Monthly Archives: November 2010

Dissected Maps

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Merriam and Moore dissected map  assembled Rumsey collection.jpg

Homer Merriam was a brother of the Merriam brothers of Springfield, Massachusetts. Before joining his brothers in their little venture publishing a dictionary that you may have heard of, he was one of the earliest and most successful commercial printers in Troy. In the then-nearly new Cannon Building, his company put out a series of globes that are still collectible (if a tad out of date), and a wonderful series of boxed map puzzles. I wrote about this 1854 marvel over at All Over Albany, but I wanted to share this additional view of the Dissected Map of the United States and Canada.  (This image is from the David Rumsey Collection at Luna Commons.)

Get Directions

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Scarboroughs 1916 tour book troy trip (couse).png

Not quite as good as the old-school “street view,” but early automotive guides provided scenic touring descriptions, with turn-by-turn directions, for those adventurous early motorists. 61.2 miles sounds like a day-long adventure in an open-topped flivver from 1916, when this route was published in the Scarborough’s guide. With some variations, this is still a route I might bicycle today, though I’m betting that as bad as the pavement is here in the 21st century, it’s got to be more even than it was back then.

I especially like the stars denoting danger. I don’t know what made the railroads and trolleys so cross, but it would be best to avoid them.

Three channels and nothing’s on

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Screen shot 2010-11-14 at 4.20.09 PM.pngOur elders had the hardships of the Great Depression and the Second World War, and they weren’t shy about telling us how soft we had it. My generation had civil unrest (race riots, Vietnam protests, the Generation Gap), the Cold War, and only three television channels. And while it’s hard to scare kids going through today’s Depression with stories of Kent State and the Watts riots, I’m not shy about telling how hard life was with only three television channels. (Yes, you could say there were four, if you counted what was still called “educational televsion,” and if you could stand in just the right spot, holding onto the UHF antenna in just the perfect way to would bring in what looked like a signal, if you squinted just right.) Why, in my day . . .
This schedule from October 12, 1966, shows the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area channels. Channel 6 was WRGB in Schenectady, the NBC affiliate since television and networks were invented. Channel 10 was WTEN in Albany, the CBS affiliate. Channel 13 was WAST (Albany Schenectady Troy) in Menands, the ABC affiliate and the channel with the worst signal when I was growing up. Except for Channel 17, WMHT, on the UHF band, which required special pliers to adjust the tuning knob and a contortionist to get the antenna into the right arrangement. (Channel 2 here is a Utica station; Channel 3 came from Burlington. Neither one could be picked up in our area but the Schenectady Gazette, source of this listing, was widely distributed.)

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Google Street View, 1907 edition

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Google Street View is a great idea, especially for traveling through towns you’ve never been to before. You can see every intersection in advance, giving you great visual cues.
It was a great idea a century ago, too. In 1907, Photo-Auto Maps were published, with enjoyable rides laid out for the new pasttime of motoring, turn-by-turn directions, and photographs of major intersections and landmarks. At that time, roads were rarely paved and more rarely marked in any way. Even city streets were usually indicated only with signs tacked to the sides of buildings at the corners. There were no stop signs or red lights, no railroad crossing gates, no numbered routes, no real way to know where you were going. And so guides like the Photo-Auto Maps were indispensable.

Roads being what they are, many of these routes have changed over time, but some of the routes are surprisingly traceable. I thought it would be interesting to see what these early Street Views look like today. In the cities, some of the buildings are still the same. in other places, the streets are unrecognizable.

Photo-Auto Maps are found at the David Rumsey Map Collection,
The routes were traced and Google Street Views collected by Carl Johnson,

Click on the image below for Street View, then and now.

Little known Capital Region facts

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  • Albany’s official nickname is “The City Without a Nickname.”
  • Once known as “The City That Lights and Hauls the World,” Schenectady is now best known as “The City That Could Use A Hug.”
  • Cohoes, known as “The Spindle City,” was also home of the once-popular phrase “Sit On It And Rotate” (origin obscure).
  • Ballston Spa’s name has been making fifth graders giggle since fifth grade was invented.
  • Troy is proud of its association with technologies that fall out of favor: water wheels, parlor stoves, detachable collars.
  • When carpet manufacturers were leaving Amsterdam for cheap labor in the south, Rug City officials launched a desperate campaign to retain the “welcome mat” portion of the business.
  • Henry Hudson’s crew failed to appreciate the future importance of the beaver, using only the tails of the aquatic rodents to deliver naval discipline.

Vacuum snap

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I don’t know if there’s a more satisfying morning sound in the world than the “ssszzznnnnaaaaaappp” sound of a freshly opened bottle of wheat germ. I don’t know another thing that is vacuum bottled anymore, and it’s probably only a matter of time before they change to some horrible new eco-vacu-bag that will somehow save the rain forest. But in the meantime I will continue to enjoy turning that cap just enough to break the seal, just enough to start to let air into the vacuum as slowly as I can, and then that sudden pop of the lid.