Tag Archives: Commerce

“IT WILL…ROLL ITS GREAT EYEBALLS!”

Last week’s look at the capitalist Horatio Adams leads to this week’s pique.  Among the many stockbroker’s receipts, enticements to buy land in Nebraska, an 8% Gold Bond for the Death Valley – Arcalvado Consolidated Mine Company, and stock in the Association Salt Company is a beautiful little booklet.

Yes, in January 1893, a friend of Horatio’s sent him a golden opportunity, a chance to invest in a Colossal Elephant to be built at the Chicago World’s Fair.  The patent holder J.V. Lafferty had already built two others: Lucy the Margate Elephant near Atlantic City, NJ, and the Elephantine Colossus in  Coney Island.  He and his partners hoped to raise enough money to build an even grander “work of art and mechanical genius.”

While Lucy stood a mere 44 feet tall and the Colossus stretched to 100, the proposed Chicago model would take on “a more elaborate scale…200 feet to the top of ‘Howdah’ or observatory, from which a grand view can be had for miles.”

Better yet, “beyond the increase in size over any yet attempted, and also of great importance and attractiveness, is the fact that when this Elephant is finished, IT WILL RAISE ITS TRUNK PERPENDICULARLY, ROLL ITS GREAT EYEBALLS, FLAP ITS EARS AND WAG ITS TAIL as naturally as a live elephant.”  A “monstrous Electric Calliope Organ in his throat” would add sound.

After some discussion of the profit potential in soda fountains and “segar” stands, the prospectus notes that “the Elephant and plant will be insured against fire,” a good plan as the Coney Island Colossus would be destroyed by fire just a few years later.

As tempting an opportunity as the eye-rolling, ear-flapping Colossal Elephant represented, Horatio was not swayed. And it seems he was not alone in turning down the investment: searching through books and photographs and postcards and stereoviews related to the Fair yields not a single clue that the Colossal Elephant was ever built.

Kingston Capitalist

On the 1900 Federal Census, as on others before, each head of household was asked to give his (or more rarely, her) occupation. Along Summer Street, these included dry goods merchant, station agent for the railroad, boarding house keeper, stone cutter and teacher, until the census taker came to Horatio Adams, who declared “Capitalist.”

Here is the Capitalist at his desk.

Horatio Adams at his desk, no date
Horatio Adams at his desk, no date

And the tools the capitalist used to manage his labors?  The book atop the glass case reads “Neapolitan Ice Cream” probably a business directory of some sort, and inside the case, “A Fragment of Plymouth Rock” with a certificate attesting to its authenticity.  There’s a telephone and an electric lamp, a fountain pen and a blotter.  There are law books piled and documents filed in pigeon holes.  There’s also a picture on Horatio’s desk of someone sitting at a desk which looks at lot like this one.

Horatio Adams in his Boston office, no date
Horatio Adams in his Boston office, no date

The second photo seems earlier: there’s no phone or electric lamp, though the desk looks the same.

Horatio Adams, according to his obituary, worked in the Boston Office of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, then moved to New York with the company for a year.  He returned to Boston to work for Frank Hay, “an expert accountant,” and was employed by the firm of John A. Burnham and Sons for many years.

His connection with the Old Colony Railroad and its various 19th century incarnations began early. He was born on the day the first train passed through Kingston, November 8, 1845 and except for his year in New York, took the train to Boston every day until his death on April 7, 1911.  His obituary noted that he was the oldest commuter in and out of Boston.

Horatio is also closely connected to the Kingston Library. His portrait hangs in the Local History Room and photos of him appear in numerous collections.  He and his mother Lydia (Mrs. George T.) Adams donated land upon which the Town built KPL’s predecessor, the Frederic C. Adams Library, funded by the will of Horatio’s uncle.  Horatio served as a Trustee for Adams Library for some time.

Returning to Horatio’s capitalist ways, stock certificates and investment prospectuses in LHR collections show his interest in all kinds of ventures, including the development of Fort Payne, Alabama and office buildings in the Mid-west.  Perhaps the most interesting is the booklet prospectus for the Colossal Elephant.  Stay tuned for that.

 

 

Sources: Two obituaries, dated April 7 and April 15, 1911, from an unknown newspaper in the Obituary Notebook in the LHR

Bills, Bills, Bills!

January is not only cold and snowy, but usually swamped with bills from the previous month’s holiday extravagances. For example, in December of 1893, the Town of Kingston spent $2.50 at John C. Dawe’s establishment.  Eschewing groceries and grains, bypassing sails and spars, avoiding coffee and varnish, the Town settled on a single item: a new feather duster for the hearse house.

Stop by the Library to see a selection of Kingston bills in the exhibit case.

"Feather Duster for Hearse House," 1893
"Feather Duster for Hearse House," 1893

A little walk on Summer Street

WARNING: For the historical thought experiment that follows, imagine there’s no traffic on Route 3A/Summer Street. Yes, it’s not easy, and if you can’t persuade yourself, please DON’T stand in the middle of the street! You have been warned!

Summer Street, no date
Summer Street, no date

Stand in the middle of Summer Street just south of Evergreen and face north to recreate this view.  Competing merchants Myrick’s (the whole building since picked up and moved around the corner onto Evergreen) and Burges & Keith are to the left, the railroad crossing a directly ahead, and the Post Office block to the right.  The hydrants on the sidewalk give one clue to the date: no earlier than 1887, when the water pipes were laid.

Watch out there’s a buggy coming!

Summer Street looking toward Green, circa 1887
Summer Street looking toward Green, circa 1887

Step aside for the buggy, turn around 180 degrees and look up the hill toward Green Street for this view.  The stairs up to Myrick’s can just  be seen at right, although the post and rail are different than in the preceding image. The water pipes ready to be installed on both sides of the street provide the date.

Summer Street at Green Street, no date
Summer Street at Green Street, no date

Ignore the caption — you’re still on Summer Street — and walk up the hill  past Green. Turn around again. A little closer to the sidewalk, that’s right.  A corner of the Kingston Inn (now the site of the Library) can be seen at left and the columns of the Frederic C. Adams Library at right.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sketch of Pigrim Thanksgiving for Plimouth Plantation, n.d.
Sketch of Pilgrim Thanksgiving for Plimouth Plantation, n.d.

Last year, a great color postcard really captured the festivities of the holiday, and the year before, a little dance card prompted a step into the many varieties of the quadrille.  This year, Helen Foster provides a look back at Thanksgiving in Kingston history.  Above, a preliminary sketch she drew for a publication by the Plimouth Plantation shows the hardy First Comers at dinner outside (OUTSIDE?).  And below, something she designed that is both timely and useful in solving any gravy problems that might arise.

Ad for Quick-made Brown Gravy Powder, n.d.
Ad for Quick-made Brown Gravy Powder, n.d.

What other colors could they have possibly made?

For medicinal purposes and no other

Seth Drew Liquor Agent appointment, 1856
Seth Drew Liquor Agent appointment, 1856

To Mr. Seth Drew

In accordance with the provisions of the statues of 1855 Chap. 215 you are hereby appointed an Agent of the Town of Kingston to purchase Spiritous or Intoxicating liquors and sell the same at your residence to the inhabitants of said town to be used in the Arts or for Medicinal chemical and Mechanical purposes and no other.

And in the performance of the duties of said Agency you are to conform in All respects to the provisions of the statute aforesaid.

Alden S. Bradford, James Foster, Selectmen of Kingston

May 21, 1856

A true Copy Attest, Nathan Brooks Town Clerk of Kingston.

Cushman’s Store – Outside and In

George E. Cushman's Store, circa 1900
George E. Cushman's Store, circa 1900

The house at 196 Main Street, partially visible on the left in the photo above, stands on land purchased in 1785 by David Beal, and was probably built around then.  The store wing was added in 1794.  Beal’s son, David Jr., then his son-in-law Horace Collamore ran the store until Henry Hunt and his son-in-law Azel Sampson bought the store and house.  George E. Cushman started as Sampson’s assistant but eventually took over. He ran the store in this annex until it was demolished by Mrs. Sampson in 1902. Cushman’s horse-drawn delivery wagons were featured in an earlier post.

Here’s the inside, and a word or two from Emily Drew:

Hat shop in the Old Country Store, circa 1900
Hat shop in the Old Country Store, circa 1900

[The lantern slide above] shows the “hat shop”, medicine drawers, “office” niche and way into the Sampson house where shoes were on sale. A door opened from this (south) end of the main store into the shoe store, the north front rooms of Mrs. Sampson’s house.

Proprietor and clerks at the Old Country Store, circa 1900
Proprietor and clerks at the Old Country Store, circa 1900

Perhaps more varied in goods offered for sale in country stores but typical of the sort of store, the forerunner of our modern department stores.  Shown left to right: George E. Cushman, owner and proprietor; in background, Ezra S. Wright, clerk; on settee John Mange, helper and store-boy, who lived at #39 [Main St.]. Between Mr. Cushman and Mr. Wright is the Post-office with its boxes into which mail for the neighborhood was distributed. When the government office was moved to Stony Brook, Mr. Cushman, at the request of the neighborhood, maintained a branch office.

Sources: Emily Drew’s card file; Major Bradford’s Town by Doris Johnson Melville (Town of Kingston: 1976).