Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Schenectady Lights and Hauls the World"

Billboard, ca. 1920s. Photograph from the Larry Hart Collection.
The motto "Schenectady Lights and Hauls the World" refers to the city's two major employers during the first part of the twentieth century, General Electric and the American Locomotive Company. Immigrants from Europe -- ranging from scientists and engineers to manual laborers -- came to Schenectady to work for the city's booming industries. According to federal census data, the city's population increased from around 20,000 to over 31,000 between 1890 and 1900, and mushroomed to nearly 73,000 by 1910. The phrase reflected pride in Schenectady's position as an important industrial city.

Souvenir coin, 1909. Photograph
from online auction.
But exactly when did the phrase originate, and who coined it? Tracing back such information can be difficult. As early as 1910, the phrase was used in the trade publication Printer's Ink. Schenectadians appropriated the phrase to promote the city and their works in it, ranging from a 1910 letter to the Postal Record in which H.A. Van Vranken, a mail carrier, touts the city's industry and its "progressive postmaster," to a Mr. Clarkson of Christ Church speaking in 1912, hoping that area churches might emulate Schenectady in "lighting" the world, to area labor leaders using the phrase in their remarks at a conference in 1914. References to the phrase flowered throughout the 1910s and 1920s, appearing in trade publications, travel guides, promotional material, and on billboards. City historian Larry Hart remembered hearing Major Edward Bowes on his popular national radio program, Amateur Hour, referring to Schenectady as "the city that lights and hauls the world" in the early 1930s.

Schenectady Board of Trade "Ske-Daddle" Carnival, 1909.
Note the drawn figure, which was used in "skedaddle to
Schenectady" promotional material. Photograph from the
Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.
The earliest references to the phrase I was able to find were created in 1909. From around the turn of the century until the beginning of World War I, the Schenectady Board of Trade (a precursor to the Chamber of Commerce) began to hold an annual carnival in the city to promote business downtown. In September 1909, the Board of Trade produced a souvenir coin for the carnival that featured an image of a seated woman holding symbols of the American Locomotive Company and General Electric. Around the edge of the coin is the phrase "Schenectady Hauls and Lights the World," a order transposed from the usual motto.

Postcard featuring artwork by Augustus
Crouse, 1910.
On January 26, 1910, artwork was copyrighted by a Schenectady man, Augustus Crouse, that would go on to be printed as a postcard and poster. Crouse is listed in the Schenectady city directory at the time as working for General Electric, but according to the Library of Congress' Copyright Office, the copyright for the artwork is copyrighted under his name. The artwork depicts a woman on a float standing with each hand on the shoulder of two men, one representing General Electric and one representing the American Locomotive Company. Above the scene reads the words "Schenectady lights and hauls the world." In the absence of earlier references, it appears that the motto may have originated in connection with the Schenectady Board of Trade's carnival, although the identity of the person who coined it remains a mystery.

Another possible origin of the phrase mentioned by Larry Hart in his "Tales of Old Dorp" newspaper column is that it was coined by newspaperman Ralph Record. Record visited Schenectady "around 1910" and became a reporter for Schenectady Gazette before becoming an editorial writer for the Knickerbocker Press in Albany. Although the exact origins of the slogan remain unclear, its rapid dissemination into the vernacular of Schenectadians and its use in shaping Schenectady's image to the world reflects the perspectives of a community charged with optimism and civic pride.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Schenectady Liederkranz

Group photograph of members of Schenectady Liederkranz at clambake, 1922.
Photograph from the Schenectady Liederkranz records.
Schenectady Liederkranz, a German men’s singing group, was founded in 1871 with thirty-six charter members. The organization’s first meeting was held at John Haubner’s tavern at 716 State Street. Its first president was John Bernardi. The group met at various private homes and saloons in the area around State Street and Albany Street in Schenectady during its early years, including George Hennemann’s saloon on State Street near the Arsenal and Peter Marx’s tavern at 769 State Street.  By 1910, the group had established its Liederkranz Hall at 749-757 Albany Street, alongside Nicholas Sartoris’ Liederkranz CafĂ©, and had begun a ladies’ auxiliary. In 1924, the Liederkranz moved into their new building at 302 Schenectady Street, remaining there for over fifty years until the group relocated its headquarters to Niskayuna at 850 Middle Street in 1978. The group’s membership declined throughout the 1990s; the Schenectady Liederkranz finally disbanded in 2005.

Collection of individual photographs of
Schenectady Liederkranz members, ca. 1901.
Photograph from the Schenectady Liederkranz
records. The collection also includes the
individual photographs featured here.
The city directories of the late 1800s through the mid-1900s indicate that the group met monthly. A 1937 Schenectady Gazette article states the organization’s membership at that time as 250. In addition to musical activities, the Liederkranz also functioned as a means of social gathering. The Liederkranz held parties, picnics, pool tournaments, skits, and other events for its membership and their families. The organization also held open houses for the public in celebration of German-American history and culture. 

In addition to local events, the Schenectady Liederkranz also participated in regional singing competitions with German singing groups from other areas of the state during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These events, organized in various area cities by the Central New York Saengerbund, were held over three days.  The Saengerfests generally included a mass chorus, concerts, competitions, parades, and parties or picnics.

Application for membership. Document
from the Schenectady Liederkranz records.

The collection of records of Schenectady Liederkranz (click here for finding aid) is comprised of sheet music, applications for membership, financial records, photographs, audio-visual materials, plaques and awards, and ephemera. The collection includes over 600 applications for membership in Schenectady Liederkranz, dated from 1931 to 1992, arranged alphabetically. Information contained on the membership applications includes date of application, name, age, birthplace, occupation, residence, signature of applicant, name of person who has recommended the applicant, and signatures of those who reviewed the application. Later applications also include whether the applicant is a United States citizen.

Photographs in the collection range in date from ca. 1880s to ca. 1980s, with the bulk of the photographs dated from ca. 1880-1920. The collection includes several group photographs, as well as numerous photographs of individual members of the group taken circa 1880s and 1901. Few of the photographs in the collection are identified. Sheet music in the collection includes a variety of handwritten sheet music, printed sheet music, and bound books of sheet music compiled or used by Schenectady Liederkranz.  Most of the sheet music in the collection is dated between 1889-1918. Audio-visual materials in the collection date primarily from the 1950s and 1960s and include footage of the organization’s events.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

William Seward Gridley

Captain William Seward Gridley, ca. 1861.
Photocopy from Gridley family file.
William Seward Gridley (1838-1889) was responsible for organizing the first company in Schenectady, the 18th Infantry Regiment, New York State Volunteers, Company A -- first known as the Seward Volunteer Zouaves -- during the Civil War.

Gridley was born July 13, 1838 in Schenectady to Reuben Gridley and Mary (DeMille) Gridley. Both of his parents and a newborn sibling died on June 23, 1843. After his parents' deaths, Gridley was placed with his twin brother, Henry, with the Shakers at Watervliet, NY. William and Henry both ran away from the Shaker settlement in 1853 and returned to Schenectady. There, William worked for his brother-in-law, Thomas Cleary, at a hotel and began the study of law.

On April 18, 1861, six days after the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter, William Seward Gridley published the following notice in the Schenectady Daily Times:
"Attention Volunteers - All young men who are in favor of forming a light infantry company and offering their services to garrison this state, or to the President of the United States, to aid and assist in defending the Constitution and Union of the United States against foreign or domestic foes, are requested to meet at Cleary's saloon, opposite the railroad depot, on Friday evening at 7:30 o'clock, the 19th inst. This means fight, and all who sign must go."

Forty-seven men who attended the meeting signed an application for a company organization, and asked Governor Morgan to commission Gridley as Captain. Gridley took the application to Albany. He received notice from the Adjutant General for he and his company to report for duty at Albany on April 22, 1861. The company of seventy-four men and three officers -- most of whom were from Schenectady -- was referred to as the "Seward Volunteer Zouaves" until it was assigned as Company A of the Eighteenth Regiment, New York Volunteers on May 14, 1861. A few days later, on May 17, 1861, the company was mustered into service. Soldiers with the 18th Regiment fought in Virginia at Braddock Road, Fairfax Station, Blackburn's Ford, the first battle of Bull Run, Munson's Hill, Union Mills, West Point, Gaines Mill, Garnett's and Golding's Farms, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Burke's Station, Fredericksburg, Franklin's Crossing, and Salem Church, and in Maryland at Crampton's Pass and Antietam. While with Company A, Gridley was promoted to Major on October 14, 1862. He mustered out with the Regiment on May 28, 1863, at Albany. At the close of the war, Gridley received the honorary title of Brevet Colonel, New York Volunteers.

William's brother, Nathaniel, also served in 18th New York Infantry Volunteer Regiment, Company A, as a private. He was killed in 1862 at the battle of Gaines Mill in Virginia. William's twin brother, Henry Seward Gridley, lived in Schenectady during the 1860s through around 1871, working as a saloon-keeper and fruit dealer.

After his war service, William Seward Gridley returned to Schenectady and studied law. He is listed in the 1865 city directory as boarding at the home of his brother-in-law, Thomas Cleary, who operated a hotel and restaurant between State and Liberty Streets. Gridley was admitted to the bar in 1867; by 1868 he was practicing law at 15 Union Street and resided at 62 Barrett Street. He moved to Jackson, Michigan, later that year, near the family of his wife, Caroline Eleanor Gridley. The Gridleys remained in Michigan until moving to Chicago in 1885. William Seward Gridley died in 1889. He is buried at Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Chicago.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Extended hours

As of Thursday, September 8, the Grems-Doolittle Library will return to extended hours of operation on Thursday evenings from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.