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Computers and Cabbage Patch Dolls

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adam-box.jpgHey, remember that time when the Rug City was going to become the Silicon Valley? Well, almost, anyway, back when Coleco had operations in Amsterdam, New York, and its Adam family computer, assembled right there on the banks of the Mohawk, was supposed to be the next big thing.

This one requires a little back story. Coleco started life as the Connecticut Leather Company, selling leather craft kits, much like another company called Tandy. They branched into plastic molding, creating kiddie pools, ditched the leather, and rebranded as Coleco in the 1960s. (Tandy, without quite ditching leather, bought a little operation called Radio Shack, which also got into computers around this time.) Inexplicably, Coleco got into the manufacture of video game consoles in 1976, jumping into the vast market created by Atari's Pong. They created the Telstar console, a number of handheld games, and then the ColecoVision in 1982.

Just a year later, Coleco announced its entry into the not-even-nascent home computer market, with a product called the Adam. And the Adam, for reasons I have yet to uncover, was assembled in Amsterdam. They announced it in the summer of 1983, promising to move 500,000 computers that Christmas. They were only able to put together 95,000, and most of those had issues (so serious that they had to open up repair stores around the country). Like most computers of its day, it was intended to hook up to a TV (or to the ColecoVision). It came with a dot matrix printer, 80 kilobytes of RAM, something resembling a word processor, and a Buck Rogers videogame. When the Adam was officially abandoned in 1985, Coleco employed 4,000 people at its Amsterdam facility, but said that most of them weren't involved in Adam production.

The company went into the doll and computer business at exactly the same time. While taking a massive loss in the computer department, Coleco was enjoying huge success with Cabbage Patch Dolls, which sparked a wild craze.  The dolls weren't made in Amsterdam; they were shipped in from China, but Rug City workers would dress them and place them in their boxes with their "adoption" papers. (The Business Review has a good reminiscence of the crazy doll days here.)

Floods Along the Mohawk

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Floods along the Mohawk.pngThis year, it's rain. In February of 1938, it was the breakup of ice and heavy winter rains that brought devastating floods to the Mohawk Valley. In Amsterdam, an ice jam wrecked the No. 4 plant of Mohawk Carpet Mills Shuttleworth Division and cut off natural gas service to the Rug City. Ice flows and river currents knocked No. 4 off its foundation and caused a partial collapse. Other mill buildings were flooded to a depth of five to six feet, and the division closed, temporarily laying off 1800 people. At Chalmers Knitting Company, waters flooded the basement and put out the fires in the boilers. The entire south side of Amsterdam was under water, in some places to a depth of twelve feet.

"Parts of Fort Johnson, three miles west of Amsterdam, were under from two to three feet of water. State troopers were rerouting traffic from Route 5-S to Route 5. Ice tossed up onto Route 5-S was gradually spreading over the road, the troopers said, menacing homes and service stations." The Mohawk submerged Route 5 outside little falls and the Davis Creek flooded Fonda.

"Meanwhile, residents in the Riverside Park section of Schenectady boarded up windows and doors after an ice jam roke between schenectady and Scotia, releasing a torrent of water."

Amsterdam is Broom Country

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T Peck Brooms and Brushes Amsterdam.jpg
We've already looked at the letterheads of Amsterdam's Pioneer Broom Company, (also here) but as was usual in the 19th century, there was almost always a rival company, and it was often just a block or two away. Here is a receipt, again from the Biggert Collection, from T. Peck & Co., manufacturers of brooms and brushes, at the corner of Pine and Cedar Streets in the Rug City. It gives us a lovely cut of the factory and what I am sure is the loveliest decorative work involving brooms I've ever seen. The receipt, from 1892, was made out to the offices of Durfee of Fall River, Massachusetts, for 25 dozen something; not having experience in the broom business, I can't figure out the abbreviations.
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Pioneer Broom Co Amsterdam.jpg
Just a year later than the letterhead we saw yesterday, Amsterdam's Pioneer Broom Company had a fabulous new letterhead made up for 1917, with crisp new cuts, elaborate typography, and P.B.Co Inc. logo.

The letterhead (from the Biggert Collection) may have changed, but the subject had not. Rockwell Gardiner still wasn't so good at maintaining his accounts with them. But if he sent Pioneer the $10.50 he owed, they would be pleased to forward the gun which came by express some time ago.
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Pioneer Broom

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Pioneer Broom Co 2.jpg
The Schenectady area was once the broom corn capital of the country, back when the low-lying farms west of the city and in Scotia and Reeseville provided the raw materials for a highly necessary product.

Out in Amsterdam, the Blood Brothers started up the city's broom industry in the 1860s. Pioneer Broom Company was started by the Blood family relatively late, in 1902 according to Bob Cudmore, first on Washington Street and then in 1904 with the large factory at West Main and Pine Streets shown on this letterhead from The Biggert Collection. To judge by the claims of the letterhead, Pioneer had a daily capacity of 300 dozen brooms and 200 dozen whisk brooms.

Also to judge by this letter, the Pioneer Broom Company was having a little trouble with its sales force up Watertown way.

The Retail Price List of Brooms proudly shows off the two factories -- no mixing of regular brooms and whisk brooms here!
Pioneer Retail Price List of Brooms.jpg



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