Archives for posts with tag: History

Have you ever thought about where your sugar comes from? How was it produced? What was the name of the person who harvested it? As we continue to live in a smaller and smaller world, Americans have an ever-growing number of options when it comes to the products we can purchase. With all of that purchasing power are Americans have an opportunity to take a chance and chose ethically sourced produces. For some early Americans, the collection of maple sap in buckets like the one below was their way of taking that action.

Map Bucket

Sap Bucket, 1840-1860, wood, metal, H: 12 ⅞ in. x D: 11 ¾ in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of William B Sprague and Stephen C. Clark Sr., William B. Sprague Collection, F1251.1942.

During the late 1700s the main type of sugar sold in urban areas of the United States was white cane sugar. It was expensive but accessible for those with money. This sugar, however, was grown and harvested by enslaved people in the Caribbean. Abolitionist across the United States did not want to contribute to their enslavement. Instead, they made their own items or purchased things free of slave labor[1]. Some picked up a bucket like this one and went out to make maple sugar.

Maple sugar was more popular than maple syrup in American until the Civil War because it traveled well and didn’t spoil. Maple sugar was created similarly to maple syrup. Sugar maple trees were drilled with holes and wooden spouts were inserted to allow the sap to drip into buckets. The sap was then boiled down until it crystallized, creating maple sugar [2].

Maple sugar was a way for people who were against slavery to put their money where the mouth was and not contribute to the horrendous practice. Even slave owner Thomas Jefferson joined the cause. He wrote in a letter to a friend about his use of maple sugar as a replacement for cane sugar, “What a blessing to substitute a sugar which requires only the labor of children, for that which it is said renders the slavery of the blacks necessary.” Jefferson also saw maple sugar as a way for America to become more self-sufficient and gain more economic independence from England [3].

This sap bucket did not end slavery. It did, however, give people the ability to make a decision and take a stance against an institution that they found morally wrong. As slavery continues across the world today, we must research the products we purchase and understand the impact an everyday item, like sugar, can have on people across the world that we will never meet.

By Sydney Stapleton

[1] Carol Faulkner. “The Root of the Evil: Free Produce and Radical Antislavery, 1820-1860,” Journal of the Early Republic 27.3 (2007), 377-405.

[2] Randall B. Heiligmann, Melvin R. Koelling, Timothy D. Perkins, North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual. (Columbus, OH, The Ohio State University, 2006), 10.

[3] Lucia C. Stanton, “Sugar Maple,” Monticello, March 2019,

Sony Walkman from CGP Collection 4.9.19.jpg

Walkman, 1990, Sony, Plastic, H: 1 3/4” x L: 5 1/8” x W: 3 3/8”. CGP Teaching Collection, Cooperstown, New York, T13.92. Photograph by Andris Balins

For most of human history listening to music was a shared experience by anyone who was within earshot. Music has brought people together for numerous reasons including to dance, celebrate, and mourn. With the advent of recorded music, the prospect of listening silently, without others hearing, became a possibility. The first portable audio player was the Regency TR-1, which was battery powered and allowed people to listen to the radio wherever they went. [1] The TR-1 included an earphone but was mostly used with its built-in speaker. It made music portable but not necessarily a private experience. In contrast the portable cassette player (and specifically the Walkman, which was introduced in 1979) did not include a speaker and was meant for solitary use. [2]

Sony co-chairman Masaru Ibuka used the bulky Sony Pressman (released in 1977 for reporter use) for listening to music on the go. In 1978, he requested that the development team put together a stereo cassette player that was portable and designed for personal use. Initially marketed under the name Soundabout in the U.S., Ibuka’s suggested name Walkman eventually won out. [3] The popular device ushered in an age when users became detached from their auditory environment—a fact Sony was aware of. The initial Walkman model TPS-L2 included 2 headphone ports for a shared experience and a hotline button that was used to lower the music and speak through an internal mic to the other listener. [4] Those features disappeared in subsequent releases and the 1990 WM-F2031 model pictured included only one headphone connection. [5]

The personalized experience of listening to music on the go also led to the flourishing of the mixtape. Mixtapes offered listeners a format where they could record their favorite songs onto a blank cassette. It allowed users to create soundtracks to their lives, which often made mundane activities such as commuting more enjoyable experiences. Users noted that the Walkman gave them a sense of privacy in public spaces, creating a bubble of sound. [6] Though the cassette Walkman is no longer manufactured, a plethora of portable music players still exist. Sony continues to use the Walkman brand name to market its current line of digital music players. [7] Though the mixtape may no longer appear in cassette format, the tradition continues to this day through playlists and other personalized music mixes.

[1] Matt Peckham, “As Sony’s Walkman Turns 35, a Look Back at Its Inception,”, July 2, 2014.

[2] Caroline Crampton, “How Technology Makes us Listen Alone.”New Statesman146, no. 5354 (February 17, 2017): 31.

[3] Matt Peckham, “As Sony’s Walkman Turns 35, a Look Back at Its Inception.”

[4]Jake Coyle,“A Walkman Obituary: Remembering the device that made music portable and personal,” Canadian Press, Oct 26, 2010.

[5] Sony, “WM-F2301 Owner’s Manual,” 1990.      accessed on 3.13.2019.

[6] Kelly C. Rhodes, “Walkman,” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2018. accessed on 4.8.2019.

[7]Sony, “mp3 players,” accessed on 3.15.2019.

By Andris Balins

When thinking about NASA and the Moon, Neil Armstrong is usually the first person who comes to mind. During the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong was the first person to walk on the Moon, with Buzz Aldrin joining him as the second. But what about the other astronauts who followed in Armstrong’s footsteps (or leaps) and the programs that provided the research to make the Moon landings possible?

Distributed in the 1970s, this commemorative Apollo 12 glass cup is decorated with the names of successful astronauts and NASA spacecrafts that helped us explore and learn about our moon after the Apollo 11, increasing our understanding of space. Using red, white and blue, this glass displays the pride of the United States as a nation in its accomplishment of traveling to the Moon. Focusing on the Apollo 12 mission, it lists the astronauts Charles Conrad, Richard F. Gordon and Alan L. Bean and the machines they used, like the Surveyor 3 and the Intrepid.

Charles Conrad and Alan L. Bean became the third and fourth people to walk on the Moon, while Richard F. Gordon was the command module pilot of the Apollo 12 mission, getting Conrad and Bean to the moon and back safely. These accomplished men were successful in a variety of fields, from chemistry to defense to business to aviation and space exploration.[1]

This glass proudly displays their story as an American tale, from Surveyor 3 being launched in 1967, and landing on the Moon to send back information that helped Apollo 11 and 12 successfully land on the Moon’s surface. In 1969, Apollo 12 used Surveyor 3 as a target site, landing within walking distance of the spacecraft, collecting parts and samples from it to bring back to Earth. The Intrepid was the lunar lander used by Conrad, Bean and Gordon. Each lunar landing had its own lander, with the Intrepid being retired after the Apollo 12 mission.


1970 Apollo 12 commemorative cup, glass, 4 1/4″ (H) x 2 3/4″ (Diam.), Cooperstown Graduate Program Teaching Collection, Cooperstown, N.Y., T1994.020, Photographs by Alex Lien.

Often sold as a commemorative souvenir at local gas stations in the 1970s, the glass displays the sense of awe in space that Americans had at the time, showing stars and planets in the distance behind the moon as the two astronauts make their way from the Intrepid to the Surveyor 3.[2] This glass radiates the pride and confidence the United States had of reaching the Moon and looks to the future of space exploration. Most likely for everyday use, it was a constant reminder of the great people that accomplished something that had only been done once before. This glass is one part of the various commemorative Apollo mission glass sets. The sets focus on Apollo missions 11, 12, 13, and 14, while another focuses on the Moon landing itself and together they tell the history of the early American Space program and allow us to reflect on how far we have come since then.


Libby’s Commemorative Apollo Glass Set, Image found on Amazon

-Alex Lien

[1] “Apollo 12 Mission.” Apollo 12 Mission Overview. Accessed March 18, 2019.

[2] Steve Zarelli, “The Libbey Apollo Mission Glass Story,” Zarelli Space Authentication, July 3, 2017. Accessed March 18, 2019.

“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,, accessed February 6, 2018,

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

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.