Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vice President Sherman, via Utica, NY

The greatest excitement of the decade (1900's) was aroused on June 19, 1908, when word came from Cleveland that James S. Sherman had been nominated for the vice-presidency of the United States by the Republican National Convention. Great preperations were made to give the city's favorite son a royal reception on his return, a reception which was delayed for two weeks as the nominee was ill in the convention city. He did, however, return on July 2, was greeted by great crowds at the station, paraded through Genesee Street and forced to listen to eulogies by Mayor Thomas Wheeler, Hon. John D. Kernan and Charles Searles.

On August 18, he was formally notified of his nomination, on a platform erected on the lawn in front of his home by a delegation headed by Hon. J. C. Burrows, and another great celebration was held on this occasion. At the notification meeting, presided over by Charles S. Symonds, the speakers were Mayor Wheeler, Secretary of State Elihu Root, and President Stryker of Hamilton College. Hon. Sereno Payne presented Mr. Sherman with a loving cup on behalf of his fellow members of Congress.

On November 3, the popularity of the candidate caused every Republican candidate in the city and county, except one, who was running for a third term in the Assembly, to be elected. Republican enthusiasm knew no bounds.

When the day came for the inauguration, both the Conkling Unconditionals and the Sherman Scouts went to Washington by special trains to do honor to Mr. Sherman in the parade.

***In January of that same year, the City of Utica went under the Second Class Cities Charter, commonly known as the White Charter. This caused many changes in the government of the city, such as the instillation of a Board of Estimate with a contoller, and combining the police, fire and health bureaus under a Commissioner of Public Safety, doing away with police and fire commissioners and a board of health.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Saturday Globe

In 1881, a newspaper was founded in Utica which was destined to carry the name of the city to every section of the United States and Canada. This was the Utica Saturday Globe, which began its remarkable career as a small weekly started by William T. and Thomas F. Baker in two rooms on Bleeker Street. The first edition of two thousand copies was printed by Curtis and Childs. The next year the paper moved to Charlotte Street and installed its own presses.

The Saturday Globe was the first illustrated newspaper in the United States and, under the able editorship of A. M. Dickinson, it grew with extraordinary speed. In 1885, the Globe erected its own building on Whitesboro Street; in 1887, this building was doubled in size and in 1892 redoubled. In 1886, the Globe changed its type of illustration from woodcuts to zine etchings, and in 1892 to halftone etchings. Four years later, it installed a rotary press for halftones, the first of its kind in the world.

Following a sensational murder case, of which it procured excellent photographs, the paper published its first local edition in Little Falls. This policy proved so successful that by 1893 the Utica Saturday Globe published in Utica thirty-three editions, each to be sold in its own section of the country from Maine to California, and each containing local news of its own section. By that time it had a circulation of 180,000 copies each week. Although it was a weekly paper, its presses worked six days a week. For several years its circulation was over 200,000 copies, the largest edition being 294,000.

As other newspapers increased the use of pictures, the demand for the Utica Saturday Globe decreased. In 1920, it was sold to Globe-Telegram Company, which was founded to publish a new daily paper in Utica. This, however, was not a success and on February 16, 1924, the Utica Saturday Globe published its last issue.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

County Courthouse: Is history repeating itself?

With the recent announcment of the $40 million courthouse renovation - a much needed improvement - I must remind citizens of the not so pretty history of this building.

At a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce on February 20, 1900, on motion of Hon. Henry J. Cookinham, a committee was appointed "to inquire into the advisability of repairing the old courthouse or building a new one." The committee decided in favor of a new courthouse, and recommended it at a joint meeting of the County Supervisors (now Legislators) and the Chamber of Commerce, held August 7, 1900. The Supervisors agreed to the proposal and presented a bill to the State Legislature authorizing the appointment of a Courthouse Commission to carry on the work. After this bill passed the Legislature, a commission was appointed on February 8, 1901 and, on March 30, was organized under the chairmanship of Henry W. Bentley of Boonville. After much discussion as to a site for the building, the block bounded by Elizabeth, Mary, and Charlotte Streets was selected on May 13, 1901.

The work of the Commission was much delayed by the Board of Supervisors refusing to issue the necessary bonds. However, after Supreme Court Justice Andrews issued on December 22, 1901, a mandamus ordering them to do so, the Supervisors bowed to the demands of the Court and on March 20, 1902 issued bonds to the extent of $750,000. On February 14, 1903, the Commission accepted the plans and called for bids for the construction of the building. Delay after delay followed but finally, in June 1905, the contract was awarded to Connors Brothers of Lowell, Massachusetts, for $730,000 and work was begun.

Before the building was completed and equipped, a further bond issue was required, involving further delay. It was, however, finished and officially declared completed, November 20, 1909. The Commission held its last meeting, January 10, 1910, announced that the total cost had been $923, 589.92, and returned to the County the sum of $778.08 of unexpended funds.

In the meantime, however, rumors of irregular financial transactions proved to be so well founded that shortly afterward there ensued indictment, trial, and conviction of two supervisors (who were respectively the chairmen of both the Republican and Democratic County Committees), the sheriff of Oneida County, and two merchants who had sold goods to the County and, at the suggestion of the officials had falsified their accounts. All were found guilty. The supervisors and the sheriff served terms in the penitentiary, and the merchants paid heavy fines.

Something to think about.

The Saturday Globe

As requested, I am putting together a post about the Saturday Globe. It should be ready shortly.

While on the subject of newspapers, I thought it would be interesting to point out that the Associated Press (AP) was started in Utica.

Shortly after the completion of the telegraph line (the first commercial telegraph company in the world, located in the Dudley building on the corner of Genesee and Whitesboro Streets), Theodore Faxton called a meeting of New York state newspaper editors in Utica and suggested to them that they form an organization to make use of the telegraph to transmit news to the different papers. The suggestion was accepted, and the Associated Press was organized at this meeting in Utica.

While I'm working on the Saturday Globe story, I have an interesting read about the construction of the Oneida County Courthouse coming up.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

1817: The Utica Observer

In 1817, a newspaper was started in Utica which continues in the present day: the Utica Observer. Starting as a small weekly newspaper, the Observer was owned and edited by Eliasaph Dorchester, and was published in a little room over 16 Whitesboro Street. A couple of years later it was moved to Rome and became the Oneida Observer. Soon, however, the paper returned to Utica, acquiring its own small office on Franklin Lane. After a few years, Mr. Dorchester became Oneida County Clerk and turned his paper over to one of his printers, Augustus G. Dauby, who conducted it for many years. In 1826, he took Eli Maynard into partnership. Three years later, when Mr. Dauby was appointed postmaster by President Jackson, Mr. Maynard took immediate charge of the paperalthough Mr. Dauby continued to supurvise its policies. In 1834, the Observer became a daily paper. John P. Bush, John F. Kettle, and Arthur M. Beardsley followed as editors in quick succession.

In 1852, the paper merged with the Utica Democrat, of which Dewitt C. Grove was owner, retaining the name of the Observer. E. Prentiss Bailey became a partner of Mr. Grove and John B. Miller, the editor. Later, Mr. Grove took over the editorship, to be followed still later by Mr. Bailey, who remained proprietor and editor of the Observer until his death in 1913, attaining a reputation as one of the most distinguished journalists in New York State. After Mr. Bailey's death, William W. Canfield assumed the editorship.

For many years, until March 1, 1884, the paper was published at 113 Genesee Street. On that date, it was burned out in a fire which consumed the entire block. Until a new building could be erected on Franklin Street, on property now included in the Federal Building site, the Observer was edited and printed in the offices of the other Utica papers. On November 4, 1884, the paper was first issued in its own building.

In 1912, the government decided to take over the Observer building in order to enlarge the Post Office. Accordingly, the Observer built a new building on the south side of Catherine Street, backing on the Erie Canal. This was occupied March 15, 1915. After the conversion of the Canal into Oriskany Street East, some of the unused Canal was purchased from the city and the building was extended to the Oriskany Plaza.

On May1, 1922, the Observer and the Herald-Dispatch were consolidated and the Utica Sunday Tribune added to the combination. From then on, the paper was known as the Observer-Dispatch. The Herald-Dispatch had been the outcome of a merger of the Utica Morning Herald, which had its origin in the old Whitesboro Gazette of 1797, and the Utica Dispatch, started in 1898, which two years later absorbed the Herald. This merger of the Observer and the Herald-Dispatch was engineered by Frank E. Gannett.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

1805: Second Charter, Larger Fire Department

In 1805, a second charter was issued to the village of Utica, greatly enlarging its boundaries but keeping it still in the township of Whitestown. Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, Jr. was elected president.

The fire department, provided for in the first charter of 1798, was greatly enlarged by the new charter of 1805. The trustees of the village appointed twenty-five firemen. To be appointed a member of the fire departement was a mark of distinguished honor which every able-bodied citizen desired. Firemen were exempted from military training.

In case of a fire, however, every citizen was expected to do his part. Each residence was required to be supplied with leather fire buckets, one for each fireplace or stove in the house. These must always be hung near the front door. When the watchmen discovered a fire, the bell in the Presbyterian Church was to be rung. First the firement, then all other citizens were to be awakened. Everybody was to go immediately to the fire carrying their buckets. Since there were no street lights, if the fire occurred at night, a lighted candle was placed in one front window of each house to enable the firemen and citizens to find their way in the dark. On reaching the fire, the citizens formed bucket lines to the pump or the river, the women and children passing the empty buckets and the men returning the full ones. In 1805, one hand-pump was purchased. The officers of this first company were Gordon Burchard, captain, John Hooker, first lieutenant, and Moses Bagg, Jr., second lieutenant; E. B. Sherman was the clerk.

As the village grew, more fire companies were formed and more engines purchased. These companies soon became the most important social institutions in the village. The Firemen's Ball was the most important society event of the year.

Instead of receiving a salary, each fireman had to pay dues of five dollars a year to his company. If these were not paid, the fireman's name was promptly dropped from the roster.

In 1864, the first horse-drawn steam fire engine was procured, and soon all the hand-pumpers were replaced by steam engines. In 1913, the first motorized fire engine was purchased, and by 1917 the entire department was motorized.

The Village of Utica, 1798

On April 3, 1798, Old Fort Schuyler was incorporated as a village. The inhabitants had met at Bagg's Tavern earlier in the year to discuss the incorporation and to select a name for the village. There was much debate on the subject, some wishing to retain the name of Old Fort Schuyler while others suggested such names as Scanandoah, Washington and Kent. As no decision could be reached, the selection of a name was left to chance. Each person was asked to write his preference on a bit of paper to be put in a hat, and the first name drawn out should be that of the new village. The first slip drawn from the hat bore the name Utica, written by Erastus Clark, a deep student of the classics. The agreement was adhered to and the bill of incorporation bore the name of Utica, the port of ancient Carthage. In that year, the village contained fifty houses. Talcott Camp was elected the first village president.