Friday, January 29, 2016

Newspapers of Schenectady's Immigrants

The amount and variety of news we can receive in 2016 is non-stop and never ending. Tablets, phones, Facebook, and Twitter, and the 24-hour news cycle are all relatively new ways to keep updated on current events. These along with the more traditional newspapers can make the process overwhelming. Flashback to 100 years ago and you might have the opposite problem. News was limited to newspapers and through other people that you interacted with throughout the day. A unique way to receive news came along with the advent of the first radio news program in August, 1920. From there, the next innovation was the television with the first news broadcast on TV in 1930 and the first regular news broadcast in 1940. Absolutely none of this matters if you can’t understand the language, customs, and traditions of the country you just moved to. So just how did the growing immigrant population in Schenectady figure out what was going on in their city? Certain pioneering immigrants started newspapers that highlighted the issues that were important to these immigrant groups. Many of the papers were published in both English and in the native tongue of the publisher and were generally published as a weekly paper. This entry focuses on the German, Italian, and Polish newspapers of Schenectady.

Oswald E. Heck and the Herold-Journal

Oswald E. Heck as a young man. In addition to his skills as a newspaper editor, Heck published a book of poems in German titled Leben und Weben (Life and its Weavings) in 1922. Photo courtesy of the February 1, 1923 issue of the Daily Gazette.
German immigration to the United States increased dramatically in the 19th Century and they were the largest group of immigrants from 1840 to 1880. Schenectady’s commercial and industrial growth during this time drew many Germans to the area. Many early German immigrants worked in broom manufacturing, but ALCO and GE soon became the main draw to Schenectady. The first German language newspaper in Schenectady was the Deutscher Anzeiger (German Indicator) which was formed in 1873 and lasted until 1897. Three years later another German paper was established, Das Deutsch Journal. Oswald E. Heck who had worked as a compositor on the Deutscher became the editor of a new German paper named Das Deutsche Journal. Heck came to Schenectady with his family and started working for ALCO, but his knack for writing led him to work for the Deutscher where he learned to set type and would write an occasional article. Heck and Das Deutsche Journal compositor Thomas Unseld Sr.  would go on to start another German newspaper in 1910 named the Schenectady Herold. World War I caused the merger of the Herold and Das Deustche Journal, creating the Schenectady Herold-Journal which published its first paper in April, 1917. With a new name came a new headquarters and the paper moved to 206 Clinton St. The paper was growing and required an even larger quarters by 1921 when the offices moved to 151 Barrett St. Unseld Sr. died in 1951 and his post as treasurer of the Schenectady Herold Printing Company was filled by his son, Thomas Unseld Jr. Heck died in 1954 and left his interest in the company to his children, Oswald D. Heck (who was very important in NYS politics, but that’s a story for another post), Else Raag, and Edwin Heck. The paper continued until 1964 when it ceased publication. Microfilm of the Schenectady Herold-Journal for certain years can be found at the archives of the University of Albany.

Italian-American Giornale

Collage of Italian language newspapers featuring Viva l'Italia, Il Corriere Di Schenectady  and Albany's La Capitale. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
One problem with researching ethnic groups through newspapers is the lack of an actual newspaper to research.  Researcher and future presenter at the Schenectady County Historical Society Robert Pascucci was quoted in a June 25, 1984 Gazette article that few of the ethnic newspapers remain today and that “This material has been lost in the Capital District…Unfortunately, the interest doesn’t seem to have been there.” As far as news reports on the Italian-American community, modern researchers don’t have a lot of resources to turn to. The news that was published in Schenectady’s larger newspapers often focused on the criminal aspect.  Schenectady Papers like The Evening Star covered the arrests of Italians sometimes reporting in broken English with headlines like “Me Take-A You Life." With articles like those, it’s no surprise that Italian immigrants started their own newspapers.  One of the most prominent Italian papers in Schenectady was Ettore Mancuso’s The Record (Previous librarian, Melissa Tacke wrote a great post on Ettore Mancuso and The Record). The Record focused on the concerns of Italian-Americans, and often published articles and advertisements in both Italian and English. Other Italian language papers in Schenectady were the Il Corriere di Schenectady and The International, but few issues of these papers exist today. The library’s Ettore Mancuso Collection has issues of The Record and a guide to this collection can be found here.

Enthusiasm of the Polish Press

Article from the Feb. 6th issue of the
 Gazeta Tygodniowa. Courtesy of
Phyllis Zych-Budka.
A common thread that ran through the papers run by Schenectady’s immigrants was a willingness to support their fellow countrymen along with their new city. The previously mentioned Record would often publish articles promoting local Italian businesses and push for Schenectadians to buy local.  Similar to that idea, Polish papers like Tygodnik (Weekly News) and Gazeta Tygodniowa (Weekly Gazette) would boost the accomplishments of Schenectady’s Polonia. SCHS member Phyllis Zych-Budka is currently writing a book about the Maska Dramatic Club, which was a Polish theater group. Phyllis recently brought in several articles from various Schenectady Polish newspapers relating to various Maska plays and events.  The difference in tone between the Polish papers and English papers is quite noticeable. The English papers were more factual, relating the location of the play, a brief description of the plot, and who was in the cast. The Polish papers were very descriptive and the publishers are adamant about getting people to attend and support events put on by other Polish-Americans. Examples of the publisher's style can be seen in the clippings posted.  

Article on the 50th anniversary of General Electric where the Polish division achieved first place in the float contest. The float featured F.G. Halturewicz as Thomas Edison and Stanley Zych as Steinmetz. The author goes on to write that "Our float was excellent, beautiful, and in good taste, full of color and most important depicted the progress of General Electric..." Clipping and translation courtesy of Phyllis Zych Budka.

The Grems-Doolittle Library is looking for issues or clippings from some of these difficult to find newspapers or if you know of any other immigrant run newspapers. Contact Librarian, Michael Maloney at 518-374-0263 or if you have any leads.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Brothers Glen

Thanks to volunteer Diane Leone for research assistance.

The Glen surname is attached to a couple different places around New York. Glenville in Schenectady County is named after Alexander Lindsay Glen and Scotia was named by Alexander after his home country Scotland. The Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia was originally built by Alexander, and expanded by his son John Glen. Its name comes from the marriage of Alexander’s great-granddaughter Debra Glen to John Sanders. Glens Falls is named after John Glen Jr., confusingly not the son of John Glen, but of John's son Jacob. Like many of the Glens before them, John Jr. and his brother Henry were quite prominent throughout Schenectady. The brothers were also held in high esteem with many with many people of national historic significance and were acquainted with the likes of William Johnson, Governor George Clinton of New York, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.
Furniture from the Glen Sanders Mansion is on display at the Schenectady County Historical Society. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library photo collection.
The brothers Glen were born in Albany to Jacob Glen and Elizabeth Cuyler, John was born in 1735 and Henry in 1739. Their father Jacob was a merchant and trader who owned a house on Steuben Street in Albany. He was also closely affiliated with Albany city government as he was elected assistant alderman to the second ward in 1734 and 1735 and appointed firemaster in 1741. Their mother Elizabeth Cuyler was also well connected in Albany. Her father was Johannes Cuyler who served as assistant alderman, and eventually alderman for Albany’s second ward in the early 1700s. Johannes was also elected as a representative to the New York General Assembly and a number of other public offices, including mayor of Albany in 1725. After Jacob died in 1746, Elizabeth continued to raise their children at the “Glen House” till her death in 1785.

Both Henry and John started off as merchants in Albany. According to the website “The People of Colonial Albany,” John may have been a business partner with the venerable fur trader Hendrick Bleecker as he was identified with Glen as the occupants of a second ward house in a 1767 tax list. Starting in the 1760s, John started buying land in Schenectady, Fort Edward, and what would become Glens Falls. The acquisition of this land by John Glen is suspect to local legend and he acquired it either through a debt that was owed to him, by a card game, or in exchange for hosting a party for mutual friends. Henry also became interested in real estate and owned houses in Albany and Schenectady.

The brothers were also heavily involved in military affairs and the family’s affiliation with William Johnson during the French and Indian War resulted in John being appointed quartermaster general with Henry as his assistant. John was also the captain of the Second Battalion of Militia of Schenectady which included Jacob Schermerhorn as 1st Lieutenant, John’s brother Henry as 2nd Lieutenant, and other prominent Schenectady residents.
Letter to Henry Glen from Jonathan Mix, telling of suspending any further preparations for transporting garrisons & stores to western posts from Gen. Washington. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection

During the American Revolution, Henry continued to serve in the army as Assistant Deputy Quartermaster for the northern department of the army where his role was to gather and facilitate the distribution of military supplies for northeastern New York. He supplied provisions and transportation for the five forts in the Mohawk Valley and also managed the construction of new barracks in Schenectady, where he was stationed. Often funding these projects and buying supplies with his own money as was the case in the spring of 1781. The frontier towns were desperately in need of supplies, troops were deserting, and it was feared that Schenectady might be attacked. Boats were being built in Schenectady to transport materiel to Fort Stanwix and Henry Glen used his own credit to build 16 bateaux for the military. Henry was extremely devoted to the cause of the Revolution, but disheartened that his fellow countrymen did not feel similarly in a letter to Colonel Hugh Hughes Henry Glen writes that “…no man longs more to make an end of the War than I do by carrying it on with Vigour, I am and always was willing to pledge my Life and little Property for the support of the war but am sorry to find the Virtue and Exertions of the People are lost throughout the whole Country.” In addition to his duties as quartermaster, Henry was the captain of the local militia.

Partial letter from Henry Glen to New York's Board of Treasury from 1788 regarding
his payment as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. This letter is an example of
some of the financial woes that Henry encountered after the Revolution.
Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection
There wasn’t much mentioned about John Glen during or after the Revolutionary War. Some sources mention that he was also a quartermaster during the Revolution, but I haven’t been able to accurately verify this. He was a friend of George Washington and may have even hosted Washington at his house at 58 Washington Avenue in Schenectady’s Stockade on Washington’s first visit to Schenectady in 1775. John Glen was listed on the roster of the 2nd Albany Militia, and on July 25, 1778 he was also called to appear before the Commissioners of Conspiracies on July 25, 1778 and signed an oath of allegiance four years later in 1782. Unfortunately, significant debt forced John from his home in 1810 and he was supported by friends until his death in 1828 at the age of ninety-three.

John Glen Jr.'s house at 58 Washington in Schenectady. A New York State historic marker was placed in front of this house, but has since deteriorated to the point where only the signpost remains. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle photograph collection.
For Henry Glen, the end of the Revolutionary War brought about a continuation of the public service that he started as clerk of Schenectady County in 1767. He served as a state assembly member from 1786-1787, then as a representative in the U.S. Congress from 1793-1801. He also continued his position as deputy quartermaster and was involved with the movement of supplies and troops throughout New York State. Shortly after the war Henry fell into debt which was caused partially by his personal expense during the war. This debt stayed with him for most of his life and he was met with much difficulty in trying to recover payment from the government for the multiple positions he served in during and after the war. Henry’s fortunes were never completely recovered, and as Chris Hunter states in his paper A Slave to the Army: Henry Glen and Public Service in the Early Republic, “he died January 6 1814, ending his adulthood as he had begun it, in the service of the government.”

The Grems-Doolittle Library at the Schenectady County Historical Society holds the Glen Family Letters follow this link for an index to the letters: