The History of New York State
Book 12, Chapter 18, Part 2

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


1825 to 1835.--Many remarkable changes took place in all spheres of industrial activity; the industrial life of the State was made over. Orange County, among is Highlands, had been the seat of a considerable business in the forging of iron, since before the Revolution. It will be recalled that the great chain which was stretch across the Hudson to prevent the passing of the British up the river, was made here. Cannon were cast; cannonballs were turned out. When the war 0f 1812 was troubling the country this business was revived. When the demand for munitions ceased, the ironworkers started making other things. It became literally true that swords were turned into plough shares. Nails, the first cast iron stoves, and the coarser iron goods were manufactured. When the canal frenzy seized hold of the State, some of the rude machinery from digging the "ditches" were constructed here, and in the upper reached of the Hudson and Lake George, where the iron industry had spread.

Meanwhile transportation was changing. The Erie Canal was thrown open in 1826, and was the forerunner of other canals in the State and Nation. By 1835 there were nearly 2,000 miles of canals in operation in the United States, the most of this mileage being in New York, and as many more miles were under construction. The canals, the Erie in particular, led to a great increase in the number of farms along its borders' it was a boom period in agriculture. This was soon checked, for the prairie lands of the near West proved better suited to the cheap production of grains, the main crops of the farms of that period, and the New York farmer could not compete. This condition worked to the advantage of manufacturing, however, for the hundreds of little towns which had sprung up during the construction of the canals, in their struggle to survive turned to other industries, and having surrounding them quite a farm population ready to leave their unprofitable labors, these towns had two of the requisites for successful manufacturing, cheap power and labor--capital could be secured and the canals would bring raw material. Thus it was that Rochester became the flour producing center of the United States; Syracuse the salt manufacturers for the continent. In both these instances, natural qualifications were mainly responsible; Rochester had the Genesee Falls and Syracuse the beds of raw materials. Buffalo became a great port, and with its neighbors, the lumber center of the land, and the seat of mills, both saw and flour, and meat packing plants. Albany and Troy were valuable sites for factories because of their strategic situation at the head of the navigation of the Hudson and the outlet of the Erie Canal. It was the river and canal towns which profited most from manufacturing during this 1825 to 1835 period, for the industry was not the stock company, large factory, greatly machined business that it was to become. As yet the making of things was mostly by hand, often in the home, and capitalized by the workers; it was something better done by small, closely knitted groups such as could be found in the small towns of the State. Auburn became an agricultural implement section; Jamestown noted for its furniture (although many other places took up in this line of endeavor); Schenectady went in for metal products; Cohoes for knitting; Gloversville for mittens; dozens of other towns for special manufactures more by reason of change turning their attention to this or that industry where the little settlement had to do something or fail.

In New York City the situation was somewhat different. Already it was the principal city of the Nation, the center of its capital, the place where half the imports and exports of the United States were handled, the terminal of canals and railroads. Steam traffic had made a good beginning before 1835; in 1833 New York had invested in railroads seventeen and a half million dollars, although only thirty-six miles were then in actual operation. Perhaps it should be added that most of the immigrants coming to this country entered at New York. At any rate, the metropolis was ripe for the introduction of factories and factory methods from the time that the War of 1812 hit it commerce. By 1830 the city had become the premier industrial place in the United States, a position it has never relinquished. It was making more cottons goods than any other place except Lowell, Massachusetts, although this textile had been spun in the city only a few years. It milled more grain than any other city, there were more iron works, aside from forges, than could be found elsewhere in the country.

New York took the lead in so many of the early industries during these years that it is hardly necessary to attempt to trace the beginning s of any one. If one should be chosen, the clothing industry would be it, because it not only is the largest among all in the city, but may be said to have originated there. Clothing for ages was made in the home by members of the family, or a traveling tailor. As textiles began to be turned out by machinery, even wool being forced to submit to this process, men desired to make clothes out of these materials on the spot in which they were woven, or at a place to which the cloth could be cheaply transported. New York City was admirably situated in every respect for the wholesale making of garments, and began the factory manufacture of clothes in 1834. Little progress was made until the sewing machine was improved, and came into use a dozen years later, which gave an almost revolutionary impetus to the industry. Like all automatic powers, it cheapened the process of manufacture, gave employment to many, particularly the women, and enhanced the comfort of all by making possible the production of a necessity of life at a greatly reduced cost. It is not surprising that by 1850 the Metropolis was producing a third of all the factory made clothes used in the Nation; that during the Civil War it supplied the larger part of the uniforms used by the Northern troops; and that today, in the number employed, and the value of the product, it is still the leading industry of the city in spite of Nation-wide competition, not to mention that of the States' own cities, Rochester, buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Newburg, Yonkers, and a score of the places who play prominent rolls in the making of garments.

The strength of New York's industries lies not in the fact that one of its cities is the supreme leader, but that they are scattered to the wide flung towns of the State, and were so from the beginnings of industrialism. Some of the marked improvements in manufacture were introduced and perfected in sections far removed from the metropolis. Knitting by machinery was first used in America at Cohoes Falls of the Mohawk river (1831) and it was years before any other community approached it in the production of knit goods. A Massachusetts woman is supposed to have invented the separate collar, but it took Troy to perfect it, and to start making collars and shirts on a large scale. The art of dyeing woolen with fast colors was not understood until 1850, meanwhile power carpet looms had been invented and Amsterdam really had its birth as a carpet and rug center. Gloversville and Johnstown were making mittens from Indian buckskin, and clung to their leadership in the industry by inventing machinery, or installing the inventions as mechanically made gloves came into use. When wood-pulp proved useful in the making of paper, Watertown and the towns located in the up-State forest regions, quickly went to the front.

1850 to 1860.--By 1850 New York w as taking on the airs of a manufacturing State. There were 23,553 establishments, capitalized at $99,904,000, employing 199,349 hands, and turning out products to the value of $237,597,249. In 1860, or just prior to the Civil War, the census reported fewer establishments, 22,624, but the capital invested had risen to $172,895,000, and the value of the product to $378,870,000. A visiting Englishman with the American sounding name of George Washington Bacon, in a travel book written for the benefit of his fellow countrymen, noted a very marvelous growth in the manufacturers of America, but gave as his opinion that this country could never hope to equal England in this industry. To him the prosperity of this land was dependent upon its agriculture. Nevertheless, although only a small per cent of the population was engaged in manufacturing, the total of our manufactures as given for the year ending June 1, 1860, was $1,900,000,000, an increase in a single decade of 86 per cent. The per cent increase in the number engaged in manufacturing was more than double the increase in population. And all this in spite of the fact that we were still dominantly an agricultural Nation.

New York, as has been stated, had been the leader in manufacturing since 1830. In 1860, it ranked first in garment making; second to Pennsylvania in iron production, although first in the construction of machinery and most metal products; second to Massachusetts in textiles, also following that State in the production of boot and shoes but leading it in leather; first in flour and foodstuffs (the largest flour mill in the Nation was located in Oswego and made 300,000 barrels of flour that year). And, of course, New York distilled more liquor, and produced sixty per cent of the salt made in the United States. New York City had not passed the first million mark, but had a population of 806,000, which was greater than that of most States. Only two cities in the world surpassed it in its trade, London and Liverpool. One fourth of all the clothing made in the State was manufactured in the city. In other lines it was turning out great quantities of iron merchandise and steam machinery, cabinet furniture, pianos, etc.; was extensively engaged in the publishing business; was building great sugar refineries, sent out vast exports of flour; cured meats; and imported all manner of goods. The chartered banking capital of the city was credited with being one-seventh of all in the United States.

Brooklyn was a city of 267,000, and the red-room of New York, manufacturing playing rather a small part in its activities, although it had large docks and warehouses, and a navy yard, which was soon to prove useful. Buffalo had 81,000 inhabitants, and was the greatest grain port in the world--the receipts and shipments of this commodity exceeding that of any other. The most of its industries were allied to transportation, cars, etc., lumbering or food products. Albany, with 62,000, was one of the greatest timber markets in America. It also made metal articles, stoves, liquor, bricks, etc., as its principal productions. Rochester, 48,000, was the most extensive flour milling city in this country, and had already started on its career as a maker of a wide variety of articles. Troy, 39,000, went in strong for laundry goods, railway iron, stoves, nails, railroad cars, coaches, and did a tremendous business as the eastern end of canal commerce. Syracuse, 28,000, besides making iron goods, and flour, produced from five to eight million barrels of salt annually. Utica, 23,000, manufactured cotton and woolen goods, steam engines, and railway cars, as its principal commodities.

1870.--The Civil War wrought the disturbances in industry that war usually does.. There was the period of shock and depression; the endeavor to rise and meet the difficulty of keeping up production with diminishing workers, and capital called for elsewhere; success in this and inflation; and the aftermath, depression and reconstruction. New York fortunately developed great adaptability and stood the strain well. In 1870, the census reported 36,206 manufacturing establishments in the State, a sixty per cent increase over 1860; the capital invested was $366,944,120, more than double that of the preceding decade; and the value of the products were figured as $785,194,000, as against $378,870,000 of 1860. One of the beneficial results of the war, as it concerned manufacture, was the increase in the number of inventions, or improvements in manufacturing. For example, men were called in numbers from the farms, and yet the demand for food was increased. Many of the improvements in farm machinery and improved hand tools date from this period, and New York led in the invention and the making of them. The manufactures of farm machinery more than doubled in five years, although there were fewer hands to make them. So, too, the increased demand for clothing brought about automatic machinery for making it; the show business was made over from top to bottom, some of the least populated counties of eastern New York were peopled at this time with those engaged in the tanneries as they have not been since, until the vacationists began to realize their beauties. The need of increased war munitions gave the ammunition factories their start. What was even better, the demand made by the war stimulated factory production, increased its adaptability and improved its methods, advantages, the benefits of which were reaped in later years. It brought about, or at least started particularly during the reconstruction period, the consolidation of capital and industries. In 1860 the capital of New York concerns was only about $8,000 on the average; in 1880 it was more than double this. In most trade many of the dealers were driven to the wall, only the large companies surviving. This was especially true of the clothing trade in the State which, previous to the war, had been an affair of small shops, individual owners who gave personal oversight to the business and were independent of other firms. "Big Business" was in the air; "trusts" were formed, although still on a small scale; the country began to hear of "millionaires."

1880-1900.--The panic of 1873, while disastrous. Coming as it did when business was just getting well adjusted, did not check very greatly the industrial advance of the commonwealth. In 1880, there were nearly 50,000 manufacturing establishments in the State, an increase of one-third. The capital invested was more than half a billion dollars, as against one-third of a billion in 1860, and less than a hundred million dollars in 1850. The output was valued at just over one billion, the first time in the history of the State where the mark had been reached. Recall, this was equal to more than half of the whole manufactures of the United States, including the fisheries and the products of the mines in 1860.

The two decades between this period and the end of the century were marked by changes and advances too many and too involved for analysis. As Charles F. Horne has suggested:

In manufacturing each year produces some new device which revolutionizes one kind of an industry or another. New methods, new machines, supersedes the old. And still New York State by the wit, the energy, the daring of her sons, retains the leadership. For example, most of the advancements made in photography since 1884 have come from Rochester, the world's foremost center for the manufacture of photograph supplies. Improvements in firearms look to the great Remington works, or to the United States arsenal at Watervliet. The largest pulp and paper mills in the world lie along the upper course of the Hudson River. . . . . . . .Most of the modern developments in electricity have been first exploited in our State. In 1882 there was built in New York City the first al all "Central stations," or power houses, for the gathering and distraction of electrical power. In the brief time since the building of that first small station, even the mighty Niagara Falls has been harnessed and its enormous power carried by means of electricity, to cities two hundred miles away.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, New York was more than ever the premier State in the Nation, from almost any standpoint, although other States excelled her in some one particular. There was no question as to her industrial rank. In the decade ending with 1900, the commonwealth was manufacturing ten times what it did in Civil War days. The part that machinery had played in this great increase of production maybe realized when it is known that only four times as many hands were used in producing this ten-fold increase. The number of manufacturing plants in the State had risen to 78,658; the capital invested to $1,651,210,220. The increase in the population during the preceding decade had been 21.1 per cent; of wage earners, 41.5 per cent; the increase in the number of establishments has been 54.1 per cent; of the capital 119.8 per cent. Figures, or even ratios and comparison, fail to make clear the story of New York's primacy in industry. Possible it maybe t old by the following brief statement as made by the National Census (1900) publishers, based by them upon a thousand details and figures:

New York ranks first among the States in cheese, butter, and condensed milk, factory products; chemicals, clothing, men’s factory product, coffee and spice; roasting and grinding' confectionery; electrical apparatus and supplies; fur goods, furnishing goods, men's; furniture, factory product; gas, illuminating and heating; gloves and mittens, hosiery and knit goods; iron work, architectural and ornamental; liquors, malts; lithograving and engraving; lumber, planing mill products, including sash, and blinds and doors; millinery and lace goods; musical instruments; pianos and materials; paints; paper and wood pulp; patent medicines and compounds; printing and publishing, book and job; printing and publishing, newspapers and periodicals; shirts; slaughtering, wholesale; soap and candles; sugar and molasses, refining; tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes.

Second in boots and shoes, factory products; carpets and rugs, other than rag; carriages and wagons; flouring and grist mill products; and laundry and machine shop products.

Third in agricultural elements; cars and general shop construction and repairs by railroad companies; jewelry, leather, tanned, curried and finished; and petroleum, refining.

Fourth in silk and silk goods.

The relative importance within the State of these leading industries were about as follows: First, factory made clothing, the value of which was $233,370,447, or ten per cent of the whole. Second, products of the foundries and machine sops, value of $96,636,517, showing an increase for the decade of more than one-third. Publishing, including books, newspapers and magazines came next; lumber products totaling $45,528,234, ranked fourth, and was one of the few industries showing a decrease for the decade (10.6). Knit goods came next, value $35,886,048; cotton goods were manufactured on a large scale, the center of the industry being Cohoes and Utica; the paper and pulp industry of the Adirondacks has advanced tremendously; electric apparatus and supplies had reach great importance, gaining 177 per cent in ten years, and producing totals of $22,695,024. The fairy products (manufactured) such as condensed milk (the process discovered by Borden of New York State), cheese and the like were only just beginning to make themselves prominent among the production figures; the canning of vegetables and fruits on a large scale are developments of the last quarter century. The grant total of the manufactured products of the State in 1900, reached $2,175,726,900, or about the value of the productions of the whole Untied States thirty-five years previously. The centers of the largest production as arranged by counties were as follows: New York in the lead with about forty-five per cent of the total, followed by Kings, Erie, Monroe, Albany, Onondaga, Rensselaer, Queens, Westchester, and Oneida--the last five ranging very close together, the difference between Albany and Oneida, being only about $6,000,000.

The following paragraph, from Ellis H. Roberts' "History of New York," presents a picture of the industrial situation in the State in 1900 as illustrated by the main industries of many of the largest cities and towns:

The city of Albany is noted for its cars, malt liquors and miscellaneous industries; Amsterdam for its carpets and rugs and knit goods; Auburn for its agricultural implement; Binghamton for its clothing, tobacco, cigar and cigarettes, flour and grist mills, and its patent medicines; Buffalo for its clothing, malt and malt liquors, it foundry and its machine products, its slaughtering and meat packing and linseed oil, its furniture its soap and candles, its lumber products, and it variety of industries; Cohoes, especially for hosiery and knit goods; Elmira, for miscellaneous production; Jamestown for worsted goods and furniture; Kingston for brick and tile and for stone work, for foundry and machine products, and for lumber; Newburg for clothing and for its foundries and machine shops; New York City and Brooklyn are an epitome of all manufactures, with gas, malt liquors, sugar, newspapers and periodicals, clothing, foundry and machine products; electrical apparatus, chemicals, confectionery, machinery, slaughtering and packing, and tobacco leading; Oswego has miscellaneous products, particularly corn starch; as has Poughkeepsie; Rochester is noted for clothing, boots and hoses, foundry and machine products, furniture, malt liquor and tobacco; Schenectady for its foundries and machine shops; Syracuse for the same and malt liquors; Troy for shirts and furnishing goods; Utica for cotton, clothing, knit goods, steam apparatus; Watertown for foundry and machine shops products, for paper and wood pulp, and for carriages and wagons; Yonkers for its miscellaneous industries. Troy and the vicinity was at this time making 85 per cent of all the collars and cuffs manufactured in the Untied States. Gloversville and Johnstown were turning out half the gloves produced in the country. The last quarter century has changed radically the principal productions of a few of the above-mentioned towns, but the change, as a rule has been along the lines of additions rather than of losses.

The progress of the commonwealth industrially for the first quarter of the present century has been as marvelous as the last quarter of the nineteenth. Considering this in two stages, as shown by the census figures for 1909, and that of the war period, while there has been an increase of prestige as the premier State in trade and industry, there has been a shifting in the relative ranking of many of the industries and of the cities in relation to each other. There has also been an increase in the number of the kinds of articles produced. In 1909, with the exception of Pennsylvania, the diversity of products was greater in New York than in any other State. Of the 264 classifications employed in the presentation of statistics for 1909 by the United States Census Bureau, 243 were represented in New York. The most important industry was the manufacture of men's and women's clothing. The manufacture of clothing under the factory system began in 1835, and in 1849 there were 976 establishments making ready-made clothing. The value of the products was steadily increasing both in actual amount and in the proportionate value of the aggregate reported for the United States. In 1909 the value of the products of the clothing manufactories was 56.5 per cent of the total for the country and 16 per cent of the output of the State. The printing and publishing industry as a whole ranked second in the value of products in 1909, the State leading the Union in the number of newspapers and periodicals published. New York ranked third among the States in the production of textiles. This group of industries included the manufacture of hosiery and knit goods, carpets and rugs other than rag (in both of which New York ranked first); woolen, worsted, and felt goods; wool hats; cottons goods; cordage and twine; jute and linen goods; and fur-felt hats. The total number of spindles employed in these industries in 1909 was 1,395,482, of which 778,036 were employed in the manufacture of cotton goods. The State also ranked third in the production of foundry and machine-shop products and in the slaughtering and meat-packing industry. The manufacture of malt, distilled, and vinous liquors formed before Prohibition a very important group of industries. New York led all other States in tobacco manufacture. This industry was confined largely to the manufacture of cigars and cigarettes.

In 1908 the area covered by forest was 47,653 square miles. New York, ranked second in value of forest products. Lumbering has been on of the leading industries and, while its maximum annual production was reached and passed a decade before that, the industry still ranked ninth in value of products and seventh in average number of wage earners. The total amount of lumber cut in 1913, as reported by 191 mills, was 457,770 feet. Of all the lumber sawed, 59.4 per cent was soft wood, the most important varieties of which were hemlock, spruce, and white pine. While many varieties of hardwood were reported, maple, beech, oak, and basswood, ranking in the order named, were the species cut in the largest quantities, together contributing 68.6 per cent of the total output of hard-wood lumber in that year. In addition there were produced on farms forest products valued at $10,365,651.

Value of Output.--In point of view of output New York ranked second in the manufacture of flourmill and gristmill products, which is one of the oldest industries of the State. It ranked fourth in the manufacture of iron and steel, first in the output of millinery and lace goods, first in the manufacture of electrical supplies, first in the manufacture of paper and wood pulp, third in the manufacture of boots and shoes, second in butter, cheese and condensed milk made, fist in the production of illuminating and hating gas, first in the manufacture of men's furnishing goods, third in the manufacture of automobiles, and in the tanning, currying and finishing of leather. Other industries in which it occupied first rank are the manufacture of furniture and refrigerators, fur goods, copper, tin, and sheet iron products, patent medicines, compounds, and druggists' preparations, chemicals, musical instruments, paint and varnish, lapidary products, artificial flowers and plumes, photographic apparatus, and materials, paper patterns, hair work, pens, leather gloves, and mittens, tobacco pipes, jewelry, and instrument cases, typewriters and supplies, and dressed furs.

Wage Earners.--The average number of ware earners engaged in manufacture in 1909 was 1,003,981, of whom 706,641 were males. The wage earners under sixteen years of age numbered 7,819, of whom 4,004 were males. The prevailing hours of labor for more than two-thirds of the wage earners were fifty-four to sixty a week. More than one-fourth were employed in establishments where the usual hours were fewer then fifty-four a week. The fifty-one cities and villages having more than 10m000 inhabitants in 1909 contained 85.3 per cent of the total value of products for all manufacturing industries. New York City was, of course, the most important manufacturing city in the country. There were in this city in 1909, 554,002 wage earners, and the value of its industries was $2,029,962,576. The leading industries are the making of men's clothing, of women's clothing, and printing and publishing. The value of the products of these three industries represented 32.9 per cent of the total value of manufactured products in 1909, and employed 37.9 per cent of the average number of wage earners engaged in all manufacturing industries. Buffalo was the second city in the number of wage earners and in the value of its manufactured products. There were in this city 51,412 wage earners, and its industrial products were valued at $218,803,994. The leading industries of this city were slaughtering and meat packing, foundry and machine shop products, flour mill and grist mill products, the manufacture of automobiles, soap, and printing and publishing. Rochester ranked third among the manufacturing cities. It had in 1909, 39,108 wage earners and manufactured products valued at $112,676,215. The leading industries in the order of their importance are the making of men's clothing, the manufacture of photographic apparatus, and materials, boots and shoes, foundry and machine shop products, and printing and publishing. Yonkers, fourth among the manufacturing cities, contained 12,711 wage earners, and the manufactured products were valued at $59,333,865. The leading industries of the city were sugar refining, the manufacture of carpets and rugs, fur-felt hats, foundry and machine -shop products, and rubber goods. Other cities, the value of whose manufactures exceeded $10,000,000 in 109, were Syracuse, Schenectady, Troy, Utica, Niagara Falls, Albany, Amsterdam, Binghamton, Auburn, Cohoes, Jamestown, Rome, Gloversville, Oswego, and Olean.


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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