The Man who Brought Christmas to Albany – Santa Claus and the First U.S. Christmas Card

Christmas in Albany? Not so much.

The Dutch who settled in Albany celebrated St. Nicholas Day (St Nicholas was also known as Sinterklaas) with feasting and frolics in early December. Sinterklaas was a kindly religious figure in a red robe who brought presents and went down a chimney to fill stockings with presents. But the Dutch reserved Christmas for religious observances and then raised the roof on New Year’s Day, with much merry making and exchanging of gifts. The Protestant Germans who settled here in the 18th century did have a tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas Day and sometimes Christmas as well (the Germans pretty much rocked the whole month of December); such festivities were private –not for public display. BUT the English “Yankees” who came to Albany from New England in the 1700s were not big on Christmas revelry; that was hangover from the Puritans and the Mayflower who actually banned Christmas in the 1600s. At best a pagan ritual; worst case .. celebrating Christmas was blasphemy.

Even after the Revolutionary War, Albany didn’t really have its Christmas groove. But the idea of Christmas was catching on. By 1813 a few ads appear in newspapers for Albany stores selling Christmas as well as New Year’s gifts.

Washington Irving Wins the War on Christmas

Enter Washington Irving, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. In the early 1820’s Irving published five very popular stories about what Christmas was like in Merry Olde England (the English, at least in the Mother Country had transcended their aversion to Christmas). The stories describe holiday customs and traditions: feasting, gifts, mistletoe, music, family games, Yule logs and candles that resound with joy and merriment. Irving’s Christmas Eve is magical. In one of the stories, he makes an actual pitch for Christmas; the traditions are too beautiful to lose and winter is a cruel season – we NEED Christmas. Washington sealed the deal;. his descriptions were enticing and seductive- his descriptions flawless. Who didn’t want to celebrate Christmas? By 1822, the Troy Sentinel publishes “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (a/k/a “The Night before Christmas”) by Clement Moore, an Episcopalian clergyman from Rhinebeck. Christmas is now officially a thing. But we still don’t have a Santa.

Irving had also done a splendid job of describing St, Nicholas Day in his first work, “A History of New York” in 1809; there were other pamphlets and books that told the St. Nicholas story. Over the next decade or so there are more stories about Christmas and St. Nicholas Day until the 2 holidays sort of merge into one. The merging is more of a process, rather than an event. The Dutch edge towards Christmas from St. Nicholas celebrations; the Yankees get the idea it’s ok to have fun on Christmas.. and the Germans, well, it was all good and Gemütlichkeit; Germans never need a reason to party.

The “Yankees” of Albany and New York appropriated the fun Dutch traditions for Christmas. Sinterklaas becomes Santa Claus; he’s described as a decidedly more English Falstaff-like guy.. his clerical robes are exchanged for a red suit and he becomes positively roly-poly. But we still don’t know what he looks like- there are no good pictures to accompany the written descriptions.

Enter Richard H. Pease
dRichard Pease was born in Connecticut in 1813. By the mid 1830’s he’d moved to Albany. Pease was a talented lithographer and engraver; also an amazing entrepreneur. In the late 1830s he established Pease’s Great Variety Store at 50 Broadway in Albany. If you wanted it, the Great Variety Store appeared to have it, especially as the “holydays” (holidays) of Christmas and New Year’s came around. Pease was a salesman, and he used his lithography skills to sell his merchandise. In 1842 the first image of Santa Claus as we know him today (almost) is printed in one of Pease’s ads. Pease clearly has read Santa descriptions from the previous decade; the Pease Santa is chunky, with a beard (not yet white) and suit. In his store ad, Santa is ready to climb down a chimney and there is a reindeer on the roof. His bishop’s miter had been traded for a peeked hat.

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Over the next decades other images of Santa emerge, some very creepy, but Pease’s image gets wide circulation in newspapers across the country for many years. His talent and imagination created the basis for an enduring image of Santa. Thomas Nast, the political cartoonist, creates the next iconic Santa for “Harper’s Weekly” (1880s), drawing on the Pease Santa. The Nast image is finally replaced as the official Santa in the 1930s when Coca-Cola creates a genius ad campaign in the 1930s Depression, designed to get people to drink more soda in the winter. Coke.. it’s not just for summer.

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Pease Strikes Again – the first American Christmas Card

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The Great Variety Store thrives. By the mid -1840s, Pease moves to a new building at 516 Broadway and opens The Temple of Fancy. Just the name makes you want to shop. It’s basically the ‘Emporium of Everything”. Still a marketing genius, in 1849, he decides to make a special card for Christmas, which is the first Christmas card produced in the Unites States. (The first card ever was created in England in 1843. Alas, Christmas cards don’t really catch on until Boston-based printer Louis Prang started selling color cards in 1875.

 

What Happened to Albany’s Marketing Genius?

The Temple of Fancy thrives and Pease creates a number of wildly popular children’s books and games. The Temple closes about 1853 when Pease moves on to another successful enterprise. In 1854 Pease purchases the Albany Agricultural Works, and operates it as the Excelsior Agricultural Works with his son Charles, who previously owned a similar business in Tivoli Hollow. It looks like they were quite successful and we are on the trail of a potential Pease patent for a potato planter.

 

 

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Albany – Sin City

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The appeals were not directed at saloons, or drunks, but at legislation, condemning Sunday hours, sales to minors, and “the conduct of immoral dance halls.” They advocated a curfew which would force everyone under age sixteen off the street by 9 p.m. in the summer, 8 p.m. in the winter, unless accompanied by an adult.

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It’s interesting (to me, at least) how then, as today, those who suspected others might be having entirely too much fun used the potential moral corruption of children as a cudgel to impose their views on society as a whole.

Per wiki:
“The Anti-Saloon League was the leading organization lobbying for prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century. It was a key component of the Progressive Era, and was strongest in the South and rural North, drawing heavy support from pietistic Protestant ministers and their congregations, especially Methodists, Baptists, Disciples and Congregationalists. It concentrated on legislation, and cared about how legislators voted, not whether they drank or not. Founded as a state society in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1893, its influence spread rapidly. In 1895, it became a national organization and quickly rose to become the most powerful prohibition lobby in America, pushing aside its older competitors the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Prohibition Party. The League was the first modern pressure group organized around one issue. Unlike earlier popular movements, it utilized bureaucratic methods learned from business to build a strong organization. Its triumph was nationwide prohibition locked into the Constitution with passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920. It was decisively defeated when Prohibition was repealed in 1933.”

Here’s an excerpt from one preacher’s sermon:
“One must be blind indeed who cannot see Vice trampling herself in all her wantonness in some of the streets of Albany. In the name of God, I ask why must these blots of iniquity, these cancerous sores, on the fair name of our city be tolerated. Why should young vice run rampant dragging down young men and women; yes, and I can add , with truth, girls of tender years? And why is it allowed to do its hellish work? And why of the guardians of the peace and the sworn protectors of the innocent complacently look on? May Jehovah apply the whip of activity upon their lazy consciences until they arise and do their duty.”

VICE OPENLY PRACTICED

“I have not been in Albany many months, neither have I gone slumming. One does not have to. If you do not believe me, go out after the lights are turned on, walk through Hamilton Street between South Pearl street and Broadway, then take in Broadway, and you will find enough to fill your soul with horror at the appalling state of affairs.

“It does seem to me if Christ should walk through some of the streets of Albany He would use the words of the text ‘Because iniquities shall abound – many shall wax cold.’

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“Iniquity is abounding, flinging herself into the very faces of the respectable people of Albany and laughing at their credulity, while reaching out a devilish hand and grasping the children and dragging them down into vice and sin.”

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Rev. Dr. Radcliffe of Poughkeepsie told the people in St. Luke’s Methodist church that when he came out of the Arcade Sunday morning he saw one of the most disgraceful sights he had ever witnessed. Two young men and a girl about 16 years of age, reeling up the street beastly intoxicated. Continuing he said: “You people think Albany is a closed city. Well, I think it is pretty nearly as bad as New York. I have only been in Albany since 6 o’clock this morning and I have seen a number of violations of the law. I believe the saloons of this country are the very mouths of hell. I believe more women are ruined, more young men driven to despair and degradation through the saloons than through any other cause. I believe if the saloons were closed we would have far less criminals. Is our American Sabbath to be undermined by the saloon? Homes are being wrecked and lives are being blighted by it. The Anti-Saloon league says that our Sabbath must be protected as also must be the church and the home. The time has come when the saloon must go. The Anti-Saloon league is non-partisan. It asks no man to leave his party, but it does say to every man, ‘Help make your party better by your presence in it.’ During the past few years some of the officials of our cities owe their elections to office to the brewers and the saloonkeepers. The Anti-Saloon league says that the time has now come to call a halt and instead of selecting our men for office from the friends of the saloonkeepers and the brewers, let us take them from the churches, the Y.M.C.A.’s, etc and then I believe we will have better laws and better law makers.”

PS. The superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League in New York State was William H. Anderson. In 1924 a jury convicted him of skimming contributions to the League and he was remanded to Sing Sing.

Written by A. Quaglieri,  Check out his blog Doc Circe Died for Our Sins

The Un-Dutching of Albany

“Albany was indeed Dutch, in all its moods and tenses; thoroughly and inveterately Dutch.”

But even the dogs changed their accents.

The following is from “Random Recollections of Albany: From 1800 to 1808” (published in 1866).. It was written by Gorham A. Worth, a banker who had lived here during his 20s and then went on to make a lot of money and impart upon the world his recollections of multiple places, including Hudson and Cincinnati.

Anyway, there’s an interesting section early in Worth’s book that recalls a significant change in Albany: the shift from Dutch culture to a more English/American/Yankee culture. Spoiler: Albany wasn’t a fan of change
“The Yankees were creeping in. Every day added to their number; and the unhallowed hand of innovation was seen pointing its impertinent finger at the cherished habits and venerated customs of the ancient burgers.”
It’s a fun and interesting read, so we clipped it…
Worth’s recollection of Albany in 1800 is of a city that he regarded as a kind of backwater — but, um, in a good way. “Nothing could be more unique or picturesque to the eye, than Albany in its primitive days. Even at the period above mentioned, it struck me as peculiarly naive and beautiful. All was antique, clean and quiet.”
He continues a little later on…””Pearl street, it must be remembered, was, in those days, the west end for the town; for there the town ended, and there resided some of the most aristocratic of the ancient burgers. There, a little after sunrise, in a mild spring morning, might be seen, sitting by the side of their doors, the ancient and venerable Mynheers with their little sharp cocked hats, or red-ringed worsted caps (as the case might be), drawn tight over their heads. There they sat, like monuments of a former age, still lingering on the verge of time; or like mile-stones upon a turnpike road, solus in solo! or, in simple English, unlike anything I had ever seen before. But there they sat, smoking their pipes in that dignified silence, and with that phlegmatic gravity, which would have done honor to Sir Wonter Van Twiller, or even to Puffendorf himself. The whole line of the street, on either side, was dotted by the little clouds of smoke, that, issuing from their pipes, and, curling around their noddles, rose slowly up the antique gables, and mingled with the morning air; giving beauty to the scene, and adding an air of life to the picture. But the great charm was in the novelty of the thing. I had seen a Dutch house before, but never till then had I seen a row of Dutchmen smoking in a Dutch city.

Albany was indeed Dutch, in all its moods and tenses; thoroughly and inveterately Dutch. The buildings were Dutch–Dutch in style, in position, attitude and aspect. The people were Dutch, the horses were Dutch, and even the dogs were Dutch. If any confirmation were wanting, as to the origin and character of the place, it might be found in the old Dutch church, which was itself always to be found in the middle of State street, looking as if it had been wheeled out of line by the giants of old, and there left; or had dropped down from the clouds in a dark night, and had stuck fast where it fell.

All the old buildings in the city — and they constituted a large majority — were but one story high, with sharp peaked roofs, surmounted by a rooster, vulgarly called a weathercock. Every house, having any pretensions to dignity, was placed with its gable end to the street, and was ornamented with huge iron numericals, announcing the date of its erection; while from its eaves long wooden gutters, or spouts, projected in front some six or seven feet, so as to discharge the water from the roof, when it rained, directly over the centre of the sidewalls. This was probably contrived for the benefit of those who were compelled to be out in wet weather, as it furnished them with an extra shower-bath free of expense.
But the destined hour was drawing near. The Yankees were creeping in. Every day added to their number; and the unhallowed hand of innovation was seen pointing its impertinent finger at the cherished habits and venerated customs of the ancient burgers. These meddling eastern Saxons at length obtained a majority in the city councils; and then came an order, with a handsaw, to “cut off those spouts.” Nothing could exceed the consternation of the aforesaid burgers, upon the announcement of this order. Had it been a decree abolishing their mother tongue, it could hardly have excited greater astonishment, or greater indignation. “What!” said they, “are our own spouts, then, to be measured and graduated by a corporation standard! Are they to be cut off or foreshortened, without our knowledge or consent!” But the Dutch still retained the obstinacy, if not the valor, of their ancestors. They rallied their forces and at the next election, the principal author of the obnoxious order (my old friend Elkanah Watson), was elected a constable of the ward in which he lived! This done, they went to sleep again; and before they awoke, new swarms had arrived, and a complete and thorough revolution had taken place. The Yankees were in possession of the city! and the fate of the Dutch was sealed.

A restless, leveling, innovating spirit, now prevailed throughout the city. The detested word improvement was in every mouth, and resistance was unavailing. The stinted pines became alarmed, and gradually receded. The hills themselves gave way. New streets opened their extended lines, and the old ones grew wider. The roosters on the gable heads, that for more than a century had braved the Indians and the breeze; that had even flapped their wings and crowed in the face of Burgoyne himself, now gave it up, and came quietly down. The gables in despair soon followed, and more imposing fronts soon reared their corniced heads. The old Dutch Church itself, thought to be immortal, submitted to its fate and fell! not at the foot of Pompey’s statute, exactly, but at the foot of State street, which freed from the obstruction thenceforward became the Rialto of the city, where peddlers of stale sea-cod, and country hucksters, now do congregate.

Even the dogs now began to bark in broken English; many of them, indeed, had already caught the Yankee twang, so rapid was the progress of refinement. In the process of a few brief years, all that was venerable in the eyes of the ancient burgers disappeared. Then came the great eclipse of 1806, which clearly announced the fall and final end of the Dutch dynasty. It is hardly necessary to say, that not an iron rooster has crowed upon the gable heads, nor a civil cocked hat been seen in the ancient city of Albany, from that day to this.”

Worth then goes on to discuss the famous local families of the time, many of them with names that still echo today: Van Rensselaer, Ten Broeck, Gansevoort, Lansing, Van Schaick, Ten Eyck, Pruyn, and so on.

Excerpted from 8/24/17 All Over Albany

Labor Day 2017 – the Faces of Albany Labor; We Built This City

If  you want to see more pics, take a deep dive in our Flickr site: AlbanyGroup Archive

 

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Global Domination.. Why Albany is the home of the American Globe

The man who manufactured the first globe in the United States was a farmer and part time blacksmith, James Wilson. He was born in New Hampshire 1763, but moved to Bradford, Vt. in 1796. While on a brief visit to nearby Dartmouth College he saw a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes and resolved to try and duplicate the effect. Family documents indicate that Wilson’s meager knowledge of geography and astronomy made it necessary for him to purchase a voluminous and well-illustrated encyclopedia, using money from sale of farm stock. He also visited Amos Doolittle, New Haven, for some instruction on engraving (Doolittle’s engravings had been included in Jedediah Morse’s “Geography Made Easy” (1784), the first geography published in the U.S.)

Wilson experimented with various methods to construct the globe and engrave on a curved surface. After many attempts he had a globe he felt he could sell. The earliest sale identified dates to 1810, but more work was required. Family tradition has it that Wilson published his “first edition” of perfected globes in 1814, and exhibited them in Boston. He manufactured both terrestrial and celestial globes. “The small unpainted black­ smith shop had become a globe factory which was throwing off its products as far as Amherst and paralyzing the heart of the English globe trade in America.”

2Wilson realized he needed to move his operation to an urban area, but didn’t want to leave the farm, so he sent 2 of his sons to start the business in Albany. The date the Wilson Globe manufactory started in Albany is not clear, although it was about 1815 and most certainly not later than 1817. The location was Washington Ave., but there are various addresses within a 5 year period – 110, 133 and 166 – all in the block between Swan and Dove. The globes were sold directly by the Wilsons and by commission agents in places like New Haven, New York City and Boston, as well as the western parts of New York State.

4.1     Initially, the oldest Wilson son Samuel seems to have been in charge of the Albany shop, but a year later, another son, John is running the Albany business in 1818. David, Wilson’s third son, joined his older brothers at Albany, and did the engraving on a forthcoming new edition of three-inch terrestrial and celestial globes. (He left the business in the early 1820s to become a painter of miniatures.)

The celestial globes made at that time “had the Greek letters affixed to the groups of stars, and were furnished with a new horizon,” as one observer states. “The frames of the sets were of ash and each globe was furnished with a brass quadrant and the screw at the bottom could be easily turned with the fingers without a screw driver. Each globe was packed in a pine box of material half an inch in thickness, planed, and dovetailed, with hinges and clasp.”

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The high point of the company came in 1826, when they brought out an entirely new set of plates for all three sizes of globes. It was’ after this new edition that James Wilson withdrew from the ·direct involvement the business side of the company, and he introduced Cyrus Lancaster, a young man who had studied at Philips Academy into the firm. He was doubtless expected to speed up sales to the educational institutions.

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The new edition of the globes, complete in every way, their appearance quite equal to the London make, and their engraving of the North American continent more accurate, the Wilsons told their story to the nation’s capital. In December, 1827 members of Congress were presented with a notices which touted the American manufactured globes by James Wilson & Sons, Albany NY, “exhibiting now for public inspection at the United States Library of Congress” a pair of thirteen-inch globes, and claimed he was “the original manufacturer of Globes in this country, and has brought the art to such a degree of perfection, as to supersede altogether the necessity of importation of that article from abroad.”

All was going well until about 1830 when both of James’ sons, John and Samuel, die in quick succession. Cyrus Lancaster, the employee brought in by Wilson in the 1820s now ran the business, while James remained in Vt. In 1835, Cyrus marries Samuel’s widow Rebecca, raises the Wilson children and has several more with Rebecca.

The business continued, but now there was competition and cheaper globes wee being manufactured in a much less labor intensive process, producing an adequate product for the growing masses eager to learn about the world However Cyrus Lancaster continued to manufacturer globes in Albany with superior quality. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s and until at least 1851, his globes win prizes because they were works not only of science and geography, but art as well. He continues to acknowledge James Wilson (and probably pay some sort of fee to him), but they are manufactured under his own name.

During the 1840s and early 1850s there are addresses for the business on Westerlo St., probably near Green, 144 Hamilton and 230 Dallius St. But there are no references to Cyrus after 1851 in Albany, and in 1854 we find him in Brooklyn as an inventor of a self-adjusting railroad switch and an improved ventilator for railroad cars.

5James Wilson died in 1855 in Bradford Vt, up on the farm he loved. Cyrus Lancaster died 8 years later in Brooklyn.

While James gets the credit for the invention of the globe, to this day globes with the gorgeous wooden frames you often see in libraries are still generally referred to as “Lancaster” models. Wilson and Wilson/Lancaster globes are on exhibit in museums all over the world, and when they do come up for sale they can fetch as much as $50,000. And if you want to buy a “Lancaster” globe from Walmart, it will cost you about $250.

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(Parts of this post excerpted from Leroy Kimball, “James Wilson of Vermont, America’s First Globe Maker”, April, 1938 “Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society”)

The Story of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Albany The Final Chapter Part 3 – The Ups and Downs of Now or Never (1900-1917)

 

By 1900 the suffragists of the previous century had grown old or were gone. After 50 years of campaigning the movement was stalled. Although there had been significant changes in the laws that previously limited women’s rights, the goal of getting the vote appeared no closer than it had in 1848 when the Seneca Falls Convention met.

In New York the mantle had been passed to Harriot Stanton Blatch, the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She famously said, “The suffrage movement was in a rut.. it bored its adherents and repelled its opponents…”.

20Blatch tried to re-invent the movement, focusing on women who were self-supporting. Hundreds of thousands of women now worked in factories and the number of business and professional women was growing exponentially. Blatch started working with the newly created Women’s Trade Union League and other unions, following the model of Emmeline Pankhurst in England. But that too proved slow going. Immediate concerns of low wages and poor working conditions distracted from voting rights.

And as ever the case, although delegations from all over the State came to lobby the Legislature year after year, the movement in Albany sluggishly chugged along with no great vitality. And the wealthy anti-suffragists reigned across the city, discrediting and sometimes ridiculing their opponents.14

14.1Enter a very different society woman who re-energized the movement by her status and pots of money. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont was a force of nature. She was first married to William Vanderbilt (whose claim to fame was the construction of Madison Square Garden). She shocked the work in the 1890s when she divorced Vanderbilt and married Oliver Belmont. Upon his death in 1908, Alva entered the world of women’s suffrage with guns blazing. Alva had notoriously bested “old money” society in NYC when she was married to Vanderbilt and re-invented herself after her divorce. She was determined to set the suffrage world on fire in the same fashion. Alva funded suffrage offices in NYC and Albany. She raised money from other socialites, embraced participation by immigrant and Afro-American women, staged huge demonstrations and rallies with factory workers and supported the massive NYC shirtwaist factory strike of 1909.

15By 1910 Albany women were back in the game. The next seven years would be series of highs and lows. “Suffrage week” in Albany became a regular thing during the legislative session. News of women’s suffrage moved from the women’s sections of newspapers to front pages and Albany businesses advertised their support for suffrage through newspaper advertisements.

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17Rather than traveling the militant route (rock throwing and resultant forced feedings after arrest) that Emmeline Pankhurst and her followers adopted in England, suffragists in New York State went for the dramatic and newsworthy. With more money they were determined to win the propaganda war. In December 1912 there was a 10 day march in the freezing cold from NYC to Albany to present petitions to the incoming Governor, William Sulzer, a friend of suffrage. Newspaper reporters followed the march and there were newsreel films. Albany supporters met the marchers at South Pearl and Second Ave. as they entered the city and escorted them to the Capitol, accompanied by a band from St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum. But Sulzer was elected with help of Tammany Hall and turned his back on them in favor of “good government”. He was impeached within 8 months, and the dreams of a statewide vote on women’s suffrage disappeared for 1913.

 

Undeterred, Albany suffragists, whose numbers now were in the hundreds, took to the streets. – They visited the West Albany Railroad shops, and factories across the city. They held open air meetings on street corners on Central Ave., State and Pearl, Delaware Ave, Arbor Hill and Pine Hills. Small groups of young women were dispatched to canvass neighborhoods. With enough money in their coffers they could print pamphlets and literature in multiple languages – French, Italian, German and Yiddish. The Yiddish language materials were incredibly important; the largely immigrant Jewish population in the South End was said to be universally supportive of a woman’s right to vote.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, other society women (not affiliated with the Old Guard Albany Anti’s) and their daughters discovered the suffrage movement was fashionable and there were suffrage balls, teas and receptions. The prospect of being invited to a weekend at Alva Belmont’s famous Marble House “cottage” in Newport had great allure.

22In 1914 the suffragists of Albany decided to mass together for a large parade. On Saturday June 6 about 700 men and women from Albany, its environs and across the State, gathered in the late afternoon near the Capitol. They proceeded down Washington to State, down to North Pearl, over to Clinton and south on Broadway and back to State St. The suffragists wore white hats with yellow cockades and white dresses with yellow sashes. There were women on horseback and in automobiles as well as marchers on foot.

In a wonderful bit of irony, the Grand Marshal was Mrs. Joseph (Katherine) Gavit. (The other Mrs. Joseph Gavit, her mother-in-law, had been one of the founding members of the Albany branch of the National Association of Women’s Suffrage. ) Another leader of the group was Harriet Burton Laidlaw, graduate of Albany High; she attained several higher degrees and began speaking for women’s suffrage when she was barely out of school. She married James Laidlaw, head of the State Men’s League (for women’s suffrage) and a wealthy investment banker (the Laidlaw firm still exists), who accompanied her in the parade.

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Other marchers included Elizabeth Smith who would become of the first head of the Albany Public Library System in the 1920, Elizabeth Lyons, one of the first women lawyers in Albany, and a teenage Frances Vosburgh, who would become one of Albany’s most prominent physician for 60 years and pioneer the birth control movement in the city in the 1930s.

 

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So, by 1915, victory was just around the corner. There was confidence that the Legislature would agree to put the question of women’s suffrage to the voters. It did, and the referendum was defeated 57% to 43%. The city of Albany voted no.

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Again in March 1917 the NYS Legislature again decided that the referendum to amend the NYS Constitution would go to voters. But that vote as not without high drama. At the last minute Assemblyman Clarence Walsh from Albany proposed new requirements for women voters that exceeded those of men (such an Albany thing). The Walsh amendment was resoundingly defeated.

32By now a woman named Carrie Chapman Catt was chairwoman of the State Campaign Committee. A windfall dropped into her lap.

 

 

33In 1914 Mrs. Frank Leslie, publisher of the wildly popular and profitable “Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine” died and left the bulk of her estate to Catt to promote women’s suffrage . After wrangling with other heirs and attorneys Catt finally received $900,000 in February 1917. Game on. Thousands of dollars went into the New York campaign and other funds were used establish the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission to promote the cause of suffrage through greater visibility in the public eye and through education. It was called the largest propaganda bureau run by women.

Between the money left by Mrs. Leslie (and large donations by a number of men) and the public’s perception of the value of the work women were doing in the War (the U.S. entered World War I in April, 1917) New York State men voted yes to permit women to vote.

The men of Albany voted no, but this time it didn’t matter; there were enough downstate votes to carry the measure.

The dam was broken. Efforts across the country pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution picked up steam. Suffragists ramped up their lobbying in Washington D.C. under the imitable Alice Paul (with help from Catt). In June, 1919 the U.S. Senate passed an amendment permitting women to vote. In August, 1920 the amendment was ratified by a sufficient number of states and a women’s right to vote became the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In November, 1920 8 million women in the U.S. voted for the first time.

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Christmas Central – Coulson and Wendt Newsstand – State and N. Pearl, early 1900s

 

William Coulson ran a newsstand and Julius Wendt sold fruit in the late 1800s. They joined forces in the mid-1890s and established Coulson and Wendt, at 77 State St. (the site of Wendt’s fruit stand) in the Dexter Building on the corner of State and N. Pearl.

By the early 1900s they were selling everything Christmas – cards, candy, tiny toys, holly, wreaths and trees.. so many trees – hundreds every season.

(In 1913, Wendt left the business and it became Coulson’s newsstand; by 1919 it moved down to 34 State St. and then subsequently to Broadway, where it’s been for decades.)

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New Year’s in Old Albany – Let Them Eat Cake

In Dutch colonial Albany New Year’s Day began with ringing of church bells and shooting guns, then off to church and home again to visit with neighbors. (One legend persists – the bullet hole in the rooster weathervane that currently sits atop of the First Reformed Church on N. Pearl St. occurred during one of those New Year celebrations.) The shooting stopped; finally, in 1785 NYS laws banned the firing of guns on certain days, including New Year’s, but the friendly visiting rapidly turned into a set of a traditions that lasted almost 250 years up to the beginning of the 20th century.

The men of Albany traveled from house to house, while the ladies stayed at home, waiting for the gentlemen callers to arrive, after preparing a feast for the expected visitors. A hallmark of the feast was a special cake. The “neiuwjaarskoeken” (New Year’s cake) was a holiday tradition brought to the New World along with doughnut balls (called ollibollen), and waffle and spice cookies. Food historians surmise the latter two morphed in to what became known as “Dutch New Year’s Cake”.8.JPG

Women vied to produce the best cake; recipes were guarded and kept as a family secret, handed down to successive generations. The recipe was made in huge quantities so vast amounts of small cakes could be produced. The first recipe that appears in print was from our old friend Amelia Simmons, whose “American Cookery” was printed in Albany by the Webster Bros, whose print shop was located at the corner of State and Pearl in 1796. (A Citizen’s Bank is there today.)

Amelia’s recipe was designed to make the little New Year’s cakes in quantity:
“Take 14 pound flour, to which add one pint milk and one quart yeast, put these together over night and let it lie in the sponge until morning, 5 pound sugar and 4 pound butter, dissolve these together, 6 eggs well beat and caraway seed; put the whole together and when light bake them in cakes, similar to a breakfast biscuit. 20 minutes.”

The demand for New Year’s Cake became great as the Yankees who flocked to Albany after the Revolution adopted the tradition of New Year’s calling and cake. Commercial bakers got into the act into the early 1800s. Albany bakers advertised they made best and most genuine Dutch New Year’s Cakes. There were as many different recipes for Dutch New Year’s cake as there were bakers; the one thing that had in common was caraway seed. But the Dutch housewives of Albany continued to use their heirloom molds and cake board stamps for the New Year’s cake they made for their family.3 1864.JPG4.JPG

The tradition continued. In 1840 Governor William Seward (later to become Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln) was living in the Kane Mansion (there was not an official Governor’s Mansion on Eagle St. until 1879) at the intersection of Trinity Place and Westerlo St.*

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Here’s a recollection of New Year’s Day of that year. (This is probably how the custom of an open house on New Year’s Day at the Governor’s Mansion came to be.)

“New Year’s Day 1840 opened like its predecessor in 1839, with a midnight serenade and a bountiful collation for all comers, spread in the hall of the Executive Mansion. The old Dutch customs of New Year hospitality, visits and good wishes were nowhere more carefully observed than at the State capital. Immediately after sunrise children began to perambulate the streets, to ring or a knock at each door, wishing the inmates a “happy new year” and receive in return a New Year’s cake stamped with “pictures”. Many of thrifty housewives had a basket of these standing in the hall, to supply the juvenile demands. Before noon ever lady was expected to be in her parlor, to receive gentlemen, who, making the rounds of their acquaintances, were calling in rapid succession during the day; the call consisting usually of a hasty interchange of New Year’s greetings and good-wishes, the visitors having no time to sit down. A table loaded with refreshments often sat in the back-parlor. Every visitor was invited and expected to take at least glass of wine and a New Year’s Cake. Before his peregrinations were over, if the former had not filled his head, the latter had filled his pockets or had so accumulated in his sleigh, that he could have the pleasure of sending a bagful to the Orphan asylum, or of bestowing them on the street-urchins who were ever ready for more. Though shops and stores were closed for the Holiday, the streets presented an unusual activity and animation, for the walks were thronged with pedestrians, while the jingle of the bells of the sleighs and the laughter of their occupants added to the gayety of the hour. At the Governor’s house the throng was great, those orderly and less boisterous than the year before. All passed off with a systematic arrangement. Barrels of New Year’s cakes stood at the door, to be handed out to children. The great hall and all the parlors were thrown open to accommodate the crowd.”

(In the previous year the throng had been so large that there was no room in the Mansion and hams and turkeys from the tables in the back parlor were passed through open windows to the crowd outside.)

The custom of the New Year’s Cake was so important that financial records of the superintendents of the Albany alms house and penitentiary show expenses for providing New Year’s Cake into the 20th century.

Beside bakers (one writer called it the “Greatest Day of Cake”), other Albany businesses advertised their services for New Year’s Day. Young women need to be suitably attired, young men well-turned out; engravers sold calling cards; new cake plates and new rugs were advertised. The aforementioned young men needed spiffy sleighs with all the bells. Caterers offered to handle the whole shebang – additional tables, flowers, servers and linen, besides food.

By the 1890s the custom of New Year’s calling and cake had been largely abandoned. It had resulted in inebriated young dandies careening around the streets, as the belles of society competed to see who would have the largest number of male callers on New Year’s Day. The streets were thronged and gentlemen would think nothing of calling on 50 or 60 young women in 8 hours, clogging the streets well into the night. Gas and electric lighting made it easier to hold New Year’s Eve parties; they became a “thing” and rising in time for New Year’s Day calls after a night at a ball was much less appealing.

But the tradition of the Dutch New Year’s Cake flourished, and spread across the country. By the 1840s recipes started to appear in all sorts of cook books and magazines for New Year’s cake and cookies. In Albany there came to be a special recipe, lost to time, for a cake made to the recipe of Wiliam Pruyn who lived on Lumber St. (now called Livingston Ave).

Come the 20th century even the tradition of the Dutch New Year’s cake fell out in Albany, although a large bakery, Hageman’s located on north side of Madison Ave, between Ontario and Partridge was still making New Year’s cookies in 1940.

The last known commercial bakery to make the cakes was Otto’s at 70 Third Ave. It was owned by Otto Theibe who continued the tradition in his own bakery until just before he died in 1967. The recipe was provided to food historian Peter G. Rose, by Otto’s daughter, Efrieda Textores.**

The recipe makes 12 dozen cookies; be prepared for lots of New Year’s Day callers.

1 lb. sifted light brown sugar (or use granulated brown sugar)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 egg lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups margarine
8 ½ cups flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons Caraway seed

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine sugar, baking soda, salt and egg and stir to dissolve sugar making sure no lumps remain. Set aside. In another bowl use pastry blender to cut margarine into flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly stir milk into sugar mixtures and put through a sieve into flour and butter. Add caraway seed. Let the dough rest before rolling out. Roll dough out as thin as possible to less than 1/4 inch. Cut with 4″ oval cookie cutter or cut into 4″ rounds and place on greased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies are pale.

We need to bring the tradition of the Dutch New Year’s Cake in Albany; cake is good.

* The Kane Mansion was demolished in 1864 for the Ash Grove Methodist Church. In turn, that was demolished to build School 14 in 1913. School 14 was modified in 1934 to create Philip Schuyler High School; that building now houses condos.

** “Foods of the Hudson”, Peter G. Rose, Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Woodstock, NY, 1993.

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