Monday, May 23, 2022

The Lindenwald Haus

 by Rachel Dworkin, archivist

Around 7:30pm on the night of March 28, 2022, flames erupted from the Lindenwald Haus at 1526 Grand Central Avenue in Elmira. The fire began in the attic and quickly engulfed the roof. For two hours, firefighters battled the blaze, leaving extensive water damage behind in their wake. The cause of the fire still remains under investigation and the fate of the building is uncertain. 



 While today the home at 1526 Grand Central Avenue is best remembered as a bed and breakfast, it did not begin that way, but rather as a social service. In 1874, Mrs. Sarah Jones proposed a Home for the Aged where Elmira’s elderly citizens without families could live and be cared for in their old age. Jones was involved in a number of charities. During the Civil War, she had volunteered as a nurse and helped to organize the Elmira Sanitary Commission. After the war, she was instrumental in the creation of the Orphan’s Home. The first meeting of the Society for the Home for the Aged was held in her parlor and within three years, Jones and her allies managed to raise enough funds to begin construction of the home. Dr. Edwin Eldridge of Eldridge Park fame donated the land. On July 1, 1880, the Home for the Aged at 1526 Grand Central Avenue opened for residents.

During its 109 years of operation, the Home for the Aged housed over 500 hundred of Elmira’s elderly residents. Anyone over the age of 60 could apply to live there. They would pay an entrance fee and then sign over all of their financial assets to the Home in order to pay for their continued care. Life at the Home was like a cross between a boarding house and a retirement community. Residents had their own bedrooms. There were parlors for socializing and meals were served in a communal dining room. Staff were on hand to provide assistance and nursing as residents’ health deteriorated. In many ways, it was a pre-cursor to the type of assisted living facilities common now.

Over the years, the Home for the Aged struggled to find space for everyone who wanted to live there. In 1906, a 2-story annex was added. The annex brought the total number of available rooms up to 48. In 1989, the Home for the Aged moved to a new facility on the Southside and the house at 1526 Grand Central Avenue soon took on a new purpose and a new name.

The Lindenwald Haus was born from a case of mistaken identity. In 1990, Sharon and Michael Dowd purchased the house at 1526 Grand Central Avenue in the hopes of turning it into a bed and breakfast. During their initial visit, Sharon thought she spotted a linden tree in the front yard and thought Lindenwald (meaning linden forest) would be a nice nod to her German heritage. It turned out the tree was actually a red maple. Shortly after they purchased the house, the couple planted a bunch of linden trees around the property to make the name accurate.

The Dowds opened their Lindenwald Haus for business on February 26, 1992. In the two years since they’d purchased it, they had invested a great deal of time and money renovating the building. Local interior designer Annie Werner redid the dining room and parlors to reflect their original gilded age glory. On the upper floors, the Dowds combined rooms to make larger suites, each with their own bathrooms. In 1998, they sold to Sara and Cortland Woodward who ran it, along with their children, until 2014 when they sold it to the Elmira Jackals to be used as a team boarding house. By 2019, it was back on the market and it has been empty since. 


 

Given the extensive damage to the roof, it will likely be awhile before the Lindenwald Haus is ready to open again, assuming it ever will. Still, no cultural landmark is dead so long as there’s someone to remember it. If you have images, artifacts, or stories to share about the Lindenwald Haus or Home for the Aged, we would love to add them to our collections. Please call me at (607) 734-4167 ex 207 or e-mail me at archivist@chemungvalleymuseum.org if you have something you’d like to share.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Bug Lady: Ms. Esther Hart

 By Guest Blogger Melissa Rozengota, a volunteer with Elmira HistoryForge, a project sponsored by the Chemung County Historical Society

Esther Hart

You meet some of the most interesting people transcribing historical census records. I first encountered Miss Esther Hart in the 1910 census during my work as a volunteer with Elmira HistoryForge (https://elmira.historyforge.net/), a project which combines historic maps with census records and photographs to create a unique way to visualize community history.  At first glance, Esther Hart seemed a largely unremarkable individual; she was single, white, female, age 40.  She is listed at 302 E Church Street with her widowed older sister Fannie, niece Francis, nephew Pierson and 80-year-old father, Dr. Ira F Hart at 302 E Church Street. The detail that caught our attention was that she was a clerk in Washington D.C., while living in Elmira.

1910 US Census

Esther was born February 22, 1862 in Elmira, New York to Dr. Ira Hart and Marion E. Cook Hart, early settlers in the Elmira area. Esther attended Elmira College and graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in 1883. She also later attended The Cooper Institute in New York City and completed a 4-year course in wood engraving and art. It was here that she met fellow student, Mrs. Anna Botsford Comstock, the first woman Professor at Cornell University and an acclaimed author, illustrator, and educator of natural studies. The Elmira city directories list Esther as a wood engraver and teacher from 1887 through 1905. By 1906, she attained her job in D.C.

Esther began her work in D.C. in the Patent Office as a draftsman, transferring from there in 1907 to the Forest Service Dept. It is within this department where her drawings caught the attention of Dr. A.D. Hopkins. Impressed with her natural aptitude, Dr. Hopkins secured a transfer reassigning Esther to the Bureau of Entomology for the Delineation of Forest Insects in 1911. In 1917, when Dr Hopkins retired, she transferred to the Division of Cereal & Forest Insect Investigation where, for 15 more years, she illustrated many publications. Some of Esther’s illustrations are still in use to this day and can be found in Dr. Craighead’s Monograph of The North American Cerambycid Larvae and The Southwestern Corn Borer.


Esther’s ambitions were not relegated to her career. She was involved in many activities and groups that brought her into the influential circles of our nation’s capital. In 1906, Esther was a guest of President & Mrs. Roosevelt’s in honor of the Army & Navy in the Blue Room at the White House.



In 1925, Esther was the hostess of a tea given by the American Association of University Women where she displayed her drawings.

When Esther was a charter member of the Elmira College Club in 1932, she met First Lady Mrs. Herbert Hoover for a ceremonial tree planting. The ceremony was in memory of President George Washington and Esther had her photo taken with the First Lady.


Ironically, we at Elmira HistoryForge should never have “met” her transcribing the 1910 Elmira census because she didn’t truly live here. Esther was listed on two 1910 Census. Not only was she listed in the Elmira census, but the Washington D.C. one as well.  

The D.C. Census listed her, inaccurately, as age 41, born in 1869. She was living with Clara S. Davenport, a government stenographer, age 32, born in 1878). I believe Clara was an acquaintance Esther knew from Elmira or maybe from College. The Elmira Census was taken April 21st & 22nd and the D.C. census was taken April 23rd. It is most likely the Elmira census taker didn’t realize that Esther was just a visitor in Elmira.

Esther was respected and esteemed for her work. According to her obituary from August 3, 1940, she was “a woman of kindly, refined, lovely character.” Despite living away for so long, she had strong ties with her family and Elmira and is buried in her family plot in Elmira's Woodlawn Cemetery.

We hope Miss Esther Hart would think the nickname we gave her is endearing and that she’d be delighted that 82 years after she passed away we found her everyday life in the early part of the 19th century so interesting.

As a woman in the early part of the 19th century she had many opportunities in her education and work and left a name for herself.


(To get involved with this cool project, contact our HistoryForge Coordinator at HistoryForge@ChemungValleyMuseum.org for more details!)



Monday, April 25, 2022

Curating Chemung County's Cool Collection

 By Monica Groth, Curator

The job of a Museum Curator is to safely handle, document, and house an institution’s object collection and design exhibits through which those objects can educate and inspire visitors. I am extremely excited to be joining the dedicated staff at the Chemung County Historical Society as I fulfill this role and I write now to introduce myself to you all!

I come to Chemung County from Aurora, New York, a small village in Cayuga County where I spent my summers finding shards of pottery, rusty nails, and fossils in the lake, gorges, and cemetery by my home. Many years ago, while thinking myself a true archaeologist and with treasures in hand, I visited my local Historical Society at a young age to proudly present my finds. This is when I discovered the purpose and promise of Historical Societies and Museums: to preserve the history of our lives and our homes—the everyday and the unique things that make us who we are and our county what it is to us.

One of my main tasks here at the Museum has been processing new donations whilst exploring the Museum collections. In doing this work I’ve discovered that much of the collection was donated by people very like the younger me. A 16-pound Civil War cannonball donated by Thomas Mallow was found by his father, Glenn Mallow Jr., while digging a WWII victory garden on the site of the Prison Camp. An Eagle Bottling Works Bottle, donated by Elaine Harrington, actually dates to the 1880’s and bears a newspaper clipping suggesting it was unearthed by a curious boy in the town of Chemung.

The donors to our Museum have given many fascinating objects that memorialize the lived experiences of themselves, their families, and their homes. Anne Beattie donated the clothes her parents wore on their wedding in 1939. Larry Bowman donated a collection of gifts received from Horsehead’s sister-city, Bato-Machi, Japan by the 1993 delegation. Betty Clauss donated her husband’s 1960-1964 US Air Force Uniform.

All these donations and more help the Historical Society fulfill its mission, and those donated in 2021 will be on display in the “New to the Vault” exhibit this summer!

A peek into the diverse collections: telephones, typewriters, assorted ladies' fan, shoes, and hats!

I love working as a curator because it allows me to get up close with these historical artifacts and the stories surrounding them. Before working here in Chemung County, I studied at the Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut and the National Museum of Bermuda. Some of the coolest maritime objects I studied at these Museums include a whaling harpoon-gun, used on the island of Bermuda; a 200-yr-old figurehead, once mounted on the bow of a ship; and a barometer which used shark liver oil to predict the weather!

I am looking forward to the many interesting objects and stories I’ll be showcasing here at the Chemung Valley History Museum. Visitors are always welcome and I’m eager to meet the community whose stories I’m now privileged to know. Keep exploring. And if you are willing to donate, come on down to the History Museum and add to the amazing collection!

This exhibit case, the newest addition to the Mark Twain's Elmira exhibit, features Mark Twain's quill pen, an c.1890 inkwell, and his thoughts on the area in his own words

Monday, April 11, 2022

Mamie Wood: Horseman's Pride of Elmira

 by Ellen Williams, Guest Blogger

Thomas Schmeck Flood (1844-1908) was a member of the prominent family of Floods whose homes occupied the East Water Street block between DeWitt and Madison Avenues in Elmira. His father and brothers were doctors, and Flood augmented the medical tradition in the family with his drug store on East Water Street. Flood went to medical school like his father and brothers but instead of practicing medicine he chose pharmacy as his career.

Hon. Thomas S. Flood

He had a strong affinity for horses, and he soon had a barn full in the city. In 1870 he married Frances Miller, for whose family Miller Street on the south side of the city was named. Shortly after, her uncle John E. DuBois recruited Flood into his plans for the lumber trade. DuBois, the younger, (son of the Williamsport lumber baron by the same name for whom the Duboistown neighborhood of that city was named) had purchased more than thirty thousand acres of timber, mostly white pine, in western Pennsylvania. It was then a veritable wilderness.

DuBois engaged Flood to move out to Clearfield County, PA, and help manage the lumber takings: mills, railroad lines, labor force, housing, post office and the like. There were few constraints on industry in that era, and the settlement was part of the ever-moving western line of America’s woodlands which at the time appeared to have no end. The town became known as DuBois. White pine was cash, and Flood’s wealth was secured during that decade, by 1880.-(Elmira Advertiser, Oct. 29, 1908) With his wife Frances, young son Chester, and his contingent of horses, Flood returned to the family seat in Elmira. 

Letter to John DuBois, 1884

Flood resumed his drugstore business and ran for city alderman in 1882, and surprised everyone when he won as a Republican in a Democratic ward. He also got involved with showing and racing his horses in the Chemung County Agricultural Society, the predecessor to the Chemung County Fair. Holding office with the Society, Flood applied his business acumen to his political and horse racing pursuits. A popular guy, he was known to be fair in the show ring and fast on the track.

Flood sent his favorite mare, Mary Ann, to Joseph Wood’s farm in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1883. Wood owned an expensive Hambletonian trotting stallion whose reputation as a sire of record-breaking race horses was well established. Drawn by the Grand Circuit horse racing success of that stallion’s other colts during the previous years, Flood was seeking a race horse of his own.

The next year, Flood’s mare Mary Ann gave birth to a fine filly. Flood named the young filly “Mamie Wood” in tribute to her sire’s pedigree. Her parentage and her older siblings were well known, and Flood had big expectations for Mamie. It was an exciting year for the Floods, as they had a new baby girl born as well. They named their new daughter Frances Mabel, after her mother, but called her Mabel. Their son, Chester, was now about seven years old.

Mamie started her training in harness during the year of 1885-1886, under the hand of Flood’s trainer, John Ryan. Flood was very pleased with her prospects. According to his plans, she was to make her debut as a two-year-old in the New York State Breeders’ Association meet in September of 1886. Just to get some experience, Mamie trotted an exhibition at the Maple Avenue Driving Park in Elmira on June 3rd, going one mile alone against the stopwatch in 2:44½.

Mamie Wood became a star on the race track when she was two years old, making a record of trotting a mile hitched to a two-wheeled sulky in the time of two minutes, twenty-seven and a quarter seconds at Rochester, NY:

…The event of the day was Mamie Woods’ endeavor to break the best two-year-old record of 2:29. She was first sent a slow mile, finishing in 2:43¼.  When she came on the track again she was accompanied by a pacer.  Both came under the wire together, but Mamie began to go ahead, the pacer not seeming to follow her pace.  The first quarter was made in 37¾.  On she sped, without a skip or break….Then she began to go faster, and reached the three-quarter pole in 1:50½.  Everybody who had a watch had it out and was anxiously watching the filly.  On she came, as steady as clockwork.  The pacer began to draw up on her and she trotted faster every moment.  When she passed under the wire the watches said 2:27¼, and the track was instantly filled with a shouting crowd of enthusiasts who wanted to hug the little roan.  This is the fastest mile ever trotted by a two-year-old outside of California. Truly a wonderful performance for a two-year-old.  This closed the sport… Every member is enthusiastic over the meet and particularly so over Mamie Wood’s performance.”-(Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Friday, Sep. 10, 1886, fultonhistory.com.)

Spirit of the Times, Dec. 18, 1886, p. 632, fultonhistory.com

Thomas S. Flood’s life, career, and adventures with harness racing horses illuminate the city of Elmira during the Gilded Age, when Mark Twain spent summers drafting “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” at Quarry Farm and the Langdons’ wealth set the tone for gracious living. For more of the story of Flood’s life, legacy, and the adventures of Mamie Wood who traveled by rail and raced in Grand Circuit venues all across the nation, read the complete version in Out of the Woods: From Deerfield to the Grand Circuit by Ellen Williams, published by Palmetto in 2019.

[This blog is an excerpt from Chapter 5, Mamie Wood: Pride and Politics, Out of the Woods, (Williams, 2019)]

 


 


Monday, March 28, 2022

Clothes Make the Man (or Woman)

 by Susan Zehnder, Education Director

Two years ago COVID-19 arrived, and since then we’ve all learned to live with a variety of changes. One of those changes that continues to evolve is how we present ourselves at work. With more meetings happening remotely, some office workers are opting for a more casual look on the job but keep “zoom shirts” or jackets handy to appear more presentable online.

In the past, people in the medical field, transportation, and business professions were expected to wear specific types of clothing to reflect their position, indicate their responsibilities and communicate their status and class. Think of them as work uniforms.

Our current exhibit All in a Day’s Work: Dressed for Success shares examples of how, over the years, different Chemung County professionals have dressed for work.

Three uniforms on display in our exhibit reflect some ongoing changes in our societal expectations for work attire.

A woman’s nursing uniform, like other uniforms in the medical profession, is designed to inspire patients’ confidence and trust. Being attended by someone wearing a dirty uniform is almost hard to imagine, and the importance of wearing a uniform in nursing can be traced back to Florence Nightingale. When Nightingale established the world’s first secular nursing school in 1860, she dressed her nurses in gray uniforms. The outfits helped identify nurses who had training, and the gray didn’t show the color or blood when wet. The uniform was also meant to neutralize the wearer’s appearance and deter unwelcome advances from patients under their care, who were commonly young male soldiers far from home.

At the beginning of the 20th century, nurses shifted to wearing white. There were strict protocols and expectations for them to keep their uniforms starched and pristine. Wearing white was “proof” that nurses were clean, sanitary, and offered scientific care. Mid-century nurses wore starched white dresses, white caps, white nylons and white shoes, similar to the example on display from St. Joseph’s Hospital. Often nurses were required to care for their own uniforms which meant time-consuming work to remove from bodily fluids.

When women’s fashion became less restrictive, the style of nursing uniforms followed along. By the 1970s and 80s, nurses began to wear scrubs, and today scrubs are the primary outfit of choice for the profession which includes more male nurses. Scrubs allow the wearer more freedom to move, often come with pockets to carry tools, and can be worn by any gender. Scrubs come in a variety of bright colors and patterns which allows nurses to personalize their look, if their affiliated institution permits it.

Uniforms have also been part of transportation work. Each style of dress indicated what position workers held and informed the public what to expect. Early train and trolley conductors, airline pilots, and bus drivers wore matching uniforms that had a distinct military style. This inspired confidence in their skills and abilities, and helped to make them look competent. The Lackawanna Railroad conductor's uniform from 1954 is a good example of that style. It comes with fancy brass buttons that include the Lackawanna R.R. logo to indicate the wearer was someone of note. Today transportation uniforms vary. Airline pilots still wear military influenced uniforms, often with brimmed hats and epaulets on the shoulder. Bus drivers are more casual and if they wear hats, tend to favor ball cap styles.

Unofficial uniforms have been worn by office workers providing business services since the beginning. In the 1930s, American writer Upton Sinclair called professionals who receive salaries “white collar workers,” referring to the white shirts and business suits many workers wore. The term stuck and is still used today. “Business casual,” or business attire was expected in many professions as a way to command respect from peers and customers, as well as show respect to those they worked with. Male workers who dressed this way communicated an unwritten message of who was in charge, and what position someone aspired to.

For women entering the workforce during the last century, fashion trends shifted from ultra-feminine to more traditionally masculine. Early on, it was unthinkable for women in offices to show up without wearing stockings, heels, skirts or dresses. Women began to wear suits similar to their male colleagues, adding shoulder pads to convey power and authority. The office worker’s outfit we have on display is a man’s suit from 1930, when white-collar workers were expected to wear suits, hats, and dress shoes to the office every day.

Today, advice for anyone interviewing for a job is often to dress for the job level above the one they’re applying for. What we choose to wear is a kind of language. We represent the organizations we work for as well as representing ourselves, and our clothes can say something about us.

Whether or not the more casual styles adopted during the pandemic stay with us, we’ll just have to see.



Monday, March 14, 2022

Elmira and the Widow Bedott

By Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

 

In 1849, Frances Miriam Berry Whitcher cost her husband his job as pastor of Elmira’s Trinity Episcopal Church. It was a funny story. Actually, it was several funny stories. That was the problem.

Born Frances Miriam Berry (Miriam to her friends), Whitcher (1811-1852) is known as the first female American satirists. Growing up in Whitesboro, New York as the eleventh of fifteen children, she was shy and bookish with wicked sense of humor. After years of writing humorous stories for her friends in the Whitesboro literary society, she submitted several satirical sketches to Neal’s Saturday Gazette of Philadelphia under the pseudonym “Frank” in 1846. They were an instant success.

 

Frances Miriam Whitcher, 1849

The main character of the tales was the Prissilla “Silly” Bedott, widow of Deacon Hezkiah Bedott and active pursuer of every eligible widower in the fictitious Wiggletown, New York. The sketches focused on the foibles of small town life with particular attention paid to the travails of courtship and women’s social circles. In some ways, Bedott’s life mirrored Miriam’s. Both women ended up marrying preachers and moving with them to a new setting.  

Widow Bedott & Rev. Sniffles

 On January 6, 1847, Miriam married Episcopalian minster Benjamin William Whitcher, just about the same time as her fictional counterpart married Sharack Sniffles of Scrabble Hill. Soon after, Reverend Whitcher was hired as rector of Elmira’s Trinity Church. The couple’s income was meager, just $500 a year, so Miriam continued to supplement it with her writing. Not long after their move, Louis Godey of Godey’s Lady’s Book, America’s first women’s magazine, contacted her and asked her to write a new series for his magazine. Miriam created a new character, Aunt Maguire, the Widow Bedott’s sister in Scrabble Hill. While Bedott was cynical and ambitious, Maguire was a compassionate voice of reason. Her stories were no less funny or popular though.

 The first of the pieces written in Elmira was about a disastrous donation party put on for a new local minister. At the time, it was common to hold a yearly pot-luck fundraiser at the minister’s home to supplement the meager annual income with gifts of household items. The story was inspired by the Whitchers’ own welcome donation party, although theirs involved considerably way less humiliation and property damage. Over the next few years, Miriam wrote a number of Aunt Maguire stories, some of which were re-printed in the local paper.

Aunt Maguire scolds her sister
The trouble came with a story about a sewing circle which was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in January 1849. It included a fairly incisive take down of “Mrs. Samson Savage.”

“She’s one o’ the big bugs here—that is, she’s got more money than a’most anybody else in town. She was a tailoress when she was a gal, and they say she used to make a dretful sight o’ mischief among the folks where she sewed. But that was when she lived in Vermont. When Mr. Savage married her, he was one o’ these ere specilators…So she sot up for a lady. She was always a coarse, boisterous, high-tempered critter, and when her husband grow’d rich, she grow’d pompous and over-bearin’. She made up her mind she’d rule the roast, no matter what it cost—she’d be the first in Scrabble Hill.”

 All across New York, people were convinced that their local bully was the inspiration for Mrs. Savage. Nearly all of them were wrong, as it turned out she was based on Elmira’s Mrs. John Arnot Sr. The local speculation about Savage’s true identity might have died down if Reverend Whitcher hadn’t confirmed that his wife was the author. The reverend was called before the church vestry in February 1849 in order to justify his continued employment. Miriam, meanwhile, found herself hounded and insulted by Mrs. Arnot and her clique. By June, the couple couldn’t take it anymore. Unable find a new position elsewhere, Reverend Whitcher resigned and the couple moved back to Whitesboro to live with the Berrys.

Over the next few years, Miriam’s writing slowed as her health declined until her death from tuberculosis in January 1852. Not long after, in 1855, her collected writings were gathered together and published in book form as The Widow Bedott Papers. The stories were later turned into a play. While few have heard of her today, she was wildly popular in her heyday. Even the famous Mark Twain was a huge fan.

Monday, February 28, 2022

The Little Engine That Couldn’t: Elmira’s Watrous Automobile

 by Susan Zehnder, Education Director


In 1904, Thomas S. Watrous founded the Watrous Automobile Company (WAC) on Main Street, hoping to cash in on the public’s growing desire for automobiles. The new industry was hot. The first American patent for a combustion engine had been filed twenty-five years earlier and now over 3,000 models were on the market. Each car was assembled by hand, making the median price around $1,000. However, the average yearly salary was only $200 - $400. For many the dream of owning their own automobile was still unattainable. Watrous wanted to offer customers more affordable options.

The first car purchased in the county was a Winton Roundabout six years earlier. The buyer was a local doctor William H. Fisher, and the car was manufactured by the Winton Motor Carriage Company, out of Cleveland, Ohio. It was summer when the car finally arrived. The event was announced in the local newspaper and a spontaneous parade was organized to celebrate its arrival. Winton automobiles had a reputation for quality and durability. A few years later, a Winton Roundabout would be driven across the country, successfully completing the nation’s first transcontinental drive. Without connected roads or reliable maps, Dr. H. Nelson of Vermont drove from coast to coast in under 90 days.

Fisher’s Roundabout engine had one cylinder and an advertised speed of 20 mph, which he put to the test.

Dr. Fisher and Dr. Carey in Fisher's Winton


Accompanied by Dr. Chauncey Carey, he recorded the county’s first distance drive, visiting Van Etten, Spencer, Owego, and Waverly in one afternoon. In a later attempt to prove his automobile’s prowess, Fisher raced against a horse at the County Fair, only to stall out and be forced to be towed home.

In the spring of 1904, when T.S. Watrous established the Watrous Automobile Company, business headquarters were located at 125 S. Main Street, Elmira, long gone today. His plan was to open a manufacturing plant on 11th Street in Elmira Heights, where WAC would produce two affordable models: the Model B, a Touring Car which would cost $500, and Model C, a Runabout which would cost $400. This was half the cost of other car models at the time. In early 1906 WAC was ready and advertised their vehicles widely. Orders soon rolled in.


To secure a vehicle, potential customers were asked to send cash deposits of $100 - $200. The company began producing inexpensive car parts, getting ready to assemble, but demand soon outstripped their capacity to deliver. Very quickly they gained an undesirable reputation.  The Third Edition Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805 - 1942, a well-regarded catalog, reports the car was "...a noisy car, and a pretty awful one. Local wags dubbed it the waterless, gearless, powerless, useless Watrous.” 

In March 1906, Hilliard Clutch & Machine Company moved into the building occupied by WAC, and by summer WAC was out of business completely. Watrous’s automotive dream was over. Previously, Watrous had been a carriage painter and earlier notices in the newspapers had him claiming to be the inventor of a “revolutionary” fruit preserving process that would change the industry. When WAC folded, he returned to his earlier profession of carriage painter for a few years, then in 1911, moved to Florida.

In the end, the Watrous Automobile Company assembled just one vehicle. After the company folded, the car was sold to a client in Pittsburgh for the sum of $300 in addition to a previously made deposit. It was reported in the Star-Gazette on September 15, 1909, that according to its owner, this Watrous “worked alright.”

This would be the only automobile ever produced in Elmira. Other automotive companies associated with Elmira, like Willys-Morrow produced their cars elsewhere. In 1908, Henry Ford manufactured his Model T in Michigan and created a new kind of production model. He designed an assembly line and changed industry standards and customer expectations. Manufacturers shifted from producing a small number of handmade cars to producing millions. Ford’s approach brought the price of automobiles down and within reach for more Americans.