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.



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.


tag trunk

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.



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

Entrepreneurs are people who organize a business while taking on greater financial risks than normal. In the pharmaceutical business, everyone was taking a financial risk as they often had to take on other roles besides selling medicines to make ends meet. In Cooperstown N.Y., the pharmacy, Brazee and Boden which opened March 2, 1901, with  partners Edward Daniel (E. D.) Boden and Hubbard L. Brazee [1], had to be resourceful by selling paints, oils, dyes, and perfumes in tandem with their remedies [2].

A small container from Brazee and Boden, that was not used for medicine, made its way into the storage facility of the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown N.Y. This container was recycled from Palmer’s Perfumes, a prominent perfume company from New Hampshire [3]. The fact that the container was relabeled for Brazee and Boden shows that the pharmacy took advantage of the partnership they had with the larger company. Rather than letting items within the store go to waste, as the druggist bought their wares in bulk to save on expenses, they sold excess items and, evidently, reused containers from their stock.


Box (Bottom), 1945, Cardboard, (H: 7.75 in X D: 3.25 in X C: 10.21 in). The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Withey’s Drug Store, The Farmer’s Museum Collection, F0114.1945, Photographed by Nathan Samoriski.


The bottom of the container reads, “PLEASE USE THIS PACKAGE FOR DISPLAY AFTER IT IS EMPTIED SOLON PALMER”, indicating that Palmer’s Perfumes wanted continued advertising of their product even after the item was sold by the smaller businesses. Brazee and Boden instead recycled the container for their own purpose, taking away this free advertising for the big perfume company.


Box, 1945, Cardboard, (H: 7.75 in X D: 3.25 in X C: 10.21 in). The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Withey’s Drug Store, The Farmer’s Museum Collection, F0114.1945, Photographed by Nathan Samoriski.


Their new label reads, “BRAZEE AND BODEN PHARMACISTS. COOPERSTOWN, N. Y.” The label also includes spaces for “No.,” “Date,” and “Dispensed by:” however these spaces remain blank. Following “Dr.” “1.00” is written and hand-written on the label is “Zebra Re[d]” which could be a pigment or dye powder. The original contents of this container cannot be determined without damage to the Brazee and Borden label.  The Freeman’s Journal advertise that Brazee and Boden sold dyes as well as paints. Dyes were no longer limited to natural pigments. As of 1856, synthetic dyes made any color available and it is possible that the name “Zebra Red” is an invention of Brazee and Boden as advertising of this powder.

These entrepreneurs decided to save their money and reuse the abundance of perfume containers that their partners sent to them. Even though Palmer’s Perfumes wanted these containers to be used for their advertisement needs, Brazee and Boden claimed the containers as their own. As entrepreneurs, these men are taking a financial risk running a pharmacy in the early 1900s as they would not make enough money selling drugs alone. By utilizing what they already had in their possession, Brazee and Boden were able to save money on their powder containers and earn money by selling other items in their drug store.   

By: Aubrey Kirsch

March 26, 2018


[1] “Obituaries,” The Otsego Farmer (Cooperstown, New York), Friday, May 23, 1939.

[2] Brazee and Boden, “Announcement,” The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, New York), March 7, 1901.

[3] James E. Davis, Annual Meeting of the Manufacturing Perfumer’s Association of the United States, (Detroit: Speaker Printing Company, 1903) 127.

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


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.

Bassett Medical Bag

Doctor’s Bag, 1890-1910, leather, glass bottles, corks, metal, H: 5 x W: 8.75 x D: 2.125 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, N0008.2002.

Measuring 5 inches high, 8 ¾ inches wide, and 2 inches thick (only slightly bigger than a women’s wallet) this unassuming leather satchel saved lives. Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett owned this medical bag, currently housed in the Doctor’s Office at The Farmers’ Museum [1]. Working in central New York from the 1890s until her death in 1922, this medical bag gave Dr. Bassett the freedom of a career, the freedom of medical choice, and the freedom of movement.

Dr. Bassett’s medical bag illustrates her independence within the male-dominated medical field. In 1887, Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania [2]. Six years later, she partnered with her father to work at the family’s general practice in Cooperstown. When her father died in 1905, Dr. Bassett took the initiative and continued the practice alone – she saw a need in her rural surroundings and she filled it, despite the barriers she came across. Between 1890 and 1920, the national average percentage of Women Physicians only grew from 4.4% to 5.0% [3]. At a time when the few female doctors were limited to treating women patients, Dr. Bassett chose to work independently in a rural area where she could serve anyone.

Dr. Bassett’s medical bag could carry up to 36 different vials. With the majority of the bottles measuring around 2 inches tall, there was a limited amount of space. However, the numerous vials let Dr. Bassett to bring a variety of medicines to her patients, giving her the choices and resources needed to attend to a range of diseases.

The medical bag’s compact size also allowed Dr. Bassett to transport the necessary medicine to her patients in central New York. She could make house calls and bring the medical attention to her remote patients, despite the rural setting. Dr. Bassett’s medical bag characterizes her independence because she was free from the physical and institutional constraints of a hospital; it let her go where she was needed.

The legacy of Mary Imogene Bassett and her dedication endures today. Founded in 1922, The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital picked up where Dr. Bassett left off, and continues caring for patients across rural central New York to this day.


Post Written by Elizabeth Kapp

[1] Doctor’s Bag, Fenimore Art Museum Collections, S Museum, N0008.2002, Documentation.

[2] “History,” Bassett Healthcare Network, accessed March 24, 2018. https://www.bassett.org/information/about-us/history/

[3] Mary Roth Walsh, “Doctors Wanted: No Women Need Apply:” Sexual Barriers in the Medical Profession, 1835–1975 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977) 185.

MulkinsBaking Powder Can, tin, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of George P. Campbell, F0669.1946(1), Photograph by Greg Slye.

How do you choose items at the store? Do you stick to products you know? Does the labeling on a product affect your decision? Price? Does the fact that is was made locally come into play?

These questions have been on the mind of business owners, marketing teams, and entrepreneurs for thousands of years. As the consumer, the answer to why we buy things is often hard to pinpoint. For a business owner, brands are carefully considered and – when done well – able to separate a product from its competition, draw the consumers eye through design, speak directly to a targeted consumer, and showcase a product’s qualities.

Some things never change. Today, we see companies using a familiar vocabulary of “buzzwords” that attest to their product’s quality in their branding and advertisements. Whether we as consumers are conscious of it or not, these buzzwords speak to us in advertisement language that we are comfortable with and understand. If the price is right and the branding checks out, we might even pull the trigger on a product we have never tried before. Then, if the product works well, we might begin to seek it out – tracking it down with the help of the look the maker has built for us. Customer loyalty has been born, ad people rejoice!

Like any community, Cooperstown, New York has had its share of local entrepreneurs. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, one of its more successful was Frank Mulkins. Mulkins, the owner or part owner of a local grocery, sold a variety of products including foodstuffs, tobacco products, dishware, hygeienics, and games out of his local storefront. [1] Mulkins’ name became so well-known a block in Cooperstown was named after him. In the 1900s, Mulkins even tried his hand at local politics.

A Cooperstown mainstay for over forty years, Mulkins clearly understood a thing or two about marketing and customer loyalty. His “Mulkin’s Special Brand Baking Powder” is a prime example. What buzzwords did Mulkins use to market his product? Well, most of them. His baking powder has the words best, quality, high grade, strength, and purity all on its label. Like any good entrepreneur, Mulkins was ahead of his time. His baking soda includes an ingredient list – something consumers probably wanted but the FDA did not insist on until the 1990s. Through these words and the design of the can, Mulkins used age-old branding techniques to express the product’s quality and encourages consumer trust.

Clearly, it stuck.

-Karl Wietzel

Credit to Greg Slye for his excellent research on Mulkins and his Baking Powder.

[1] Daybook, Dec. 20, 1900-March 16, 1901, Mulkins and Mason (Firm). Fenimore Art Museum Library, Cooperstown, New York, Coll. No. 35 V.40 Special Collections, 3-

Slye, Greg. “Local Entrepreneurship Through Baking Powder.” Cooperstown Graduate Program. Cooperstown, New York, 2018.