Friday, August 29, 2014

Look for the Union Label

by Rachel Dworkin, archivist

       It’s Labor Day and for many of us, that means a day off for shopping or the last barbeque of summer (unless you work retail, in which case it means frenzied sales).  The first Labor Day parade was organized by the Central Labor Union and Knights of Labor in New York City on May 1, 1882.  It was first celebrated as a national holiday on the first Monday of September in 1887.  Whatever it has become today, it was initially intended to celebrate organized labor and the working class.
          The organized labor movement began in the 19th century as a way for workers to protect themselves against powerful business interests.  In the days before minimum wage, OSHA and a whole host of other government regulations, workers had no one looking out for them other than themselves.  Organized labor became a way to fight for things like better pay, shorter workdays and safer conditions. Over the years, unions have used tools like striking, picketing, collective bargaining and, since 1933, appeals to the National Labor Relations Board to accomplish their goals. 
The strike is one of organized labor’s best known tools.  There have been a number of successful strikes in Elmira over the years.  For example, the St. Joseph’s Hospital nurses strike ended on July 12, 1983 with the nurses negotiating a contract for a 4% across the board raise.  That same year, striking workers at Hilliard were also able to negotiate a new contract. 
St. Joseph's Hospital nurses strike, July 1983
Other times strikes backfired spectacularly.  In 1888, workers at the Elmira Rolling Mills went on strike demanding higher wages and the owner, Henry Rathbone, responded by simply shutting down the company.  In 1969, Remington Rand closed their Elmira plant during a labor dispute.  A strike by guards at the Elmira Reformatory in 1979 not only failed to achieve their goals, the union was fined over $2.5 million dollars and each striking guard was docked $1,550 in pay. 
Reformatory guard's strike, March 1979

Of course, unions do a lot more than just strike.  They negotiate contracts; provide individual workers with protection from management; and lobby for better labor policy.  All of that is important, but strikes just make for better pictures.  If you are interested the activities of local unions, we have records of the Elmira Central Trades & Labor Assembly (1899-1924) and the Communications Workers of America Local No. 1111(1970s-2000s), so come and check it out. 
CWA booklet, 1977

Monday, August 25, 2014

Liqui-cal…the dairy bottle that holds the answer to effective, pleasant weight reduction for you!

by Erin Doane, curator

We have a large collection of milk bottles (nearly 100) in the Museum’s collection.  Dairying was big business in Chemung County and many of the bottles were made by Thatcher Glass in Elmira. Back in the spring when we were planning our farming exhibit, I got to look through a lot of these bottles.  One in particular caught my eye.  The text on the brown glass milk bottle read: “Liqui-Cal A New 900 Calorie Food for Weight Control.”  I was intrigued.

Liqui-cal came onto the market in 1960. It was a food in liquid form consisting principally of milk solids, sugar, cocoa, cream and added vitamins and minerals for use in a weight reducing diet.  A quart of Liqui-cal cost 89 cents.  One bottle was a full day’s supply for dieters on a full liquid diet or a two or three day supply for those on a modified diet that included other foods.  It could be found in the dairy case at grocery stores and was also available for home delivery through local dairy routemen.  In 1961, chocolate, vanilla, and coffee flavored frozen Liqui-cal “ice cream” was introduced for people who wanted a change from the all-liquid diet.

One typical diet plan included 8 ounces of Liqui-cal for breakfast, 8 ounces of Liqui-cal for lunch, and a low-calorie evening meal consisting of fruit or fruit juice, a medium portion of lean meat, green vegetables and dark or black coffee.  That sounds, to me, a lot like “a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner” that was proposed by Slim-Fast when it was introduced in 1977.

Another diet plan recommended that 8 ounces of Liqui-cal should be taken four times a day, for breakfast, lunch, supper and in the evening.  Three cups of dark or black coffee may also be ingested during the 24 hour period. This diet should be followed for 48 hours, then should be alternated with 2 days of solid low-calorie food such as lean meats, fish, green vegetables, and citrus fruits and juices.  

Liqui-cal advertisement from the

Yonkers Herald Statesman, 1961
How effective was the Liqui-cal diet?  According to the company’s advertising, the supervising physician in their medical test of patients on a diet of dairy-fresh Liqui-cal declared the results excellent and effective.  During the three week test period, participants lost an average of 7.5 pounds. Individuals considered markedly obese in the study lost an average of 19 pounds in three weeks.  It was also noted that all participants remained physical fit during the test period, showing that they were still receiving all the vitamins and nutrients that they needed.

Liqui-cal was “scientifically prepared to supply your body with all the vitamins, minerals and proteins that it needs for buoyant, normal health in a sound program of dietary control” according to the bottle.  In 1963, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven release a report on various food and drug products.  One product they tested was Vanilla flavored Liqui-cal.  After running “rather extensive proximate analyses and vitamin assays” they found that there was a significant shortage of vitamin A – only 54% of the claimed amount.  The sample also contained excesses over guaranty ranging from 64% to 153% of thiamine, riboflavin, and calcium pantothenate.  They, therefore, declared the sample to be misbranded.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Costumer Matt Lockwood and His "Museum" of Curiosities

by Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator

In my last blog I told the story of Henry Clum, the early meteorologist and "weather prophet."  Well, this week I'm going to continue our examination of Elmira's more eccentric figures by discussing Matt Lockwood, Clum's best friend.  Matt Lockwood stole the aellograph out of Binghamton after Clum's death and then donated it to the museum, but there is so much more to his story than that.  Lockwood was best known as the costumer for the Lyceum Theatre in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Matt Lockwood
Lockwood letterhead from 1897
Matt's parents, John and Electa Lockwood came to Elmira by ox cart from Vermont in 1850.  The Lockwoods had six children, three of whom died as young children (daughter Mary died in infancy, son Hollis drowned in the Chemung River at age 3, and Robert drowned in the Chemung Canal as a small boy).  James Matthew Lockwood, known as Matt, was the eldest child.  His two surviving sisters were Jane and Abbie. 

John Lockwood
Electa Lockwood

Jane Lockwood
Abbie Lockwood
 After the Civil War, young Matt Lockwood and his cousin George Roberts joined the Byron Christy Minstrels, a blackface group.  He later also was affiliated with a local minstrel troupe, the Queen City Minstrels in the 1870s.  While we now recognize how offensive and racist blackface performances are, during the 19th century they were very popular.
Matt Lockwood in blackface during a minstrel performance

Lockwood maintained an affinity for minstrel performances throughout his life and had a large collection of items used by minstrel performers.  Many of these items were donated to the Chemung County Historical Society after Lockwood's death.

Blackface mask used in a minstrel performance, from the Matt Lockwood collection
Large shoe used by George Christy, son of the founder of Christy's Minstrels

Slapsticks used in a minstrel show

After his minstrel days, Lockwood became the costumer and prop manager for the Lyceum Theater.  This is the role for which he was best known.  In this capacity, Lockwood fabricated any props that traveling show groups would need, created costumes, and did set design.  He was also frequently employed by other theater groups in Elmira and surrounding, the Rorick's Glen theater, and Elmira College. 
Interior of the Lyceum Theater
Through all of his work and the personal connections he made with actors (he must have known DeHollis and Valora), Lockwood amassed a large collection of theater objects and ephemera.  His famous costume, prop, and studio rooms were filled from floor to ceiling with theater history.  Among his collection were items like a playbill and cape from Ford's Theater on the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.  He also had large collections of firearms, clothing, and handbills. 
Cloak from the Lockwood costume collection
In fact, in the 1890s his expertise and collection of handbills and theater programs once helped the Buffalo police in a criminal investigation.  When a suspect claimed that he was at the theater in Elmira on the night of his alleged crime, Lockwood provided the playbill that proved the show did happen on that night.  The police summoned him to Buffalo, where Lockwood was able to grill the suspect on the details of the plot and stage design.  The suspect provided answers that matched Lockwood's knowledge and was released.
Lockwood's work shop curios at the Lyceum

Lockwood's costume and prop room

Lockwood at work in his studio

Lockwood never married and lived and worked with his sisters for the duration of his life.  He was known for his generosity and had many friends (Henry Clum being one of them).  He served as a volunteer fireman for over 30 years.  At the end of his life, he went mostly blind from cataracts.  Still, his sisters helped him continue his work at the theater.

In 1924, Lockwood fell ill with uremic poisoning and heart trouble.  Even in his final days, he joked with nurses and visitors.  He died on September 11, 1924 at age 76.  Lockwood was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.  The community mourned the loss of their beloved "old costumer."  Dan Quinlan, a friend of Lockwood and well-known local performer, wrote a beautiful tribute that was printed in the Elmira Telegram.  Perhaps my favorite line is, "Matt always believed that a laugh at any time was better than a groan."         


Monday, August 11, 2014

Elmira's Most Wanted

by Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

On March 23, 1915, Elmira Police Chief John J. Finnell and Detective Sergeant Charles F. Gradwell went to Mrs. Mary Collins’ rooming house at 314 Baldwin Street to arrest Edward Westervelt and John Penny.  It did not go well. 

Edward Westervelt and John Penny were convicted felons who had served time together at the New Jersey State Penitentiary for burglary before being paroled in 1914.  They arrived in Elmira in early March, 1915, and quickly set to work robbing a number of homes in the area.  The pair ended up on the polices’ radar when Penny tried to spend a rare Columbian half-dollar acquired from one of the homes at a local restaurant.  On Monday, March 22, Detective Sergeant Gradwell chatted with the pair, but gave them no indication that they were suspects.  It’s safe to say the figured it out anyway because, when Gradwell and Finnell showed up the following afternoon to arrest them, the burglars were armed and ready.    
John Penny
Edward Westervelt

Going up against them were Detective Sergeant Charles Gradwell and Chief John Finnell of the Elmira Police Department.  Gradwell was a 20-year veteran of the police force and a natural detective who had a reputation as a friendly soul who always got his man.  Finnell, meanwhile, was a relative newcomer to the police force.  He had worked for a number of years as a detective for the Pennsylvania Railroad before taking over as police chief in December 1913. 
Detective Sergeant Gradwell
Police Chief Finnell
Gradwell and Finnell showed up at the rooming house shortly after 3pm and were escorted to Westervelt and Penny’s room by the landlady.  Once inside, Gradwell removed his coat, withdrew his handcuffs, and made clear that they would be arresting the two men.  Westervelt attempted to flee out the window and was grabbed by Finnell.  During the ensuing struggle, Finnell broke Westervelt’s leg and he, in turn, shot Finnell in the head at near point-blank range.  Gradwell, attempted to draw his own weapon and return fire, but was shot twice by Westervelt before he could. 

The result was a city-wide manhunt for the two men.  Everyone was looking for them: not only the local police and sheriff’s departments, but also the National Guard and police from neighboring Corning.  Westervelt was caught right away and had to be rescued from a lynch mob.  Penny, on the other hand, still remains at large to this day.  Since the case is still, technically, open, the guns used in the crime are still in the Elmira Police evidence lock-up.  On the other hand, Gradwell’s other possessions, including his personal gun, billy-club and patrol diaries, were recently donated to the museum by his descendants.    

The Gradwell collection