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EIVanDorenSewingMachineMotor.pngThis ad from the Troy Daily Times in 1917 touts the patented factory sewing machine motor of E.I. Van Doren of River Street. "Saves one-third of current because motor stops and starts automatically every time sewing machine does." Imagine!

In an article on the same page (not an uncommon practice in those days for a newspaper to feature its advertisers in editorial content), Mr. E.I. Van Doren spoke more about the improvements his patented motors brought:

"'Electric motors for power transmission in factories and industrial enterprises generally are proving a great saving over the belts and shafting which has been the method in use for ages,' said Mr. E.I.Van Doren, electrical expert, with office and warerooms at 332 River Street, to-day.

"'With the old system the average factory has a friction loss of from sixty to seventy-five per cent, and do not realize it, from the fact that shafting will get out of line, belts will stretch  and slip constantly, and no amount of mone spent on efficiency experts and high-priced help will avoid it under those conditions; it is impossible to increase the output, and instead of a reduction of cost price there is an ever increasing one . . .

"'All this is eliminated by having the direct electric drive. It calls for very little expense to install a motor for individual drive, or several motors for group driving, depending upon the local conditions and decision of the engineer.

"'The manufacturers, however, foreseeing the change that is coming are preparing to fill the requirements. We have sold the 'Lincoln Motor,' Peerless Single Phase Motors, The Fidelity, Individual Factory Sewing Machine Motor, no transmitter required."

 Just the next year, an article in Electrical World announced that:

"E.I. Van Doren, who for several years past has been at 332 River Street, Troy, N.Y., with a line of electric motors and supplies, announces the opening of his new ground-floor store, 'The Edison Shop,' on or about Nov. 9 at 81 Fourth Street, where the will offer a new and varied line of electrical motors, 'Mazda' lamps, heating devices, etc."



Careers, 1911

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We now live in a place that still uses an ancient occupation tax, and as a result its list of occupations includes a number of jobs that don't exist any more, such as  IBM Key Punch, Paste-Up Artist, Teletypist and Photolithographer. It also lists a number of jobs that technically may still exist but certainly cause one to question how many people are included under the title, such as Roller Skate Instructor, Tire Builder, and Paper Boy. (Did we mention that the titles remain wildly sexist?) And then there are some that are just confusing, such as Tool Out Man and Night Counselor.

But that's all down here in Chester County, PA. In looking through the 1911 directory for Troy, NY, it's easy to find numerous jobs that simply don't exist anymore. In the course of just a couple of pages of the directory, we find these jobs that no one aspires to in the 21st century:

  • Shirtironer
  • Collar worker
  • Collar cutter
  • Collar turner
  • Last maker [shoemaking]
  • Stitcher
  • Carriagetrimmer
  • Horseshoer
  • Coremaker
  • Buttonhole maker
  • Oilcloth printer
  • Stamper
  • Grinder
  • Paster
  • Starcher
  • Brushmaker
  • Buffer

Kids today aren't likely to have to discuss any of those careers with their guidance counselors.

Wagar's Confectionery

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WagarsConfectionery1909.pngThumbing (digitally -- although thumbs are digits, too, one supposes) through the 1909 Troy City Directory, we ran across this ad for Wagar's Confectionery, which sounded vaguely familiar despite its way-backness. Turns out there's a reason.

At this time, the name of D. Lester Sharp was attached to Wagar's Confectionery, "Manufacturer of Absolutely Pure Confectionery and Ice Cream," both wholesale and retail, and they were located at 99-101 Congress St. (Today we know the building as Manory's Restaurant.) But D. Lester was neither the first nor last word in the Wagar's story, and thankfully, in 1926 the company took out a verbose and only mildly hyperbolic full-page ad in the Troy Times in order to make "The Most Important Announcement Ever Made By An Ice Cream Manufacturer."

Wagar'sicecreamTroyNYTimes1-21-1926.png"We find the public wants a richer ice cream, an ice cream containing more butterfat. Wagar's promise in their new high quality ice cream to satisfy the most discriminating in this respect. The cost of the extra amount of heavy cream we are going to use this year in our product would allow a person to live most comfortable on the interest of it." Forgive our failure to follow their excessive capitalization; they didn't know it was rude.

Proudly proclaiming their intent to make a higher quality ice cream -- nay, a "SCIENTIFICALLY DEVELOPED FOOD" -- the ad also gave us some of the company history.

"Mr. W.S. Wagar came to Troy forty years ago with a fifteen quart freezer, the same freezer he had assisted his father with so many times in making ice cream for Sunday School picnics, etc., at West Sand Lake. It was here he conceived the idea that by coming to Troy and making the same kind of ice cream he could succeed. By hard work and long hours after coming to Troy he was able to make 100 quarts of ice cream a day, with this old freezer.

"Thirty-two years of his life he devoted to his own retail stores, his success in this business is to [sic] well known to go into details. Eight years ago in a very limited way he entered the wholesale field, making ice cream for fifteen other confectionery stores. At this time he was able to freeze ice cream at the rate of 800 quarts a day. And from this modest start eight years ago his business has grown until today in one of the most modern factories in the World Wagar's are able to freeze ice cream at the rate of 12,000 quarts a day, and with reserve capacity for almost double this amount. Such growth as we have enjoyed during the past eight years is, you will admit, phenomenal. We believe it because we have always been more concerned about the QUALITY of our cream than the extra profit we might derive from an inferior product."

That we have an ad right in front of us saying Wagar's was wholesaling in 1909 we shall choose to ignore; for all we know that was wishful thinking. While Wagar's had several locations, one well-known location was in the Ilium Building at the corner of Fourth and Fulton streets, long-time home of the Night Owl News. The location of their modern sunlit factory, which was under the ownership of Winfield S. and Mrs. Mary E. Wagar in 1926, was 553-557 Federal Street. (Remarkably, no old buildings stand in that old section of Troy, straight off the Green Island Bridge.)

But even that didn't seem like all there was to the Wagar's story; the name sounded too familiar. It turns out, there was another outfit by the name of Wagar's Confectionery that started up in Lake George in 1978 and lasted until 2004, founded by Malcolm Laustrup, Sr., the grandson of Winfield Wagar. (An appreciation of Mr. Laustrup appears here.)

Schneider's Blood Purifier

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SchneidersBloodPurifier.pngYou're a resident of the Collar City in 1909, and you feel like your blood is just a little . . . impure. Perhaps a dose of Schneider's Blood Purifier would be just the thing! Made up of sarsaparilla, cherry, dandelion, burdock, mandrake, prickly ash, "&c.," three tablespoons a day probably couldn't do much damage. (And, if it was like most patent medicines of the day, it was likely that the "&c." was primarily alcohol.)

Don't know too much about Frederick Schneider. 86 Third Street still stands, most recently (though not all that recently) home to Heritage Stationery, and immediately next door to the former First Baptist Church, and just down from Barker Park. It's clear he was active in the National Wholesale Druggists' Association, where he attended at least one annual meeting and served on the Committee on Paints, Oils, and Glass, and, in 1903-4, the Committee on Adulterations (representing Schneider & Macy Drug Co.).

FrederickSchneider.pngAn article in the April 21, 1904 edition of The Pharmaceutical Era contained this image of Schneider on the occasion of his 40th year in business. Have to agree, he doesn't look in his 60s here, so maybe that Blood Purifier worked after all.

Sejo Ice Cream

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Sejo Ice Cream.pngThe Al-Tro park program from 1909 included this ad for Sejo Ice Cream, which made us curious because we'd never heard of it. Perhaps we never heard of it because it was sold only at the ice cream cone stands at Altro Park (it was styled both with and without hyphens; and if you don't know about Al-Tro, it was a fabulous amusement park in its day, on the river in Menands, reachable by steamboat from both Albany and Troy).

So fancy it had its own march and two-step, perhaps it's not surprising Al-Tro also had its own ice cream. Unfortunately, we can't find much about Sejo, and don't even know what the name means. It was located on Front Street at the foot of Fulton in Troy (though those don't intersect anymore, making pinpointing it difficult), and was partially destroyed by fire May 13, 1910; the Ice Cream Trade Journal noted that "the stock of tubs is a total loss." After that, it went into receivership, owing the Union National Bank a sum of money. There was a court case revolving around the insurance claim that is like a rash on Google, but it tells us little more about Sejo. An entry in the 1909 Troy directory tells us its up-to-date plant was a model of cleanliness, and that they had the same number on both phone systems, but that's about it. Its directory listing doesn't say anything about being exclusive to Altro Park, however.


Uncle Sam


UncleSam_Full.pngJust in time for Independence Day, Gettysburg Flag Works sent us a note highlighting their recent blog entry with a brief history of ol' Sam Wilson, who put the "Sam" in "Uncle Sam."  The full entry is here.

Gettysburg Flag Works is located in East Greenbush, not too far from the encampment where, during the War of 1812, it is believed that the provisions stamped for the "U.S." crossed up with the nickname "Uncle Sam," and the appellation for our national symbol was born. Although one of the cantonment buildings still stands as a private residence, East Greenbush doesn't say much about its role in history; Troy, on the other hand, is all about Uncle Sam Wilson, and the graphic at left includes a number of Uncle Sam-related sites in the Collar City.

The mystery of Ivanhoe Bland

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Happened to be looking through the 1920 Albany City Directory, as one does, and looked up an address where I spent a lot of time over the past couple of decades. I knew that the building currently there had not been there that far back, and that there had been a little neighborhood of brick row houses on Monroe Street back before it turned into some warehouses and factories (and now back into housing again). And at 25 Monroe Street, I noticed the name of one Ivanhoe Bland, dyer and cleaner. It would be hard not to want to know more about someone bearing that moniker.

It seems that Ivanhoe Bland was of African-American descent, of a family that generally only spent a bit of time in the Capital District, but which produced one quite famous person.

The family patriarch was Allen M. Bland, who was born  in South Carolina (likely Charleston), with potential birthdates ranging from 1827 to 1836. He is marked as "mulatto" in the census, and is said to have been one of the first African-American college graduates. He is in fact listed in Oberlin College's "Catalogue and Record of Colored Students," 1835-62, and is listed as for the years 1845-48; with his name is the description "(taught in New Jersey many years; useful)." (The first student in the catalogue was James Bradley in 1835.) Beyond that, the life of Allen Bland is a little hard to track with certainty. It is known that he lived in Mannington, NJ in 1850, and Flushing, New York in 1854, but had moved with his family to Troy by 1857. With him there in 1860, when he was listed as 26 years old, were his wife, Lydia Ann Cromwell (24), who was from Delaware; daughters Frances (8) and Mary A. (6); sons James (5) and "Ivenko" (Ivanhoe, aged 3), and a one-year-old child with a name that probably wasn't Tansant, which is what the census-taker wrote down. Frances, James, Ivanhoe and the youngest were born in New York; Mary was born in Tennessee. the family lived at 54 Albany Street in Troy; that's now called Broadway. He was listed as the principal of the Third Ward School, noted as "African," on Seventh Street.

In 1860, Allen is briefly mentioned in a letter, "Our Albany Letter," published by correspondent "Justice" in a newspaper called The Weekly Anglo-African. Dated April 2, 1860, the letter includes: "Allen M. Bland, Esq., of Troy, paid us a flying visit yesterday."

He was still in Troy in 1862. It is claimed that after a stop in Philadelphia, he moved to Washington, DC, where Allen Bland was the earliest known African American appointed as an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office, though some researchers have been unable to confirm that claim. He was also said to have attended law school at Howard University, but to have become a tailor near Howard. He is listed as a teacher in Newark, NJ's city directory in 1863. He is listed as a merchant tailor in the 1865 Washington, DC directory, and in several other years. He is listed in the census for Charleston, SC in 1880, living with mother Frances; he's a tailor and she's a seamstress. The rest of his family is not there. He's listed in the Charleston directory as a tailor in 1882. In the 1893 Washington, DC directory, Lydia is listed as the widow of Allen, living at 1632 R St. NW.

James A. Bland became very famous, known as "the black Stephen Foster" and "The World's Greatest Minstrel Man," touring the United States, working as a singer and banjo player in London for 20 years.  He wrote at least 50 songs (and perhaps many, many times more under other names); the best-known of them all was "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," which was the state song of Virginia until 1997. Unfortunately, after minstrel music fell out of favor, James seems to have fallen into obscurity, dying in Philadelphia in 1911; he is buried in Bala Cynwyd.

Of Ivanhoe, who started this inquiry, we know very little. It appears that he was born around 1855. In 1905, he was living at 206 W. 27th St. in Manhattan, working as a tailor; his wife Mary was an at-home dressmaker, and 19-year-old daughter Maud was listed as at school. As noted above, in 1920, Ivanhoe was in the city directory at 25 Monroe, as a dyer and cleaner. In 1925, Ivanhoe and "Mattie" were lodgers in the home of Ralph Vedder at 100 Orange St. in Albany. Ivanhoe was now listed as a cleaner and dyer, and his wife was still a dressmaker. That home was at the corner of Orange and Cross Street, later known as Theater Row, just around the corner from where he had been five years before. But by 1930, Mary was living at 24 S. Swan, with John and Leonora Bland (perhaps her son?), and is listed as the widow of Ivanhoe.

I went into this with the assumption that Ivanhoe is the son of Allen and the brother of James; one of the brief biographies of James mentions his brother Ivanhoe. Confusingly, there is an Ivanhoe Bland buried in Troy's Mt. Ida cemetery. This Ivanhoe died Jan. 10, 1860, aged 4 years, 7 months and 7 days. oven the timing, it's certain that this Ivanhoe was the child of Allen and Lydia, who arrived in Troy that year. The census records on the Ivanhoe who survived to adulthood are, unfortunately, imprecise about his age. In Manhattan in 1905, he's listed as 39 years old, so born about 1866, when Allen and Lydia were already back in DC. In the 1925 census in Albany, he's listed as 52, which would give a birth year of 1873 or so. If he is the son of Allen and Lydia, and their second son named Ivanhoe (it wasn't uncommon then to give a child the name of one who predeceased him), why did he come back to the Albany area long after they had moved on?

It gets more confusing. In 1870, "Allan" and "Lilly"  are living in Washington, DC. Their places of birth, South Carolina and Delaware, and their ages seem to make them our Allen and Lydia. Allen is listed as a clerk in the patent office. (By the way, he lists real estate worth $2000 and $100 in personal estate). With them are Mary, 16, born in Pennsylvania, and James, 15, born in New York and going to school. Next in the household is someone listed as "Taxout E," a 12-year-old male born in New York and also at school. Taxout would appear to be the surname. Below that, appearing to share the same surname under census conventions, are an Ivanhoe, age 9, and Josiah, age 7. All are listed as "mulatto." Also living in the house is William Fuller, a white male age 30 who was a clerk in the Interior Department.

The "Taxout" surname would appear to just be a mistake; it doesn't occur anywhere else in the census, ever. This is most likely the same child that a census-taker had as "Tansent" or something similar in Troy in 1860. Ivanhoe, born in New York around 1861, is most likely the second child that the Blands gave that name, the first having died in 1860.

Even that 1861 birthdate doesn't align well with Albany's Ivanhoe Bland, who barely appears in the records available to us. Outside of these censuses, we only know one date with certainty. The Albany Evening News listed his death as September 13, 1927. From this, we also learn that he was a member of the Black Elks, the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World, founded in Ohio in 1899 when the other Elks would not accept blacks. (The white BPOE fought the IBPOE of W, quite unpleasantly, until 1918, but still didn't allow black members until 1976.) "Relatives and friends, also the members of Empire State lodge, No. 272, I.B.P.O.E. of W., also the Daughters of Loyal Temple lodge, No. 148, are respectfully invited to attend his funeral Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock at 38 grand street. Remains may be seen Thursday evening." Even in this notice, we don't get his age (apparently the style at the time).

I wanted to shed a little light on an obscure life from Monroe Street, but I'm not sure that's possible.

Troy, 1836: The Salubrious City

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In 1836, J. Disturnell of New York City published "The Traveller's Guide through the State of New York, Canada, &c." The title wound on for a while, as was the fashion at the time. In addition to its description of Albany, the guide had a little bit to say about Troy as well.

Troy, 6 miles north of Albany on the east side of the river, is the head of steamboat navigation, although sloops ascend through the State-lock situated at the upper end of Troy to Lansingburgh 3 miles, and Waterford, 4 miles north of Troy. The city of Troy is elegantly laid out on a plain considerably elevated above the Hudson, and contains a population of about 17,000 inhabitants. A large proportion of the trade of the Erie and Champlain canals enters at Troy, this city being conveniently situated near the junction of those important channels of communication. In the city and vicinity are numerous cotton, iron, and other manufactories, besides flouring mills, breweries, &c. The public buildings are the Court House, (one of the handsomest in the U.S., built of stone, in the Grecian style of architecture,) several elegant Churches, a Market-House, four Banks, &c. The Troy Female Seminary is situated on the public square, and is a plain but spacious brick edifice. The principal Hotels in Troy, are the Troy House, Mansion House, National Hotel, City Hotel, Mechanic's Hall, and Washington Hall. The river is crossed at Troy by convenient Horse Ferry Boats, and from the opposite village of West Troy [Watervliet], on the Erie canal, (which place has arisen within a few years, by the capital and enterprise of the citizens of Troy,) there commences a Macadamised road, the best in the State, which extends to Albany. The communication between Albany and Troy, by stages and steamboats, is half hourly, during the day. Steamboats leave daily for New-York, and stages and canal boats leave almost hourly for the north and west.

There is no place on the banks of the Hudson which presents more of the agreeable and interesting than this beautiful city. Situated at the head of navigation, on one of the noblest rivers, it naturally commands an extensive profitable trade from the north and west, and it possesses facilities for its increase scarcely rivaled by any place in the union. Its population must now amount to at least seventeen thousand, and its annual increase surpasses the most sanguine expectations of those who, but a few years since, beheld it comparatively a desolate place in the midst of a wilderness. Confident of its future growth and importance, they exerted themselves to extend its business and influence, and have lived to see their early efforts, for its prosperity and reputation as a city, crowned with success, and their fondest expectations more than realized in its present rank and standing among sister cities. As a place of residence, either temporary or permanent, it presents many inducements, and in point of locality, salubrity, and beauty, is surpassed by no city in the United States. The enterprize [sic] of its merchants and mechanics is proverbial, and no compliment of ours can add to their well earned and established reputation in their respective departments of business. But it is not in these respects only that the place excites attention, and commends itself to the notice of the public. There are other causes that contribute to its prosperity, and other circumstances that indicate its growing importance. Possessed of extensive water power on the neighbouring streams, which flow into the Hudson in the vicinity of the place, it will naturally increase its mechanical and manufacturing operations in proportion to the increase of its population and business; and the consequent demand for the products of such labour, even to the remotest extremities of the channels of trade leading to the city. The turnpike and McAdam roads to Bennington, and the railroad to Ballston and Saratoga, are completed; these, together with a railroad to Schenectady, and a branch railroad to intersect one from Boston; when finished, the means of communication with this city, from all sections of the country, will be most easy and expeditious.

The Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad leaves Troy at Federal street, by the aid of the bridge which crosses the Hudson river, extending from that street to Green Island. The length of the bridge is 1600 feet. It forms eight arches, exclusive of a capacious draw section. The piers, or abutments, are cut stone from Glen's Falls, Poughkeepsie, and Amsterdam. The bridge stands 30 feet above high water mark. Its frame, built of timber, is 34 feet wide, and well covered. From the bridge to Waterford, four and a half mile, the railroad crosses three spouts of the Mohawk river upon durable bridges erected upon stone abutments. Passing directly through Waterford the road follows along the margin of the Hudson to Mechanicsville, eight miles. From thence it verges and runs westerly twelve miles to Ballston Spa. The greatest ascent in any one mile on the line of the road is 25 feet. On the first twelve and a half miles, from Troy to Mechanicsville, the average ascent is less than 10 feet per mile. Upon Green Island, which, by the bridge, is connected with the city, a site has been selected and laid out for a large business place. It is called "North Troy." The capital of the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad Company is $300,000, and this sum, it is believed, will be nearly sufficient to complete the 24½ miles of the railroad, erect a bridge across the Hudson, and three bridges across as many spouts of the Mohawk.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.02.49 PM.pngIn the Troy directory for 1860, we find this listing for Mrs. Mary Entwistle, Clairvoyant Physician. She lived at 611 River Street, and that is all we want to know about her. Jaded readers will be unsurprised to learn that some clairvoyant physicians were subject to malpractice suits. It would be nice to think we've moved past this, but of course we haven't.

Miss J. Kimmey, Costumer

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MissJKimmey1902directory.pngAn image from the 1902 Albany directory, which included some Troy listings as well. Miss J. Kimmey was a masquerade and theatrical costumer, with thorough knowledge of the business and twenty years experience. She had shops at 342 River and 11 Fourth streets in Troy; presumably the Santa Claus outfits were available in both.

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