Thursday, January 26, 2012

She was an Anti-WHAT?

If you haven't figured it out I am rather partial to the Woman's Suffrage Movement in the US. It is my favorite time period. I don't know which came first, my love of all things suffrage, or the knowledge that Susan B. Anthony (& her younger suffragist sister Mary) grew up in Greenwich, but I've been hooked for about 25 years.

In 8th grade, I wrote a paper on Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from medical school in the US. I could probably credit Mrs. Heighton, my social studies teacher, for laying the groundwork. I even took a history class in college (Western Civ) with her husband.

What I didn't know, until I started reading more about Chester A. Arthur, was that his sister, Mary was an ANTI-SUFFRAGIST! Can you believe it? & I'm going to write about her!

Mary Arthur was born in Union Village (Greenwich), NY on July 5, 1841. She was the ninth and final child of the Reverend William Arthur & his wife Malvina. She attended the Emma Willard Seminary in Troy, NY.

Mary Arthur McElroy as White House hostess
On July 16, 1861, Mary Arthur married Albany insurance man John McElroy. They had four children. They were married 54 years.

Vice President-elect Arthur's wife Ellen (Nell) died in January 1880, months before her husband was chosen as the running mate for James A. Garfield, the Republican nominee for president. With the assassination of President Garfield, Arthur became the reluctant president, on September 19, 1881, still grieving the loss of his beloved wife. As a widower, Arthur had no one to serve as hostess for the many dinner parties. His sister Mary agreed to travel from Albany, NY to Washington D.C. & stayed at the White House during the social season, to act as hostess. Her eldest daughter, May & Arthur's daughter Ellen assisted.

Mary died in Atlantic City, NJ on January 8, 1917 at the age of 75. She is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

& here is the shocker. Mary Arthur McElroy belonged to the Albany Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage.
The organized antisuffrage movement had among its flock the sitting lady of the White House, Mary Arthur McElroy, member of the Albany Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage. A woman "of a decisive manner when giving orders... she knew exactly what she wanted, and how she wanted it done; and she never hesitated to express her wishes clearly."*
It's mentioned in her obituary from the Albany Times Union as well.

Anti-Suffrage propaganda^

* Anthony, Carl Sferrazza. First Ladies: The Saga of the President's Wives and Their Power 1789-1961. New York: William Morrow and Co. 1990. (pp 246)

^ Jewish Women's Archive, "Resource Information for Pamphlet distributed by the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage," (January 26, 2012).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley

I love musicals. Astaire & Rogers. Rogers & Hammerstein... There are few I don't like, though I can't think of one at the moment. Ah well. I love Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland. There are some great songs & some over the top costumes. The Trolley Song is a high point! But, I digress...

I am really talking about actual trolleys. This area had a number of electric trolleys, even Greenwich. On April 8, 1900, the electric trolley began service between the village of Greenwich & Middle Falls. By June 17th the track was complete & service to Schuylerville was available. This also meant a person could ride to Stillwater & Mechanicville. In January 1901 the track to Fort Edward was complete.*

Oh, & those dry glass plates... There is a plate of the trolley. Along with other shots that seem to be of the construction of the trolley line.

Trolley from Greenwich to Schuylerville c. 1900
 This car appears to be the Hudson Valley Railroad car #133 that was, according to David Nestle's book A History of the Hudson Valley Railway, a 15 bench D.T. open car. It was 40' 00" long and sat 75 passengers. These cars were build between 1899-1902.*

building of bridge over the Dionondahowa Falls
 Going over/near the Dionondahowa Falls in an electric trolley must have been quite a sight! A power plant built at this sight harnessed the power of the Battenkill & provided the electricity for the trolley.*

Dionondahowa Falls- Battenkill River
 The postcard below was donated to the Town of Greenwich by Deputy Washington County Historian Loretta Bates.

Hudson Valley Railway car crossing the Battenkill
Oh, what the heck... Here's The Trolley Song for fun!

* Nestle, David F. A History of the Hudson Valley Railway, Greenwich NY: David F. Nestle, 1967.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I see from my window... the library!

Union Village Academy housed the first "public" library in Greenwich. Well, around 1833, for a small fee the public could use the school's library. By the 1870s the Academy had morphed into Greenwich High School & Union Village had morphed in to the village of Greenwich (1867). The school still had the only library in town (or village), and would until 1902.

In May 1902, the Greenwich Free Library opened on Main Street with a few hundred books and a $1,500 mortgage. A group of ladies, known as the Women's Club, had decided that a separate public library was needed, & spent much of the next decade raising money.

Greenwich Free Library 139 Main Street

Fundraising seem to be the main activity. In 1902 there was a clam bake, a garden tea, a card party & countless rummage sales. In 1905 the townspeople voted down a $500 annual allowance for the library, so more card parties & rummage sales were planned. Even a benefit baseball game occurred.

1911 saw $300 in the school budget allotted to the library. By 1951 the amount had increased 500% to $1,500. To this day, a portion of the school budget goes to the library.

In the early days of the library circulation was around 1,500 per year. By the Great Depression it had risen to around 2,600, an increase of about 173%.

The following is quoted from a "folder" (c. 1938) that may have been circulated to folks who might not be sampling all that the library has to offer. The Picture" mentioned is the photograph is used above.

Do you know what your library looks like, where it is located?

Lest there be those who do not know how the Greenwich Free Library looks, a picture of the building is attached to this little folder.

A well worn path leads close to the big window where books are always displayed. Have you added your footprints to this path?

Those who do not take advantage of what the library has to offer are being deprived of a great deal of pleasure and knowledge.

New novels, latest magazines, books of travel, history etc. may be had just for the asking.
There is a pleasant reading room; cool in summertime, warm in winter. Come in and use you Free Public Library.

The circulation in 1937 was 21,961. How many of these did you read? Every resident of Greenwich is entitled to borrow books. If you are a borrower, ask your neighbor to become a borrower, too.

The library is supported by state aid, local tax, gifts of money and by members of the Library Association who pay one dollar a year each.

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested" Bacon

The library has a new website... check it out!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year's Resolution... Organize the Office

Seeing as how April 2012 will be my 9th anniversary as the Historian for the Town of Greenwich, I have decided this is THE year for me to finally tackle the tremendous job of organizing, cataloging, filing, scanning, decluttering the office here.

In the spirit of that process which, I'm sure, will uncover some very interesting things I didn't know where here, I will share with you some random bits of ephemera. Enjoy (& I;ll see what I can dig up for you next week.)

front & back cover of the White Swan Cafe menu c. 1980s

Look at those prices!
 For those of you who create brochures, pamphlets, posters... Could you try to remember to put a date on them? Especially the year. It would be a great help to all of the historians and archivists who have to sort through all of the paper 30, 50, 100 years down the line.

Undated House Tour brochure

Eight places in the Greater Greenwich area listed

Here's one. A scrapbook that you picked up at a gas station in a town you were visiting. This one was never used, but the gas station stamp is inside.
The year is printed right on this scrapbook- 1953

The stamp for John Whiteside & Sons is in the upper right

I'll keep you informed of my progress in keeping my historian's New Year's resolution. Did you make any resolutions for 2012?