Thursday, July 28, 2011


Advertisement for broom corn farm for lease, 1851.
Grems-Doolittle Historical Documents Collection - Broadsides (No. 30)
Printed ephemera, such as broadsides, offer a glimpse into the perspectives, lives, and activities of the people in a community. Particularly in the days before mass media, people became aware of events in their communities by way of printed ephemera. Broadsides were used to advertise products, services, and sales and to announce events and proclamations.

"Six Day" milk delivery advertisement, 1853.
Grems-Doolittle Historical Documents Collection - Broadsides (No.26)

At the time of its creation, printed ephemera was intended to be used to convey information, then to be discarded. Ephemera that has been preserved provides us with a documentation of the sensibilities of the people and culture that created it. In addition to just providing a primary source documenting planned events and persons involved, broadsides also illustrate the attitudes, language, aesthetics, and concerns of a community and era.

Sheriff's sale of goods and chattel of Henry Fuller, 1852.
Grems-Doolittle Historical Documents Collection - Broadsides (No. 2)
A finding aid for the Grems-Doolittle Library's broadside collection can be found here. Our document collection and family document collection also contains printed ephemera created by businesses, organizations, and individuals.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): Materials in the Grems-Doolittle Library

1937 CCC Schenectady District Annual.

In anticipation of the reunion of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alumni, family, and friends to be hosted by the Schenectady County Historical Society on Monday, August 15, we would like to highlight materials related to the CCC in our collections. 

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program during the Great Depression. The program began in 1933 and ceased operations in 1942. The CCC provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources for unemployed, unmarried men from ages 18 to 25. Over the nine years of the program's existence, approximately 2.5 million young men participated. Camps were set up around the country; CCC workers built trails, roads, campsites and dams, stocked fish, built and maintained fire tower observer's cabins and telephone lines, fought forest fires, and planted nearly 3 billion trees nationwide.

Breakabeen Camp S-93, Schoharie County, N.Y.
Photograph from Larry Hart Collection.
Peter Lesniewski of Rotterdam wrote to Larry Hart in 1991 about his experiences in the CCC: "I enlisted in the CCC during the Depression days, and they sent me to Haddam, Connecticut. And then my brother enlisted and got to go to California, and my cousins went to Tennessee and Idaho. So when I got discharged from my first enlistment, I came home but I couldn't find a job so I enlisted again, and guess where they sent me, to Breakabeen Company 222, Camp S93 [in Schoharie County] so that's where I stayed for another 16 months. I can tell you I never regretted it." The Larry Hart Collection includes several of Lesniewski's photographs of his CCC service, photographs of Ernest W. Hall from his service in the CCC, and copies of Hart's newspaper columns about the CCC.

Unknown (left) and Americo
Marino (right) at CCC camp, 1936.
Photograph from Marino Collection.
The Marino Collection of photographs in the Grems-Doolittle Library includes numerous photographs depicting the CCC service of Americo Marino of Schenectady. The collection also includes picture postcards of CCC camps in New York State.

The library's holdings also include a copy of the 1937 annual of the CCC's Schenectady District. In that year, the Schenectady District was comprised of 24 counties of eastern New York and was bordered by the Canadian border to the north; the counties of Jefferson, Lewis,  Herkimer, Otsego, and the western part of Delaware to the west; the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state lines and the New York City lines to the south and southwest; and by Lake Champlain, and the Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut state lines to the east. The district headquarters was located in Schenectady. The annual includes administrative information, photographs, and rosters and histories for each of the district's CCC companies.

Most recently, the library has documented last year's CCC reunion. The DVD recording includes the perspectives of eleven CCC alumni who participated in the reunion, along with researcher Marty Podskoch. Mr. Podskoch's completed book, Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps: Their History, Memories and Legacy, will be featured at this year's reunion.

If anyone has information about or pictures of relatives or friends who worked at one of the CCC camps for donation or loan, or if you worked at a CCC camp and would like to participate in an oral history interview, please contact the Librarian/Archivist, Melissa Tacke, at 518-374-0263 or at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Carl Company

Shoppers at the State Street store in Schenectady, ca. 1940s.
Photograph from the Carl Company Collection.
The Carl Company began as a dry goods store owned by Charles W. Carl, Sr. (1871-1940) at Medina, New York in 1891. Carl soon expanded, opening several stores in western New York State, including stores in Lockport, Brockport, Tonawanda, and Hornellsville. The Lockport store was one of the Carl Company’s earliest, opening in 1891 or 1892 and remaining in operation until 1968.

In 1906, the Carl Company shuttered several of its smaller stores to open a store in Schenectady, and Charles W. Carl, Sr. and his wife, Lily Swick Carl (d. 1976), moved to the city. The Schenectady department store was initially located in the Kinium Building at 256 State Street (now 240 State Street) before the Carl Company constructed a new building at 430 State Street in 1916, where the store remained until closing in 1991. The downtown store was further expanded in 1925, as the Carl Company acquired property on Smith Street across from the rear of the store for a warehouse and expanded the store west on State Street. In 1972, the building was renovated and modernized. By the following year, after the closure of the H.S. Barney Co. and Wallace Co. stores, Carl’s became the sole Schenectady-based department store downtown.

The Carl Company store at 288 Saratoga Road, the first of the
Carl Company's suburban branch stores, ca. 1954.
Photograph from the Carl Company collection.
The Carl Company continued to grow in the area. Its first area branch store, at 288 Saratoga Road, Schenectady, in the Mayfair shopping center (later called Willowbrook Plaza), was opened in 1954. With the opening of the Mayfair store, the Carl Company became the first locally-owned department store to open a branch location. In 1963 the Carl Company opened its Shoporama store in Rotterdam, followed by a Saratoga Springs store in 1973, a Clifton Park store in 1976, an Amsterdam store in 1981, and a Troy store in 1983. After operating as a cash-only store and offering Gold Bond Dividend stamps with each purchase since 1894, Carl Company first offered charge accounts in 1957. The company continued to offer its Gold Bond Dividend stamps until its stores were closed in 1991.

Charles W. Carl, Sr. served as president of the Carl Company until his death in 1940. Subsequently, his wife, Lily Swick Carl, served as president until 1957. Their son, Charles W. Carl, Jr. (1924-2001), served as president of the company from 1957 until 1984, when the family sold its stores to General Atlantic Corporation, a New York City-based private-investment banking firm. Charles W. Carl, Jr. chose Joel Helfman as his successor as president. Helfman served as the president of Carl Company until its stores were closed in 1991.

After 100 years of business, the Carl Company announced in February 1991 that it would cease operations. All stores were closed by May 1991. The State Street store closed on May 25, 1991. The closing of all area stores and its distribution center left 597 people out of work.

The Carl Company collection is comprised of memorabilia and records of the Carl Company chain of department stores. The collection includes a number of photographs, mostly dated from the 1940s through the 1980s, showing employees of the store at 430 State Street, annual anniversary sales, and exteriors and interiors of area Carl Company stores. The collection also includes material related to the closure of the Carl Company stores in 1991, including entries in store memory books, letters, and newspaper clippings. A finding aid for the collection can be found here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unidentified photographs in the Grems-Doolittle Library

Unidentified. Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

Unidentified. Grems-Doolittle Library
Photograph Collection.
Over the years, our staff and volunteers have done a wonderful job of identifying and organizing our photograph collection. However, we still have a number of photographs in our collection that have yet to be identified. Many of these photographs are of unidentified people; there are also photographs of unidentified houses, street scenes, churches, businesses, bridges, and outdoor scenes. A small sample of unidentified photographs is included here.

We invite volunteers to come in and help identify photographs. As we identify these photographs, we are able to classify and catalog them and make them available to researchers.  From recognizing a street on sight by glancing at a photograph to conducting research based on "clues" in the image, every little bit of information helps.

Unidentified. Grems-
Doolittle Library
Photograph Collection.

Unidentified. Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.