Saturday, August 31, 2013

Heisler Locomotives Were Made In Erie

Heisler Locomotive Works in Erie, PA made a mighty engine that sold throughout the world in the early 1900s. The company was formed in 1905 and manufactured trains in its factory on West 16th Street between Myrtle and Chestnut near Hickory St. The geared engine, which was patented by Charles L. Heisler in 1892, was unique because it could haul heavy loads on steep grades and work efficiently on uneven railroad tracks. This engine was used in the logging industry at Mount Shasta and Mount Rainier, among other places.

The 60-ton Heisler in the illustration above was used on the McCloud River Rail Road in California. When fully loaded it had a working speed of five to seven miles per hour. This locomotive was made by Stearns Manufacturing.

The fire box was eliminated from the design of the motor around 1933, making it a fireless steam locomotive. "Steam from the regular equipment is injected into the locomotive boiler and it is ready to run. This is one of the newer developments in one of Erie's older industries and, while little known locally, is well established where safe transportation power is required." -Erie Daily Times, April, 1938.

Felix F. Curtze was the president of Heisler Locomotive Works. G. Leroy Swabb was secretary and later executive vice president. Harvey Lefevre was vice president and secretary, and Frederick A. Curtze was treasurer. Heisler's had previously been made by Stearns Manufacturing in Erie, PA.

Learn more fun and fascinating facts about Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hanging Out at the Erie Boys' Club

Hey, Billy, what'd you do today?
"Nothing much. I was just hanging out."

It looks like Billy was really hanging out when this photo was snapped at the Erie Boys' Club. This building, which was was located at 112 East 7th Street in Erie, PA, near 7th and French, was constructed in 1901. The Erie organization had the distinction of being the 31st Boys Club founded in the United States, and it was a charter member of the Boys Clubs of America.

The Erie Boys' Club had an enrollment of 537 boys in 1916, with an average daily attendance of 121. During the 1915-1916 season, 14,790 boys used the gym, 10,196 boys used the game room, and 4,656 boys used the library.

The Superintendent reported that "Every department is crowded to overflowing in the busy season. We have not nearly enough class rooms. This congestion has been noticeable for some time, and can only be overcome by the addition of another story or building an addition on the rear of the present building."

The Boys' Club Camp was held for one week at Shorewood. The club had a Lunch Company which sold sandwiches, cookies, pies, milk and candy and a Printing Company which printed odd jobs. The library got mixed reviews. "We are sorry to say the library is used for a game room most of the time. The library is now the midgets game room, and unless we get more room soon, we will have to go out on the roof to play."

I think it's a fair bet that some of the boys were already sneaking up to the roof. I remember climbing onto the roof of Wilson Middle School and the old elementary school near 26th and Peach in Erie to take pictures, and boosting my sisters onto the roof of the school in Wesleyville to get tennis balls. Good times.

The old Erie Boys' Club has since been demolished and is currently occupied by a parking lot.

Enjoy more historical facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

Monday, August 26, 2013

Erie Volunteers in the Civil War

The 145th Pennsylvania Volunteers formed at Erie, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1862, raised in part by David McCreary. The names of the recruits and officers read like a who's who of Erie County. In addition to McCreary, the list includes Osborn, Loomis, and Jordan. The surnames might sound familiar; if you've navigated through Erie County, you may have seen their names on roadsigns. 

Dr. Verel Salmon, former superintendent of the Millcreek School District, is the author of "Common Men in the War for the Common Man," a history of the 145th from its formation in 1862 to the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. Dr. Salmon's great-great-grandfather, George W. Salmon, served in the 145th.

The flag in the photograph above was carried into battle on December 13, 1862 at Fredricksburg, where it was heavily damaged. It was returned to Erie and was later presented to the Erie Public Library by the veterans of the 145th. The flag is on display in the Heritage Room at the Blasco Memorial Library in Erie.

Dr. Salmon spoke at the Erie County Historical Society as part of the Sally Carlow Kohler Lecture Series. The event, which was free and open to the public, took place on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 419 State St. in Erie, PA.

Enjoy more historical facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Reed House Hotel in Perry Square

Old Time Erie postcard contributed by Tom DiLuzio.
The luxurious five-story Reed hotel attracted guests from all over the United States, including Buffalo Bill Cody. It sat right in the middle of Erie's commercial district, on the corner of North Park Row and French Street. Check out this description of the Reed House:

"The building is pressed brick, with stone, iron and terra cotta towers at each corner and in the center of the north and south fronts. The structure is in the form of a hollow square, thus securing an abundance of light and air to every room in the house, which is traversed by broad corridors running the entire length and breadth. Splendid staircases connect the various stories, and a fine passenger and baggage elevator enables guests to reach their rooms quickly and with little exertion. 

The first floor is laid in marble tiles, and comprises the spacious office, barroom, wine-room, barber shop, baggage room, etc., all elegantly finished in costly woods. On the second floor are the grand dining room, 80x120', reading and writing room facing French street and the park, 40x60', reception room, general parlor, ladies' parlor, sample rooms for traveling salesmen, and several beautiful suites of rooms for the use of guests.

The appointments as regards furniture, carpets, hangings and decorations are of the most luxurious kind, each room or suite of rooms being provided with toilet closet, bath, bells, gas-lights and the neatest, daintiest and most refreshing beds that ever invited the weary wayfarer to repose. 

The dining room with its array of spotless table linen, glittering glass, crystal and silver, and battalion of attentive colored waiters, is another most attractive feature, and especially worthy of the epicure's attention, and every substantial and delicacy obtainable being provided in profusion to tempt the appetite and satiate the inner man. All servants are in livery, and the promptitude and reliability of waiters, bell boys and all employed about the hostelry would satisfy the most exacting."

The description above was written in 1888. Sounds like we had our own Downton Abbey in Downtown Erie. The Reed House was demolished in 1933. A parking lot now occupies this site.

Enjoy more historical facts and photos of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Buy Your '14 Hudson at the Star Garage

Are you ready to hit the road and tour the country in your '14 Hudson? Do you have visions of riding with the top down and your hair blowing in the breeze? You probably would not want to venture too far in this vehicle, because this model was not made in was released in 1914. A brand new Hudson Six cost $2,250 and featured a 40-horse power six-cylinder engine and had a wheel base of 135 inches. 

Forget about the modern conveniences like front-wheel drive, power steering, power brakes and shocks. This was one bumpy ride. The Hudson Motor Car Company might sound familiar, and for good reason. The sleek Hudson Hornet was a NASCAR champion in the fifties.

The Star Garage, located at 609-613 French Street in Erie, PA, across the street from the public library. It was owned by Albert L. Nelson. Ads in travel guides touted the Star Garage Company as the Erie's only fireproof garage. Nelson's dealership sold Stearns, Hudson and REO automobiles and Alco trucks. They sold new vehicles and repaired cars.

Here's an interesting fact about the Star Garage. "Earl Sandt and his brother, Walter J., have sold the Star Garage, 613 French Street, to A. L. Nelson, owner and manager of the Park Garage adjoining the Star property. The Sandt bothers have taken up aviation and their engagements as flying men are interfering with their garage business." -Automobile Topics, September 7, 1912.

It's no wonder Earl didn't have time to run his garage. "First Flight Across the Great Lakes. On February 20th, Earl Sandt, a young biplane pilot, flew from Erie, Pennsylvania 40 miles across the lake to Port Rowan, Canada. He had a mishap during his return trip while ten miles out above Lake Erie from North East, PA and fell on the ice. His machine was wrecked and he lay unconscious for several hours. He finally regained consciousness and managed to walk to shore guided by a pocket compass. He did not reach North East until 10 p.m. He was finally discovered by some skaters and was rescued. That he escaped with his life after his perilous trip is well nigh miraculous." -Scientific American, March 2, 1912.

None of the buildings shown in the photo exist today. They were demolished long ago. A surface parking lot currently occupies this site on French Street.

Find more fun facts about Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Charles H. Strong Log Cabin

The Log Cabin, owned by Charles Hamot Strong, was an exclusive getaway nestled deep in the woods north of the present-day Frontier Park. Strong was a shrewd businessman and a member of a prominent family in Erie, Pennsylvania. He held and interest in the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad, the Erie County Electric Company, the Erie Dispatch-Herald newspaper and a number of other entities. 

The 47-acre tract on which the Log Cabin sat was family owned for more than 125 years. President William H. Taft visited the Log Cabin on September 17, 1911 as a guest of the Strong family. Taft stayed at the Strong Mansion in Erie, PA. Charles Strong moved into this vacation home when he separated from his wife in 1918 and died there in 1936. The property was sold at auction many years after he passed. The Log Cabin, described in an ad for the auction, was incredible:

The living room and dining room, for example, have open beam ceilings using uncut tree trunks for the beams with a wood ceiling laid in a lateral pattern. The great center hall is A-shaped, with 2-story cathedral ceiling reflecting the same dramatic design found throughout. There is a log-burning fireplace and many windows offering panoramic views of the grounds.

Dining Room: has a brick wood-burning fireplace
Kitchen: is ample in size
2nd Floor: has a U-shaped upper hall, built-in bookshelves and hand rubbed wall paneling
Master Bedroom: has builtin-in cabinets and a bathroom
Basement: has two boilers for the hot water oil-based heating system
Extras: several family and guest bedrooms and baths and domestic quarters.

The Cabin was situated on a bluff overlooking Presque Isle Bay and was built of stone boulders and frame siding accentuated by the use of tree trunks inside and out.

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

Friday, August 16, 2013

10th and State 1893 to 1938 Merger

Ever wonder what it would be like to step back in time and see a shot of the City of Erie before and after side by side? I know I have, so I tinkered around on the computer to see what I could come up with. I started with a photo of the west side of State just south of Tenth Street then found one taken from approximately the same spot 45 years later. The Scott Building, shown here on the right, was the home of Grant's for many years on the northwest corner of 10th and State. 

So, we have two views, one from 1893 and the other from 1938Downtown Erie has changed considerably, especially at this intersection. State looks very muddy in the old shot, and the trolley tracks are visible in the middle. There's a man wearing a jacket and a bowler hat strolling by on the left, and there are a couple of large stones near the curb that were used as carriage steps; one is near the telephone/telegraph pole.

In the "new" picture on the right, there are some cool old cars heading south on State St. (one might be a '36 Chevy). There are a lot of well-dressed pedestrians shopping for items on a sunny afternoon. The dark color building on the southwest corner of 10th and State was the old offices of the Baldwin Bros. real estate company. 

Click here 
to see the original 1893 photograph.

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Boston Store Charge Card

It seems like there is a card for everything these days. One for insurance, the library, the bank, Master Card, Visa and one for each grocery and department store...your wallet is probably bulging with cards. But, before there was plastic, there were aluminum cards tucked into a hard plastic carrying case. These were issued by large department stores like the Boston Store and Trask's here in Erie, PA. Customers would give this card to the cashier when they wanted to put items on their account. The cashier would put the card in a machine and pull a handle down to emboss the name and address on the receipts, one original and one carbon copy for the customer. There was a paper card tucked into the back of this Charga Plate Credit Token with the customer's signature on it.

Chuck Hess found this Boston Store Credit Token, along with the steel wheat penny, while he was hunting with his metal detector recently. I'll keep the location a secret so he can go back and look for other items, but I will say that he found it in the City of Erie. 

This card was issued to Mrs. A. C. Locke who lived on West 30th Street in Erie. The Boston Store issued these in the thirties, forties and fifties. Customers would carry them when they went shopping in Downtown Erie. I will have to do some more research to narrow down the time frame for this one.

Enjoy more interesting historical facts and photos at: Old Time Erie

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Map Out Your Marketing Strategy

Map out your marketing strategy with this sketch of the old 12th Street Market in Erie, PA.  Many local grocers, butchers, fruit dealers and florists got their start in this block-long, enclosed market, which proved to be a good investment for many years.

Dave Warren, whose father Robert was the manager of the Modern Grocery until 1949, was kind enough to provide a sketch of the interior of the 12th St. Market. "For 16 years, the 12th St. Market, its variety of merchants, smells, and occasional sounds from the second floor bowling alley and roller-skating rink were a wonderful part of my growing up," said Dave.

"As a child, I was fascinated with John Sperides' candy stall. In his kitchen he had hooks for pulling taffy for Christmas candy canes, and vats of chocolate. Mr. Sperides didn't show up for two days, which was very unusual. Dad went to his home, where he lived alone, and found him dead. The only thing I can remember occurring in his vacated stall was a visit from "the real" Aunt Jemima, spending a day making free pancakes," said Dave. Mr. Sperides passed away in March of 1947.

"I remember during WWII, when a shipment of coffee arrived late in the day, we would spend a few hours after closing pre-grinding the bags of beans, in preparation for the lines of people coming in the morning for that scarce and rationed item. Customers could enter through doors on French Street, East 12th or East 13th St. Vendors received shipments on the Commerce St. side and kept their stock farm-fresh. Cars were parked in a lot in the lower level. Some people remember their mothers buying live chickens in the southwest corner of the market.

The 12th Street Market opened around 1927 and operated until it was destroyed by fire in 1951. Familiar vendors include Scolio and Del Porto (fruit); Urbaniak Brothers, Rudy Voss and Joyce Bros. (meat); Picardo (horse radish) and the Balkan Baking Co. 

People came from all around the city to shop at the 12th Street Market. They also came in droves to the market crash when it was hit by lightning. Eleven companies fought the consuming fire. "Twelfth St. was jammed with people, almost from curb to curb, as many clubs emptied of their members, late movies had just ended." Daylight brought even more people to the scene. "About 15 policemen were on duty Sunday, keeping thousands of curious Erieites out of the gutted structure. Traffic on 12th St. was in a continual snarl due to motorists who drove by to see the burned-out shell of a building" -Erie Dispatch, April 30, 1951.

Enjoy more fascinating facts about Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dinner at Kresge's for 59 Cents

Remember when you could head to Downtown Erie on a Saturday afternoon, do some window shopping, then stop at Kresge's for a complete meatloaf dinner....for 59 cents? 

SS Kresge's had sales at the beginning of June in 1959 to celebrate their 60th Anniversary. They advertised a number of items that sold for less than 60¢ to draw people into the store. In this instance you could saddle up to the lunch counter or cram into a booth for a meal and a free Pepsi. Oh, and the dinner included the "good gravy."

Kresge's was one of the places that kids liked to hang out when they had a few minutes to spare while waiting to transfer to another bus route after school. It was on the corner of 9th and State in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Enjoy more fun facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

Erie Centennial Baby

Doesn't this baby look cute smiling for the camera? It's little Phillip A. Currie, the official Erie Centennial baby. Even though he was much too young to grow a beard, he's got a "Brothers of the Brush" button pinned to his cloth diaper.

I'm not sure what events he was involved in back in August of 1951, or how he was chosen to represent Erie. I have not been able to find a family member to ask. Phillip was born around '49 and was the son of Clyde Currie.

Phillip Currie, where are you?

Find your friends at Old Time Erie

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cold Hard Cash and Toasters

Remember back in the old days, when people carried money? Actual fives, tens and twenty dollar bills, along with quarters, nickels and dimes? When every town had a post office and a bank?

Banks used to give their customers canvas bags to carry money. A small business owner or an employee would walk down the street to the local bank, money bag in hand, and not worry about getting robbed. There was usually a long line on Friday afternoons when people came in to cash their paychecks. After inching around the velvet ropes, people would wait their turn until the teller said, "Next, please." Banks accepted rolls of change in little paper wrappers along with stacks of bills and checks from their customers. 

Oh, and if you opened a new account, you could get a free toaster!

Enjoy more fun facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

Friday, August 2, 2013

Erie Pepsin Gum Co. 14th and State

A sweet business akin to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory once occupied the northeast corner of 14th & State in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Erie Pepsin Gum Company made chewing gum, candy sticks, chocolate and marshmallows at the turn of the 20th Century in its factory at 1329 State Street. I climbed up to the railroad bridge to shoot a "then and now" photo, but the neighborhood has changed so much that it made more sense to superimpose the old factory on top of the current building to show you where it was. The Mercantile Building site was an empty lot when the old photo was taken around 1906.

Frank D. Schultz formed the Erie Pepsin Gum Co. in 1900. It had a factory and retail business in the same building. Here is an excerpt of an article which describes the business:  "There are rows and rows of rare colored stick candy, and piles and piles of taffy, which almonds, and peanuts, and other delectable nuts nicely imbedded...There are numberless varieties of chocolates in all shapes and sizes; peanut croquettes and delicious crystalized fruits.

They used to pull candy by hand in this factory...but now it is pulled on a big machine...This machine is driven by a 3 horsepower Federal Electric Co. motor...They put about 60 pounds of sweetness on this candy puller.

The expensive grades of candy are made in the moulding department...The liquid chocolate is poured in, and then the moulds are put away in coolers and soon they are ready for the finishers and for the pretty decorated boxes. You have all eaten marshmallows. Well here they make them in a kettle containing 250 pounds of a delicious mixture."

Originally, the company manufactured chewing gum exclusively, and then added other products. "The chewing gum is made simply from chicle and sugar. This chicle is the sap of a certain tree in Mexico and the Mexican government controls the output. It comes in a crude form with the bark on, and it is difficult to entirely get rid of this bark. Whenever you find dark spots in your chewing gum, therefore, do not accuse the makers of being careless or undervaluing cleanliness- it is simply a piece of chicle bark, which has not been removed.

'Our business is going along beautifully,' said Mr. Schultz. 'It has more than trebled since our start five years ago. We have 22 on the pay roll, and will start working nights on November 1. Our trade embraces not only Erie and the contiguous country, but also includes a territory within a radius of 150 miles from Erie,' said Frank Schultz. -Erie Daily Times, Oct. 24, 1905. Times Publishing Co., 205 W. 12th St., Erie PA 16534

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie