Big Year, Classroom Tool, Story of a Man

T-Square, Ames, UFA, Utica Free Academy, 2014, Utica NY


Object: T-Square
Description: T-square, bears the name, “DAVID H. AMES” “UFA Room 43” “Class of 1914”.  Used in drafting and/or mechanical drawing classes.  Made of wood.
Date: 1914
Height: 9 ½”
Width: 25 ½”

In 1914, the year of Utica’s Old Home Week (whose souvenirs included a commemorative pitcher and a book with a picture of Utica’s oldest frame house, both now famous due to this very blog), David H. Ames graduated from the Utica Free Academy.  A proud institution from Utica’s past, histories of the school are available here or at the Utica Free Academy alumni website here.  Since the Utica Academy was incorporated on March 28, 1814, this year (2014) marks the bicentennial anniversary of the institution!

T-Square, Ames, UFA, Utica Free Academy, 2014, Utica NY

The T-Square of David H. Ames

David Ames’, Class of ’14, T-Square is in the artifact collection of the Oneida County Historical Society.  The wooden tool has David’s name written on it on both sides.  One side also lists Room 43 and U. F. A. ’14, which was probably added later.

T-Square, Ames, UFA, Utica Free Academy, 2014, Utica NY

*1914*, that is

On June 22, 1896, Utica residents David H. and Anna Bucher Ames welcomed their new son, David H. Ames, Jr. into the world.

David H Ames, 1898, Winter, Snow, Dog, Faxton Hospital, Utica NY

A Seasonal Picture
David, around 2 years old
in front of the old Faxton Hospital Building

In the years after his UFA days, Ames attended Cornell University and the Morrisville School of Agriculture and served in the Medical Corps in World War I.  Ames joyfully wedded Aileen Spitzli on June 30, 1926 and worked for many years in the insurance and real estate business.  (Clinton Courier, February 1951)

Researching a big year for Utica uncovered a classroom tool, which helped unfold the story of a man.  Finding these connections is why i love doing local history.   🙂


Utica Free Academy, UFA, Academician, Utica NY, David H. Ames

“Pride, of all others, is the most dangerous fault.” – David Ames’ favorite quotation, as recorded in his Junior year yearbook, the 1914 Academician. A wise young man.
(image from The Academician 1915 and 1915 1/2)

**Come see this T-square on exhibit Summer 2014**

The Latchstring is Out

Old Home Week, Utica NY, 1914, Fred J. Harding


Object: Pitcher – Commemorative
Description: Ceramic pitcher, white with blue transfer-printed seal of the City of Utica and wording, “Old Home Week 1914” and “compliments of Fred J. Harding,” Hand-painted blue stripe around top and on handle.
Date: 1914
Height: 3 ¾”
Diameter: 3 7/8” 

Old Home Week, Utica NY, 1914

“Thrice welcome to Utica”

“Welcome, sons and daughters of Utica, to your Old Home Town!
“Thrice welcome to Utica, whose arms are opened to you in greeting, in friendship, in appreciation and in pride…
“Like a fond mother welcoming home her wandering son, she salutes you.  The city is yours.  The gates are open.  The latchstring is out.
“May your stay with us be pleasant and may this Old Home Week celebration shed upon your future the benison of kindly thoughts and of tender recollections!
“Again, welcome to Utica!!”  (Old Home Week Souvenir, Thomas J. Griffiths, Utica, NY, 1914 p. 2)

Steuben, Baron von Steuben, Parkway, Memorial Parkway, Old Home Week, 1914

Remember him?
We have his sword.

During Old Home Week, August 3-8, 1914, Utica welcomed home Utica natives whose lives had led them away and celebrated the city’s prosperity through a week of festivities.  Starting on Monday with the unveiling of the Parkway statue of Baron von Steuben  and a German celebration, the week also included attendance by Governor Glynn and an historical pageant on the Parkway (Utica for a Century and a Half, p. 104-105).

Old Home Week, Utica NY, 1914, Fred J. Harding

In his Old Home Week ad, Harding reminds Uticans that he was born here and never left.
Utica Observer, July 8, 1914.

The Old Home Week pitcher is a souvenir from the 1914 event.  Fred J. Harding, who provided the pitchers, was a wholesale and retail liquor dealer located at 211-213 Columbia.  When he was married in 1910, he was described as a “prominent young business man and acting proprietor of an extensive liquor business.”  Perhaps his commemorative pitcher marketing scheme worked out for him – he later opened a grocery store on Genesee St., a well known restaurant, and a sandwich shop in the Y.M.C.A. building!  (Rome Daily Sentinel, July 9, 1934)


Old Home Week, Utica NY, 1914, Fred J. Harding

50¢ Full Quart. Those were the days.
Utica Observer, 1908

**Come see this commemorative pitcher on exhibit Summer 2014**

Block of Wood


block of wood, wood, Whitesboro St, Old Home Week, Utica NY


Object: Block, Framing
Description: Block of wood allegedly from Utica’s first frame house in rear of 129 Whitesboro St., built by John Bellinger, Sr. in 1788, as seen in Souvenir Book of Old Home Week, Aug. 3-10, 1914.
Date: 1788
Height: 1.575″
Width: 1.772″
Length: 5.118
Weight: 0.25 lbs

Having been around for over a century of change, the Oneida County Historical Society has accumulated an assortment of parts from dismantled buildings.  We have several collections-room shelves holding bricks, stones, ornaments, and business signs.

We only have one “block of wood,” and it is allegedly from Utica’s first frame house.  The paper accompanying the block reads:

block of wood, wood, Whitesboro St, Old Home Week, Utica NY

paper accompanying the block

“Wood from Utica’s first frame house in rear of 129 Whitesboro St. was built by John Bellinger Sr. in 1788 as seen in Souvenir book of old home week Aug 3-13-1914.  book at Utica Public Library.”

129 Whitesboro St., Utica NY, Block of wood

we know it’s wooden because it’s colored yellow

A Review of the Utica Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show a wooden building at the back of the 129 Whitesboro St. property in 1888.

Between 1934 and 1950, this building was torn down.  For more information about John Bellinger Sr., click here.

Wood block, Old Home Week, John Bellinger Sr., Utica NY

“This relic of the village of Utica, the first frame building to be erected on the site of the present city, still stands back from the south-east corner of Whitesboro and Washington streets, hidden from the view of passers-by by buildings erected in front of it.”
(Old Home Week Souvenir, Utica, NY 1914)

Utica celebrated Old Home Week, mentioned above, from August 3rd through August 10, 1914.  This year, 2014, marks the centennial of this festival that welcomed back all Uticans whose lives had led them away from their native city.  We will be exploring more Old Home Week artifacts in the coming blogposts, in anticipation of an exhibit opening Summer 2014!


**Come see this “block of wood” on exhibit Summer 2014**

The Money on the Wall

Fraser's Department Store, Fire, Utica NY, May 10 1905

money on the wall
c. 1905

Object: William Fraser Store Collection
Description: Collection of photographs, newspaper articles, and memorabilia from Fraser’s Store
Date: 1905, 1880-1939

At the Oneida County Historical Society, you can find something new (well, it’s all old, so I guess “new-to-you” is more appropriate) around every corner!  While working in the reading room, in the corner by the pamphlet collection and the start of the bookshelves, I noticed money on the wall. 

I had wondered about it before, so I decided it was time to find out the story behind the money.  Where did it come from, what happened to it, and why it is on the wall.

The money, two charred one dollar bill$, is a souvenir from the fire of Robert Fraser’s Store on Wednesday, May 10th, 1905.

Fraser's Department Store, Fire, Utica NY, May 10 1905

burst of smoke and flame in the upper part of the department store of Robert Fraser, on Genesee street, which caused a loss approximating $500,000, and threw 200 persons out of work.
(Utica Saturday Globe, May 13, 1905)

Fraser's Department Store, Fire, Utica NY, May 10 1905

Robert Fraser’s Departmet Store Fire, view from the South


Fraser's Department Store, Fire, Utica NY, May 10 1905

Rear of Fraser Department Store building
Fire of May 10, 1905

Fraser's Department Store, Fire, Utica NY, May 10 1905

Robert Fraser Department Store Fire
notice the John A. Roberts & Co. Store, before it moved to its new building

Fraser's Department Store, Fire, Utica NY, May 10 1905

After the fire

Fraser's Department Store, Fire, Utica NY, May 10 1905

Interior, Buckingham & Moak, Piano Dealers

The fire nearly demolished Fraser’s Department store and did considerable damage to the adjacent stores, including Buckingham & Moak, Piano Dealers, with Mansbach’s Millinery Store on the first floor.

From 1880 through 1939, Fraser’s Department store was located in the six story building at 173-181 Genesee St. in Utica (not too far from the store that sold our whiskey bottle).  Woolworth’s department store opened in the building in 1940.  For more information about Fraser’s Department store and the man who built it, click here.


Ist das nicht eine Schnitzelbank?

Shave Horse, shaving horse, schnitzelbank, cooper, eagle brewing company, Utica NY


Object: Horse, Shaving
Description: “Schnitzelbank”, more commonly known as “shaving horse,”   used at the Eagle Brewery for shaving barrel staves.  All wood constructions except for metal clamp-block and few bolts.
Date: c. 1890
Length: 72”
Width:  14.5”
Weight: HEAVY

Breweries, Utica, Eagle Brewing Company

When building a city, it’s best to have at least 3 breweries to every 4 city blocks.
(Atlas of the City of Utica,
D.L. Miller & Co., 1896)

In April, 1889, the Eagle Brewery opened on the corner of Third St. and Jay St, a “Mammoth and Well Equipped Manufactory of Lager Beer”:

“September 14, 1888, the ground was broken for the immense building of the Eagle Brewing Company at the juncture of Jay and Third Streets; today the complete structure ranks among the best equipped lager beer breweries in the State, and is well worth visiting…

Eagle Brewing Company

“The building is a valuable acquisition to the architectural structures of the city. It is conspicuously located, and the eagle adorning its handsome tower can be seen far away…”

“The stockholders and officers seem to have secured what they started out to build – a model brewery.  Only the best procurable apparatus has been purchased, and there appears no difficulty in the way of brewing a good beer in the Eagle Brewery as at any place in the world.  With the latest improved machinery, pure malt, good hops and the best of water there is no reason why the product of Utica should not stand side by side with the finest beverages brewed in Milwaukee, Cincinnati or Rochester.”  (“A Look at One of Utica’s Leading Enterprises,” Utica Daily Observer, April 18, 1889)

Eagle Brewing Company, Utica City Directory

Cover spread for the newly fashionable Eagle Brewing Company
(Utica City Directory)

Just over two months later, the product was ready and Eagle Brewing Company president John Quinn tapped the first barrel; “In the afternoon a second barrel [was] opened at the ball grounds.” (Utica Daily Observer, June 21, 1889.)

Barrels?  That’s right, the beer was stored in barrels made on-site.  A barrel-maker, or “cooper” used a shaving horse to shave barrel staves (How does it work?  Click here).  In 1889, John Brodt, the Eagle Brewing Company cooper who may have used this shave horse, was injured when a pile of barrels fell on him, dislocating his ankle, breaking his leg, and severely bruising him!

~ Jeana

But wait, there’s more!  The German word for “shaving horse” is “Schnitzelbank,” which is also the name of a children’s song and long-standing drinking tradition – adding color to an otherwise ordinary tool and completing the circle.  The cooper uses the shave horse to make the barrels that hold the beer that the people drink to get into the right state of mind to joyfully sing a rousing rendition of “Schnitzelbank!”  (For more history on Schnitzelbank traditions, click here and here.)

The Schnitzelbank tradition live:

The Animaniacs do it better?

Schnitzelbank Poster

Botany and Wallpaper

wall paper, Dr. Asa Gray, Asa Gray, Botanist, hand printed wall paper


Object: Wallpaper
Description: Wallpaper sample from the house of Moses and Roxana Howard Gray.  Black, pink, green, and white print of pastoral scene with leaves, flowers, girl and horse.  Framed with a cardboard frame and glass enclosure, provenance written on the back
Date: 1824
Height: 11.5”
Width: 20”
Weight: 3.5 lbs

Sometimes these blogs take hours of research.

And, sometimes – rarely – the object tells the entire story for me, written by Miss Alice A. Gray when she donated the wallpaper sample in 1926:

“Paper on the wall of the parlor of Grandfather Moses Gray and grandmother Roxana Howard Gray in 1825.  The house was on the hillside, second house above the corner leading to the cemetery (Capt. Z. P. Townsend’s house on corner.) called later “The Cobb Place.”  The paper was on the wall till after Cousin George Cobb’s death, in the year 1869, when the house was sold.  My impression is there were baskets of flowers or fruit alternating with the design on this piece.  Take notice that paper in early days was made not in rolls but in square pieces on sheets & joined across the width, as well as lengthwise.  [Watch this video on how early 19th century wall paper was made: click here]

“The house from the walls of which the paper came, was the boyhood home of Dr. Asa Gray [For his bio, click here or here], Botanist of Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass, from his 14th year until after he ‘attained his majority’ he says in the autobiography – i.e. from 1824 to 1835.  In the latter year they moved to the Moses Gray Homestead in the village of Sauquoit.  The farm was owned by Moses Gray for twelve years or so after 1835, and called “The Other Place.”

“1824 Wall paper date.

“Given to the Oneida Historical Society, Utica, New York, by Miss Alice A. Gray, October 1926.”

wall paper, Dr. Asa Gray, Alice Gray

Still need a New Year’s Resolution? Identify your pictures à la Alice Gray,
so 100 years from now, your grandchildren can pass on your stories.

Thank you, Miss Gray.


Dr. Asa Gray, Botanist, Harvard, Wall Paper

Harvard may have Dr. Asa Gray’s work, documents, and photographs
…but we have his wallpaper.

Genesee Street, Utica NY, John A. Roberts & Co.

Genesee Street, looking North, N.Y., c. 1911
(Oneida County Historical Society Archives)

John A. Roberts & Co., mirror


Object: Mirror
Description: Small hand Mirror with  John A. Roberts & Co., Utica, 1911 on back
Date: 1911
Height: 3.5”
Width: 2”

The last post left me with a big unanswered question:  What happened to the Butterfield House?  I noticed in the pictures that the building’s appearance changed over the years, but it appeared to keep the same footprint.

Butterfield House, Genesee St, John A. Roberts & Co.

Genesee Street, Looking North,
Utica, New York, c. 1930s
(Oneida County Historical Society Archives)

Was it significant exterior renovations?  By lucky happenstance, I came across a picture of the building by Grace Church with the label, “John A. Roberts & Co.”  That name quickly yielded the following search result:

“The Butterfield House, Utica, which
has been one of the prominent hostelries
of Central New York since the Civil War,
is to be closed May 1, 1910 and a five
story steel construction department store
to house the business of John A. Roberts
& Co., is to be erected on the site.” (“About the State: Brief News Paragraphs From All Parts of the Empire State,”  Homer Republican, Thursday, May 6, 1909, p 6.)

John A. Roberts & Co., Utica NY

Outside of New York City – The Greatest Department Store in the State
(Ad, The Syracuse Herald, Monday Evening, September 25, 1911, p 7.,

John A. Roberts & Co. did open at their new location in 1911, complete with a tea room and anything one might want to buy: collars, jabots and tabs, silk and spangled scarfs, ribbons, aprons, wall papers, gloves, men’s solid silk neckwear, women’s pure thread silk hosiery, umbrellas, drapery, cedar chests, odd decorative pieces for the home, kitchen cabinets, mission rockers, sewing machines, Armenian lace handkerchiefs, sterling silver bracelets, house coats, lace curtains, couch covers, velvet hats, dress trimmings, laces, etc.

John A. Roberts & Co., 1911, tea room

Tea Room 5th Floor,
Service for Gentlemen and Ladies-
is a delightful place to take Lunch or Dinner
Oneida County Historical Society Archives

The Oneida County Historical Society has several items related to John A. Roberts & Co. in our collection.  According to the accession paperwork for the mirror, “the John A. Roberts Co. of Utica was a delightful department store, and every year prior to Christmas they gave away a souvenir to their customers.  1911 was the year that the little pocket mirror was distributed.  We have a few of the other give away items and this is a nice addition to that collection.”


John A. Roberts & Co., Utica NY

Remember this for next Christmas: “Umbrellas as Christmas Gifts: A Most Appropriate, Useful and Acceptable Gift for Men, Women and Children.”
(Ad, The Syracuse Herald, Sunday Morning, December 17, 1911, p D-11.)

The Store of a Thousand Wonders

The Mysteries of the Mug

Butterfield, Butterfield House, E.V. Haughwout, New York City


Object: mug
Description: Silver-plate mug, engraved on body, “Butterfield House,” stamped on bottom, “E.V. HAUGHWOUT/ NEW YORK.”
Height: 3 ¾”
Diameter: 3 9/16”
Weight: 0.75 lbs

What does a historical object tell us?

Butterfield House, Butterfield, E.V. Haughwout

Not-so-mysterious-looking Mug

Let’s look at this mug. It is a silvery color, but the rim, the band toward the bottom, the stamped writing, and parts of the handle are golden.  While it’s possible that some was meant as decoration, the gold color on the handle is more likely a sign of wear.  This mug was silver-plated (a process that made it look like a silver mug, but cost significantly less); However, after too much cleaning or wear, the silver plate is partially rubbed off!

E.V. Haughwout, New York City, Butterfield House, Mug

Maker’s Mark

What other clues does the mug offer?  A stamp on the bottom reads, “E.V. Haughwout/New York,” which suggests the mug was made by the E.V. Haughwout company in New York City, seller of upscale items such as china, crystal, and silver.  Built to match the loveliness of the items for sale inside, the E. V. Haughwout & Company was the first building with a safe passenger elevator and also holds the distinction of being one of New York City’s architecturally most important cast-iron buildings.  To see images of the building, click here.  Our little mug originated in the same building where Mary Todd Lincoln shopped for her White House service.  (For more information, click here .)

Butterfield House, E.V. Haughwout, New York City, mug

In Elegant Script, Butterfield House

Why was this fancy New York City mug in Utica?  For this answer, we can look at the other stamp on the mug,  in fancy script opposite the handle, “Butterfield House.”  John Butterfield built Utica’s largest hotel, the Butterfield House, which opened in 1869 on the corner of Genesee St. and Deveruex St.  The elegant hotel hosted many important people as they passed through Utica, including a reception for President Cleveland in 1887.  It is fitting that a fancy hotel would have nice New York City silver (or silver-plated) mugs.  Read more about the Butterfield House here and see another picture here.

One more dot to connect – and one thing that this mug can’t tell us.  How did it get from the Butterfield House to the Oneida County Historical Society?  In 1985, Mrs. Martha Patrick Huxley, a former Utica resident, art teacher, and artist, left the mug to the Society in her will.  Where Mrs. Huxley got the mug from is a mystery left to further research!

Martha P. Huxley, Will, Butterfield House, Mug, E.V. Haughwout

excerpt from Mrs. Huxley’s will, 1985


Butterfield House, Butterfield Hotel, Utica NY, Utica

Utica’s “it” place for the well-to-do, a mere 140 years ago