Archives for category: Antique

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

A trunk can protect memories, but also be part of a memory that represents the conquest of a community in the middle of a wild forest. Some objects can help us to understand the past of consumption and also its environmental impact in any age of human history.

The trunk in figure 1 was designed by Hervey Luce in Cooperstown N.Y.,  its symbolized a business owner and craftsman attempting to meet not only the basic needs of his customers, but also their romanticized, yet conflicting ideas about nature. The design and construction of a trunk  demonstrates another motive: people remained enamored with the idea of unsettled land because it was an opportunity to instill control. The original wilderness that was Cooperstown no longer existed due to the accepted comforts of urban areas and the desire for profit and Hervey Luce, along with his employees, sold goods that symbolized these aspirations: acceptable, refined commodities that conquered nature.

 

Trunk

Fig. 1 Trunk. The Farmer’s Museum Collection. Cooperstown, N. Y., N0064.1997. (Photo: Beata Hlinka)

 

The wood began as an organic shape; a tree with bark, branches, and animal scratches. Then it was cut, measured, cut again, and assembled to form a geometric shape that allowed people to store goods inside.  Trunks were typically strapped to stagecoaches and other carriages when people traveled, thus susceptible to rain, snow and other weather elements. Because of extensive deforestation, many animals such as wolves and deer retreated deeper into whatever forest remained.

In addition to taming wildlife to satisfy the desires of customers, Hervey Luce’s trunk demonstrates entrepreneurship with its personalization. On the lid of the trunk are the initials “D.F.” in brass head tacks. This signifies that Hervey Luce’s customers were able to customize their purchases and demonstrates that there were clients in Cooperstown who were wealthy enough to afford this option. Thus, while the hide and wood of the trunk represent tamed wilderness, the personalized tack design reveals the need for modern style in un-urbanized Cooperstown, New York.

 

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Fig. 2 Trunk (tag). The Farmer’s Museum Collection. Cooperstown, N. Y., N0064.1997. (Photo: Beata Hlinka)

The trunk is made of natural materials, which fit the image of wilderness adventure, but is tamed by its geometric shape, the fact that the natural resources had to be killed to be used in the trunk’s creation, and the manmade brass tacks that hold the natural materials together and allow for the initials of the “conqueror” to be implemented in the design. The wilderness had to be tamed; forests disappeared and were replaced by fields while wild animals were hunted down and displaced.

The American Revolution inspired a generation of entrepreneurs and adventurers seeking new avenues of wealth. As a result, Hervey Luce created his own image; a businessman making a profit on his customers’ idealized notions of nature .

 

By Viridiana Choy based in the research of Beata Hlinka.

 

Bibliography

Hervey Luce & Co. “Saddlery, &c.” Advertisement. The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, New York). November 15, 1819.

Taylor, Alan. “The Great Change Begins: Settling the Forest of Central New York.” New York History 75, no. 3 (1995): 265-290. http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/articles/nyhistory/1995nyhistory-taylor.html#note*.

Taylor, Alan. William Cooper’s Town. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.

Trunk. The Farmers’ Museum Collection. Cooperstown, New York. N0064.1997.

“It’s after six, what am I, a farmer?,” remarks Jack Donaghy to Liz Lemon when asked why he is wearing a tux in an episode of 30 Rock.[1] As a member of the wealthy, corporate elite, Donaghy knows the social importance of wearing the right clothes at the right time. As such, he would have fit right in in 1800s Cooperstown, New York. This powder blue hat box in the collection of the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown reflects the style and social class of the residents of this small town as well as the ingenuity of local entrepreneurs to succeed in a small market.

Hat Box Side

Side, H. Hollister Hat Box, c. 1837, pasteboard, paper, H: 9.5″ x L: 12″ x W: 10.75″ x D: 8.25″ Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Dr. Carolyn Olendorf, N0518.1942 (02), photograph by Mary Kate Kenney.

Hat Box Lid

Lid, H. Hollister Hat Box, c. 1837, pasteboard, paper, H: 9.5″ x L: 12″ x W: 10.75″ x D: 8.25″ Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Dr. Carolyn Olendorf, N0518.1942 (02), photograph by Mary Kate Kenney.

When H. Hollister set up his hat shop on Main Street in Cooperstown around 1839, he knew it was no ordinary small town. Incorporated in 1812, William Cooper and the other founders of the village sought to attract residents “already of a higher order than that of most villages its size,” with “more liberal tastes and a better style of living” than other settlements of its size.[2] The success of James Fenimore Cooper’s books set in the area solidified Cooperstown’s status as a resort community in the lush, forested mountains of upstate New York. Despite the small size of the village, Cooperstown was able to support multiple shops that sold fine clothing to a more upscale clientele.

Hollister’s shop could be found “At the Sign of the Golden Hat” according to the advertisement on a hat box that had once been owned by local resident, Alfred Olendorf.[3] Olendorf could have chosen to patronize at least one other store in Cooperstown (J.R. Worthington), but whether due to quality of products, loyalty to the business, competitive prices, or effective advertising, he chose to purchase a top hat from H. Hollister.[4]

The fact that this hat box survives at all indicates that Olendorf made use of it beyond its first trip home from the shop. Most likely, Olendorf would have stored the purchased beaver top hat in this box while not in use. H. Hollister knew this about his customers and used it as an opportunity to further promote his business. Not only would Olendorf be able to tell his friends where he purchased his beaver top hat, he would also be encouraged to return to H. Hollister’s shop to purchase one of the other types of hats listed on the label. Whether the customer required a fine hat of beaver or silk for evening activities, or a straw hat for boating on the lake, H. Hollister’s hats could complete any ensemble.

Despite the small population of the village of Cooperstown, NY, H. Hollister’s hattery stayed in business for at least 30 years. An 1870 census recorded Hollister “as the owner of $4,000 worth of real estate and $3,000 worth of personal estate,” translating to about $51,900 and $69,000 respectively in today’s dollars.[5] With an above average demand for fine hats in a small community and a shrewd sense of business and marketing, H. Hollister threw his hat into the entrepreneurial ring.

By Jen Vos

 

[1] 30 Rock. “Tracey Does Conan.” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Adam Bernstein, Written by Tina Fey. NBC, December, 2006.

[2] S.T. Livermore, A Condensed History of Cooperstown, with a Biographical Sketch of J. Fenimore Cooper. (Albany: J. Munsell, 1862) 68, 80.

[3] Hat Box, Fenimore Art Museum collection, Cooperstown, New York, N0518.1942 (02), “Documentation.”

[4] Mary Kate Kenney, “Hat’s Off! A Cooperstown Hatter and Local Entrepreneurship,” Cooperstown Graduate Program. Cooperstown, New York, 2018.

[5] 1870 U.S. Census, Otsego County, New York, population schedule, Cooperstown, p. 3, dwelling 22, family 25, Harvey Hollister; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed February 6, 2018, http://ancestry.comwww.in2013dollars.com

When walking through today’s grocery store, a variety of butter and butter substitutes line the well-lit refrigerator shelves. Butters from different regions of the country and world exist behind the cold glass, but so do a variety of non-dairy spreads made from products like coconut and vegetable oils. The demand from the current consumer calls for these alternative products and clutters an already competitive market for those in dairy and butter production.

Now try to imagine the 1870s in upstate New York, where no one knows about the ability to create butter alternatives out of coconut or vegetable oils – where might New York dairy farmers find competition in the marketplace? The 1800s were all about east versus west, and the dairy rich state of New York found itself right in the middle of an increasingly competitive dairy market. As discussed at the 1879 convention of the New York State Dairymen’s Association in Oneonta, New York, local farmers were concerned with falling prices and the possible discrimination against them by the railroads in favor of Western dairy producers. [1]

Actual Churn

The Isbell, Taylor & Co. Revolving Box Churn Patent Model, ca. 1877, metal and wood, height 13 in; width 11 in; depth 10.5 in, Farmers’ Museum Collection, Cooperstown, New York, F0306.1953.

Unwilling to stand idly by while the reputation of the New York dairy industry hung in the balance, Elhanan C. Taylor and Ceylon Isbell of Courtland County introduced a new and improved type of revolving box butter churn to the market called the gang churn. Taylor and Isbell certainly did not reinvent the wheel in their new product, but instead improved the traditional box churn so that multiple compartments could operate at the same time and with less power. [2] This creative adaptation of an already existent object was born entirely out of necessity – New York state dairy farmers were well known for the excellent quality of their butter and had a reputation to defend against the threat of western butter production. [3]

Gang Churn Ad

Fig. 1 [4]

Capturing the true spirit of entrepreneurship, Taylor and Isbell saw an opportunity to give themselves and their colleagues the competitive upper edge in a changing market and they took it. While their new design did not “make butter without cream” [5], the Revolving Box Churn kept New York dairy farmers alive in the fight against western butter.

[1] Lewis Harris, Annual Report of the New York State Dairymen’s Association, Issue 3. (Ilion, Citizen Steam Book and Job Printing House, 1880) pg. 13

[2] “Specifications and Drawings of Patents Issued from the U.S. Patent Office, January 1, 1878,” Google Books.

[3] Annual Report of the New York State Dairymen’s Association, Issue 3. (Ilion, Citizen Steam Book and Job Printing House, 1880) pg. 12

[4] Page 66 of the Third Annual Report of the New York State Dairymen’s Association, 1880. Available from: Google Books (accessed February 27, 2018)

[5] Transactions of the New-York State Agricultural Society, Vol. IV, 1884 (Albany, E. Mack, 1845) pg. 232

Karl Wietzel “Fortunes Made and Lost: The Isbell, Taylor & Co. Gang Churn and New York Dairy in the 1870s” (Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, 2018), 5.

by Mary Kate Kenney

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Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, 1843-1910, stoneware, steel wire, wood, H: 9 ¾ x D: 7 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of the Estate of Wilson McGown, F0015.1960.

M. E. Waite’s Osage Rub – “Better than a Cocktail next Morning.” So says an advertisement in the 1903 edition of the Barber’s Journal. [1] Merton E. Waite originally operated The Barber Supply House out of Utica, New York, producing his hair tonic for men across the entire country. Waite advertised his Osage Rub for its remedial qualities as well as its practical qualities. He claimed that his hair tonic provided relief from sun headaches, acting as a cooling agent for the scalp and face after a shave, while also fulfilling the purpose of a styling product, which left the hair “as soft and glossy as a kitten’s fur,” and “Makes the old head feel like new.” [2]

A stoneware jug (F0015.1960), once use to carry this tonic found its way into the collections of The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York. But while smaller bottles and advertisements incorporate catchy slogans, the label on this jug is very simple, in fact, the jug as a whole is quite plain. In terms of advertising, the only words on the jug are, “Osage Rub for the Hair and Head, M. E. Waite, Trade Mark Registered, Utica, N. Y.” Looking at the material, stoneware was also traditionally a material reserved for utilitarian purposes. During the 1800s, porcelain was the highest quality clay, and stoneware was the lowest. The cheap material, with an absence of the colorful slogans suggests that this particular jug was not meant for the general audience. The qualities of this container did not necessarily demonstrate wealth to the average consumer. They do, however, speak to Merton Waite’s practicality as a businessman – knowing what his audiences demanded, and cutting costs at every opportunity.

With success came the need to market his products appropriately – Waite could not simply sell his Osage Rub in one size only. He needed to understand how to sell his product to different audiences, mainly the general public and professionals. Barbers would recognize Osage Rub from the advertisements. The container did not matter to this audience – only the product. Therefore, he did not need to make the container pretty to sell it, as he might with smaller bottles meant for the individual consumer. For large orders shipped to barber shops, he packaged Osage Rub in cheaper, stoneware jugs. To do this, he took advantage of local resources, partnering with another business in Utica, White’s Pottery, which specialized in stoneware. [3] The localized partnership with White’s Pottery made for fast and cheap shipping of the Osage Rub jugs, and took the responsibility of packaging materials out of the hands of Merton Waite, allowing him to focus solely on making his product.

The Osage Rub Jug portrays Waite as the quintessential businessman – competitive, yet economical. M. E. Waite’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through his jug, and shows the continued importance of partnerships and practicality in business.

 

Post written by Nathan Samoriski

 

[1] “Osage Rub,” The Barbers Journal 14, no. 1 (January 1903): 2.

[2] “Sun Headache,” Harper’s Bazaar (July, 1903): 34.

[3] Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, Farmers’ Museum Collections, S Museum, F0015.1960, Documentation.