Category Archives: local history

Remington Noiseless

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Remington 267, originally uploaded by carljohnson.

“It became evident in the spring of 1875 that a machine printing capitals alone would not grow rapidly in the popular esteem, and Byron A. Brooks, of New York, who had begun as early as 1867 to solve the problem of mechanical writing, devised a plan for using two alphabets, capitals and small letters, with one key-board. Mr. Brooks was a professor of mathematics, noticing that the type-bar became at the moment of contact a tangent to the circumference of the printing platen, and that by moving the platen slightly forward or back the tangency no longer existed but a new center was created, devised a double-headed type-bar containing both a capital and a lower-case letter. . . The new machine was called the Remington No. 2.”

(This picture is of the No. 6, which took the concept to another extreme and put two sets of characters on each type-bar.)

More on the history of those fantastic typing machines.

Health fads, 1940

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George’s Health Club 1940, originally uploaded by carljohnson.

Proving that nonsense health fads and pointless pampering aren’t anything new: in 1940, you could take the elevator up to the fifth floor of the City and County Savings Bank Building (now the FedEx Kinko’s) to George’s Health Club and enjoy a luxurious pine needle bath, electrical vibration, or even a (gentle, one presumes) colonic irrigation. And there was a registered nurse in attendance, in case the pine vapor rays got to you.

Bi-Centennial Tablets

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North East Bastion Fort Orange marker DSCN1123

No, not the bicentennial with the quarters and the barges – Albany celebrated the bi-centennial of its charter as a city (which came some 65 years after the initial settlers) in 1886. Celebrations were done in high style then, and for this one, 42 historic tablets were placed around the city to remind us of our past. Some of these tablets still exist, some have disappeared. I would have thought that this one, Tablet No. 1,  had disappeared, having never seen it, but a fellow Flickrite recently posted a photo of it and was good enough to share its location, on a wall among the tangles of highway, just down Broadway from the remodeled Holiday Inn Express, under one of the Dunn/I-787 flyovers. Its original location was “fifty feet east of the bend in Broadway, at Steamboat square,” on a granite block “with a slanting top to shed water and surrounded by an iron railing for protection.” The tablet, like its surroundings, has come down in the world, but at least it’s still there, reminding us. 

“Upon this spot, washed by the tide, stood the north east bastion of Fort Orange. Erected about 1623. Here the powerful Iroquois met the deputies of this and other colonies in conference to establish treaties. Here the first courts were held. Here in 1643 under the direction of Dominie Johannes Megapolensis, a learned and estimable minister, the earliest church was erected north west of the Fort and to the south of it stood the dominie’s house.”

My Dutch friend tells me the spelling was and is “dominee,” but all the histories here have it as “dominie;” Megapolensis was a Hellenization, quite the style at the time, of the family name, Van Mekelenburg. He was the first clergyman of the Dutch Church here in Albany, and after his posting here went on to New Amsterdam.


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Albany, Home of Bobsledding

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Just in time for the Olympics, this post is. Or it will be if I backdate it.

Last run

The folks at All Over Albany dug up an amazing test of the knowledge of eighth-graders in Albany in 1882. Not least amazing, besides the assumption that schoolchildren should know how to divide opium to the smallest scruple, was this instruction: “Write an exercise of 15 lines on the pass time of bobsledding.”

Several years ago, it was asserted that scenic Albany, New York, and not scenic St. Moritz, Switzerland, was the original home of the bobsleigh. Writing on the debate back in 2002, the Times Union’s Tim Farkas said a report from Albany City Historian Virginia Bowers listed the year of origin as 1885. This test would make it clear it was on the minds of Albanians at least three years earlier than that. The story goes that the earliest bob sleds were adapted from their use as lumber sleds, where two short (“bobbed”) sleds were linked together and hitched to teams of horses that could carry enormous loads of lumber.
It certainly makes sense –

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The Hawk Street Viaduct

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Hawk Street viaduct postcardA few weeks back Paula at Albany Daily Photo wrote about the Hawk Street Viaduct, which prompted me to dig up an old postcard I’d put in the files, waiting for a reason to figure out just what the Hawk Street Viaduct was, because I’d never heard of it other than this postcard. For 82 years, this marvel of engineering loomed over Sheridan Hollow, connecting Arbor Hill to Capitol Hill, and then it disappeared with hardly a trace. Thanks to the holdings of the Library of Congress and the incredibly valuable Historic American Engineering Record, I’ve found some much more detailed views of the Viaduct, and some of its story.

Read more about this “monument of another age . . . “

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Palace Marquee

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Palace theater marquee

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

When they designed the new Palace Theater marquee, they didn’t fool around. In fact, they went back to the source, the old Palace Theater marquee. It was run by various companies through the years, including Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO) and Fabian, but the marquee remained the same for a long time.

That 1951 picture accompanied a Life Magazine article on how the movie industry was battling “T-V” by showing things such as live boxing matches. The cutline was “Crowds gather early for telecast at Fabian Palace Theater in Albany, N.Y., which seated 3,000 and turned away 3,000.” The battle between media was intense in those early days, as movies saw a precipitous drop in attendance as television spread throughout the land. “Last week NBC was at work on a plan to make its own movies from television shows and to release them in movie houses.” God help us, nothing has changed. But in the case of the marquee, that’s a good thing. (Because when it was changed, it looked like this.)

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