The History of New York State
Biographies, Part 3

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



What other business in the State of New York can boast of a continuous history of one hundred and thirty-one yeas, to say nothing of being in one family during that period, and of constant growth and increasing success? Thomas Lawrence Dickinson is the proprietor of such a business--the manufacture of glaziers' diamonds and other cutting tools. How the business has broadened in its scope from the manufacture of a simple diamond tool for glass-cutters o the varied product of today! Cutting tools are produced to meet the requirements for dressing, truing and shaping emery, corrundum, carborundum, and alundum wheels; cleaning solid and leather covered polishing wheels, truing, shaping and grooving Craigleith stones and large grindstones; also shaped carbon and diamond points for turning paper, cotton, cornhusk and rag calender rolls, hard and soft rubber, fiber, celluloid, brass, composition metal, phosphor bronze, mica, copper, porcelain, granite, etc.; cutting and drilling glass, writing and etching on glass, engraver's diamonds for use on ruling, pantagraph, cycloid and lithograph machines, opticians' diamond lens drills, diamonds for glaziers and for other mechanical purposes. It is the oldest glaziers' diamond business in the world.

Shortly after the Revolutionary War, Joshua Shaw came from England to America and settled in Philadelphia. He had learned the trade of setting glaziers' diamonds in the old country, and in 1796 established himself in business in the city of his adoption. Besides being a skillful mechanic he was an inventor and artist. He was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, where many of his paintings may still be found; other are hanging in European galleries, and Thomas L. Dickinson is the fortunate possessor of a number of his canvases. He was a pioneer in the publishing of travelers' guides. In 1821 he issued "The United States Directory for the Use of Travellers and Merchants." Thomas L. Dickinson has a copy of t his book which has been handed down in the family. It was printed by James Maxwell, Fourth and Walnut Streets, all the advertisement, of which there is goodly number, were printed from beautifully engraved cooper plates. The book covers points from Boston to Savannah and New Orleans, and contains lists of business places, taverns, stage and boat routs. Shaw invented the percussion cap, for which the French government paid him 40,000 francs. He also invented the swivel setting for glaziers' diamonds, now universally in use, which was the basis of the business which has continued to the present day. This was in 1832, and completely revolutionized the industry.

Joshua Shaw and John Dickinson, the grandfather of Thomas L. Dickinson, married sisters, and Mr. Dickinson succeeded his brother-in-law as proprietor of the business. In 1809 he removed it to New York City and continued as its active head as long as he lived. He invented improvements in the tool Mr. Shaw had invented, and for these was granted patents by the United States, the paper being signed by Andrew Jackson, as President, in 1832. A patent was granted by the British government in 1862, and both of these documents are yet in the possession of the present owner of the business.

John Dickinson was succeeded in the business by his son, John, who was the father of Thomas L. John Dickinson, Jr., was born in Philadelphia in 1826, and learned the trade with his father, whom he succeeded many years later. There was an interval of some years, however, when, besides carrying on his own business, he was in the employ of Leschot and Dow, who introduced the annular diamond core drill to this country. Mr. Dickinson made many improvements in these drills. With the development of manufacturing in the latter part of the nineteenth century, new methods and new processes created demands for hundreds of new kinds of cutting tools designed for specific use. Mr. Dickinson proved the resourcefulness of his mechanical genius by meeting these requirements as demands arose, and brought out a large number of the tools referred to earlier in this sketch. This involved a thorough knowledge of the qualities and characteristics of a wide range of materials, especially those of a hard, gritty nature. These tools must be capable of doing precision work where measurements are sometimes as fine as ten-thousandth of an inch. The tools designed and manufactured by Mr. Dickinson and his son not only meet these requirements, but hold their shape and cutting edge for many months of continuous use, thus insuring exact size and shape in an almost endless number of pieces.

Mr. Dickinson was a member of the Masonic Fraternity for many years. He married his cousin, Hannah M. Dickinson, daughter of Thomas Dickinson, in England. Their son, Thomas Lawrence Dickinson, whose name captions this review, was born in Fort Hamilton, on the short of New York Bay, May 10, 1866.

When Thomas L. Dickinson was a lad of five his father sent the family to England to escape an epidemic that had descended upon New York. Hence his early education was received in the land of his ancestors. He attended private schools and the Manchester Grammar School. Upon the return of the family to the Untied States, young Dickinson attended a famous military school at Claverack, New York. He had passed his examinations for admission to college when his father decided that a practical training in the business would be of greater value; so young Dickinson was put to work in the shop, and, beginning at the most elementary tasks, he was advanced step by step until he had mastered every practical detail in the mechanical department of the business. But the enterprise, initiative and independence that had characterized his immediate forebears were in no wise diminished in transmission to him. He chafed under the limitations and restrictions involved in working for another so, in 1890, he ventured into business on his own account. He prospered in the Dickinsonian way. His product was up to the high standard that had become synonymous with the name; his business methods commanded confidence and respect and he was the fortunate possessor of a personality that wins and holds friends. The rivalry between father and son only served to make the name of Dickinson more widely known, and, if that were possible, more favorably known. When the senior Dickinson die in 1897, Thomas L., bought the business from the estate and has carried it on with ever-increasing success to the present time. The products of this plant are shipped all over the world.

Mr. Dickinson has always been a lover of the great out-of-doors. As a by he played football and cricket in England, and baseball in his native land. He has a country home at Belgrade Lakes, almost in the wilds of Maine. There he spends a season every year in his favorite sport, fishing. He is a true disciple of the famous Walton, for he makes most of his town tackle. His chief hobby is the collecting of paintings, bronzes, and oriental rugs. His town residence is at No. 269 Hancock Street, Brooklyn. Mr. Dickson is a member of Altair Lodge, No. 601, Free and Accepted Mason, of Brooklyn; Amity Chapter, No. 160, Royal Arch Masons; Palestine Commandery, No, 18, Knight Templar, New York City; Aurora Grotto; Consistory of Brooklyn; and Kismet Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

Thomas L. Dickinson married, in 1904, Isabel M. MacDowell, who was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, daughter of Calvin C. MacDowell.


There is a business future of great promise for Edwin James Duignan, judging from the progress he has made since he became associated with his father, John Joseph Duignan, in the operation of the latter's funeral parlors, at No. 27 Fulton Street, Gloversville. Mr. Duignan has already attracted the favorable comment of the business men of Gloversville, and has acquired the esteem and respect of all with whom he comes in contact. Mr. Duignan was born in Johnstown, Fulton county, April 21, 1898, the son of John Joseph and Sarah (Kiffney) Duignan, the former a well-known mortician of Gloversville for the past thirty-five years. Following his preliminary education in the public schools of Gloversville, Mr. Duignan entered the high school, from which institution he graduated in 1915. He then took two years in the University of Pennsylvania, employing himself with the business and secretarial course. At the conclusion of his studies he returned to Gloversville and engaged in business with his father. The World War called to him and he enlisted, serving in the United States Navy. He was not able to get overseas, but was stationed at Philadelphia during the period of his service. He was honorably discharged in December, 1918, and immediately reentered his father's business. Since leaving the service, Mr. Duignan has been greatly interested in the cause of ex-service men. He is an enthusiastic member of the local post of the American Legion, of which he was commander in 1924. He is affiliated with the local council of the Knights of Columbus, is secretary of the Kiwanis Club, and an active member of the Eccentric Club.

In January, 1920, Mr. Duignan married Carrie Stewart Easterly, daughter of Frank and Edith (Oliver) Easterly, both natives of Fulton County. Mr. and Mrs. Duignan are the parents of two children, as follows: 1. Mary Elizabeth, born August 18, 1924. 2. Sarah Oliver, born January 20, 1927.


First man conquered the land, and developed travel by land routes; then came the sea, with subsequent developments of navigation, and finally, within our century, man conquered the air. Aviation could not have come before the twentieth century, but might easily have been delayed until he twenty-first, had it not been for those visionary and courageous pioneers whose imagination, science and bravery made flight a reality. The myth of the gods has finally found justification in fact. Langley, the Wrights, Alexander Graham Bell, and others contributed their essence to the progress of aviation. Scoffing interest turned to a measure of credulity, and finally the scoffing was dropped entirely--but until hardy pioneers of the air trails had paid dearly with life and limb; not until certain proofs in practice had borne evidence of undeniable truth or falsity of their theories. Glen Hammond Curtiss' name is deeply impressed on the scroll of aviation, for he, continuously, consistently and valorously has championed the cause of man as conqueror of the air. It was on July 4, 1908, that he sprang into world renown, as the daring pilot of the "June bug," first to make a public flight of one mile in the United States, wherefore he received the "Scientific American" trophy and everlasting fame. The death rolls of flyers have been notoriously high through the years that have followed, through two decades o cumulative progress. But Glenn Hammond Curtiss has been spared. His field has more properly been that of invention, perfection of workable media, and not flying itself, though he did make many remarkable flights when such demonstrations of the practicability of flight were most needed in the early years of aviation. Among them may be noted the winning of the "Scientific American" trophy for three successive years, 1908, 1909, and 1910. The particular flights were: the first pre-announced and officially observed flight of one kilometer, at Hammondsport, New York, July 4, 1908; a flight of 24.7 miles, or 19 circuits of a closed course at Hempstead Plains, Long Islane, July 17, 1909; the flight down the Hudson from Albany to New York, May 29, 1910. This latter flight established a world's record for distance traveled in a continuous flight. Mr. Curtiss also won the first Gordon Bennett International aeroplane speed contest at Rheimes, France, August 29, 1909, and in the following month, at Brescia, Italy, carried his first passenger, the famous Italian poet and philosopher, Gabriele D'Annunzio.

America, largely through his activity, has kept abreast of Europe in the matter of excellence of planes and equipment---if not in mere numbers of planes and dirigibles. Our American adventurers of the air ceded place to no others in either hemisphere and this has been possible only through the direction of such men as Glenn Hammond Curtiss, and his brilliant associates. Much invention and perfection made possible the light of Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, first to cross the Atlantic from New York to Paris, in 1927. Other great flights have since been recorded; yet, as proof of advancement in aeronautics, that feat stands along. Today at his home in Country club Estates, Florida, lives one who has developed our aviation from the first, whose memories could supply the substance of air history through its most thrilling pages. The thrill that came with the first air flight was nearly duplicated in the ocean crossing of 1927, but the span of Glenn Hammond Curtiss' experience has held all thrills, from least to greatest, and what may follow in aviation is by him foreseen.

Glenn Hammond Curtiss was born in Hammondsport, Steuben County, New York, May 21, 1878, son of Frank R. and Leah (Andrews) Curtiss. The name Hammond was given to him in honor of the village of his nativity. Frank R. Curtiss settled in Hammondsport as a young man, and there engaged in trade as maker of harness, at which he continued until his untimely death in 1880, when he was but twenty-eight years of age. Following the death of her husband Leah (Andrews) Curtiss removed to Buffalo.

After securing a sound and basic academic instruction in the public schools of Hammondsport, Glenn Hammond Curtiss studied photograph for two years, and attained to some skill in the art, but about that time cycling was at the apex of its popularity, and, of a mechanical turn of mind, destined to be an inventor as the world knows him today, he engaged in the bicycle business, becoming one of the noted wheelmen of his time. From the bicycle business to the business of motorcycles was but a natural step, and satisfied the young man's desire for mechanical exploits to much greater degree. In 1902, at the age of only twenty-four, he established a motorcycle factory in Hammondsport. In 1905, riding his own machines, he won State and national speed championships, and set new speed records; and in 1907, at Ormond Beach, Florida, set the record for a mile on motorcycle, doing the distance in twenty-six and two-fifths seconds, with a machine weighing one hundred and ten pounds. Thereafter, 1907 to 1909, he designed aeronautical motors for dirigibles, working for Captain T. S. Baldwin, and his handiwork included the first engine for a dirigible ever purchased by the government of the United States. Also during that two year period he directed experiments for the Aerial Experiment Association, and supervised the construction of the aforementioned "June Bug," which he piloted, as cited, July 4, 1908. In 1908 he experimented with the "Loon," an aeroplane fitted with pontoons, and in August, 1909, won the Gordon Bennett cup and Prix de la Vitesse at Rheims, France, in the International aviation meet as representative of the Aero Club of American. In the International meet he drove an aeroplane of his own--the well-known Curtiss--design. On May 20, 1910, he won the New York "World" prize of ten thousand dollars for a flight from Albany to New York City, in two hours and fifty-one minutes. Having experimented with hydro-aeroplanes for a number of years, in January, 1911, he mad public demonstration of the hydro-aeroplane, and followed these with other demonstration of a flying boat which he was awarded a prize by the Aero club of American, in 1912. Meanwhile, and during the ten years from 1909 to 1919, he established flying schools, installing one at his native community, Hammondsport; and others at San Diego, Buffalo, Newport News, Miami, and Atlantic City. In 1913-14 he introduced the flying boat to Brazil, Russia, Austria, Italy and Germany. It was in 1914 for the late Rodman Wanamaker, that Glenn Hammond Curtiss designed and built the first heavier-than-air flying craft designed for a flight across the Atlantic. This was a multi-motored flying boat, the "America."

The outbreak of the World War found Glenn Hammond Curtiss near the crest of his present dominance in aviation, and, when the United States joined the Allies against the Central Powers, in 1917, he expanded the Curtiss factories to supply Great Britain, Russia and America with planes and parts. It was he who developed the "Wasp," which held the world's records for speed climbing and altitude, and other types of aeroplanes, together with flying boats of superior quality. With the United States navy cooperation, he designed and built the Navy-Curtiss flying boats Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4, Navy-Curtiss Flying Boat No. 4 making the first Atlantic crossing, May 16 to 27, in 1919. Later he developed many types of aeronautical motors, and designed and produced machines of distinctive design, such as scooters, life-boats, combined land and water aircraft, speed motor boats, and autoplanes. At the present time, 1928, though a veteran in aviation, he is at the height of his productive capacity, and the nation is the richer and the safer through his loyal citizenship and dedication of his gifted talent, his genius at aeronautics.

While Glenn Hammond Curtiss has been active in general affairs, by comparison with his works in aviation these activities appear negligible. Distinctions given him have been numerous, dating from July 4, 1908, and his flight in the "June Bug." In 1924 he was named honorary member of the National Aeronautical Association. He is a member of the Aero Club of America, the Aero Club of France, the Army and Navy Club, the Sphinx Club of New York City, and others.

Among the distinctions awarded Mr. Curtiss for his work in aviation have been the Aero Club of America gold Medal, the Robert J. Collier Trophy for the most signal advance in aviation made during 1910; and the Langley medal was awarded Mr. Curtiss by the Smithsonian institution in May, 1913.

On march 7, 1`898, Glenn Hammond Curtiss married Leah P. Neff, who was born in Prattsburg, Steuben county, New York, September 14, 1879, daughter of Guy L. and Jennie )Potter) Neff, Guy L. Neff came of an old family, was born October 13, 1850, prospered as a lumberman, and died April 27, 1903. Jennie (Chase) Neff, daughter of Senaca and Marion (chase) Potter, survives her husband. Mrs. Curtiss is a communicant of the Episcopal Church. Glenn Hammond and Lena P. (Neff) Curtiss have on son: Glenn Hammond Curtiss, Jr.


Since 1904, Dr. Volkert Lincoln Getman has practiced medicine and minor surgery in Gloversville, where he now (1928) has offices at No. 144 Norman street. Through the many years of his residence here he has constantly acted the part of a good citizen, interested in the progress of the community as a whole, and he has contributed liberally to that progress. Respected by confreres of his profession, possessed of honorable standing in it, he no less widely and sincerely esteemed as a man whose principles of thought and conduct are correct, whose personal ideals are high, and whole personality if most agreeable.

Descended from a distinguished ancestor, who was a colonel in the New York State Militia in 1777 and a member of the first colonial Congress held at White Plains, Dr. Getman was born in Johnstown, New York, august 11, 1865, son of Thomas and Alida (Vrooman) Getman, his father having been a carpenter, builder and farmer. In the public schools of Johnstown he secured his basic academic instructions, there graduated from high school, and from 1897 to 1898 attended New York Preparatory School. He matriculated in the New York Homeopathic Hospital, and from it was graduated with the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1904. For a brief period, then, he served at interne, in the Metropolitan Hospital on Blackwell's Island. He began active and general practice of his profession that year, and has continued in it with some popularity and considerable prosperity through the years that have followed. In Gloversville, Dr. Getman has interested himself in a broad scope of affairs. A Republican, he is loyal to the principles of the party, and owns within its ranks a certain influence, which he exercises conscientiously to the greatest benefit of the people at large. Fraternally, he is affiliated with the Free and Accepted Masons, in which order he is a member of the Blue Lodge, Royal Arch Masons, Royal and Select Masters, Knights Templar, and Cyprus Temple, Mystic Shrine, Albany; with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Loyal Order of Moose, Order of Eagles, and he belongs to the Volunteer Firemen of Gloversville, and the Eccentric Club, and is a life-member of the New York Historical Society. He is a communicant of the First Presbyterian Church, of Gloversville. During the period of America's participation in the World War, although he was above the age limit prescribed for service, Dr. Getman volunteered his services, and stood ready for call to arms. He was of service on boards and committees of war work, to the Red Cross, and in the campaigns of the Liberty Loans.

On September 19, 1911, in Gloversville, Dr. Getman was untied in marriage with Jessie Rowe, daughter of John and Sarah (Redmond) Rowe.


The Grewen Fabric company, of Johnstown, of which John A. Grewen is president, occupies an exceptional position in the glove industry of this country, inasmuch as it is the one firm in the United States which makes gloves solely for women, of their particular style and material. And it is due to the foresight of Mr. Grewen that, when the World War cut off the supply of the best material that could be used for these gloves, the concern was able to continue manufacturing, for Mr. Grewen had foreseen the possibilities of such a condition and for years had been experimenting, until he finally succeeded in manufacturing the fabric for himself.

John A. Grewen was born in Johnstown, October 18, 1875, the son of Matthais and Catherine (Fandel) Grewen, the latter of German birth. They came to America in the early "fifties," and after a short experience in the Middle West, settled in Johnstown, where the former engaged in the business of merchant tailor. Matthias Grewen passed to his rest in November, 1902, and his wife survived him but four years, dying in February, 1906.

The early education of John a. Grewen was obtained in the public schools of Johnstown, after which he took a course in the Gloversville Business College. He then went to New York City where, after working in a woolen house for a year, he became a ladies' tailor. After studying designing and the creation of ladies' garments for about eighteen months, he returned to Jamestown and started to manufacture this type of clothing. He continued in this line for several years, being associated with his brother in the business, and when the latter withdrew from the firm, Mr. Grewen continued alone for some time. After about eight years in the business, Mr. Grewen began his experiments in the manufacture of a suitable glove fabric to take the place of that which was then being imported from Germany. His efforts were rewarded with success and he was soon able to organize a corporation for the manufacture of this material, his brother joining him in this new enterprise. After a few years it was found that the new material was not only equal in every way to that which had been supplied from Germany, but in many qualities it was far superior. Their factory in Johnstown is a modern well-equipped building, and they maintain a New York City office with a large selling force. They not only compete successfully with the foreign market in style, design and workmanship, but even go so far as to send gloves to Germany as samples to be copied there.

During the World War Mr. Grewen was very active in Liberty Loans and Red Cross work, his age, of course, barring him from service with the army. He is a prominent member of the Knights of Columbus, being affiliated with the local council. In politics he is an Independent, and served for a time on the Johnstown School Board. He is a member of the colonial Club and is ever to the fore in all movements for the welfare of his community or for the betterment and advantage of his fellow-citizens.

On August 1, 1900, Mr. Grewen married Mary Frances Meagher, daughter of Jeremiah and Catherine Meagher, the former an executive in one of Johnstown's large knit-goods factories. Mr. and Mrs. Grewen are the parents of six children, as follows: 1. Katherine, born in 1903, a graduate of St. rose College, Albany. 2. Frederick J., born in 1904, a member of the firm of the Grewen Fabric company. 3. John M., born in 1904, a graduate of Georgetown University, District of Columbia. 4. Robert F., born in 1906. 5. Gertrude E., born in 1909. 6. Margaret A., born in 1914.


One of Gloversville's foremost citizens, Frank Burton was for many years a leader in the legal affairs of this State, retiring from active law practice after a remarkable career of more than a third of a century. Mr. Burton still maintains an active interest in his financial and public service connections, being also identified with several of the most prominent commercial organizations of this country, in all of which he is a valued executive, in addition to which he renders expert assistance in solving technicalities of law and by acting as general legal counsel. A lawyer of forceful address, superior erudition and a keen penetration into the intricacies of law, coupled with exceptional forensic ability and sincerity of purpose, he has received the plaudits of his fellow-citizens throughout his career for his splendid adherence to the cause of justice and his upholding of the cause of the right at all times. In the welfare and improvement of this community, he long exerted his influence toward civic betterment, and by his example and support continues to aid all movements which have the interests of people and State as their foundation.

Mr. Burton was born in Gloversville, January 16, 1861, son of Seth C. and Harriet (Judson) Burton, the former a native of Charleston, Montgomery County, and the latter a native of Kingsboro, Fulton County, Seth C. Burton and his wife were both of English descent and were numbered among the most highly esteemed residents of the Mohawk Valley. Judah Burton, great-great-grandfather of Frank Burton, was a major in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and was founder of the town of Burtonsville, Montgomery County.

Frank Burton was educated in the public schools of Gloversville, graduating from high school in 1878, after which he entered Union College, from which institution he received his degree of Bachelor of Arts with the class of 1883. Having a desire to study law that same year he entered the office of Judge A. D. L. Baker, of Gloversville, and there pursued the reading of law, applying himself with exception diligence to this work, until he was admitted to the bar in November, 1885. In 1886, Mr. Burton entered into a partnership with Judge Baker and this association continued without change for thirty-six years, until both retired from active legal practice in 1922. During his many years of devotion to his profession, he acquired a large and discriminating clientele who recognized and appreciated his achievements in the successful outcome of important litigated interests, and since his retirement, he had acted as counsel to the law firm of Baker and Maider. In addition to this professional activities, Mr. Burton exerted considerable influence in the realm of business in an official capacity, and he still acts as director and vice-president of the Fulton County National Bank; director and vice-president of the Coal Company of Fulton County, Incorporated; director and counsel of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad Company, and director of the firm of E. S. Parkhurst & company, Incorporated, of Gloversville. In politics, Mr. Burton is a staunch adherent of the principles of the Republican party and although deeply concerned and prominently active in all matters, he never south public office. He established a splendid record as trustee of the village of Gloversville from 1889 to 1890, and as alderman of the city of Gloversville, 1890 to 1892; while in the interests of education, he was a prominent member of the School Board from 1892 to 1895. He is a life trustee and chairman of the board of Gloversville Free Library, and served eight years as a trustee of Union College, of Schenectady. His fraternal associations are with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Sir William Johnson Country Club of Fulton County, and in social affairs, he is active in the Eccentric Club. His religious affiliations are with the Congregational Church, of which he is one of the deacons.

Frank Burton married, June 15, 1887, at Gloversville, Emma McNab, of Gloversville, daughter of John and Eliza (Clark) McNab, the former of Scotch and the latter of English ancestry. John McNab was a prominent businessman and capitalist in Gloversville for many years. Mr. and Mrs. Burton are the parents of three children: Lillian McNab, John McNab and Elizabeth Ashley.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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