Archives for category: tbt
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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.

 

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“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

Often considered a quiet town, Cooperstown New York is today known for few things other than baseball. The Cooperstown of the mid to late 1800s was a little different. On 74 Main Street Cooperstown two businessmen Horace Hooker and Stephen Browning created a retail hardware store amid an economic crisis. One remnant of their store left behind for those today to see, is a single hand-painted sign advertising for Norman Stoves that were being sold at the store[1]. Hooker and Browning began their business in 1853, though by 1857 an economic crisis was revenging American businesses.  To save the business the two men focused on specializing in hardware, cutlery, household items, and specifically stoves. In over 20 years of operation the company was a staple in the everyday life of Cooperstown families.

 

N0008.2008

H.M Hooker Sign c. 1850 Fenimore Art Museum Cooperstown NY. N008.2008

Throughout much of the latter half of the 1800s there was an evolution taking place in kitchenware, and particularly stoves. As seen by the sign left behind, the stoves were a feature that was becoming more and more popular, and the two businessmen knew how to market to their audience. The company was known for being affordable and creating lasting relationships with the customers and other companies. Norman Stoves was one such company that the partnership between the two groups was mutually beneficial. Norman Stoves was given the chance to expand its reach and grow with customers while H.M. Hooker and Co. was able to receive quality products that the customers wanted and to some extent needed.

The two brilliant business men leading H. M. Hooker and Co., knew that to survive in an economy that was not willing to help them, they needed the support of their community. To earn that, the two had to find what the people wanted and give it to them at an affordable price. They brought a name brand company into Cooperstown New York, and successfully advertised it to the people. Today at the same address another store resides and sells to a different crowd. In March of 2008 the sign was found in the building.  The current store might not have the same name nor sell stoves, but both of these stores reflect a different time and the different needs of Cooperstown in different periods in time.

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

[1]“NYSHA Research Library Awarded Grant.” Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce  Member News. Accessed February 27, 2018. https://cooperstownchamber.wordpress.com/ 2011/06/30/nysha-research-library-awarded-grant.

[2] Wooden Sign, Fenimore Art Museum Collection, Cooperstown, New York, N0008.2007 (01).

 

Blog written by Grayson Grau

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Above: Front of 1910 Suffragette Madonna, 1910, paper stock, H: 14 x W: 9 cm, Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, New York, Teaching Collection, T2015.045f. Photograph by Christian Stegall.

This irreverent postcard is best understood as part of a wave of postcard popularity. This powerful piece of propaganda discouraged women’s suffrage by using mockery and saying that women voting would result in men losing their masculinity.

It is not surprising that this postcard is creased, considering that it is from 1910. But it is likely that it was already somewhat damaged at the time it was first sent. The anti-suffrage image is effective as propaganda precisely because it is a postcard, a semi-public object that is handled by multiple people.

Today, we use postcards as souvenirs. Twenty-first century people generally buy them only when they are traveling. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, though, people sent and collected every imaginable kind of postcard. While some wealthier people had extensive collections, this visual medium was also cheap and accessible to the working class [1]. The “golden age” of postcards was from the year of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, up until 1918 as World War I came to an end [2]. A fine example is this this self-referential postcard (held at Newberry Library) that depicts a woman looking at her postcard collection.

The “Suffragette Madonna” postcard arose during that wave of popularity. It mocked the struggle for women’s voting rights in the early 1900s by showing a man in the style of the ideal female: the Virgin Mary. In the early twentieth century, many considered it inappropriate for women to act in the public ways, including voting. At the same time, as this postcard shows, it was silly and emasculating for a man to be associated with childcare. The caption on the postcard says “Crop of 1910.” The postcard designer was saying that the man in the image was just one of a much larger “crop” of feminine men who thought women should be able to vote.

A New York postcard maker called the Dunston Weiler Lithograph Company made a series of 12 postcards that included a nearly identical Suffragette Madonna postcard, as well as other ones:

Above: Suffragette Series No. 1: Suffragette Madonna, and No. 2: Suffragette Copette, 1909, Dunston-Weiler Lithograph Company, New York, paper stock, H: 14 x W: 9 cm, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive.

 

The series by Dunston Weiler included mocking images of a feminine Uncle Sam and a police officer (“Suffrage Coppette”) [3]. And so, even to someone who didn’t understand or appreciate the subtle religious jab at Catholic symbolism, the Suffragette Madonna postcard successfully functioned simply as a humorous image. To many, the postcard of a man performing domestic duties was just as ludicrous as a police officer wielding a rolling pin.

As scholar of communication studies Catherine Palczewski writes, the imagery on this postcard visually expressed an idea that wasn’t in the verbal arguments around women’s suffrage during the early twentieth century [4]. The fact that this postcard exists in 2017 – unlike ephemeral spoken conversation – ensures that we don’t forget this controversial debate.

[1] John Fraser, “Propaganda on the Picture Postcard,” Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 3, no. 2. (October 1980), 39.
[2] Catherine H. Palczewski, “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards,” Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol. 91, no. 4 (November 2005), 365, whole article 365-394].
[3] Palczewski, 370.
[4] Palczewski, 387.

 

Rosa Gallagher