Feb 23, 2017

The Cars of 1914 in Schenectady, New York

I posted a blog entry recently that described my relationship with Frederick S. Mackintosh.  While researching that effort, I ran across a fascinating book, available through Google Books, called, "The Official Automobile Directory of the State of New York."  The specific issue that I used was dated 1914.  This little booklet, published by "J. R. Burton & Co., One Madison Avenue, New York," contained, according to its subtitle, a "list of permits issued, numerically arranged, with names and addresses of owners and make of cars."  The price of this gem was $2.00 in 1914.  This copy was property of the New York Public Library with Accession Number 558946 and was a gift of the "Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations."
In this 1914 image of downtown Schenectady, there are
very few cars to be seen.  Only about 100 autos
were registered in the city at that time.

In the front of the book is a "KEY, or EXPLANATION to ARRANGEMENT Of NUMBERS."  It explains, "
A consecutive arrangement of the license numbers has been attempted, but owing to the fact that licenses are issued from three different offices in the state it becomes necessary for the Automobile Bureau of the Secretary of State's Office to allot numbers to each office in advance of issue, in order to prevent duplication.  In the case of the Buffalo Office the allotment not being sufficient, series had to be adopted, thus we have the same number used several times, but in such cases, identification is established by a letter appearing before the number, thus, A101, B101, C101, or D101.

The Commercial cars are all grouped by themselves in the back of the book and are readily identified by the numbers from 1 to 25,000 with the letter "C" preceding.  Dealers' cars are designated by the letter "M" appearing before the number.  All privately owned or pleasure cars appear in the front of the book commencing with number one up to 65,999 being in Greater New York, beyond said number being up-State cars.  Where numbers are missing, it is due to no license having been issued to date up to date of going to press or same has been reserved
."  The listings begin on the very next page.

The first person to register a car in Greater New York, was Mr. Sylvan Levy, a resident of Brooklyn.  In fact, 9 of the first 10 cars registered in the metropolitan area were in Brooklyn, including Mr. Levy's Atlantic Automobile, a Stevens-Duryea, a Renault, a Benz, 2 Loziers, a Franklin, Hart, and Knox.  A second Renault was registered to a Mr. Oppenheimer of New York City.  Mr. Levy's car must not have been a very popular model, as I have been unable to uncover anything about an "Atlantic Automobile" until the 1920's.  His car must have been "orphaned" at a very young age.

By 1914, the Model T Ford was making substantial
inroads into the new car market, "putting America
on wheels!"
Right away you realize that one important piece of information is missing -- the model year of the car.  That would certainly make the information more insightful.  For example, we could determine when an individual (or company) replaced a vehicle by comparing data with previous year's listings.  You could also gain some insight into the longevity of various makes.

Of course, as soon as I became aware of this book, I wanted to learn more about the cars that existed in my home town, Schenectady, in 1914.  Here's some of the interesting information I uncovered:
  • The lowest-numbered registration in town (66020) was assigned to the Cadillac belonging to Dr. Henry A. Kurth, who lived about three blocks away on the same street I grew up on.
  • Of the roughly 100 automobiles registered in Schenectady in 1914, nearly 1/4 were on the street I grew up on -- Union Street.  This makes sense, since it was the primary residential axis of the growing city.
  • A neighbor who lived on the same block on which I was raised, Mr. Edwin W. Rice, Jr., had 4 cars registered in 1914 -- a Baker Electric, two Packards, and a Cadillac.  Times must have been good for Mr. Rice.  I cut grass for his widow when I was growing up.  They lived in a magnificent home that I recall as having an elevator.  He had died a few years before I was born, but was a president and considered one of the three fathers of General Electric (along with Elihu Thomson and Charles A. Coffin).
  • The City Fire Department registered an ALCO automobile, produced in Providence, but named for and manufactured by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) of Schenectady.
  • Mary Ellis, wife of the President of the American Locomotive Company, had her Packard registered (68683)
  • Irving Langmuir, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1932, drove an Overland (71386)
  • At least one car, a Ford, was owned by two individuals, George Kelder and Jacob Hicks, of 740 State Street.
  • Some of the owners names are familiar to me because of businesses or locations that their names were associated with: 
    • Henry A. Kerste -- Kerste's Drug Store -- owned a Haynes
    • James W. Yelverton -- Veeder & Yelverton Insurance -- drove a Packard
    • Alvin J. Quackenbush -- Quackenbush Road -- had a Columbia
    • Willis T. Hanson -- President of my father's bank -- owned a Cadillac
    • Louis Nicholaus -- Nicholaus' Restaurant -- drove a Pierce
    • Charles W. Carl -- The Carl Co. (Department store) -- drove an Abbott
    • Andrew W. Mynderse -- Mynderse Beverages -- owned a Knox
    • Joseph Rindfleisch -- Rindfleisch Cleaners -- had a Cadillac
    • Frank Vander Bogert -- Vander Bogert Insurance -- owned a Cadillac
    • Bernard Franken, who owned a Chalmers in 1914, went on to become our Studebaker dealer
    • And Harry Potter, who lived on VanVranken Avenue, drove a Packard!
By 1914, cars had passed the stage of being rich men's toys.  They had advanced to a level of reliability and utility that made them a desirable device that could be counted on to do a job.  The Model T Ford had been introduced in late 1908 and was having a dramatic effect on the affordability of a car.  There were dozens and dozens of brands but by the mid 1920s, that trend would reverse.

A 1918 Dodge identical to my father's first car
To put these facts in context, my father was born in 1894 and saw his first motorcar around 1900.  He had not yet bought his first car in 1914, since he was only 20 years old and was struggling through the University of Michigan.  He would buy his first car in 1920, after he returned from World War I service in France.  He purchased a used 1918 Dodge Brothers touring car.  He would go on to own a Cole, a very used Rolls Royce, several Fords and Chevrolets, and the 1953 Mercury that I learned to drive in.

This little booklet can undoubtedly tell a lot more stories than I have uncovered here...

Feb 15, 2017

Carroll Ishee

Shortly after I moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1972, I became aware of a local architect and builder named Carroll Ishee.  I had a co-worker at Ingalls Shipbuilding who lived in an Ishee-built home.  After serving in World War II and receiving the Silver Star for bravery while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Europe, Mr. Ishee had become an attorney.  After building a home for his wife and himself, he found that he had a real knack for design and construction.  That first house sold before the newlywed Ishees could move in, as did his second attempt, so he underwent a career change.  In a career that spanned only 26 years, he designed and built over 150 structures in the three coastal counties of Mississippi (Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson).  I was fortunate enough to have visited a half-dozen of his homes and met Mr. Ishee on more than one occasion.

I think the first Ishee-built house I saw belonged to Clayton "Clay" Coffey, my co-worker.  The house was characterized by several features:

  • The wallboard was segmented by raw, exposed wood structural elements so that the individual wall panels appeared as if they were "floating"
  • There were very few interior walls.  The bathrooms were enclosed, but not much else.
  • Interior ceilings were angular and vaulted
  • The house was built on a piece of property so steep that no contractor in his right mind would have attempted to build on it
  • All the finishes in the house were natural -- almost rustic
  • There were lots of quirky homemade items evident throughout -- custom made coat hooks, light fixtures, built-in furnishings, and door handles, for example
  • There was an abundance of indirect lighting
  • The exterior walls were dominated by glass; The house felt like it was outdoors.

There is a Web site called MS Mod that deals with all things modern in the state of Mississippi.  They did an article entitled "Call Me Ishee" that presented some details about Mr. Ishee's life that I was unaware of. "Carroll B. Ishee was born on July 23, 1921 in Hattiesburg, MS.  He was a lawyer, general contractor, and realtor who designed and built unabashedly modern homes and small commercial buildings on seemingly unapproachable sites along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  He had a love for nature and believed people needed to coexist with it not merely experience it from afar.

A typical Ishee interior, here shown in the Kris Byrd house
The motivation behind Ishee’s desire to build homes was the need he saw for improving the lack of quality in the houses he was trying to sell to his real estate clients.  He began his pursuit to build high quality homes in 1956 with the purchase of a lot in the Gulf Hills neighborhood in Ocean Springs, MS.  Ishee went on to build approximately 150 custom homes along the Gulf Coast in what can only be described as a remarkable pace of construction considering he started building in 1956 at the age of 35 and died in 1982 at the age of 61 — 26 years.

He drove an old white pickup truck, stored his building supplies which he would often buy out of old buildings on their way to renovation or demolition in a large warehouse near the railroad tracks in Ocean Springs, MS, and was a just a “lanky dude with some kind of persuasive manner”.  He would use his manner of persuasion to attract building clients, often at some public place like a grocery store, to go with him on a journey to build his view of what the client’s home should become.  We state “his view” because he very rarely took design advice from clients.  He was driven to create his opinion of what a great home should be and all he asked for from a client was a building program that listed the number and types of rooms a client wanted in their home."

The interior of the Kris Byrd house
I have written previously about a former roommate, Chip Squire, who lived with me around 1973.  Chip decided that he wanted to live in a Carroll Ishee house, so I got to see the process first-hand.  Chip and Carroll met a couple times to discuss what Chip hoped to get in a new home.  They visited several pieces of real estate that Carroll had selected to talk about how a home might be sited on the property.  They also visited several existing Ishee homes so that Chip's expectations were based on Carroll's construction and design philosophies.  (I accompanied them on one of these visits and saw a house with a meandering trench cast in the concrete floor, containing a small stream that actually flowed through the house.  It flowed through screens at each exterior wall to keep "critters" out!).  Chip and Mr. Ishee signed a contract, but it was mostly a deal built on trust and confidence.

A wall of glass in Brian Milling's home, typical of Ishee design
Chip selected a piece of property on which a house could be built that would have its back deck suspended over an alligator infested swamp.  I think he referred to it as a natural marsh.  Carroll built the house in about four months.  The longitudinal axis of the house paralleled the road.  It sat about 50-75 feet from the edge of the pavement.  The front of the house looked quite conventional, covered with cedar-faced texture 1-11 plywood siding, punctuated by vertical wood battens, all of which was stained a dark brown.  But when you entered through a central door, it became clear that the other three walls were glass, supported by sturdy wooden stiles.  A sliding glass door directly across from the entry door opened onto a rear catwalk that ran the length of the building with a wide center stairway descending three or four steps to a 30- or 40-ft. square deck with railings.  The deck was probably no more than 4-5 feet above the water in the marsh.  It was all very dramatic.  There were two delineated bedrooms and a single bath, but the rest of the house, including the contemporary open-design kitchen, were in a single open space with indirect lighting on a vaulted ceiling.  The house felt very unrestricted.  The marsh was an immediate presence that drew you outside.  Chip and his newly-acquired great dane lived in comfort and seclusion.  Carroll had worked his magic.

For the last several years that I worked at Ingalls, I worked for a manager by the name of Jerry Smith.  Jerry and his wife Eleanor decided to have Carroll Ishee build them a home.  They acquired a lot that Carroll recommended on Lover's Lane in Ocean Springs.  The property sloped steeply into a swamp not very far from the road's edge.  It then extended far into the swamp, and near the rear of the property, on a small rise of land, stood a giant magnolia tree.  Carroll designed a house that aligned with the road, but was only set back enough to permit cars to park facing the exterior wall, which I believe had small windows near the roof line.  When you stepped through the front door, you were confronted with an unbroken wall of glass facing the swamp (marsh?).  Beyond the glass wall was a catwalk-like porch with a center wooden walkway extending straight back to that magnificent magnolia.  The walkway broadened into a circular deck that surrounded the tree with built-in benches at its outer perimeter.  The entire structure had rope handrails that lent it a nautical flavor.  And that deck, bridge, and half the house were perched on giant pilings that Ishee's crew had driven deep into the swamp bed.  It was a breathtaking sight!

One of Carroll Ishee's more energetic proposals had to do with the remnants of the old highway 90 bridge that had at one time carried traffic between Biloxi and Ocean Springs, the so-called War Memorial bridge.  In 1962, a new bridge had been opened, replacing the earlier bridge dating to 1930.  According to the "Ocean Springs Archives" Web site, "After the 1962 Biloxi Bay Bridge was opened, the draw of the 1930 War Memorial Bridge was removed and the old span became a fishing pier for residents of Harrison and Jackson Counties.  The structure was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina on the morning of August 29, 2005.  At its City Council meeting in early December 2005, the Board of Aldermen and Mayor of Ocean Springs voted in unison to draft a later requesting Jackson County officials to permit FEMA to remove the derelict span and fund the construction of a surrogate structure to serve as a community, fishing pier.(The Sun Herald).

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy
When I first moved to the Gulf Coast in 1972, I lived in Biloxi and commuted to the shipyard in Pascagoula.  Each day, I drove over the "new" bridge and looked down at the two concrete "piers" that extended from the Biloxi and Ocean Springs sides of the channel.  They were usually crawling with fishermen vying for the "best" spots.  But Carroll Ishee had a bigger vision.  In the mid 1970s, he presented his proposal, along with extensive drawings and artist's renderings of a kind of "mall" to be built on the bridge remnants.  Carroll Ishee had visited and studied the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Florence, Italy.  This is described in Wikipedia as "a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common.  Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers."  Ishee envisioned a similar development on each portion of the "old bridge" in Biloxi and Ocean Springs.  As he described it to the City Council members, "We already have the underlying structures.  All we need to do is build the 'wings' on either side to support buildings and lease the structure to restaurants, gift shops, and other merchants."  These would be foot-traffic only "neighborhoods."  There would be large parking lots adjacent to the piers.  They would attract tourists and become destinations unto themselves.  Neither community acted on his recommendation.

Ishee, according to my friends who knew him well, suffered from a long-standing heart condition.  He tragically died at the age of 61, in 1982.  He left a rich legacy.

Feb 13, 2017

The Steinmetz Connection...

Steinmetz, in his Detroit Electric, talks to adopted son,
Joseph Leroy Hayden, and his three grandchildren.  My
sister, Ann, married the son of the child on the right of the
running board, Joseph Steinmetz Hayden.
The other morning, Mary Ann and I were watching Mo Rocca's TV show, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, when a segment came on describing the Henry Ford Museum's holdings related to the German-born electrical genius Charles Proteus Steinmetz.  I had forgotten that Steinmetz' summer home had been purchased by Henry Ford and is carefully preserved as an exhibit at Greenfield Village, adjacent to the Henry Ford.  I have mentioned Steinmetz before in my blog, here, but there's a family connection to him that I'd like to explain.

Steinmetz, who lived from 1865 until 1923, is described in Wikipedia as, "a German-born American mathematician and electrical engineer and professor at Union College. He fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, formulating mathematical theories for engineers. He made ground-breaking discoveries in the understanding of hysteresis that enabled engineers to design better electromagnetic apparatus equipment including especially electric motors for use in industry." 

He arrived in the United States in 1889, changing his first name to "Charles" in order to sound more American, and selecting "Proteus" as a middle name since he had been nicknamed that as a child.  Proteus was a wise hunchbacked character from the Odyssey who knew many secrets.

Einstein comes to Schenectady
to meet Steinmetz in 1921,
the same year Einstein won the
Nobel Prize in physics.
Shortly after his arrival, he went to work for a firm in Yonkers, New York, that produced electrical transformers.  According to Wikipedia, he "published in the field of magnetic hysteresis, which gave him worldwide professional recognition."  They go on to describe, "Steinmetz's work revolutionized AC circuit theory and analysis, which had been carried out using complicated, time-consuming calculus-based methods.  In the groundbreaking paper, "Complex Quantities and Their Use in Electrical Engineering", presented at a July 1893 meeting published in the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), Steinmetz simplified these complicated methods to "a simple problem of algebra".  He systematized the use of complex number phasor representation in electrical engineering education texts, whereby the lower-case letter "j" is used to designate the 90-degree rotation operator in AC system analysis.  His seminal books and many other AIEE papers "taught a whole generation of engineers how to deal with AC phenomena".  In Schenectady, and throughout the engineering world, he became known as an engineering wizard.  One of the highest technical awards given by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, for major contributions to standardization within the field of electrical and electronics engineering, is named in his honor as the IEEE Charles Proteus Steinmetz Award.

Steinmetz and Thomas Edison examine an insulator after
subjecting it to artificial lightning in Steinmetz' lab in 1922.
He became a professor of electrical engineering and later department head at Union College, only a short block from where I grew up.

My family connection relates to Steinmetz' personal life.  According to an article that appeared in Smithsonian Magazine in 2011, "Despite his professional successes, there was emptiness in Steinmetz’s life, which he rectified with a maneuver that helped secure his reputation as the “Bohemian scientist.” He spent his first few years in Schenectady in a “bachelor circle” of GE engineers, hiking, canoeing and experimenting with photography. Steinmetz became close friends with one of lab assistants, a thin, young blond man named Joseph LeRoy Hayden, as they developed the first magnetic arc lamp, later used to light street corners. Hayden began to cook for Steinmetz, and soon had a cot placed in his boss’s laboratory so he could nap during their marathon working hours.  When Hayden announced that he intended to marry and find an apartment nearby, Steinmetz had an idea.

A 1908 postcard showing Steinmetz's home on Wendell Ave.
When I was a child, only the garage on the right remained.  It
still housed his 1914 Detroit Electric automobile.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Steinmetz had started construction on a large house on Wendell Avenue, in the area where GE executives lived.  A collector of rare plants, he had it designed with a greenhouse, as well as a laboratory, where he planned to work as much as possible to avoid going into the office.  Once the mansion was finished, Steinmetz filled the greenhouse with orchids, ferns and cacti (he delighted in their strange shapes) and focused on the menagerie of animals he had always wanted.  Like a mischievous boy, he was fascinated with anything that was lethal, and he gathered alligators, rattlesnakes and black widow spiders.  The inventor Guglielmo Marconi once asked about Steinmetz about his Gila monster.  “He’s dead,” Steinmetz replied.  “He was too lazy to eat.”

Soon, Steinmetz was dining each night in his home with Hayden and his wife, Corrine, a stout, round-faced French-Canadian.  The house was too large for Steinmetz, and the Haydens suspected what might be coming.  Finally, Steinmetz turned to Corinne.

“Why don’t you come and live with me?” he asked.

Joseph Hayden was all for it. It would make their long working hours more convenient, and the house offered space he and Corrine could never afford on their own. Hayden had come to cherish Steinmetz’s eccentricities, and he understood that the Bohemian scientist really yearned for a family of his own. Corrine was reluctant, but Steinmetz gently wore her down.

“If we move in with you,” she eventually told him, “I must run the house as I see fit.”

“Of course, my dear,” Steinmetz replied, stifling a huge grin. Corrine Hayden then outlined the terms of their cohabitation—Steinmetz would pay only for his share of expenditures.   She would prepare and served meals on a regular schedule, no matter how important his and her husband’s work was. The men would simply have to drop everything and sit down to the table. Steinmetz agreed to all of Corrine’s terms.

The living arrangement, despite some awkward starts, soon flourished, especially after the Haydens began to have children—Joe, Midge and Billy—and Steinmetz legally adopted Joseph Hayden as his son.  The Hayden children had a grandfather, “Daddy” Steinmetz, who ensured that they grew up in a household filled with wonder.  Birthday parties included liquids and gasses exploding in Bunsen burners scattered decoratively around the house.  Not much taller than the children who ran about his laboratory and greenhouse, Steinmetz entertained them with stories of dragons and goblins, which he illustrated with fireworks he summoned from various mixtures of sodium and hydrogen in pails of water."

Steinmetz' car, now on display
in the Schenectady Museum
The youngster named Midge was mentioned in my blog post about my Model A station wagon.  The child named Joe in this article was in fact Joseph Steinmetz Hayden, who grew up to establish a successful architectural graphics and copying business in Schenectady, "Hayden Photocopy".  His son, Joseph Steinmetz Hayden, Jr., married my sister, Ann, who passed away in 1965.  So does that make me Steinmetz's step-great-great-grandson(nephew?)-in-law???

As a young child, I knew well the place where Steinmetz had lived.  His old barn was still standing, and when we would venture up to Wendell Avenue on our bicycles, we'd sometimes look into the windows of the barn where his 1914 "Duplex Drive Brougham" Detroit Electric Automobile still resided.  That property eventually became the site of the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady which is now the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady.  The society's home, now on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Modernist Edward Durrell Stone designed building in the GE Realty Plot district of Schenectady.  Although Dr. Steinmetz was a legendary figure in Schenectady as I was growing up, I have found through the years that most people outside of the engineering community have no acquaintance with him or his remarkable accomplishments.
The church that now resides on the site of Steinmetz' residence
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/charles-proteus-steinmetz-the-wizard-of-schenectady-51912022/#HqAzd6GYx5jgKMMq.99

Feb 12, 2017

Frank Hurley and the "Lost" Deck Edge Elevator

An LHA, showing the deck edge elevator in the port stern quarter
I worked at the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries from 1972 until 1978.  Some time in 1975, I transferred from the DD-963 Destroyer program to the LHA program.  I worked within the LHA Program Office where I ran the change boards for the program.  We met all day every day in offices near the fitting out area in a building known as the "Wet Dock" building.  Sharing the building with us shipyard personnel were several manufacturer's representatives who were agents of the companies that supplied equipment and systems to the ship yard.  One such representative was Frank Hurley, who had an office adjacent to mine.  Frank was a long-time resident of the Gulf Coast, having resided in Biloxi for over 30 years.  He was one of those outgoing individuals who never met a stranger.  He had friends up and down the coast.  At one time Frank had been a representative for Murphy Diesels, a Wisconsin company that marketed medium-sized diesel engines.  He marketed these engines to builders of shrimp boats along the coast, and often got involved in helping buyers set up financing for boats and equipment.  As a result, I think he knew just about every banker on the coast.  He also knew all the politicians anyone would ever want to know.  He was a really nice guy and we all got to look forward to his arrival each day at which time we'd hear another "Frank story."

A typical deck edge elevator
Frank Hurley represented several companies who were suppliers.  One such company was Jered LLC, a supplier of hydraulically-driven deck edge elevator equipment.  These elevators, which move aircraft from the flight deck to the hangar deck and back, are enormous, complex systems.  The elevator platform itself weighs thousands of pounds and may have a lifting capacity of 30-40,000 pounds.  Suffice it to say that the equipment components behind these devices took up a lot of warehouse space when they were delivered.  My recollection is that they were manufactured in Michigan.  When the components (pumps, switches, controllers, hydraulics, etc.) would arrive in Pascagoula, we would conduct a very though receipt inspection before placing them in secure storage.  Everything was carefully accounted for.

I was shocked one morning as I arrived at my office and was greeted by a very angry Frank Hurley.  "Your idiot shipyard workers have lost one of my elevators!"  I asked him to calm down and tell me what he was talking about.  He sat down and proceeded.  Apparently, it was nearly time to install one of the elevators and Frank had gone to one of the warehouses in which the equipment was stored.  He had been there a few weeks earlier to witness its receipt-inspection at the time it had been delivered.  He had seen where they had stored and labelled every hydraulic component, motor, pump, controller, hose, and fitting.  And yet, when he had gone the day before to check its condition, everything was gone.  Frank checked with the warehouse manager.  Their records showed that it should be where Frank had looked.  Frank talked to the "Ship's Superintendent," the individual who was the "choreographer" for all things related to that hull.  He knew nothing about the deck edge elevator except to point out to Frank that they planned to start installation and integration "in a couple of weeks."  Frank was baffled and he was extremely upset at the shipyard.

I had established a policy within my small organization that we were problem solvers -- that we would never let a known problem go unresolved that we could help fix.  In that spirit, I summoned my change board representative from the Materiel department, a gentleman named Glenn Briggs.  Glenn was a sleuth when it came to locating lost objects.  He was the "St. Anthony - Patron of lost objects" of our organization.  Frank repeated his story and Glenn took notes.  Then we turned him loose.

After a couple of days, Glenn located the lost equipment.  It was in the shipyard's scrapyard and recycling center!  And even more mysteriously, no one had a clue how the stuff had gotten there.  There was absolutely no paper trail -- from the initial warehouse, from the transportation organization, or from the scrapyard.  It was as if the equipment had flown under its own power!

Frank Hurley was a happy (and relieved) man, but we never figured out how his deck edge elevator equipment had gotten lost and relocated.

Feb 1, 2017

James A. Leary, Attorney-at-Law

James A. Leary and Walter Fullerton are shown at the beginning of their law practice
 in 1910.  Professional firms were allowed to rent space in city hall. Leary made 
good use of the location, being fully embroiled in city affairs and politics for 50 years.
Photo courtesy of Saratoga Springs: A Historical Portrait by Timothy A. Holmes, Martha Stonequist
My mother, Mary Margaret McLaughlin Mead, graduated from the Albany Business College in 1928.  Her first job was with the Leary, Fullerton, and Sweeney law firm in Saratoga Springs, New York.  She was soon Jim Leary's personal secretary.  Today, we would probably describe her position as Personal Assistant or Executive Assistant.  She catered to Mr. Leary's business requirements -- taking dictation, typing correspondence and legal documents, and maintaining his busy calendar of appointments.  I'm sure it was an interesting and challenging job.

"Park Edge," built by hotel magnate William Gage in 1881,
was Jim Leary's home from 1926 until his death in 1964
There can be no doubt that her job was probably made even more interesting by the nature of Mr. Jim Leary's many professional engagements.  In an interview with the Albany Times-Union in 2015, a 95-year-old woman who had worked for Leary & Fullerton in the 1930's, Minnie Clark Bolster, described him this way, "One of the lawyers was Saratoga County Republican chairman James Leary, long thought to have made illegal gambling possible in Saratoga Springs. He was indicted, and later acquitted, during a 1950's federal investigation into gambling in the city."  So my mother had become the personal assistant to an attorney who was both the Republican Chairman for the county, and who was deeply involved in the rampant gambling enterprises then operating with impunity throughout Saratoga county.  I'm sure those were interesting times.  To understand this situation more clearly, a little history is helpful.

Casino gambling had actually existed in Saratoga County since the 1860's.  According to Wikipedia, "...John Morrissey opened the Saratoga Race Course in 1863.  In 1866 he opened the Saratoga Clubhouse downtown, offering high-stakes gambling for the town's fashionable visitors.  The clubhouse was later bought by Richard Canfield and was expanded to today's Canfield Casino.  However, in 1907 Saratoga Springs banned gambling in the city and the casino was closed."

But then, in 1920, came prohibition.  
The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages.  Saratoga Springs soon became a center for bootlegging between Canada and Albany.  It didn't take long for gambling to reestablish itself in the county. 

On May 26, 2013, in a Schenectady Daily Gazette article entitled, New casino likely would be tamer than in past, author Justin Mason wrote, "Soon, the criminals smuggling liquor were finding a prime location to diversify their enterprise.  Arnold Rothstein, a gangster noted for rigging the 1919 World Series, was the first of note to open a gambling hall in the city when he converted an old estate on Church Street into the Brook Club in 1921."

Further on in the article, Mason goes on to write, "They operated principally in the summer from June until the close of the track season,” said (Author Joseph) Cutshall-King. “Everything was top shelf. You didn’t drink rot-gut gin. You drank the top stuff from Canada.

Newman's Lake House, where coincidentally, my high
school class held its after-prom dinner in 1958
On the other side of the city, the father-and-son team of John and Gerald King opened the Newman’s Lake House, a converted inn that had a massive dining room to accommodate 500 people.  Not too far away on Lake Lonely, bootlegger Louis “Doc” Farone started up Riley’s Lake House, an art-deco structure built on the foundation of a burned home.

Near Saratoga Lake, partners Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Joe Adonis — all younger associates of Rothstein — opened the Piping Rock Club during the early 1930s.

The Piping Rock Club, owned by Meyer Lansky,
Frank Costello and Joe Adonis
Many others also sprung up: The Meadowbrook, Smith’s Interlaken, and the Arrowhead. All of them masqueraded as swank nightclubs — all of them had backrooms devoted to gambling operations.

In the heart of the city, nefarious mob boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano founded the Chicago Club, an operation that attracted some of the highest rollers of the time. His club was split between a betting parlor and limited table games.

The clubs drew top acts from around the nation: Sophie Tucker, Bing Crosby, Desi Arnaz, Cary Grant, Jimmy Durante and George Gershwin to name a few. And they roared into the night with hardly any fear of reprisal from law enforcement.

After all, the entire city seemed to support illegal gambling — from the politicians that tacitly approved them to the police who worked security details when off duty. There was a triangle, in a sense, between the gamblers, the lawmakers and the authorities.

“The politician depended upon the gambler to finance his campaign at the right time,” said Richard Carbin, a longtime city resident and local author who wrote Chipping Away at the Gambling Scene at Saratoga.  "Of course, when he became involved in government, he became directly involved with who got appointed police chief.

Even when police did make an arrest, the case never went far, said Greg Veitch, an assistant chief with the Saratoga Springs police.  The case would go before a grand jury, which would almost always fail to indict the proprietor.

“The police were turning a blind eye to this,” he said. “But the entire community was telling them ‘we don’t want you to enforce the gambling laws.’ ”

Illegal gambling was a gold mine for many locals who worked in them, even though they generally were prohibited from gambling in them.

And while there was some crime that came with the operations, the combination of the low profile most operators assumed and the strong-arm tactics that the gangster-run clubs incorporated usually dissuaded patrons from stepping out of line.

There was also a secrecy that came with illegal gambling — nobody spoke about it even though everyone knew it existed. Even years later, after many of the clubs had vanished, those who knew about the gaming halls seldom spoke freely about them, said Stuart Armstrong, a local business owner who has studied the history of the city’s illegal gaming. 

“People who knew what was going on out there refuse to talk about it even 50 years later,” he said. “Dead silence. It was something that made them terribly uncomfortable.”

The roar of the clubs was inevitably quieted after an ambitious U.S. senator from Tennessee waged a crusade against illegal gambling during the early 1950s. Estes Kefauver conducted hearings that identified gambling as organized crime’s leading source of revenue — and he identified Saratoga Springs as a hotbed.

The high-profile hearings made it impossible for local authorities to ignore the flagrant illegal activity occurring in the city.
James A. Leary, right, indicted on a conspiracy charge
yesterday by a Saratoga county grand jury, listens intently
to his lawyers E. Stewart Jones, left, and Michael E.
Sweeney, a partner in the Leary law firm.  Leary, 72-year
old Saratoga county Republican chieftain, has also been
indicted on a first-degree perjury charge.
Schenectady Gazette photo by Fraser, September 9, 1953
A grand jury empaneled in Ballston Spa later would indict Republican chairman James Leary for perjury and county Democratic chairman Arthur Leonard for conspiracy and bribery, though charges against both eventually were dismissed."

My mother described Leary's role when she worked for him as a coordinator, arbitrator, and money-handler for the many participants in this tangled web of mob bosses, local officials, union leaders, and family-owned business leaders.  She spoke of meeting many of the individuals mentioned above -- Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Joe Adonis, for example.   She spoke of other interesting individuals whom she had met, including mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and the head of the Chinese "On Leong Chinese Merchants Association," the so-called "On Leong Tong."   This tong society operated out of its territory on Mott Street in New York's Chinatown, and had a monopoly on the laundry business serving the casinos in Saratoga.

The prosecutor in a 1953 case against Leary, attorney Paul Williams, claimed that Jim Leary "owned" the Saratoga National Bank.  He allegedly permitted mob personnel involved with local gambling enterprises to open accounts in the bank under false names.  He also spoke of police cars "convoying the take" to the bank at night.  A witness in that case, TV repairman Herbert C. Stone of Gloversville, who allegedly held 688.8 shares of stock in the bank as a dummy for Leary, went missing during the trial.  He has never been heard from.

In 2012, on the 58th anniversary of the intentional burning of the Piping Rock Casino, author Joseph Cutshall-King stated in an article on his blog, "We have at least four suspects: the three mafia members who “owned” Piping Rock,  Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Joe Adonis—and the fourth, Lansky’s dear friend, Saratoga Springs attorney James A. Leary, head of Saratoga’s Republican machine, owner of Mac Finn’s Drugstore, and one of the slickest criminals ever to avoid prosecution by New York State or the United States."

I wish now that I had asked my mother for more information about this interesting time in her young life.