Albany Evening Journal: Shootings May Have Been Done By Boys

Note:  This is a transcription of an article that appeared on the front page of the Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York) on January 31st, 1916. It is the second in a series of articles published by the Journal that recount the crime, capture, and questioning of Harold Severy. This article continued on the second page, but original page references have been omitted for clarity. 


The police to-day were able to throw little light upon the mysterious shootings of which four persons were the victims Friday night, one of whom, James Irving, died early this morning at the Homeopathic hospital. Many theories are being advanced as to the identity and character of the silent gunman, who is now a murderer. Chief of Police Hyatt is still of the opinion that it is the work of a madman. Another theory which received many supporters to-day was that the four bullets came from a 22-caliber rifle in the hands of a boy.

H. Valentine, the well known rifle expert, after examining the bullets, said that they did not come from a revolver, as had been supposed. He pointed to the fact that the bullets came from cartridges, the explosive power of which is a combination of fulminate and mercury. The ingredients form a gas which explodes when the trigger hits the shell. Mr. Valentine declares that the grooves on the pieces of lead which entered the bodies of Mrs. John A McKown and, John McCormack, Edward C. Kenny and Irving contained grooves on the side, which he believes show that they came from a rifle.


The 22-caliber rifles are used in great number by boys, and most of the shots for these guns are of the gas variety. Mr. Valentine said there are thousands of the cartridges sold to boys in Albany yearly. These rifles are not of the flobert [sic, possibly “Robert”] kind. They are made in this country and are rifled as true as a run can be, according to Mr. Valentine.

Chief Hyatt was the first to discover the gas shell. Ever since the shootings the fact that none of the persons heard a shot has been the source of much wonderment to the chief. Last night a friend brought one of the shells to him and explained that it was made of fulminate and quicksilver. This man had secured the cartridge from George Mason the well-known confectioner, who is an expert in firearms. Mr. Mason was given several of the cartridges several years ago by the late Mayor Gaus, who was also an expert with a gun.

Detective Joseph Ryan saw Mr. Mason to-day. The confectioner showed the detective where he had shot one of the bullets into a board about 10 feet away. Mr. Mason said he used a small rifle in the test. The bullet was embedded in the board to the depth of of about an inch and a half, showing that the velocity of the bullet was even greater than the old powder variety of shots.


It was then that Detective Ryan went to Mr. Valentine. The sporting man said that the fulminate mercury bullet had great force in a rifle and a target pistol, but in a regular .22 revolver was of no use. As a test he took a target pistol and loaded it with one of the gas bullets. He fired from a distance of about 12 feet. The bullet went through two sides of a box and became embedded in a pine board to the depth of about half an inch. Mr. Valentine then made a request to see the bullets that were found in the victims’ bodies.

Mr. Ryan went to Chief Hyatt and explained matters, and the chief consented to have the rifle expert examine them.

“They are C.B. conical shells,” said the expert after weighing the pieces of lead and finding that they weighed 29 grains each. “You can stake all you can get that these bullets came from a 22-caliber rifle, the kind that boys are using. There is a groove on each which proves that. There are no revolvers that will fire that kind of a shot. I guess when you ferret this thing out that you will find that boys are the cause of the trouble. It is a wonder that more people aren’t injured by flying bullets. Only yesterday my wife called me and told me that there were three boys in the rear of my house, and each had a gun and was shooting

towards the house. I live in Summit park, and there are only lots in the rear. I knew that the practice of the boys was a dangerous one so I decided to rout them. When I went to the rear they had disappeared over hills. The boys have no idea just how far the bullets will carry, and I can tell you they carry a great deal farther than anyone would think.”

All of the shootings took place near some lot. Mrs. McKown was shot opposite the lot in front of the penitentiary. McCormack received his bullet while walking past the park. Kenny was on Western avenue, and there were plenty of vacant lots around. Irving didn’t know where he was shot. He first discovered he was wounded after a boy had hit him with a piece of ice. This was on Chestnut street near Hawk, but Irving had just come from the vicinity of the park. Miss Dowd received a bullet in the arm while she was near Capitol park.


Still working in the belief that the assailant was a mad gunman, Chief Hyatt redoubled efforts of his force to catch him. He had every available man at work scouring the city.

With the exception of the fact that Edward C. Kenny of 157 Western avenue informed Chief Hyatt last night that he thought the gunman wore a mixed gray overcoat instead of a black one, the police have obtained no further description of the fellow they are seeking. Mr. Kenny, who escaped with but a slight wound from the gunman’s weapon, while on his way home Friday afternoon, described him as being between 20 and 30 years old, he could not say positively. But he said he was certain that the man he saw running after he felt the sting in his back, was short and stocky, wore a soft hat and a long overcoat. None of the other victims were able to supply the police with any description of their assailant.


“We are following up every possible clue, have investigated any number of rumors, and will continue to do so, but as yet we have nothing to give out as to any arrest,” said Chief Hyatt this morning, who said he judged that Albanians were calming down, as their had been a falling off of telephone calls into headquarters. “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we must have broken all records for inquiries received over a switchboard such as ours,” said the chief, and Operators Cahill, Sayers, and Cheeseman constitute a trio of well played out men. They listened to every inquiry, fearing to cut short less some slight clue might be passed up. Another evidence that the fears of residents have been somewhat allayed is the fact that many women came down town shopping to-day, many of them saying that they had seen policeman patrolling in the vicinity of their homes and that they had seen patrol-cious persons could escape through the vast net the authorities have thrown out. [sic should probably read “…and that they could not see how suspicious persons escape…”]

Chief Hyatt said the assailant may be an escaped inmate of some Institution, a fellow suddenly afflicted or a drug fiend. Hundreds of theories on that score have been advanced. Countless reasons for his act have been put forward. Possibly he might be one whose head has been turned by witnessing sensational movies, in which a shooting takes place every other moment and in which the “villain” generally escapes. Another one was that it might be the work of some individual who was laboring under the impression that a 22-caliber bullet could not inflict a fatal wound and that a little reign of terror could be stirred up without anyone actually being killed. But the death of Irving proves to the contrary. All rumors to the effect that the shootings might have been done by a woman masquerading in men’s clothes Chief Hyatt said were regarded as pure bosh. “They are too silly to pay attention to at this at this serious time,” he said.


The police have a line on the numerous drug fiends in town, and have satisfied themselves that if the shootings were the work of one of that type, he is a new one, and has managed to keep covered up. But Chief Hyatt is more inclined to believe the man they are seeking is a lunatic, pure and simple, and that the outbreak was not the result of anyone becoming suddenly crazed by the use of drugs. Yesterday morning word was received from Mechanicville, that a fellow had been taken into custody there, who told a rambling story, had admitted being in Albany, and who could not give a good account of himself. It was thought he might possibly be able to throw some light on the subject. He was brought to Albany and Chief Hyatt was closeted with him for a long time. He gave his name as Edward Taylor, said he was 39 years old, and hailed from New Orleans. He said he was down and out and had done a 60 days’ sentence in the penitentiary for vagrancy. There was absolutely nothing brought out which could in any way connect him with the affair and Chief Hyatt sent him out of town.


James Irving, who also went by the name of Erwin, the gunman’s second victim, who was shot in the left ribs on Chestnut street, about 5 o’clock Friday night, died at the Homeopathic hospital at 12:25 o’clock this morning. Coroner Hastings directed Dr. Frederick Myers to perform an autopsy and death was found due to hemorrhages of the spleen and liver, brought on by the pistol wound. Undertaker Simmons was given permission to take charge of the body. Irving’s only relative is said to be a nephew living in the southern section of the city and he will be interviewed by the coroner as to what disposition he wished made of the body. The dead man was a familiar character about the city for years, being known as “Jimmie Matches,” as he went about the business section selling bunches of them. He was between 60 and 65 years of age and had roomed for several years at the hotel conducted by George Gude at 91 Green street. Irving was a sufferer from Bright’s disease, but he made made a gallant fight for life in the hospital and the physicians said that he was possessed of remarkable vitality.

He was unable to furnish the police with any clue as to his slayer. When he was struck by the bullet while passing the New Amsterdam apartment house, he thought that he had been hit by a piece of ice thrown by small boys. He began to grow faint and stepped in the doorway, where he almost collapsed. He was assisted to the office of Dr. Edgar Vander Veer, who, upon seeing he had been wounded, directed his removal to the hospital in an ambulance.


The condition of Mrs. John A. McKown, who was shot while walking on Myrtle avenue, near Delaware avenue, was reported as still being serious at the Albany hospital to-day. Her advanced years make her case an uncertain one. However, she was reported as resting comfortably. At that institution, yesterday, the physicians successfully removed the 22-caliber bullets from the bodies of Mrs. McKown and John McCormack. The latter today was reported as being much improved and his recovery is looked for. Edward C. Kenny, who was “peppered” by the gunman on Western avenue, and escaped serious injury, will be confined at this home for several days, but no serious results are anticipated.

Albany Evening Journal: Albany Women in State of Terror Because of Madman’s Acts

Note: This is a transcription of an article that appeared on the front page of the Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York) on Saturday, January 29th, 1916. It is the first in a series of articles published by the Journal that recount the crime, capture, and questioning of Harold Severy. The original article continued on the second page of the paper, but page continuation references have been omitted for clarity and ease of reading. 

Two of the Four Victims of the Mysterious Stranger Are in a Serious Condition—Young Girl Was Held Up on Lake Ave. This Morning by a Man Whose Description Resembled That of the Gunman—After She Fled from Him She Found an Unexploded Cartridge In Her Muff

In an endeavor to capture a man, described as being about 30 years old, short and stocky, and wearing a slouch hat and a long overcoat, who shot one woman and three men on the public thoroughfares late yesterday afternoon, Chief Hyatt has the entire police force at work to-day. All the reserves have been pressed into service and sent out patrolling the city in civilian clothes. The police believe the mysterious stranger is either a madman or a dope fiend.

The case is one of the most perplexing the police department has ever been called upon to handle, and every effort is being put forth to land the maniac before he can do others bodily harm. Hundreds of women in the residential sections of the city are remaining indoors to-day, fearful that they might become victims of the madman’s gun-play should they venture out on the streets.

The people of Albany are thoroughly aroused over the shootings and are in fear that the madman will pay a visit to their respective sections of the city. All morning there were reports of additional shootings. The Journal office was besieged with telephone calls. One report said that three women had been shot on Quail Street; another anxious inquirer wanted to know if it was true that the two women had been shot on Delaware avenue. In almost every part of the city there were reports of one or more shootings. The police in each instance investigated but found the stories all to be untrue. These reports show the state of mind in which Albanians, particularly women, are living.


The police are at sea as to who the man is and although every policeman is working on the case they have not a clue to work on. The only inkling of the gunman was given by Margaret Stapf, a domestic employed in the family of Deputy Attorney General Wilbur W. Chambers. She was on her way to the residence of her employer on Providence street when she was accosted by the man on Lake avenue, near Western avenue.

“Could you tell me where Quail street is?” the man asked.

The girl directed him and started to walk away, when he took hold of her and said:

“What pretty brown eyes you have.” At the same time he chucked her under the chin.

Miss Stapf started to pull away and, the man tried to hold her.

“You’re not afraid of me, are you?” he said.

Miss Stapf finally broke away and ran as fast as she could to the Chambers home. Once there she told of her experience. As she placed her muff on the table an unexploded 28-caliber cartridge dropped to the floor. Miss Stapf is sure the man had placed it there.

She described him as being about 30 years old and about 5 feet 7 inches in height. Although the man’s black hat was pulled well over his face Miss Stapf took special notice of his features. She said he had a think face and blue gray eyes. He wore a gray overcoat.

Miss Stapf notified her employer, who in turn notified the police, and Detective Bain was sent to see her.

It is believed that the shootings will hurt business to a great extent down town to-night. People, especially the women, who make it their business to trade in the down-town business section on Saturday night will be afraid to make their usual trip. Business men claim that this will mean the loss of thousands of dollars.


Mrs. John A. McKown, 70 years old, of 225 Myrtle avenue, the man’s first victim, is in a precarious condition at the Albany hospital and is not expected to live. James Erwin, 69 years old, of 91 Green Street, who was the next to be shot, is in the same condition at the Homeopathic hospital. John McCormack, 20 years old, of 46 Dove Street, the third victim, was shot in the back, but his wound was such that he could receive medical attention at home. Edward C. Kenny, 26 years old, of 157 Western avenue, who is an assistant secretary in the office of the state department of health, was the next to be caught, receiving a bullet in the back. He is at home under the care of his physician.

Mrs. McKown, the first victim, was shot at about 4:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon, but it was 6:15 o’clock last night before the police were notified.

As soon as Chief Hyatt learned the facts he put the entire police machinery in operation. That the fellow is either an escaped maniac or a crazed dope fiend the authorities have little doubt. All of the victims were struck by 22-caliber bullets, fired from a pistol, carried, it is believed, in the madman’s pocket. The report that he had a Maxim silencer attached is not believed, as they are not made for weapons of such small caliber. The fellow is supposed to have pulled the pistol and fired directly at his victim, instead of shooting through his coat pocket. There is not such a loud report from the discharge of a 22-caliber revolver as many imagine, and as persons have become accustomed to loud reports from automobile exhausts and tire blow-outs, little attention is paid to them. At first the police were of the opinion that the fellow was using an automatic revolver of 22-caliber type, but when Captain Samuel Keith of the fifth precinct, exhibited the bullet

struck Mr. Kenny to Chief Hyatt at the reporting of the precinct commanders to-day, it was seen that it was an ordinary lead bullet such as is used in cheap small caliber revolvers or rifles.


Chief Hyatt told the assembled captains this morning that in all probability the fellow was a dope fiend and that their men should pick up all suspicious characters.

“There is absolutely no cause for the shootings,” said the chief, “which proves that it is simply the work of a man whose mind is unbalanced.”

Last Tuesday afternoon Miss Mary Dowd of 218 Orange street, while walking on State street, head a report and felt a stinging sensation in her left arm. She went to the office of Dr. Happel, who found that she had been struck by a small lead pellet which was fired either from an air rifle or a small caliber pistol. At the time, the police were of the opinion that it was the work of boys using air rifles in popping at sparrows, but now they are inclined to believe that she might have been a victim of the same gunman who did the shooting yesterday.


A peculiar circumstance connected with the shootings was that the victims did not realize at first that they had been shot. When they first felt the sting of the bullet they believed it to be a snowball or some other harmless missile. They did not know the real cause of the sting until they discovered the bleeding wound later.

Mrs. McKown, the fellow’s first victim, was shot at the corner of Myrtle and Delaware avenues. She was on her way home when she received a bullet in the back, which passed through her right lung and lodged in her breast. She collapsed a few moments later, but that she had been shot was not discovered until she had been assisted home and the Dr. T. W. Jenkins summoned. When he discovered the wound and saw the seriousness of it, he promptly ordered her removal to the hospital. Owing to her advanced years, the physician doubts her recovery. Mrs. McKown saw nothing of the fellow who fired the shot.

Just after 5 o’clock, Erwin, who rooms at 91 Green street, was walking on Chestnut street, when he was struck by what he thought was a piece of ice thrown by a boy. He nearly collapsed in front of the New Amsterdam apartment house and was taken to the office of Dr. Edgar Vander Veer on Eagle street.

The physician made an examination and seeing the man had been wounded he promptly sent him to the hospital and notified Policeman Anthony of the second precinct of what had occurred. The latter began an investigation and later notified headquarters. Captain Patton put every available man out in search of the gun toter. Erwin was shot in the back, the bullet penetrating his stomach and making his case a critical one. McCormack, the third victim, is the only one who has been able to give the police a description of the fellow now being sought. He was walking on Madison avenue about 6 o’clock when a short stocky fellow with a slouch hat and overcoat, asked him for a match. He was unable to comply with the request and after going a few steps felt something strike him in the back. He became dizzy and a friend took him home, where medical aid was summoned and it was found that he also had been shot.


By the time word of the shooting reached headquarters Chief Hyatt was aware of the situation and lost no time in having the precinct commanders get every man out on the streets in search fo the madman. Edward C. Kenny, the fourth victim, received a bullet in the back, near the shoulders, while on the way to his home 157 Western avenue. He said he felt a sting in the back and looking around saw a man running over Lake avenue. He became weakened, but managed to get home and when he realized he had been hit he called his family physician, who told him he surely had, that he had a bullet embedded in his back. [sic] It was extracted and Kenny put to bed. Kenny said he could not say as to whether he had heard any report or not. He simply had been struck. None of the victims recalls hearing any reports, and the theory put forth as to the automobile exhausts and tire blowouts, shades the Maxim silencer idea. Chief Hyatt said to-day that he was having his men make a careful investigation as to any silencers being sold here. He recalled that only recently a lecture on that gun attachment was delivered before a local body in the education building and said that there was a possibility of the gunman having been in attendance and deciding to try it out. But the instruments are expensive and the police say that if one could be procured for such a small caliber weapon as the fellow is using, he would attach it to a good revolver instead of the cheap one, which it is safe to say he is using.


Never in the history of the city has there been such a reign of terror, and the police are powerless to do any more than they are doing now. Chief Hyatt’s men have been working very second since the first shooting as reported, but have made no progress. Detective Ryan was patrolling the section in the vicinity of Chestnut street and South Hawk street until long after midnight, but was forced to report “no progress.”

In some circles it was reported that the police believe that the maniac lives somewhere in that vicinity. This report could not be verified.

One theory of the police is that the man is a dope fiend who has been deprived of his drug. This produces a form of insanity, it is alleged, that gives the victim the tendency to kill. This man, it is believed, having nothing but a revolver of the smallest caliber is using this weapon to terrorize the people. If these bullets, as small as they are, hit a vital spot, they will kill. This is what the police fear will happen if the man isn’t apprehended soon. If the man had used a larger gun, it is said two of his victims would now be dead.


There was a report that William Sweeney, who was committed to Pavilion F recently, had escaped and was the guilty party. The report was untrue. Sweeney is still at the insane hospital and doing well. Even if he had escaped, it is not believed that he would use a gun. In the first place he had no gun, nor money to buy one. In the second place the man was harmless. He believed himself to be a singer and fighter. He had the latter notion in his head when the officers attempted to take him from the jail to the pavilion. They found him naked and in fighting pose. He gave them a tussle, but was quickly subdued.

As the shootings continued to be discussed among the young women clerks in the state departments in the capitol and rumors of fresh assaults reached the capitol, the fear which the clerks already had continued to increase, and when the noon hour arrived there were many who feared to leave the offices in which they were employed. Some telephoned to their homes or to friends to come to the building to escort them home. But few who had made engagements for this afternoon or had planned some amusement carried out their intentions, the greater number going directly to their home.

French Medieval in Little Falls

There are sights I expect to see in upstate NY — Italianate manses, barns needing a new paint job, and breweries (so many!) — and those that I do not — like a towering wattle-and-daub-style French Medieval edifice, yet that’s exactly what a visitor to the small Mohawk Valley city of Little Falls  will find. No, it’s not a long-lost set piece from an early Hollwood production of Cyrano de Bergerac — it’s actually the city’s former Masonic hall.

First, a little background. Little Falls heyday began in the early 19th century when, buoyed by access to the New  York City market via the new Erie Canal, the city became a hub on the food network supplying the city with cheese. With the influx of cheap immigrant labor later in the century, leather and textile manufacture took over. Of course, any 19th century community wouldn’t be worth its weight in cheddar without at least a few fraternal orders. By the early 1900s, Little Falls had become an industrial and farming hub of the Mohawk Valley, with a population of more than 13,000. Of those, many of the most affluent in the community were also among the 350 members of Masonic Lodge No. 181 or the 173 member Order of the Eastern Star. And those members wanted a lodge to reflect their newfound prosperity. In support of this cause a Mrs. Sponable donated land on the side of a steep hill at the corner of Prospect and School streets in honor of her husband, Mr. Wells Sponable, a decorated Civil War major. According to a fabulous article by Terry Tippin and Louis Baum of the Little Falls Historical Society:

IMG_20180224_125739370_HDR“Funds were raised and an extensive search was conducted for an architect to wed a dream and a difficult site. A large number of designs were submitted by architects from one end of the state to the other. Chosen was Brother William Neil Smith, Masonic Grand Lodge Master Architect. During his speech at the cornerstone ceremony on Sept. 12, 1914, Architect Smith cited the French medieval period as his inspiration for the structure” which was “dominated by the Free Masons, making the construction of a building of this style a fitting monument to the construction, art and craft of the Masons. The contractor was Frank N. Goble, of New York City. Construction as completed, and the move was made to the new facilities on May 25, 1915.”

The building is constructed of brick and stone and framed with steel and timber, and the roof is of terra cotta tile flashed with copper. Perhaps most notably, the upper stories have a wattle-and-daub effect achieved through half-timber and cement stucco relief on the upper stories which is also also used in the more common Tudor Revival style.

The Lodge sold 5 Prospect Street in 1995 to Terry Tippin, who converted the first level into living space, the basement bowling alley into a pottery studio, and installed a bedroom in one of the turrets. Though under separate ownership, Blue Lodge No. 181 continued to meet in the building until 2004 when, due to declining membership, they merged with the Dolgeville Masons. It was back on the market in 2017 and sold that July.

(Ian Benjamin/February 2018)

If you are passing through Little Falls make sure to grab a bite at That Little Place on Main. Afterwards, take a quick walk to the Masonic Temple right around the corner — you can’t miss it.





Spruce Street Stables in Sheridan Hollow

In the late 19th century, before the advent of the motorcar, Albany streets were largely the territory of pedestrians and horses. If one wanted to go somewhere one could walk, take a horse-drawn trolley, or — if one could afford it — call a coach. Vestiges of this equine-centric transportation culture remain: one can spot former carriage houses — identifiable by the hayloft doors and winch — in some of the well-to-do 19th century neighborhoods, and a handful of hoof-friendly Belgian sett roads have thus far escaped an asphalt fate. (Colonie Street and Old Broadway were paved earlier this year.)

One of the more conspicuous vestiges is the building at the corner of Spruce and Dove streets in Sheridan Hollow, at the base of the Dove Street steps. A ghost sign across the southeast wall reads “SALE AND EXCHANGE”, “STABLES – HORSES”, and the outlines of horse stalls are readily apparent. A plaque on the Spruce Street side gives a construction date of 1890. By 1914, the stable was owned and operated by William J. Thomson. About a decade earlier (1905) Thomson had been associated with the boarding stables at 83 Elk St.

212 Sheridan Ave on February 18, 2018. (Ian Benjamin/Motorola Moto x4)

Fast forward to the modern era. The building’s northeastern facing wall was–until recently–home to a mural of an upturned rodent. It was either a rat or a squirrel, depending on whom you asked.

IMG_0431 (1)
Rodent mural by Belgian artist ROA, as seen on July 8, 2015 (Ian Benjamin/Apple iPhone 5)

Painted by Belgian artist ROA for the Living Walls Albany revitalization project, the mural became the focus of neighborhood animus. Some deplored it as representative of a cynical outsiders’ impression of Sheridan Hollow, and condemned it for detracting from the positive forward momentum. It was removed by the property owners at some point before early January 2017.  The building is being leased by Trinity Realty Group, as of this writing.


The World’s Largest Terrier Mascot

You might need to look carefully to spot this city’s roofline gargoyles and grotesques,  but you don’t need eagle eyes to spy this monumental white terrier.  

Sitting atop a storage building in Albany’s North End is a four ton, 28-foot tall steel and fiberglass statue of Nipper, the canine mascot of RCA, the now-defunct consumer electronics behemoth.

According to the Albany Institute of Art and History, Nipper came to be perched atop the crenellated parapet in 1958 following renovation of the dilapidated concrete warehouse for use by RTA, an appliance distributor specializing in products by RCA. The statue was fabricated in Chicago, shipped in five sections by rail, and attached to a metal frame on the roof with the aid of a 10-story crane.

Nipper is the largest of the four monumental terriers that once sat atop RTA’s distribution centers headquarters, and the last dog to still exist on the building upon which he was originally installed. There were once enormous Nippers peering over the skylines of Chicago and Los Angeles, but those that have since been demolished or removed. The smaller terrier that once sat atop the Baltimore headquarters has since been moved.

He is based on a real nineteenth century terrier owned by Francis Barraud, a painter residing in Liverpool, England. The dog was named for a tendency to nip at visitors’ heels. One day Barraud saw the Nipper listening intently to a windup cylinder phonograph and decided to capture the moment in a painting. He then attempted to sell the image rights to a number of companies, including the Edison Bell Company in Menlo Park, New Jersey. In his letter to the management, he noted that the dog in the painting was listening to an Edison Bell cylinder. “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs,” was the curt reply.

On May 31, 1899, Barraud stopped into the the Maiden Lane, London offices of The Gramophone Company. He was intending to borrow a brass horn upon which to model a new version of the painting. The store manager mentioned that, if Barraud replaced the machine with a Berliner disc gramophone, the company would purchase the rights. The deal was finalized, and the image went on to become one of the most successful trademarks in merchandise history. It has been used by a long succession of companies, including the Victor and HMV record labels, HMV music stores, and the Radio Corporation of America after their acquisition of Victor in 1929.

Unlike his Baltimore cousin, the Albany Nipper never had his head cocked to the bell of a gramophone. He has always been listening to the wind. The RTA facility closed its doors in the 1980s, but the affection Albany residents have for Nipper has kept him in place through the building’s changes in ownership. 

This article was originally written for Atlas Obscura, but has not yet been published. 

Crandell’s Crime: A Most Unfortunate Marriage

TroyNorthernBudget_12-25-1887_Crandall_Murder_headlinesOn the morning of December 19, 1887, the wealthy Crandell-Stone family was eating breakfast at their home just outside Ballston Spa when a dispute erupted. Sylvester S. Crandell, a real estate broker from Troy, was angry with his wife and his mother-in-law, both of whom he lived with, for refusing to give him money. He believed, as a man in the 19th century would, that it was he who should rightfully be controlling the household funds. It was not the first time that angry words had ricocheted about the house on the West High Street, but it would be the last. By noon, three of those seated would be dead.

This story begins with the 1883 marriage of Sylvester to Lydia V. Stone. Lydia was the 37 year old daughter of paper collar manufacturer Samuel S. Stone and heir to his fortune, today worth about $1,625,000. This fortune was controlled by Lydia’s mother Emma, who appears to have been a fiscally astute and strong-willed woman. At the time of the Crandell-Stone marriage in 1883, Lydia was recently divorced from her first husband, Cassius E. Bulkey, with whom she had a daughter Julie. She had married Cassius, a clerk at W.M. Whitney and Co. in Albany (45-49 North Pearl Street) in 1870. At her urging and expense he had attended law school, probably Albany Law.


By 1882, degree in hand, Cassius had partnered with a loan and real estate broker and began working out of offices in the Mutual Bank Building on State Street in downtown Troy. At the same time, his family moved into an elegant and stately three-story home on Pawling Avenue across from The Troy Female Seminary, now known as The Emma Willard School. (The Adams Mansion, as it is now widely known, is presently owned by local developer Davide Bryce.) Cassius lived there with his wife and a Ms. Ellis, Lydia’s aunt. The loan and real estate firm that Cassius joined was of course that of Sylvester Crandell.

Sylvester came to Troy from Salem New York in 1870 with his wife (née Sherman) who was from an old and wealthy family of New Bedford, Massachusetts. In Salem they had lived that may have been outside their means. 

In Salem Crandell lived in style, boarding much of the time at the leading hotel, though he had little ostensible business and where the money came from with which he paid his bills and more than kept up his end in convivial circles was a mystery.

Troy Northern Budget, Dec. 25, 1887 “Crandell’s Crime”

In Troy, Sylvester first worked as a deputy tax collector, but was laid off within a few years due to a force reduction. It was at that time that he began his real estate and loan business. In an article appearing in the Troy Daily Times, his former colleagues indicated that he was a savvy and knowledgeable broker, who seemed to do well for himself. City directories, however, indicate that he may have been living beyond his means. In 1870 Sylvester is listed as boarding at 99 Fifth, the next year he has moved to 59 Fourth Street, and in 1873 we find him at the Phoenix Hotel in Lansingburgh. In fact, nearly every year between 1870 and 1883, we find him living at a different address. While this could have been the result of a combative temperament, it is more likely he had a difficult time paying rent. And it is unlikely that Lydia was aware of these money troubles. Indeed, during brief courtship of her in 1882, he claimed to have assets worth $40,000.

We know that Cassius had joined Sylvester’s firm by 1882 for that year, the firm of Crandell & Bulkley purchased an oversized entry in the city directory, as well as an advertisement. While the newly formed partnership was confident in their future business prospects, the partnership would not last.


For Cassius, joining the firm of Sylvester was the beginning of much misfortune. Around 1883, Lydia traveled west to what was then the Dakota territory, and promptly sued Cassius for divorce, according to Troy Daily Times. It was granted on the grounds of incompatibility and lack of support.

Only three months after the divorce papers being signed, Sylvester took Lydia’s hand in marriage. This was improper, to say the least, and it did not go unacknowledged in the papers. When the couple went to a Reverend Dr. Irvin to have their union sanctified, he refused, though as with any account appearing the day of an incident. And before the end of 1883, Sylvester had moved into the Cassius’ home on Pawling Avenue, was sleeping in Cassius’ bed, and with Cassius’ wife. He had annexed his (now former) partner’s life. One can imagine how Cassius would have taken this turn of events, but at this point he disappears from the narrative.

By all accounts the marriage soon soured. Sylvester began to pressure Lydia into talking to her mother about her inheritance. He wanted her to take possession of the two-thirds of her father’s property, which was her legal right. She preferred to leave it in her mother’s control. Legally, any wealth that came to Lydia would be owned by her husband, and while there may have been love between the two newlyweds, all evidence suggests Sylvester had chosen to wed the Stone fortune. Lydia was the means to that end, but she was either too cautious or experienced to leave herself to give up that control. This was savvy decision-making; Sylvester had long led a lifestyle beyond his means, and no marriage would change his habits. 

He soon came to Lydia asking for cash. It could have been that business was poor, or that he had obligations or debts to pay, such as the care of his mother who lived in a “poor house” across the border in New Bedford, but that is unlikely. The Northern Budget reporter noted that he “has paid no attention to repeated letters from the poor authorities of that place asking him to contribute to [his mother’s] comfort in her declining years.” And if we are to believe an early account in the Troy Daily Times, he preferred to use his checks to to host social gatherings, such as the theatrical company he invited to the family home in Troy, and presented each member with a bottle of wine before they departed

Undoubtedly, if he had had access to the Stone’s fortune, he would have driven them to poverty. When it became apparent to Sylvester that he would not be able to wrest the Stone fortune from the family’s hands, he grew resentful, but to find out what came of this, you’ll have to wait for the next installment.


The St. Argus Home for Forgotten Office Furniture

This Warehouse District building at 1031 Broadway in Albany may have most recently been home to Argus Litho Inc. Press, but its current use denotes it the St. Argus Home for Forgotten Office Furniture. Inside, nearly every easily accessible space has been filled with 80s and 90s office furniture, in some places stacked nearly ceiling high. However, if you peek around the furniture you might find some remnants of its lithographic legacy: a several ton composing machine, a time card clock, or a set of typesetting machines (just look in the north tower.)

The four-story red and yellow brick edifice was built in 1915 by enterprising businessman seeking to draw business to Broadway. They commissioned prominent Albany architect Marcus Reynolds–known for designing Hackett Middle School, Hook and Ladder No. 4 on Delaware Ave., and the glorious Neo-Gothic D&H Railroad headquarters (now SUNY administrative offices)–who delivered this masterpiece, one of his latter designs in a more than three decade career.

The building has sat idle since the early-1990s, when the heatset web press printer went out of business. The commercial printer was the last vestige of The Argus newspaper corporation, which operated in Albany for 108 years. The building has long been owned by Michael O’Brien, who used to operate the Larkin Bar and Restaurant on Lark Street. He is also the owner of the Williams Press building, another early 20th century corporate buidling  north on Broadway near Montgomery Wards.

Built of yellow and red brick, the four-story edifice is topped with twin towers roofed with terracotta tiles. Each tower holds a water tank and the interior floors are trisected by massive–and heavy–fire doors that swing on a rather ingenious chain pulley system. The concern with fire is evident throughout. I only hope that a developer and the city come to agreement on a future for this building, and soon. I fear the same fate its designer feared may still occur–as it has for so many other historic Albany buidings.