Curd Knife, 1875, David G. Young, steel and wood, H: 6.5″ X 2 “, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, Gift of The Young Family, F0141.1987. 

Cheese is delicious. With the enticing and robust flavor that only fatty foods can provide, vitamin-rich and protein-filled cheese has long been an American favorite. The cheese industry in the United States was worth approximately 14.92 billion dollars in 2015, and the state of Wisconsin alone produced approximately 3,239,035 thousand pounds of cheese in the last year. [1] To see how the cheese industry reached such staggering heights, we must take a look at the tools that made cheese making possible in the first place.

From the earliest Massachusetts Bay colonists in the 1600s, Americans have been making cheese and gradually improving the manufacture process over the nation’s history.[2] This early era of cheese making saw the small-batch manufacture of cheese in individual farm kitchens and dairies, with households each producing their own varieties. English, Dutch, and German settlers throughout Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania all brought their own heritage recipes and dairy sources to bear on early American cheese making.  This stratified and specialized cheese production resulted in diverse flavors, hues, textures, and qualities across the marketplace. [3]

As the nation began to spread westward in the early 1800s, so too did the production of cheese. New York gradually supplanted Massachusetts as the US’ chief diary producer as more settlers moved into the plentiful arable land in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York, and the Erie Canal attracted more people to the state. By 1808, Herkimer County, NY established the beginnings of its reputation for cheese production, as “all who adopted [dairying and cheesemaking] flourished at it at once…” [4] By 1849, Herkimer County alone was producing 10 percent of all cheese in the US annually. [5]

An area cheesemaker from Rome, NY named Jesse Williams forever changed the industry upon opening the first cheese factory in 1851. Over the next 16 years, New York state saw the establishment of 499 cheese factories.[6] These plants utilized newer technologies, including the dairy steamer, a multi-source milk blending technique, and a distinctive way to press cheese known as the “Herkimer method.” [7]

One indispensable tool to the process of producing cheese, the steel curd knife, played an equally crucial role in both the Willaims-style manufacture of cheese and the independent mode of cheese production.[8] This curd knife, an example of which is pictured above, was first designed by Herkimer County native David G. Young. This curd knife represents Young’s entrepreneurship and innovation at a pivotal time in the shifting dairy and cheese industry.


The knives D.G. Young pioneered “nearly displaced all the former contrivances of use,” owing to its efficient and clean method of cutting curd (the solid dairy product that is pressed and made into cheese) and separating it from liquid whey. [9] As manufacture and sale of farm cheeses slowed to almost a standstill and dairying began to shift yet further west, the innovation of this Herkimer curd knife endured in Wisconsin and Ohio: the new frontiers of American ‘dairyland.’[10]

Kate Rowell



[1] “Top U.S. States’ Cheese Production 2016 | Statistics,” Statista,  https://www.statista.com/statistics/195764/top-10-us-states-for-cheese-production-2008/.

[2] “History of Cheese,” The National Historic Cheesemaking Center, http://www.nationalhistoriccheesemakingcenter.org/history-of-cheese/.

[3] Loyal Durand Jr., “The Migration of Cheese Manufacture in The United States.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 42:4, 264.

[4] Frederick A. Rahmer, Jesse Williams, Cheesemaker, (New York: Steffen Publishing Company, 1971), 6.

[5] Ibid, 8.

[6] Loyal Durand Jr., “The Migration of Cheese Manufacture in The United States.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 42:4, 272.

[7] The Oxford Companion to Cheese, Edited by Catherine Donnelly, (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016).

[8] Xerxes Addison Willard, Willard’s Practical Dairy Husbandry: A Complete Treatise on Dairy Farms and Farming,–Dairy Stock and Stock Feeding,–Milk, Its Management and Manufacture Into Butter and Cheese,–History and Mode of Organization of Butter and Cheese Factories,–Dairy Utensils, Etc,” (New York: Excelsior Publishing House, 1877), 214.

[9] Annual Report of the Secretary of the Maine Board of Agriculture, Volume 7, 1861, Maine Board of Agriculture, (Augusta: Stevens and Sayward, Printers of the State, 1862), 103.

[10] Annual Report of the Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association, Volume 9, Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association (Madison, WI: David Atwood Co, State Printer, 1880),76.


For some people, nothing conveys nostalgia for the past quite like a glass milk bottle. Evoking the days of family breakfasts and early morning milk deliveries, the bottles hold memories for rural America and tell stories of the farmers who may have sold them. For the milk bottle in the Iroquois Storage Facility, the story revolves around Cooperstown and the Iroquois Farm which it belonged to.


Fig. 1, Milk Bottle, glass, H: 9.5 x D: 3.75 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, N0021.79. Photograph by Aubrey Kirsch.


The bottle serves as a classic example of the refreshing farm-to-table approach we’ve somehow lost in our modern age (though, the resurgence of this lifestyle’s simplicity embraces the old farm-to-table model). Just as this idea appeals to us today, it definitely appealed to the people of Cooperstown in the early 1900s. Mornings began with a fresh glass of milk straight from these glass bottles that arrived from the farms. Families exchanged their empty bottles for new ones, allowing local farmers to have steady income from their dairy cows.[1]

Many local farms played a role as one of the major benefits of these glass milk bottles, as you could have confidence that you received fresh milk every morning. On this bottle in particular, you can see the grade A standard of milk to comfort consumers that their milk also met safety standards.[fig. 1] F. Ambrose Clark, the Iroquois Farm’s owner at the time of the bottle’s use, had a passion for his farm and the animals on it. Perhaps his love of animals contributed to his desire to sell quality products that the people of Cooperstown would enjoy, such as the milk transported in bottles like this one.

Whatever the reason, Clark clearly understood that selling milk in these bottles would take advantage of the local desire to have convenient farm-to-table milk in the mornings, and consequently saw some success and commerce result from it. As a Clark, Ambrose probably didn’t need to rely on his farm for his income (seeing as his family had a bit of wealth in Cooperstown), but that wouldn’t have stopped his successful farm from making money off the milk bottles. He wouldn’t be the only one to benefit, though; the milk bottles meant milkmen had job security, and glassblowers as well to create them. This simple concept stimulated commerce in more ways than one, then.

Even though the farm has faded in Cooperstown and no longer exists, the milk bottle resides at the storage facility that once served as the stables for Iroquois Farm. I guess in some small way, the milk bottle and its legacy returned home.

-Lindsey Marshall

[Research courtesy of Aubrey Kirsch]

[1] Aubrey Kirsch “Iroquois Farm, Cooperstown, New York” (Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, 2018), 2.

Historic medicines infamously used dangerous chemicals or ineffective ingredients, resulting in people accidentally poisoning themselves or never getting better. The popularity of questionable medicines, lack of pharmacists with proper training, and pharmacies selling grocery items led to pharmacies getting a bad reputation in the late nineteenth century [1]. Despite these negative ideas, pharmacists Jarvis and Bliss ran a pharmacy from 1870-1895 in Cooperstown, New York where they worked with local partners to provide helpful medicine to the community [2]. While the medicine itself may have been problematic, Jarvis and Bliss strived to make quality products.

We know about the Jarvis & Bliss pharmacy thanks to some artifacts, namely a three-and-a-half-inch tall clear glass medicine bottle with “Jarvis & Bliss / Druggists / Cooperstown, NY” embossed on its side.  The glass material and a lack of an accompanying prescription label suggests the bottle was constructed to last, and customers likely often reused the bottle for refills, a popular trend for pharmacists and customers [3]. In fact, this bottle appears used due to some whitish film inside and a chip near the bottle opening, but it is unknown what this bottle actually contained.


Medicine Bottle, 1872-1895, glass, L: 3.5  x W: 1.25 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0044.1970. Photography by Jen Vos.

While Jarvis and Bliss owned the pharmacy, they worked with others to provide quality products. A maker’s mark on the bottle, “S.B.W,” demonstrates the pharmacists cared about their bottles and their advertisement to the community as the bottle would need an expensive custom mold to include their label. The clear name “Jarvis & Bliss” on the bottle also guarantees that customers would not forget their local pharmacy every time they reached for their medicine. Even now, their name and the memory of the pharmacy remain because of the bottle’s construction and clear label.

Jarvis and Bliss not only cared about the reliability of their bottles, but also the medicine that went into the bottles. Much like they worked with S.B.W for a quality bottle, they worked with local doctors and physicians for more reliable medicine. As a result, they advertised having “Pure Drugs & Medicine,” although they still sold the popular nonprescription medicines [4]. By focusing on quality products and durable advertisements with the help of their partners, the pharmacists aimed to establish a good reputation with their community.

While the medicine in the bottles may be questionable, Jarvis and Bliss undoubtedly worked hard as entrepreneurs to serve their local town of Cooperstown by creating products with the help of partnerships from doctors and manufacturers. While pharmacies continue this work today, big name corporations replaced locally owned pharmacies and regulations better control medicine. Nevertheless, today’s medicine bottles feature brand names their customers develop opinions about. Today’s pharmacies continue aim to establish reliability and serve their customers, similar to Jarvis and Bliss’s work over a hundred years ago.

Thank you to Jen Vos for her research.

-Post by Brittany Boettcher

[1] John S. Haller Jr., American Medicine in Transition: 1840 – 1910 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 267.

[2] “Business Change,” The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, NY), October 24, 1895, New York State Historic Newspapers, accessed February 28, 2018, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031222/1895-10-24/ed-1/seq-3/.

[3] Jane Busch, “Second Time Around: A Look at Bottle Reuse,” Historical Archaeology, 21, no. 1 (1987): 69, accessed February 28, 2018, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25615613.

[4] Jarvis and Bliss, advertisement, The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, NY), August 14, 1873, New York State Historic Newspapers, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031222/1873-08-14/ed-1/seq-3/.

The Western Auto Supply Company franchise store in Cooperstown was for decades a staple business in the lives of village residents. Based in Kansas City, Western Auto began as a mail-order auto parts supply business in 1909.  By the 1950s, the company had expanded its merchandise offerings to include sporting equipment and home wares. Kenneth J. Shepard, who brought Western Auto to Cooperstown in 1939, eventually became mayor of Cooperstown, serving in that office in 1966 and 1967. In 1970, he sold his franchise to William J. Burnett.¹ Burnett was also involved in village government, serving as a trustee and deputy mayor.² Owning the Western Auto seems to have lent these two men a degree of visibility and stature within the community.

Commerce and governance intersected not only in the owners of Western Auto, but in the customers, as well. A blue Western Auto tool box owned by another former Cooperstown mayor, Ross J. Young, is now in the collections of The Farmers’ Museum. The museum’s records note that Young was an auto mechanic and house builder. As such, he likely frequented Western Auto to purchase needed tools and supplies for his work.  The enameled metal of the box is dented and a little rusty, showing signs of wear. It has a decal on the front that reads “Revelation Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Western Auto Stores.”³ Revelation was Western Auto’s store brand of fire arms. This box may have been originally intended to house supplies relating to hunting and shooting, but its contents reveal that Ross Young used it as a tackle box for fishing. Those contents, also in The Farmers’ Museum collections, include fishing line, weights, floats, hooks, and lures.  The waters of Otsego Lake, the Susquehanna River, and innumerable creeks and streams provide ample opportunities for anglers to practice their hobby in Cooperstown and the surrounding area.


Tackle Box, 1950-1964, Western Auto, metal, H: 6 3/8 in x W: 13 5/8 in. x  D: 6 5/8 in., The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, Gift of C.R. Jones, F0001.2005(07).

When Ken Shepard opened the Western Auto Supply Company franchise store in Cooperstown in 1939, the Daily Freeman hailed it as “one of the outstanding events in Cooperstown’s business history,” noting that the store would “carry the same general line of supplies, accessories, and tools … hitherto offered only at the big city stores.”4 Ironically, the store closed in the 1980s due to competition from other, larger chains in places like Oneonta and Utica.5 However, for over 40 years, Western Auto supplied Cooperstown residents with the necessities for work and hobbies, all presented by the familiar faces of local owners.

1 Bill Burnett Buys Western Auto Store,” The Daily Freeman, August 5, 1970, accessed March 26, 2018, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org.

2 “Remembering the Life of William Burnett 1926 – 2011,” The Cooperstown Crier, June 2, 2011, accessed March 26, 2018, http://obituaries.coopercrier.com/obituary/william-burnett-1926-2011-740415552/.

3 Tackle Box, The Farmers’ Museum Collection, Cooperstown, New York, F0001.2005(07).

4 “Opens New Western Auto Associate Store,” The Daily Freeman, November 22, 1939, accessed March 26, 2018, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org.

5 Brittany Boettcher, “Western Auto Tackle Box: Local Entrepreneurs and Big Business,” Cooperstown Graduate Program Class Paper, 2018, 5.

By Rita Carr.


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Seed Box, c.1880, wood, paper, H: 5 x W: 9.25 x L: 22 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0507.1951.

Who else turns to gardening after a rough day? It can’t be just me. I’ve found there is no better way to end a rough day than to pull on some old clothes, put on some tunes, and tackle a much-needed gardening project.

The smell of freshly turned dirt.

The bees buzzing from bloom to bloom.

The satisfaction of pulling a particularly stubborn weed.

Perfect garden therapy.

The problems of the day seem to drift away like dandelion fluff on the breeze when I’m among the plants.  I’m always reassured that I’m not some crazy witchlike caricature from fairy tales when I find similar minded people both in the present and the past. One such person is Hiram Sibley.

As the president of the Western Union Telegraph Company in the mid 1800s, Sibley was used to success, wealth, and things going his way. His company’s’ biggest success was connecting the east and west coast of the US by telegraph line.  Sibley moved to more ambitious plans to connect the US and Russia by telegraph, but ultimately failed when the cost became too much [1].

The epitome of a no good, bad day.

With a shattered telegraph career, Sibley tried a few other things before finally turning to the seed supply industry.  While not your typical backyard gardening endeavor, Sibley found a new profitable passion to pursue.  He bought previously unused land near Rochester, NY and Chicago, IL to establish greenhouses and farms to grow and breed plants that produced seeds for sale.  Sibley imported plants and seeds from around the world to the US and bred them to produce the best yield and be the hardiest [2]

Today, seed packets can be found in practically any hardware or big box store.  In Sibley’s time things were a little different.  Sibley needed to find a way to not only advertise his new seed business, Hiram Sibley & Co. but distribute the seeds he grew.  The box pictured above is how Sibley sold his seeds.

The box came with 37 different seed packets, all that would have been selected from a mail order catalog.  The catalogue from 1883 lists brief planting instructions, prices, and uses for dozens of vegetables, perennials, flowering bulbs, climbing plants, ornamental grasses, in additions to bulk farm seeds such as corn, oats, cotton, tobacco, wheat and many more. [3]


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Sibley, Hiram. Hiram Sibley and Co’s Seed Catalouge for 1883. Rochester, New York. 1883

Anyone, from the leisure gardener to the stalwart farmer, could find what they needed at the Hiram Sibley & Co. Sibley’s savvy entrepreneurial spirit made it possible for him to bounce back from what could have been financial disaster for anyone else, and cultivate success.  Without his failures in the telegraph industry, a profitable, innovative company would never have blossomed in upstate New York.

So while I can promise that I won’t disappear to New York to start my own seed company after a bad day, you can still find me happily digging in the garden, growing my own roses of success.

–Karina Kowalski




[1] Scientific American Supplement. “Hon. Hiram Sibley.”  21, no. 530 (February 27, 1886) Accessed 25 March 2018. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13399/13399.txt

[2] Ibid.

[3] Sibley, Hiram. Hiram Sibley and Co’s Seed Catalouge for 1883. Rochester, New York. 1883. Accessed March 24, 2018. https://ia802503.us.archive.org/2/items/hiramsibleycosse1883hira/hiramsibleycosse1883hira.pdf.


N0014.2012 image

Middy Blouse, linen, 25.5″ x 22″ x 17.75″. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, N0014.2012.

“If you build it, they will come.”[1] This famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams captures the essence of Cooperstown, New York’s sports atmosphere. People, inspired by the sport’s supposed birthplace, constructed the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Dreams Park to entice people to visit and pay homage to America’s favorite pastime. Today, Cooperstown welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world.

While the quote complements the town’s tourism attractions, the opposite occurs for Bundy and Cruttenden Company, a retail-turned-manufacturer that operated in Cooperstown from the mid-1800s to the late 1920s. Sports and fashion fueled the decision behind the company’s switch in enterprise. Instead of building and having customers arrive, the demands of women participating in sports caused Bundy and Cruttenden Company to change revenue ventures. They did not have to build anything for women to come, they had to adapt since people were already there looking for athletic clothing.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, women and girls participated in gym classes and pursued athletic activities that required greater ranges of movement than archery or croquet. However, long skirts and structured corsets hindered them from fully engaging and enjoying other sports. They simply could not move. Thankfully, the middy blouse solved this problem.

Invented in 1908, the middy blouse was a women’s athletic shirt made of cotton or linen and tailored to have straight lines from shoulder to hip.[2] This loose fitting shirt allowed for women to freely move, thus increasing women’s opportunities to participate in athletic activities.

As a result, demand for middies skyrocketed. Women and girls wanted to be comfortable when playing sports or participating in gym class and rushed to the stores to acquire this new piece of fashion. The increase in demand caused the owners of Bundy and Cruttenden Company to make some changes.

When Bundy and Cruttenden Company opened in 1876, the department store sold several items including clothing, furniture, and bed linens. But, the rising demand for girls and women’s gym clothing inspired the company to take a risk and change its business strategies. In 1928, the Main Street retail store transformed into a manufacturing warehouse.[3] Employees of Bundy and Cruttenden were no longer salesmen of various goods, but creators of women’s athletic wear.

The owners and managers of Bundy and Cruttenden Company during the late 1800s and early 1900s saw an opportunity to increase revenues by changing its business pursuits. And due to this entrepreneurial decision, Bundy and Cruttenden Company was no longer a local retail store in Otsego County, but a local manufacturer filling the orders of customers throughout the country and helping women pursue more athletic ventures.

Post written by Beata Hlinka

[1] Field of Dreams, directed by Phil Alden Robinson (1989; Universal City, CA: Universal Studios, 1992), VHS.

[2] Patricia Campbell Warner, When the Girls Came out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), 218.

[3] “Local Company Files for Bankruptcy,” The Freeman’s Journal, March 12, 1930, accessed March 26, 2018, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031249/1930-03-12/ed-1/seq-4/.

Home to a multitude of scenes described in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, the Vitagraph Film Company saw Cooperstown as the ideal location for their feature film entitled The Deerslayer. [Fig.1] In 1911, J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith–founders of the American Vitagraph Company–set out to bring Cooper’s literary characters to life in this silent film. Written in Cooperstown and set on Otsego Lake, the allure of Cooperstown afforded the folks at the Vitagraph Film Company an opportunity too good to pass up. Equipped with innovative camera technology, the Vitagraph Film Company emphasized the importance of pictorial shots over all other budgetary concerns. Directed by Laurence Trimble, The Deerslayer opened with familiars like Natty Bumpo and Hurry Harry March’s arrival on the shores of Otsego Lake. [1] In the two year-period before its release, the skilled laborers in Cooperstown signed contracts with the Vitagraph Film Company. Outfitted with the appropriate backdrop for their film, locals assisted with the construction of large set pieces like “Muskrat Castle” and “The Ark”. [Fig.2] Shot in Cooperstown, The Deerslayer shined the light of technological advancement and economic opportunity on the township.

Marketed and advertised nation-wide, the Vitagraph Film Company’s motion picture appeared in the Freeman’s Journal for its commitment to the film’s cinematic integrity. At the time of the film’s release, the journal wrote, “The Vitagraph Company, the largest manufacturer of motion pictures in the world have decided to spread the fam of Cooperstown by producing a series of pictures of Cooper tales upon the shores of Otsego Lake.” [2] Bolstered by the film’s success, the Cooperstown community saw an uptick in tourism because of its association with this new medium. Local photographers who saw an opportunity to monetize this moment in history sold postcards that depicted scenes from the movie. Admired for its association with this featured technology, members of the township printed stills that included scenes from the film, it’s celebrities, and shots of the sets built by locals on Otsego Lake. [Fig.3] Recorded on site, the postcards that followed provided Cooperstown with more exposure through its association with The Deerslayer silent film. This adaptation of Cooper’s novel of the same name brought Cooperstown to the attention of a nation enamored with nostalgia. Paired with the Vitagraph Film Company, The Deerslayer captured Cooperstown in a way that had previously been unheard of at the time.

– Charles Clark III


[1] The Deerslayer. Directed by Lawrence Trimble. Performed by Harry Morey, Hal Reid, and Florence Turner. Vitagraph, 1913.

[2] George H. Carley, ed., “Otsego Lake the World Over.” The Freemans Journal (Cooperstown, NY), July 5, 1911.

IMG_9389[Fig. 1]

Fig.2[Fig. 2]

Fig. 3[Fig. 3]