitement here over the result, or the pretended result, of the municipal election held yesterday, and the end is not yet. The Albany ring papers this morning proclaimed the re-election of Mayor Nolan by a small majority, thinking, doubtless, that such an announcement of the result of the vote would be acquiesced in, as it has been before, when Nolan was 'counted in' instead of being elected. But the people of Albany do not propose to submit to the fraud so quietly this time. The better citizens of both parties have come to the conclusion that it is about time to test the question of whether or not it is possible to have a fair election in Albany."
Swinburne's camp charged Nolan with fraudulent and criminal practices, including illegal voting, bribery, ballot-box stuffing, obstructing lawful voters, false canvassing, and falsely certifying results. The legal battle would take 14 months before Dr. Swinburne was declared elected in June 1883. He lost the next election in 1884 to fraud as well, but perhaps the fight had gone out of him, or perhaps he was satisfied with going to Congress, as he did later that year. There, too, he faced an opposition willing to do anything to keep him from office, and he was defeated in 1886, again in a contest widely believed to be fraudulent. By then, Swinburne had had enough of politics, and declined to run again when his opponent died after only six months in office.

Dr. Swinburne returned to Albany and private practice. He died from stomach cancer shortly before he would have turned 69. The New York Times, describing the condition of his body, said, without apparent irony, "The skull was remarkably thick."


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Swinburne: champion of the limbs

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His biographer (perhaps Joseph McKelvey -- the book is unclear) barely sketched the early life of Dr. John Swinburne, once Albany's foremost surgeon. Fatherless and supporting his family at 12, Swinburne nevertheless managed to get an education from local public schools in Lewis County, and then managed to attend the Fairfield Academy, one of the earliest medical schools in the country, in the somewhat remote community of Fairfield in Herkimer County.

"Like the other eminent names which grace our history, starting to work out their destinies from the tailor and shoemaker's shop, from the tanyard and wood-chopping, and ending with the presidency and vice-presidency, this man, from sleeping on the floor and living on seventy-five cents a week while a student, who has attained the highest pinnacle in his profession, is an eminently typical American."

His biographer, who while Swinburne was still alive put out "A Typical American, or, Incidents in the Life of Dr. John Swinburne of Albany, the Eminent Patriot, Surgeon, and Philanthropist," was more than a little impressed with his subject:

"Brave as a Wellington, yet tender as a woman; eminent as a surgeon and physician, yet plain as a man; polished and learned as a gentleman, yet humble as a peasant;  a hater of fraud, chicanery, and dishonesty, yet jealous of no man; constantly moving about among the people, looking only to their interests, sacrificing time and money to make the condition of the masses better; supplying with a liberal hand the wants of the poor, caring for their sick and unfortunate; fighting error and corruption wherever he finds them, either in his profession or in government; and sacrificing all personal comfort for the good of others, -- is the man to whom we would lead public thought, knowing that the American people love the brave and humane, and only require to be reminded, to awaken to the according of deserved honors."
Much of his work, on Civil War or Parisian battlefields, or among the poor who came to his Albany dispensary, was focused on proving that amputation was often unnecessary, that there could be other treatment for wounded limbs. He was running somewhat against the tide on this question. Swinburne wrote:

"On my return to this city in 1871, after an absence of seven years, I was warmly welcomed by the profession; and sought to show the great advance that could be made in surgery by the use of conservative modes. . . in other words, having long known that it was but rarely needful to cut off an injured limb, that the maimed member could almost always be saved; and feeling that to despoil, deform, or to perpetuate deformity in any patient, however poor, of a limb which could by reasonable means be saved, was wrong, and not in accord with the object of our profession, -- I undertook to prove, on a scale large enough to obtain conclusive results, that this harm could be avoided. I can only say my efforts have been misunderstood . . . My work has not been done in the dark, and I leave it to the verdict that time may bestow."

I think time came down on the side of keeping the limbs.
 
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Who put the Swinburne in Swinburne Park?

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John Swinburne.jpgWhish's 1917 "Albany Guide Book" notes that Swinburne Park "commemorates Albany's greatest surgeon." A century later, the name Swinburne is all but forgotten, but he lived a most memorable life. An 1888 biography was titled "A Typical American," while making it clear that he was anything but -- it calls him an eminent patriot, surgeon and philanthropist, "The Fighting Doctor," and "one of Nature's noblemen."

John Swinburne was born in Lewis County in 1820; his father died when he was but 12. Despite having to work to support his mother and sisters, Swinburne was educated in local public schools and attended Albany Medical College, where he was first in his class (1846) and was appointed "demonstrator" in anatomy after graduation. He even started a private anatomy school, but soon entered private practice.  When the Civil War came he was made a commander in the New York National Guard, and as chief medical officer was put in charge of the sick at the Albany recruiting depot. He offered his services to Gen. McClellan as a volunteer battlefield surgeon, and was soon sent to Savage's Station. When the Army of the Potomac retreated from that post on June 29, 1862, Swinburne was one of the few surgeons who remained behind to care for the sick and wounded, and he was noted for treating Union and Confederate soldiers alike. It was a month before all the wounded were removed to other hospitals, and Swinburne applied to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson for permission to visit the wounded Federal prisoners. Jackson's pass made it clear that Swinburne was not to be treated as a prisoner of war.

Returning to New York in 1864, he was made health officer of the Port of New York and immediately put to the task of establishing an effective quarantine facility, which he placed on islands, one of which, Swinburne Island, bears his name to this day. (It is now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.)

He retired from the Port and went to France, just in time for the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. With the support of the American expatriate community, he created the first ambulance corps in Paris to tend to the wounded, and for his efforts he was decorated as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and with the Red Cross of Geneva.

Swinburne returned to Albany, where he re-established his private practice and, in 1876, became Professor of Fractures and Clinical Surgery at Albany Medical College, and became one of the first to provide forensic testimony at trials involving medical evidence. He also found time to be elected Mayor (1880) and then to Congress (1884). While doing that he established the Swinburne Dispensary, which provided free medical services to as many as 10,000 patients a year.

His anonymous biographer wrote: "His quiet benevolence, yet bold aggressiveness in fighting error and corruption in high places, both in professional and official stations, has given his life a charm unequaled in the past, and has won for him the admiration of the masses of the people." He died here in Albany on March 28, 1889. Like any good Albanian, he is buried at Albany Rural Cemetery.

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