Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Art of City Directory Advertisements

In this advertisement for a tailor in the 1882 Schenectady City Directory, the entrepreneur boasts that he is "the" tailor in town. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

City directories are commercially published compilations of the names, addresses, and professions of people in a city. For history enthusiasts, directories provide a treasure trove of information about a community at a specific time. They are a tremendous resource for a number of research purposes, from genealogical and biographical research, to house history research, to a researching the history of a community, neighborhood, or ethnic enclave.

This page of advertisements from the 1862 Schenectady directory features a variety of typefaces, in addition to illustrations, to draw the eye. Advertisers in nineteenth-century directories were more apt to use a variety of dramatic typefaces, rather than images, to promote businesses. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Advertisement for the Schenectady Lyceum and Academy, a school for boys, in the 1842 Schenectady directory. the 1842 directory was the first directory to be produced for the city. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

The advertisements featured in city directories are also useful. They not only document the businesses and services that existed in a community -- sometimes highlighting long-gone industries; advertisements in directories also provide a look at the art and style of advertising during a particular era.

This advertisement from the 1925 city directory is an early example of a directory illustration that uses a cartoonish drawing style, in contrast to more realistic drawing styles. Cartoon images are infrequent in the directories, but can be found starting in the 1920s. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

While many advertisements in directories focus on sellers of goods, advertisements also focused on services in the community. One example is this advertisement in the 1933 Schenectady directory for the insurance company Ter Bush & Powell. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

The iconic style of the 1950s can be seen in this advertisement for the Schenectady Engraving Company, from the 1952 Schenectady directory. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

This blog entry features a number of advertisements from Schenectady city directories from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. In their language and imagery, they give modern viewers a peek into Schenectady's past, and we can compare the advertising of yesteryear to the advertising of today.

This advertisement for the Chamber of Commerce in Schenectady from the 1952 Schenectady directory is unusual in its use of two colors of ink. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Photographs included in advertisements in directories are useful. Many images show the front of local businesses; a few show the interiors of businesses, such as this interesting image from the interior of Alling Rubber Company in State Street in Schenectady. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Interested in exploring city directories in the holdings of the Grems-Doolittle Library? You can find a complete list of the directories in our holdings by clicking this link. To begin your research, visit our Library or contact our Librarian.

This ad for the Schenectady Gazette appeared in the 1980 directory. Many of the ads in the 1980s directories target advertisers in addition to consumers. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Full-page advertisement for the Teller & Sanford hardware store in downtown Schenectady in the 1906 Schenectady directory. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Schenectady County Cemetery Records

Undated photograph of Vale Cemetery in Schenectady, taken from a glass plate negative. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Schenectady County contains a number of cemeteries and burial grounds, from large cemeteries such as Vale Cemetery to small family burial plots that were once part of local farms.

The earliest known burial ground in the area appears on a 1698 map of Schenectady by Wolfgang Romer. The small plot was situated just east of the intersection of Front Street and Church Street, and ran along the south side of Front Street. This plot may have also been where bodies were buried after the Schenectady Massacre in 1690. Unfortunately, records of the people buried in this earliest cemetery have not survived.

These skeletons were unearthed from the grounds of a Front Street home in 1902, in an area were the earliest known burial ground in Schenectady was once located. Newspapers of the time suggested that the skeletons were the remains of some of the victims of the Schenectady Massacre. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

During the 18th and early 19th century, most burial grounds in American towns and cities were located in churchyards (such as the cemetery of St. George's Church on Ferry Street in the Stockade neighborhood in Schenectady) or near the center of town (such as the Green Street Cemetery in Schenectady, which was situated between Front Street and Green Street in Schenectady). Meanwhile, in rural areas, church burial grounds were common, as were family burial plots on local farms.

The graveyard at First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady can be found on the church's property, next to the church building. Another early Schenectady church, St. George's, is also home to a small graveyard. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.  

Over time, the overcrowding of graves and emerging sanitation laws in cities and towns led to the rural cemetery movement. Instead of graveyards placed in city centers, new cemeteries were established on the outskirts of communities. In contrast to the simple design of graveyards, these "garden cemeteries" often featured meandering paths, creeks, art and statuary, and areas for picnicking. Cemeteries were intended not only as places to bury the dead, but also as a place for recreation. In line with these developments, Vale Cemetery was established in 1857. Burials in the Green Street Cemetery were soon after disinterred and were transferred to Vale, and the former cemetery land between Front and Green Streets was developed as residential property.

Colorful postcards promoting Vale Cemetery as a pleasant, peaceful place for recreation and relaxation were popular in the early years of the twentieth century. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Postcard Collection. 

Cemetery records can be helpful to genealogy researchers in establishing dates of birth, marriage, and death, and in connecting the generations of a family. Epitaphs and designs on a headstone can also give a genealogy researcher information about an ancestor's religious background, military service, membership in fraternal organizations, or even his or her occupation.  By studying the names, epitaphs, and ages of people buried, and by examining the placement, landscape, and architecture of cemeteries and burial grounds, local history researchers can learn about epidemics and disease, lifespans, wealth and status, ethnic groups, cultural practices, and a number of other topics related to a community's history. Analyzing the information found on headstones and monuments can also illuminate a community's beliefs regarding death, religion, family, childhood, and old age.

A tree has grown up close between headstones in a small family cemetery in Duanesburg. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

The Grems-Doolittle Library has several printed collections of cemetery records. These records, usually compiled from information on headstones, focuses on information about individuals. Headstone inscriptions are generally included in these records. A complete list of Schenectady County cemetery records in our holdings can be found by clicking this link. Clipping files, photographs, maps, city directories, and postcard collections in our holdings also provide contextual information about local cemeteries and burial grounds. If you have questions about using cemetery records for your research or are seeking information about local cemeteries, please visit our library or contact our Librarian.