Archives for posts with tag: History

“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.

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

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