Archives for posts with tag: Cooperstown

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.


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.


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,

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.

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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.

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.



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.






[1]“NYSHA Research Library Awarded Grant.” Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce  Member News. Accessed February 27, 2018. 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

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