Archives for posts with tag: Antique




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,

[2] “History of Cheese,” The National Historic Cheesemaking Center,

[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.


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,

2 “Remembering the Life of William Burnett 1926 – 2011,” The Cooperstown Crier, June 2, 2011, accessed March 26, 2018,

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,

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

By Rita Carr.


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.

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.

[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.

When wandering around an antique shop the one object that captures individuals’ attention are the antique bottles. The texture, the shape, the color, all attribute to the bottles aesthetic and visual appeal. It is no wonder why these bottles attract so many collectors, but what else can be seen through these bottles? In the early 1800s, A.M. Bininger & Co. ran distilleries around Otsego County, and became known for their popular Great Gun Gin and tonics but what is more breathtaking is the bottle in which their alcohol was contained. [1] One bottle, located in the Fenimore Art Museums collection, is shaped in the form of a canon and was not entrepreneurial for its content but for the shape and marketing value of the bottle itself.


Bottle, ca. 1861-1864, glass, height 12.5 in ; width 3 in, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, Museum Purchase, N0324.1949.

A.M. Bininger & Co. made a specific brand for themselves with the shape of their bottles, which made them instantly recognizable.  This had nothing to do with the alcohol they were creating nor the names that they were given, but had to do with the bottles they used to hold the alcohol.  By the mid 1800s, the widest range of bottle shapes arrived on the market and shapes such as jugs, urns, flasks, a clock and a cannon had this company proudly embossed on the bottles label [2]. This continued on for the A.M. Bininger & Co. and was attributed to much of its success to the point where their bottles have been found in regions outside of where the alcohol was distilled.

4. bininger-cannon - l

Figure 1 [3]

In the grand scheme of business and distilling this set up a great market for later companies to adopt. While it is not the same shape, in Cooperstown New York, the Cooperstown Distillery has bottles that are unique in shape. These specific bottles coincide with the overall feel of Cooperstown that is baseball.  Their different alcohols are within a bottle that is the shape of a baseball, this not only being a source for the alcohol to be stored in but also as a souvenir of a visit to Cooperstown. This ties into the work that the A.M. Bininger & Co. because the company paved the way for later distillers to model their marketing and advertisement. Not only did this particular bottle represent the innovation that A.M. Bininger & Co. had during their time but also showed how that innovation is still relevant to this day. [4]

[1] Sullivan, Jack. “Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men!” A.M. Bininger and His Beautiful Bottles (andLabels). January 01, 1970. Accessed March 23, 2018.



[4]”Cooperstown Distillery – A Micro-distillery Serving Small-batch, Hand Crafted Spirits. Located in the Heart of Cooperstown, NY, Home to the Famous National Baseball Hall of Fame.” Cooperstown Distillery. Accessed March 26, 2018.

Alexis DiBartolomeo

The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York owns a small, wooden barrel marked by the name “Chandler Bros. Cooperstown, N.Y.” [1] Barrels were easily transportable containers for grains and liquids because they became sealed when they are made. They have fallen out of fashion for most things, other than alcohol, being replaced by crates, cardboard boxes, or plastic jugs. While it looks like any other barrel used to pack and transport dried foods or liquids, this barrel is actually a decoration or a piece of furniture. Its size, construction and history show a continuing trend of decorating with piece that remind the viewer of the rural past.

The barrel is only 18 inches tall and would not have been very useful for transporting any goods. Companies would have had to pay more to transport more goods, both in cost of the shipping container and the size of shipments. It simply was not affordable for a wholesale company or even a farmer to sell goods in such a small vessel. In thinking about the barrel as a way to ship goods, it is also important to look at how the barrel was made. Instead of being bound with wooden or metal hoops, it is joined by nails, which means there are cracks throughout the piece. Again, this points to the idea that this piece was not meant to ship goods.

If it was not functional as a barrel in the traditional sense, what could it have been used for? Another clue may come from the stamp on the bottom of the barrel. The Chandler Brothers were a publishing company in Cooperstown, NY during the early 1900s.[2] They may have had the barrel in their office for storage, but this is unlikely as publishers have no use for such an item normally. The name of the business and town, however, evoke the imagery of a rural community that produced such items. The name Cooperstown may not have been as well-known as it is now, in part due to the introduction of the Baseball Hall of Fame, but its uncertainty would only enhance the small-town aura of the object.

Instead of looking for the most modern designs, the owner of this object tried to invoke the rural past through this object. It probably was because of personal taste in the way people still enjoy antiques today, but because the owner is unknown this can never be confirmed. The mark may have been put on to falsely increase the value of the barrel for a tourist or in an antique store. The barrel itself is made to look older than it is, with the mark only enhancing this appearance. While viewers will never know its full story, we can guess this barrel was meant to complete a rustic design.



1:Barrel. Farmers’ Museum Collection. Cooperstown, New York. F0008.2009.

2:“A Bag of Sugar.” The Freeman’s Journal. November 10, 1892. Accessed March 1, 2018.


Barrel, circa 1850-1925, wood, metal, Height: 18 in, Dimension 11.5 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY, Museum Purchase, F0008.2009.

By Chandra Boudreau


Peddler’s Wagon, 1850-1880, wood, metal and paint, H: 73, x W: 68, x D: 126 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Museum Purchase from John Gray, F0132.1945.

  1. Going Green

How much gas does your car guzzle up to create how many Horsepower? Cut back and go green. All you really need to get by is one horse power. Literally, the power of one horse is enough. The Peddler’s Wagon from The Farmers’ Museum collection is geared for one trusty steed to carry you along your way. The best part? You’ll start helping the environment and saving on gas immediately!


  1. Ride in Style

Wagon’s used by peddlers in the 19th century often sported a sleek and traditional red, black, and yellow trim, and this Peddler’s Wagon is no exception.[1] It is also complete with custom painted markings, such as “ENAMELED WARES,” and “NO CREDIT,” so you can let everybody know what you’re all about as you clomp on by.


  1. Make Money!

Forget driving for Uber, become a peddler today! Peddling is the best way for an entrepreneurial individual to make a profit while traveling about. You’ll sell a variety of goods and commodities, depending on what’s in demand. As an added benefit you’ll also be able to spread news and gossip between remote townships.


  1. More Storage Space

Now that you’re a peddler in the 19th century, you might consider tin-ware as a popular and profitable commodity for you to sell from your Peddler’s Wagon. Since the 1780’s, tin smiths have been able to make enameled kettles, lanterns, plates and pots in large amounts.[2] This particular wagon is outfitted with ample room to store all of your tin merchandise (The entire wagon is 73 inches tall, 68 wide, with a depth of 126 inches). It will also do all the marketing work for you, since “ENAMELED WARES” is already painted on the side.


  1. Support Local Business

The peddler is an individual who trades in crafts and merchandise on a local and/or regional level. In order to be successful peddlers, the people engaged in this form of entrepreneurship must make use of bartering and their knowledge of local economies. Peddlers, as a result of their work, stimulate these same local economies by encouraging trade within and among them. By joining the ranks of the peddler, you can become a part of the movement to support local businesses!


By James Matson


[1] Simsburg Historical Society,  “Peddler’s Wagon, Ca. 1869,”

Kelly McKenna, “Adirondack Museum Offers New Audio Tour” July 9, 2012,

Jenn Lee, “Pioneer Village,” May 25, 2011,

Scott Garren, “The Turnbridge World’s Fair,” September 15, 2014,


[2] Slavin, Richard. A Study of Some Specialty Vehicles. Master’s Thesis, The Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, 1972, pg. 43.