Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tannery Hall, 2 cents of shoe leather

As one of the earliest patented businesses (1600's for grinding bark for tanning hides in the vicinity of Wall Street) in New Amsterdam/New York you would perhaps think there are many examples of leather from it. I'm not sure if there has been many. One place, Bestevaers Cripplebush, a swamp never deeded by the Dutch government to anyone, on the edge of which was hung one Jacob Leisler, exonerated under William and Mary (there was no water in the fort, nor people when the British Navy showed up and well William was of Orange and Mary of England anyway), became the tannery vats of the Roosevelt's (the former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt side, the former President Theodore Roosevelt side's father was a mere glass importer) and about it is said in business history, more money made in the preparation and tanning of leather than any other business until the modern era. As health concerns arose, primarily from flies and hide preparation, the industry was moved in stages to the periphery of settlement, especially after mid-nineteenth century studies by citizens, not city agencies, brought wide-scale suggestions from study and improvements to public health on Manhattan island. Some of the few shoe examples I've seen from archaeological contexts were made with many rosewood pegs instead of brads or nails, made to fit as it were to specific customer, and an itinerant traveling class of cobblers (some say leprechauns, often depicted as cobblers) traveled into the countryside often to visit a farm or farmstead once a year to shod the families and workers there. One of the last hide processing places I'd discovered recently, began in the 1850's in North Creek, NY where great stands of hemlock trees were cut, their bark used to tan the hides, many more later brought in by train, as many as 10,000 a year, until the 1880's. Later in the 19th century garnet mines (the state gemstone, the scallop the state shell) were exploited nearby next to where in the 1930's skiing begun, inspired by Lake Placid's Winter Olympics, and people were brought from NYC and elsewhere by train, which became today nearby Gore Mountain for skiing, with better than an old V8 car as a ski rope lift. There's an interesting history of shoe leather! Further north, titanium was mined in the 1940's and 1950's near the older abandoned McIntyre Iron Mine site, near the village of Adirondac, recently granted money for historic preservation and interpretation to bring the now uninhabited titaniferous iron oxide mining location, first shown to prospectors as a solid iron dam "au natural" by a "St. Joseph Indian" there in the foothills of Mt. Marcy, New York States tallest mountain. The tannery vat complex in early 18th century New York was not far from the current City Hall, between it and the former shoreline at Pearl Street and serviced by the James Roosevelt wharf. Just in case: >Bestevaers Cripplebush, was Bestevaers Kreupelbosch (a type of tree?) An incident occurred here of note on September 15, 1655 as reported by Secretary Van Tienhoven (Innes 1902) "When the Indians landed, in large numbers, upon Manhattan the absence of Director-General Stuyvesant and of his soldiers, who had started a few days before upon their expedition against the Swedes on the Delaware River, one of the first points they commenced their work of violence was at this warehouse." (Tablet at 8-10 Peck Slip erected by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in 1904 to commemorate the warehouse of Isaac Allerton, a Mayflower Pilgrim who was Governor Bradford's assistant at Plymouth. [Museum Exhibition Commission 1909:64] "Here, then, for a number of years the old Puritan merchant carried on his commercial transactions, making frequent journeys backwards and forwards from his house in New Haven." (Innes:336) In "In Small Things Forgotten" James Deetz speaks about the architect finding one of Allerton's mysteriously unfinished structures near Plymouth) "They ran in large armed parties through the streets," says Van Tienhoven, in his report to the Council, "violently attacked the house of Mr. Allerton, knocking the lock from his door, beating his servants, and ransacking his premises, on pretense of searching for two Indians." (Innes:336-7). They were reported to be five or six hundred in number, and fled across the Thomas Hall farm into the swamp, known as Bestevaers Kreupelbosch, when a ship across the East River, commanded by Captain Scharborgh, began training his guns on the site." (Innes 1902). Other uses for the "Allerton warehouse" cited were a temporary reception for the boys and girls sent over from the almshouse in Amsterdam (Almoners Orphanage) in 1654 to receive after five years 53 acres of land. Govert Loockerman, one of the executors of Allerton's estate becomes "orphan master" in place of Johannis van Brugh. Govert Loockerman and Isaac Allerton along with Cornelius Steenwick and Cornelis Vanderveen are considered the four greatest merchants of New Amsterdam. New York - Maryland connection: Govert Loockerman was the original patentee of the property in the neighbohood of Hanover Square and had three children. (Hanover Square was recently visited by the Prince Charles and company to dedicate a garden to those British citizens lost in the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001). One daughter was married to Cornelius Dircksen, the ferryman, who ran the original ferry to Brooklyn. Another daughter was married to Peter Cornelisen Vanderveen and then she was later married to Jacob Leisler. Govert Loockerman died in 1671 and his widow lived to 1678. His son Jacob Loockerman, was a physician, and sold the family's property to his brother-in-law, Jacob Leisler before leaving for St. Mary's City, Maryland where Govert Loockerman his father had acquired large possessions (Valentine 1856:75). More on the "swamp" In 1734, this tract was sold for 200 pounds to Jacobus Roosevelt who divided it into 50 lots and established on them several tanneries (large leather center into at least the end of the nineteenth century) More immense fortunes have been made about that region than any other of the city. The swamp had been leased to Rip Van Dam for "21 years and 20 shillings a year" from Gerardius Beekman (Stone 1872:91) Stone, William Leete 1872 History of New York City, New York I think this was one of the rare old business books in the Huntington Free Library in Westchester Square, Bronx, NY formerly housed an ethnography collection of the Heye Foundation the collection was moved as part of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian but the library remains. Later "Old Man's Swamp" was known as: Beekmans Swamp, became a leather goods center (Moscow 1978:27) Moscow, Henry 1978 The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins, Hagstrom Co., NY Reprinted in 1979.

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