Tag Archives: Industrial History

Coverage of 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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The New York Times City Blog has been running a series of posts commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which happened 100 years ago today on March 25, 1911.

There are links to the posts below, but first, here’s a brief description of what happened from Wikipedia: “[The Triangle Fire] was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women aged sixteen to twenty-three.”

“Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.”

Here is a round-up of the City Room’s outstanding coverage:

Liberating Clothing Made in Confinement

A Half Hour of Horror

A Frontier in Photojournalism

Editorial Cartoons

One Woman Who Changed the Rules

New Leaders Emerge

Labor Laws and Unions in the Fire’s Wake

In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember

Garment Work in New York 100 Years After the Triangle Fire

The Building Survives

Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later

Remembering Triangle Fire’s Jewish Victims

Clinging to Memories

In Search of Today’s Sweatshops

Two Short Films Celebrate IBM’s Centennial


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The international corporation IBM, based in Armonk, Westchester County, is celebrating it’s 100th Anniversary this year. The company was founded in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, following a merger of the Computer Scale Company of America and the International Time Recording Company with the Tabulating Machine Company. The conglomerate adopted the name International Business Machines in 1924, a name the company had used in Canada.

A recently produced video to celebrate their centennial anniversary, 100×100, tells IBM’s history through the eyes of 100 different individuals beginning with a 100-year-old and ending with a newborn baby. The video has been posted to YouTube.

A second IBM film was directed by famed documentation Errol Morris. The 30-minute documentary, They Were There was scored by Philip Glass and chronicles many of the influential people involved at IBM throughout its history.

Illustration: The original IBM Logo. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Syracuse’s Clark Music Company, Melville Clark


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In Pulling Strings: The Legacy of Melville A. Clark, musician Linda Pembroke Kaiser explores the extraordinary career of Melville A. Clark (1883–1953), a musician, inventor, entrepreneur, community leader, and collector whose colorful story is largely unknown. The story is told by Kaiser, a musician who performs on the harp, piano, and guitar. She has published articles in the International Folk Harp Journal and has published and recorded an album of harp music, Lullabies for Earth Children.

Beginning with an account of Clark’s musical family, Kaiser chronicles the founding in 1859 of the Clark Music Company, of which Melville Clark became president in 1919. Originally just a tinkers shed, the business ultimately moved into a six-story building in the center of Syracuse. The Clark Music Company celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2010. Clark also combined his talents as a gifted musician and astute entrepreneur to start the first Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

Kaiser recounts the development of the Clark Irish Harp, the first portable harp manufactured in the United States, that could easily play accidentals. There were other Clark inventions, such as the first nylon strings for instruments. In addition, Clark designed balloons that the British used in 1918 to drop more than 1,250,000 pamphlets over Germany.

Clark’s story unfolds in detail: a musical encounter with President Wilson, entertaining President F. D. Roosevelt, a visit to Buckingham Palace to present Princess Elizabeth with a music box, and the journey of a Clark Irish harp to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd.

Pulling Strings uncovers the life of a musical genius and also sheds light on a forgotten chapter in Syracuse history.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Adk Museum Receives NEH Planning Grant


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The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York has been awarded a grant in the amount of $40,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The funds will be used in the planning and development phase of the museum’s new long-term exhibition “Mining in the Adirondacks,” scheduled to open in 2013.

NEH has designated the Adirondack mining exhibit a National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” project. Support comes in part from funds the agency has set aside for this special initiative.

The goal of the “We the People” initiative is to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nations history and culture, and advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

The Endowment accomplishes its mission by providing grants for high-quality humanities projects in four funding areas: preserving and providing access to cultural resources, education, research, and public programs.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television and radio stations, and to individual scholars.

Photo: Garnet miners at Barton Mines, North River, N.Y.: ca. 1915.


Early American Industries Grants Program


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The Early American Industries Association (EAIA) has announced a $6,000 Research Grants Program to provide grants to individuals or institutions engaged in research projects that relate to historic trades, crafts, and tools and their impact on our lives. The numbers and amount of each grant is to be given at the discretion of a committee, with no one grant to exceed $2,000.

The 2009 grant supported a project on 18th and 19th century coopering in Virginia and New England. Previous grants have supported a wide variety of projects, and normally three or more grants are made each year. A complete list may be found on the EAIA web site.

The Early American Industries Association, established in 1933, preserves and presents historic trades, crafts and tools and interprets their impact on our lives. The Association comprises collectors, curators, historians, antiquarians, librarians, material culturists, and anyone who shares our interests.

The Application deadline for 2010 is March 15. For further information on the EAIA and the Research Grants Program, and to print the four-page application visit their web site, www.EAIAinfo.org or contact Ms. Justine Clerc, Lorleton Assisted Living, 22 West 14th Street, Apt. 129, Wilmington, DE 19805 (302) 652-7297.

Send all inquiries to Research Grants Program c/o Ms. Justine Clerc.

Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009


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A New York Public Library exhibit will look at the history of New York City’s shoreline. The exhibit, entitled Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009, will run until June 26, 2010 at the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall (First Floor) of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.

September 2009 marks 400 years since Henry Hudson sailed into New York Harbor and up the Hudson River, almost to what is now Albany, performing detailed reconnaissance of the Hudson Valley region. Other explorers passed by the outwardly hidden harbor, but did not linger long enough to fully realize the commercial, nautical, strategic, or colonial value of the region.

Once the explorers returned to Europe, their strategic information was passed on to authorities. Some data was kept secret, but much was handed over to map makers, engraved on copper, printed on handmade paper, distributed to individuals and coffee-houses (the news centers of the day), and pored over by dreamers, investors, and potential settlers in the “new land.”

Mapping New York’s Shoreline celebrates the Dutch accomplishments in the New York City region, especially along the waterways forming its urban watershed, from the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound to the North (or Hudson) River and the South (or Delaware) River. Inspired by The New York Public Library’s collection of Dutch, English, and early American mapping of the Atlantic Coastal regions, this exhibition exemplifies the best early and growing knowledge of the unknown shores along our neighboring rivers, bays, sounds, and harbors.

From the earliest mapping reflecting Verazzano’s brief visit to gloriously decorative Dutch charting of the Atlantic and New Netherland, illustrating their knowledge of the trading opportunity Hudson’s exploration revealed, the antiquarian maps tell the story from a centuries-old perspective. We are brought up to date with maps and text exploring growing environmental concern for this harbor, and the river that continuously enriches it. From paper maps to vapor maps, those created with computer technology, the story of New York Harbor in its 400th year is told.

Mapping New York’s Shoreline features maps, atlases, books, journals, broadsides, manuscripts, prints, and photographs, drawn primarily from the Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, augmented by items from other New York Public Library collections.

Books: Adirondack, Lumber Capital of The World


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As you might expect, my desk-side book shelves are heavily burdened with Adirondack books. Guides to hiking, climbing, wildlife, forestry; books of photography, sit beside fiction and various technical reports – all here within easy reach. Most are history – general histories, political histories, environmental and cultural histories, books on logging, tanning, prohibition, Native Americans, county histories. Recently I received a tidy volume on Adirondack logging history that focuses on Warren County, Phillip J. Harris’s Adirondack, Lumber Capital of the World, which seems to have drawn from them all to good effect.

Harris’s book takes on, with incredible detail, the people and places that made the southeastern Adirondacks unique in the history of the American lumber industry. In 1850, New York produced more lumber – about a billion board feet a year from around a half million trees – than any other state in the nation. Southern Warren County was where much of the lumber was milled and where the Adirondack lumber barons reigned. Their names, James Morgan, William, Norman and Alison Fox, Jones Ordway, James Caldwell, John Thurman, Samuel Prime, Henry Crandall, Zenus VanDusen, Jeremiah and Daniel Finch, Augustus Sherman, George Freeman, William McEchron, are found scattered through the county’s history books – until now.

Harris’s book takes on the large and small, from the first pioneers and their patents, to the lumber camps, jobbers, log drives, log marks, and sawmills. The Delaware and Hudson Railroad is featured in one chapter, the Fort William Henry Hotel in another. In 1865 there were some 4,000 sawmills in New York State, one hundred years later there were fewer the 200 – today, maybe fewer then 50. One of the bigger contributions Harris makes to the history of the Adirondack lumber industry is in explaining how that came to pass.

NYC Landmarks Commission Rejects Half of a Building


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The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 6-3 on Tuesday to designate the B. F. Goodrich Company Building (1780 Broadway) as a landmark and at the same time reject the B. F. Goodrich Company Building at 225 West 57th Street. Although the buildings face adjacent streets, they are on the same lot and were both developed in 1909 by the same architect, Howard Van Doren Shaw, for the B. F. Goodrich Company. They are Shaw’s only extant buildings in New York.

The Historic Districts Council issued the following Preservation Alert after the vote:

At today’s hearing, all nine commissioners present stated their support for the designation of 1780 Broadway, mentioning its architectural design but stressing its historic connection to Automobile Row. Six commissioners stated that 225 West 57th Street was of lesser significance because it did not have Broadway frontage and was “an accessory building” to the larger Goodrich headquarters. The other three commissioners defended the significance of the building and spoke highly of its architectural merit as well as its history of automobile-related uses.

225 West 57th Street, cureently under scaffolding and construction shroudOf particular interest was LPC Chair Robert Tierney’s statement referring to the City Council’s concerns about this designation. After the public hearing on August 11th, Council Members Daniel Garodnick, Melinda Katz, Jessica Lappin and Christine Quinn sent a joint letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission opposing the designation of 225 West 57th Street based on “its drab appearance”, that “the company never occupied the building” and that “the designation of 225 West 57th Street could fatally compromise the footprint of the proposed development on this site”. This unprecedented message reframed deliberations about the significance-based worthiness of the buildings into “the argument for preservation against the economic development rationale… [of] allowing for new development on sites where buildings stand today”. Commissioner Tierney went on to state his belief that since there was a likelihood that the City Council would overturn the designation of 225 West 57th Street, the LPC should make a priority of designating 1780 Broadway which everyone agreed should be preserved.

The buildings’ preservation had been supported by HDC, other preservation groups and the local community boards on the basis of their significance to the development of New York City as the center for the nascent American automobile industry, as well as for the importance of the buildings’ architectural design. 225 West 57th Street specifically was a very early and unusual fusion of traditional and Modern design elements, using motifs and techniques from the Chicago and Viennese Secessionist Schools. These points were supported by research in the LPC’s files.

Representatives of the owner, Extell Development, as well as the American Institute of Architects/New York Chapter testified in favor of the designation of 1780 Broadway but opposed to 225 West 57th Street, stating that the buildings were only significant historically as they related to Automobile Row. Since West 57th Street was not on Automobile Row and the building was not occupied by the B. F. Goodrich Company, it was not worthy of being preserved. Additional owner’s representatives also stated that they might pursue a hardship application if 225 West 57th Street was designated (Extell is proposing to build a 60+-story building on the block including this site and has been assembling lots and air-rights to allow for this development for some time.)

In the end, it would appear that the developers won. Thanks to their lobbying efforts the City Council leadership was apparently convinced that this landmark designation was detrimental to the City. The Council’s opposition to the designation resulted in the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s rejection of the building. This is not how it should work.

HDC is exceptionally disappointed in the LPC’s yielding to political pressure. If the City Council was going to reject the designation of a worthy building, then the Council should have been put in a position of justifying that action. By ceding the designation of 225 West 25th Street, the LPC has set a terrible example for future designations.

HDC is also extraordinarily disturbed by the Council’s actions in this instance. While it is entirely appropriate for CM Daniel Garodnick to weigh in on a designation within his district, doing so before the community board has a chance to review the project is, at best, precipitous. The joint letter from the four council members, with its not-so-veiled threat, was a direct assault on the independence of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the integrity of the Landmarks Law.

HDC has contacted these council members about our concerns over their involvement and we will be taking additional steps to make sure that the Landmarks Preservation Commission and their process remain transparent and independent. We look forward to updating you in the coming months.

Photo: 1780 Broadway, NYC

Hyde Collection Receives Gift of Major Crockwell Painting


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The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY has announced that it has received a gift of a 1934 oil painting by Douglass Crockwell (1904-1968) entitled “Paper Workers, Finch Pruyn & Co,” from Mr. and Mrs. Samuel P. Hoopes, of Bolton Landing, New York.

Douglass Crockwell was a founding trustee of The Hyde Collection, acted as its first director, and was famous for his illustrative paintings for such national publications as the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, and Esquire. His commercial illustrations were commissioned by such manufacturing and industry giants as General Electric, General Motors, Coca Cola, and Standard Oil. Crockwell lived and worked in Glens Falls from 1932 until his death in 1968. Continue reading

Waterfront Preservation Programs Announced


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New York City’s Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods, will be presenting “On the Waterfront in New York,” a series of films, lectures, and discussions exploring the history and preservation of NYC’s historic waterfront neighborhoods – much of which is proposed for redevelopment. Topics will include the preservation of South Street, the commercial and industry history of the waterfront, and a waterfront tour of the South Street seaport.

Film Screening and Discussion: Street of Ships
Thursday, October 1, 2009, 6:30pm
Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue at East 2nd Street, Manhattan
Fee: $15/$10 for Friends of HDC, seniors & students.

“Street of Ships” is a 1982 documentary by Charles Richards that chronicles the efforts by Peter Stanford and the early Friends of South Street to save from destruction and preserve some of the city’s oldest and most historically significant buildings. It concludes with the controversy surrounding the goals of 1980s commercial developers versus those wishing to maintain the area’s historical authenticity. The film features archival footage of the Seaport that evokes its past uses as a port and commercial district, along with interviews with area stakeholders and policy experts. The film will be followed by a presentation by Robert LaValva, founder and director of New Amsterdam Market, about the role of waterfront markets. The program will conclude with a discussion—reflecting new opportunities for the future of the Seaport District—with participants from the film including Peter Stanford, a founder and past president of South Street Seaport Museum and Terry Walton, a founder of the Seaport Museum and vice chair of the Working Harbor Committee.

On the Waterfront: A Lecture
Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 6:30pm
The Seamen’s Church Institute, 241 Water Street, Manhattan
Fee: $15/$10 for Friends, seniors & students.

This panel will examine the history and future of the waterfront through different lenses, from the commercial past of its wharves and docks to the adaptive reuse of structures still lining its edges. Richard A. Greenwald, professor of history and dean of graduate studies at Drew University will discuss the commercial aspects of New York City’s waterfront development from the mid-19th century up to 1950 as depicted in the film, “On the Waterfront.” Roland Lewis, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, will examine the reuse of industrial structures along the City’s waterfront. The third speaker, Kevin Bone, an architect and editor of several books on the waterfront, will address the history and development of Manhattan’s historic seawall, a gargantuan structure which encircles the whole island and has literally shaped how the city has grown.

From the Ferries to the Fish Market: A Walking Tour of the South street Seaport

Sunday, October 18, 2009, 11:00am
Location to be announced upon registration.
Fee: October 18: $35/$25 for Friends, seniors & students.

The series will conclude with an in-depth tour of the South Street Seaport, examining such noted landmarks as the South Street Seaport Museum, the WPA-era New Market Building, and historic local businesses. Tour attendees will hear about the South Street Seaport’s diverse past from its beginnings up to the current day as a commercial, retail and residential district. Mr. LaValva will also discuss the role of public markets in shaping the East River waterfront. More recent history and plans for the future, including the massive redevelopment proposal by General Growth Properties will also be addressed by special guest Madeline Rogers. Due in part to this proposed development, in 2009 the Historic Districts Council successfully nominated the Seaport to the Preservation League of New York State’s “Seven to Save” listing of places to preserve in New York State. The tour will end at Acqua, a noted Seaport establishment for a complimentary drink. The exact location for the tour will be announced upon registration.

The complete series of all three events is $60/$40 for Friends, seniors & students. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can be ordered by visiting or contacting www.hdc.org, 212-614-9107 or hdc@hdc.org.

DEC to Investigate Historic Friedrichsohn Cooperage


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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has begun a detailed investigation of the former Friedrichsohn Cooperage in Waterford, in Saratoga County. Conducted in conjunction with the state Department of Health, the investigation will delineate the extent of contamination in soil, soil vapor and groundwater by a variety of pesticides, metals and semi-volatile organic compounds from the historic half-acre parcel at 153-155 Saratoga Avenue in Waterford that operated from 1817 to 1991.

In its early years, the cooperage made and refurbished wooden kegs and barrels. At the time it closed, its primary business was cleaning and refurbishing metal drums. Inspections of the facility after it closed found the buildings in poor condition and thousands of abandoned drums, some of them leaking. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, between 1994 and 1996, removed 322 tons of contaminated sludge/soil, 9,000 gallons of liquid waste and 3,767 drums from the property. The buildings were demolished and the site was added to the Superfund program.

DEC’s investigation field work started this week with a land survey. Beginning next week and continuing through at least October, work will include the collection of surface soil samples and investigation data gathering. Future activities will include collection of subsurface soil and vapor samples, collection of sediment samples from the nearby Old Champlain Canal, sampling of groundwater and the installation of monitoring wells. Through the investigation, DEC will be able to define the nature and extent of the contamination, assess the impact on public health and the environment and develop a proposed cleanup remedy.

Adk Museum Presents ‘The Adirondack Mining Village’


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Mining was once a major industry in northern New York State. Small iron mines and forges appeared along Lake Champlain in the late 1700s. In the 1820s, the industry began to grow rapidly, reaching its peak in the mid-to-late 1800s. The story of mining is much more than minerals found and ores extracted. This Monday, July 13, 2009 Dr. Carol Burke will explore human aspects of Adirondack mining in an illustrated program entitled “The Adirondack Mining Village” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York.

Part of the museum’s popular Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Burke’s presentation reflects an ongoing project that documents accounts of the daily lives or ordinary people who lived and worked in the now abandoned mining villages of Tahawus and nearby Adirondac (known in the 1950s as “The Upper Works”). Dr. Burke will share photographs and recollections of everyday life in these former company towns.

Carol Burke, a Professor at the University of California at Irvine, is a folklorist and journalist whose ethnographic work has produced books that document the lives of Midwestern farm families, female inmates in our nation’s prisons, and most recently, members of the armed services. Six months ago she was embedded with an army unit in northern Iraq.

Dr. Burke spends her summers in the Adirondacks and is currently documenting the everyday life of the once-flourishing mining village of Tahawus. Before joining the faculty at the University of California at Irvine, Professor Burke taught at Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins University, and the United States Naval Academy.

The broad story of mining in the Adirondacks is one of fortunes made and lost, of suicide, madness, and ambition, and the opening of one of America’s last frontiers. Mining shaped the physical and cultural landscape of the Adirondack Park for generations. The Adirondack Museum plans to open the completely revitalized exhibit “Mining in the Adirondacks” in 2012 to share this incredible history.

Photo: Adirondack Village, Near the Upper Works. From Benson J. Lossing’s The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea, 1859.