Exploring Albany's inglorious past and dubious future

Jed’s Historical Albany Fragments #409

JED’S HISTORICAL ALBANY FRAGMENTS was a weekly feature in the Sunday edition of the Albany Argus in and around 1909. It’s worthwhile reading because of its closer proximity to Albany’s early history. I have OCR’d one of these columns, and if anyone finds them of interest, I will reproduce several more. This is column #409.

News that interested the people of Albany in 1833 is given in the appended extracts from the local newspaper files of that year:

Mayor Bloodgood’s Address.

January 1 – Francis Bloodgood. on being inducted into office as mayor. made a speech, of which the following is a part:

The anticipations which we have formed of the growth and prosperity of our city, seem fast realizing. None in the Union of its class, has surpassed it, either in the augmentation of its business, wealth. or population. The construction of extensive wharves, the removal of hills, the opening of streets, the erection of private and public buildings, the increase of our commerce, the general soundness of our public institutions, all speak a language not to be misunderstood. Connected with this interesting view of our prosperity, is another subject. that a regard to further improvement should induce us particularly to watch over and regulate the expenditure of the public money, and the diminution of the city debt, as far as practicable. Heavy taxes retard the growth of any place, and they have been severely felt by us in many instances, on former occasions. At one time our debt was very large. In the year 1816 it amounted to $271,392. From that period to 1824, it was gradually reduced to the sum of $243.667. In the following year it was again increased to the sum of $255,400, and from that time to the first of May, 1831, it was diminished to the sum of $142,000. of which, at that time, $60.000 bore an interest of 5 per cent, and the residue of 6 per cent: when $75,000 was by a financial arrangement reduced to a 5 per cent interest also, leaving $7,000 only, payable tn 1839, at an interest of 6 per cent. The city debt has no doubt increased during the past year, owing to the calamity (the cholera) which afflicted it: but the corporation have it within their power, I trust, with their resources, as from the receipts of the ferry, from excise, from the city tax, from dividends on stocks, from the avails of the lottery and from the repayment of the sums advanced and expended for the repairs and improvements of streets, gradually to diminish the amount.

January 5 – A steamboat arrived from New York with the mails. A severe rain storm began in the evening.

Hudson and Mohawk Railroad.

January 8 – The cars of the Hudson and Mohawk railroad commenced running from State street. A car was drawn by a single horse to the junction of the road with Lydius street, about two miles, when the train was taken by the locomotive. The stock at this time was selling at $1.25; that of Schenectady and Saratoga road at $1.05.

January 10 – The steamboat Wadsworth left at noon for New York, warned by the rapidly falling of the thermometer, and the river was again closed a few hours afterward.

January 13 – William Nutt died, aged 48. He was the second husband of the famous Mrs. Pye.

Expenses of the Cholera Epidemic.

January 21 – At a meeting of the Common Council the chamberlain submitted a report of the expenses incurred during the prevalence of the cholera the previous year, which amounted to $18,000.

February 3 – The Mission house in Spring street was established about this time. The first trustees were Charles Dillon, Levi Silliman and John Lossing.

The Reason.

February 13 – At a meeting or the Common Council. in arguing the proposition to divide the city into ten wards, it was stated that the object of the movement was that the city might have 10 supervisors; that there were 9 supervisors from the country, and only 5 from the city. which was disadvantageous to the latter.

February 19 – It appears by a report to the Legislature that the cost of constructing the Mohawk and Hudson railroad was $42,600 per mile; while the Schenectady and Saratoga cost $22,000.

March 1 – A copartnership was formed between James and Archibald McClure and George Dexter, in the drug and medicine business.

Female Academy.

March 4 – Subscriptions were now being procured to erect a new edifice for the Albany Female Academy in Pearl street, which were successful; the efforts of the principal. Mr. Crittenton, resulting in the erection of the present academy.

Made Globes.

March 18 – John Wilson died, aged 39. It was claimed for him that he was the best artist in the making of globes, not only in this country. but In the world: that he had improved the art to such an extent as to elicit the admission of even English manufacturers, that his globes were geographically and mechanically superior to their own. To this extraordinary skill he added the virtues of honesty, humanity and generosity in an equally eminent degree.

A Good Penny.

April 17 – Samuel T. Penny died. (Penny married a widow, Rebecca Rhino – rather a curious conjunction of names – who had considerable property, some of which he soon squandered: in consequence of which and his vagaries besides, she obtained a divorce from him in the State of Vermont, whither she went to reside for a while with that purpose. On her return to Albany she opened quite a large dry goods store in the building now No. 583 Broadway, where she transacted an extensive business, while Penny kept a store a few doors above in the same street. Both of their names appear, as merchants, In Fry’s Directory of 1813, she resumed her former name, and many of our oldest citizens will remember Mrs. Rhino’s Cheap Store, and the crowds of customers she attracted thither.

In his latter days Penny became quite poor, and mended umbrellas for a living. He went from house to house collecting them, and was rarely seen except with a bundle of old umbrellas under his arm, striding along the streets and clearing the sidewalks of all the youngsters in his way. With them, Old Penny and Old Umbrellas were synonymous term). He was a native of England, had resided in this city about thirty years, and was noted for his biblical knowledge and eccentricities, the latter the effect of partial insanity. He was buried in the cemetery of the First Methodist church.

April 22 – The proprietors of the Athenaeum determined to close that institution for want of adequate patronage.

Heavy Freshet.

May 16 – A freshet which began two days previous was now at its greatest height and produced much loss and damage. South Market street was impassable below Hamilton street, and carts and yawls plied their amphibious vocations at the rate of 6d a passenger. The vegetation on the island was wholly destroyed. Besides the damage to property, which was serious beyond recollection, there was also loss of life.

The island at the south part of the city consisting of about 160 acres, was at this time occupied by 11 families. deriving their support from the vegetables raised thereon. The recent flood entirely destroyed the crops, and they sustained a loss of nearly $6,000. They were equally unfortunate in the previous year when owing to the prevalence of cholera, they were unable to dispose of the products of their gardens.

May 18 – Benjamin D. Packard, of the firm of Packard, Hoffman & White, died. aged 54. He was a bookseller. and had recently begun the publication of the Albany Evening Journal, of which he was the founder and sole proprietor, at the time of its commencement.

Removal of the Ark.

May 20 – The Common Council determined by a vote of 10 to 8, to allow the Ark to remain in the basin. An effort had been made for some time to remove it as a violation of law, and on the 1st of July the board resolved that it should be removed, 8 to 7.

The Ark was an immense floating store house constructed in the basin, between the State street and Hamilton street bridges. capable of holding a large number of canal boat cargoes at one time. It was built by the tow boat companies to save storage on shore. When there were no river vessels on hand to receive freight from the canal it was deposited in the Ark until the tow boats arrived from below to take it in. The merchants and storers who hired warehouses on the wharves at high rents complained loudly of this unfair interference with their legitimate business, and insisted on its removal. The defense was that it could not be taken out of the basin. there being at that time no outlet sufficiently large for the purpose. The Ark was finally broken up and taken away piecemeal.

Raised Salaries.

June 4 – The Common Council raised the salary of the chamberlain to $1,000, and that of the poormaster to $500. At the same meeting they made arrangements for the reception of President Jackson, who was expected here on his northern tour.

June 5 – The demolition of the Vanderheyden house in North Pearl street was commenced, in order to make room for the Baptist church which now stands party upon its site.

June 24 – The Common Council resolved, 8 to 5. to widen Hudson street from Union to Market streets, by taking 14 feet on the south side. Spring street was directed to be opened from Hawk to Swan streets.

Fourth of July Celebration.

July 4 – The day was celebrated with unwonted enthusiasm and display. The declaration was read by J. V. L. Pruyn, and the oration was delivered by Adjutant-General Levi Hubbel. Twenty-four young ladies from Schenectady, each representing a State, sung Hail Columbia. Marshal of the day, Col. Peter V. Shankland. The military, firemen and civic societies were out in fine display.

Albany an Iron Center.

July 10 – The editor of the Daily Advertiser, from observation and inquiry, formed the opinion that the manufacture of iron castings was brought to greater perfection in Albany than in any other place in the country, or even in Europe. The hollow ware of Bartlett, Bent & Co., was preferred to the best Scotch; the stoves of Dr. Nott received the preference wherever they were known, and the machinery castings of Many & Ward were equal to those of any foundry in the world. The quantity of castings produced was stated as follows:

About one thousand persons were employed in these establishments. Besides these productions, the house of Heermans. Rathbone & Co. sold annually 750 tons of stove plates brought from Philadelphia, and Gill, Cooper & Co. about 300 tons. from the same place. From the best information that could be obtained, it was found that there were about 2,300 tons manufactured and sold in the city. and about 1,250 tons imported and sold here, making in all 3.550 tons.

July 11 – The subscription books for the stock of the New York and Albany railroad were opened at the Eagle tavern.

The Pig Nuisance.

July 16 – The chamberlain of the city of Albany vs. James Blackall, was the title of a suit brought before the police court to recover the sum of $6 as a penalty for permitting three of the defendant’s swine to go at large in the city of Albany. The jury consisted of Warner Daniels, foreman; James Hunter, Robert Strong, Robert Gill, Chester Judd and Joseph Brown. The prosecution was conducted by David Hosford; the counsel for the defendant was Calvin Pepper. These were for a long time the most eminent counsel at the bar of the police and justices courts. There were many who professed strong doubts of the propriety and constitutionality of the law restraining swine from running at large, and who regarded the presence of hogs in the streets to be conducive to the general health of the city. They were particularly hostile to one John Baker, who brought this suit, and who had undertaken to impound all hogs found in the streets as a chosen profession, and it was one which it was thought he was adapted to by nature as well as inclination. (He received the name of Pig Baker. by which he was known for years). The counsel for the defendant argued that the ordinance under which Baker acted, professed to be for the abatement of nuisances, when in fact it promoted infinitely greater nuisance by compelling owners to confine their hogs in narrow pens near their own dwellings and those of their neighbors; while it left the offal to rot and putrefy either in houses or in the public streets, which these animals had been accustomed to consume. The unconstitutionality of the law, the hardships it imposed upon the owners of the swine, the malpractices of the swine driver under the law, were all forcibly presented. The counsel for the complainant contended that if the law was distasteful to the public, they must petition for its repeal: but he repelled with becoming indignation the insinuation that Mr. Baker, the efficient, vigilant and faithful agent of the corporation, would himself impound the swine found at large, and afterwards turn them out of the pound for the purpose of making a further complaint; and that it was much more reasonable to suppose that the owners had themselves broken open the pound for the purpose of liberating their own property.

Justice Cole submitted the cause to the jury without any charge or expression of opinion, and the jury forthwith returned a verdict for the defendant.

Railroad Company Fined.

July 22 – At a meeting of the Common Council, the mayor delivered a long speech concerning the proceedings of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad Company in tearing up the street for the purpose of laying another track in State street. and concluded by recommending the prosecution of the company for an unlawful proceeding. The trial came on Before Justice Cole on the 1st day of August, when the company was fined $10.

July 25 – The steamboat Fanny ran between Albany and New York, professedly in opposition to imposition: fare $1, meals 25 cents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: