Friday, March 17, 2017

Granville Makes CNN!

Granville made the national news this week... for SNOW. 21.5" to be precise. A heavy snowfall for mid-March. For all you Granville snowbirds who flew south for the winter here's what you missed:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Help NCCHP Via AmazonSmile: Special Deal Today

Amazon has just announced a special increased donation of 5% today only for users of AmazonSmile. If you're using Amazon but have yet to sign up for AmazonSmile you have a great opportunity to help NCCHP, especially today while the 5% special donation is available. Long story short, if you use AmazonSmile and designate Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation as your charity of choice, NCCHP will receive a donation equal to 5% of your qualifying purchase, from Amazon. It's a great benefit to NCCHP at no cost to you. If you have Amazon Prime those benefits still apply to your AmazonSmile purchases.

Here's a link that explains more of what and how! CLICK HERE

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drums

The recent appearance of an old toy drum on Ebay prompted some informal research into drums made by Noble & Cooley using a "decoupage" technique. This happened to coincide with the discovery of some decoupage drum panels found in the NCCHP archives and identified as being from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (also known as the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). The image on those drums was very similar to a Rand, McNally "bird's-eye" view of the fair (as always, you can click on any of the images below for a larger version):

World' Columbian Exposition, 1893, Chicago. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.
We have yet to locate records that would explain why this scene was chosen for use on a child's toy drum but one theory is that Noble & Cooley or it's Chicago agent had a display at the Fair and sold the drums on site as souvenirs.

A framed sample of the Columbian Exposition panel as well as others used for decoupage drums has been in the Noble & Cooley office for many (many) years:

Noble & Cooley decoupage drum panel display, est. 1890's. (NCCHP photo)
The label on the back of the framed decoupage panels is from Oscar Rudolph, Nos. 1, 3 and 5 Marion Street, New York City (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn). This suggests the panels were probably framed for display at Noble & Cooley's sales office at 545 Broadway and possibly at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition:
Framer's label (NCCHP photo)
The top two panels relate to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition:

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Landing of Columbus, 1492" (NCCHP photo)
Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "World's Columbian Exposition, 1893" (NCCHP photo)
The middle panel on the left features the "Brownie Band" which is based on books and cartoons created by Palmer Cox (1840-1924). Brownies were mythical tiny men who were infamous for their mischievous behavior. Each Brownie had a unique character represented by the outfit they wore (a little like The Village People):

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Brownie Band" (NCCHP photo)
The bottom two panels feature patriotic themes, for which Noble & Cooley had a long tradition:

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Battle Scene" (NCCHP photo)
Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: Patriotic Theme (NCCHP photo)
The middle panel on the right is the decoupage panel that appears to have been used to make the drum that started this discussion:

Noble & Cooley Decoupage Drum Panel: "Children's Procession" (NCCHP photo)

Decoupage "Ebay Drum" believed to be Noble & Cooley (Photo courtesy of Ebay seller bella1)
This drum also has a distinctive embossing pattern typical of Noble & Cooley drums of the era:

(Photo courtesy of Ebay seller bella1)
Below are images for the Line 20 drum from a Noble & Cooley catalog. These images appeared in known catalogs from the 1890's until about 1901. Most catalogs prior to 1890 were lost in the 1889 Noble & Cooley fire. Line 20 drum production likely began around or prior to 1890 and appears to have been discontinued some time prior to 1905. Note that the drum illustrated in the catalog uses the Brownie Band theme decoupage panel shown in the 1890's framed display:

Noble & Cooley catalog cover, 1890's (NCCHP photo)

Noble & Cooley catalog image for "Brownie Band" decoupage drum (NCCHP / Internet Archives image)

Line 20 drum description (NCCHP / Internet Archives image)
As can be seen in the catalog picture above, the hardware and cord used on both drums appears to be the same (allowing for the variables of the auction drum being many years old and the catalog being in black and white). The catalog description refers to the "embossed lines, flowers, etc." that also appear in the picture of the auction drum. Unfortunately we aren't able to inspect the wood drum in person and there is no makers mark on it, but all signs point to it being a Noble & Cooley drum probably from the 1890's, possibly a bit earlier. We may or may not uncover more details as we continue the Archives Project.

Thanks to NCCHP member Bob Watrous for bringing this interesting drum to NCCHP's attention and to Ebay seller bella1 for permission to use the auction images in this discussion of decoupage drums. If you've read this far you ARE a real historian! For more old Noble & Cooley catalogs and drum images, go to NCCHP's page on the Internet Archives by clicking here.

Please note: The material in this blog is correct to the best of our knowledge. It should not be relied upon for the purpose of placing a value on or making the purchase of property. It is not an endorsement of any seller. Researchers, merchants and hobbyists should always do their own due diligence in determining authenticity, provenance, valuation, and other matters relating to such property.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Granville Dams: Changing Lives and the Town Forever

Granville has a long history of small dams and ponds being constructed to supply power (via waterwheels) to local businesses, and water for agricultural purposes. Some of the ponds were also used for ice harvesting. Many of the small dams were built by and served a specific business, such as Noble & Cooley.

In 1897 events took a dramatic turn in terms of scope and size, when the nearby city of Westfield embarked on projects to create new reservoirs in Granville. This was necessitated by Westfield's rapid growth and need for water.

It's hard to appreciate the amount of land required for not just the reservoir, dam and spillway, but to establish a watershed area surrounding the reservoir. Many hundreds of acres would be needed. The consequence would be that a large number of family farms and businesses would be taken via eminent domain over a period of decades. These families would be faced with a difficult decision: whether to try and re-establish themselves in Granville, or follow the migration to the cities and leave. Either way they would be starting over.

It is reasonable to assume there was not enough land for sale in Granville for all to stay. The reservoir projects were shrinking the amount of land in private hands and what was left depended on finding someone willing to sell. With the industrial revolution in full swing a great many families moved to booming cities like Springfield and Hartford to pursue non-agricultural employment.

In 1998 the Granville Dams, Hampden County Archive Project identified a collection of files that were formerly housed by the Hampden County Engineer’s Office.  These records were transferred to the Hampden Deeds office, where they were digitized for Internet Access by the Register, Donald E Ashe. The collection provides a fascinating and poignant insight into how and when many families lost their land to make way for the reservoir projects.
"Protecting the Homestead"
Photo depicting three young gentlemen posing in presumably mock defiance of the land take-over.
The land surrounding this house was taken over and the family left Granville. The house itself still stands
but will eventually be taken over as part of the watershed area.
The take-over tended to be in phases, with a number of properties being taken over on a given date. Then months or years later another wave of take-overs would follow, until there was sufficient land to begin construction. One can easily imagine neighbors commiserating as these unhappy days approached. In fact properties are still being acquired and the structures on them being removed, a recent example being the Olsen property near the northern intersection of Old Westfield and Bruce Roads.

Former Olsen property (Clark House) on Old Westfield Road, about 2013 (Granville Assessor's Office Photo)

March 2017 NCCHP photo
Former Olsen (Clark) property after removal of structures (March 2017 NCCHP photo)
To access the Granville Dams archive project click on the link near the end of this paragraph. The first pages of the collection deal with a number of small dams. At the end of those pages you will come to the 1898 and later content, including land transfer deeds and property maps associated with the eminent domain take-overs. This is invaluable information if you are researching family histories from this period of time. CLICK HERE to view the Granville Dams archives. Note that you flip the pages by clicking on each page image in the collection.

Recently the Granville Reservoir has been off line due to the recent water shortage. For more CLICK HERE.

Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, 1889: Purchased Property for New Drum Shop

After the catastrophic 1889 fire at the original Noble & Cooley drum shop location on Granby Street, Noble & Cooley moved quickly to relocate less than a mile away, just up Water Street. The location had been owned by Edward Holcomb and operated as a saw mill and keg shop, then by Adolph Bruch and Edmund Barlow. Bruch was a former Noble & Cooley employee and Barlow was a former employee of the Dickinson drum shop. Upon seeing Noble & Cooley's and Dickinson's success they decided, "Hey, we can do that!" and started up yet a third Granville drum company, Bruch & Barlow.

Bruch & Barlow eventually brought in another partner, Edwin Henry and became Bruch, Barlow and Henry. Then that business was bought out by Edwin Henry and Carlos Gibbons.That was the state of affairs in 1889 when the Noble & Cooley factory burned to the ground.

The deal was closed quickly. On February 27, 1889 the sum of $10,000 changed hands. Henry and Gibbons went on to do other things. Noble & Cooley was back in business. Sort of. The new place wasn't much but it was somewhere to hang a hat and start over. Construction began almost immediately on the new main building, which serves as the Noble & Cooley main office to this day.

Next time: We join the intrepid Noble & Cooley employees as they build the new drum factory at 42 Water Street. Today it seems inconceivable that the same people who work somewhere would fell the timbers, mill the lumber, and literally put up a 40' by 100' three story building with their own hands. In 1889, they just went ahead and did it.

Acknowledgements: "History of Granville" by Albion B. Wilson, 1954. If you'd like to buy a copy, they're still available at the Granville Public Library!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February 21, 1889: "Drum Shop On Fire"

February 21, 1889 began as a pleasant day in the Berkshire foothills village of Granville Corners. 68 year-old Noble & Cooley co-founder James Parsons ("J.P.") Cooley awoke at 8 AM and went about his day, remaining at home due to a bout of what in those days was called "neuralgia." His son, 32 year old Ralph Brown ("R.B.") Cooley had become one of the driving forces behind Noble & Cooley but J.P. was still a tireless worker who came to the factory at every opportunity right up to his death in his office at 42 Water Street later in 1889.

The morning of the 21st consisted of a visit from Jackson and Emeline Marvin of Westfield, who stayed for dinner [lunch] after which J.P.'s wife of over 40 years, Celia, went for a ride with Emeline ("Emmie"), stopping at the Granby Road home of neighbor James Rose. There they met with a number of other local ladies, returning home where Celia visited with "Mrs. Case from Canton [Connecticut]" and other neighbors at around 5 PM. Orville Noble, the 26 year old son of co-founder Silas Noble, who had died in January 1888 at the age of 63, was in Hartford on business.

At 6 PM the fire bells sounded and news came that the Noble & Cooley drum shop was on fire.

The Cooley home was (and still is) located across Main Road from the location of the present day Granville library, just a few stones throws up Granby Road from the Noble & Cooley factory, which was located across from the intersection of Water Street and Granby Road (Route 189). The map below shows the locations of the Cooley home, the J.O. Rose home, and the old Noble & Cooley factory which had been built adjacent to the home of Silas Noble. Click on the map for a larger image.

Imagine the state of fire protection in Granville in 1889 and apply that meager resource to a large timber frame woodworking building with few if any fire cutoffs, no sprinkler system, and little else besides fire buckets. By 6 PM darkness was falling and by 7 PM Noble & Cooley was reduced to glowing embers and charred timbers, with nothing remaining except iron machinery sticking out of the rubble. It had to be an eerie and disheartening scene as the cold New England night set in.

Celia Cooley had begun faithfully keeping J.P.'s diary due to his difficulty writing, and she describes his reaction to the fire: "J.P. was cool and collected." A crowd had gathered at the site of the fire and no doubt many were N&C workers concerned about their jobs and the future of the company, but relieved to know that nobody was injured in the fire.

The following day The Republican newspaper, published in the nearby city of Springfield, reported on the catastrophe:


Noble & Cooley's drum factory at Granville caught fire Thursday evening at about 6 o'clock and was totally destroyed. The paint shop and the barn were also burned, little of their contents being saved, but the blacksmith shop and lumber yard and other adjacent buildings were not touched by the flames, thanks to an efficient volunteer department. The fire is supposed to have started from the boiler. The main building was 100 by 30 feet and three stories high, and 100 hands were employed in the busy season.

The business, which is a profitable one, will be continued but whether at Granville or not has not yet been determined. In any case, the fire is a great disaster to the village, as this was the only manufacturing industry.

The total loss is about $30,000 [ed. note: about $800,000 in 2017 dollars] and the insurance amounts to $19,350 divided as follows:

Insurance Company of North America at Philadelphia, $750; North British and Mercantile, $1500; Anglo-Nevada, $1250; German American, $1450; Aetna, $1500; Queens, $675; Hanover, $375; Fireman's Fund, $675; Phoenix of Hartford, $525; London, Liverpool and Globe, $1350; Traders of Chicago, $750; Liberty of New York, $750; Commerce of Albany, $575; Phoenix of London, $1500; Westchester, $1500; Phoenix of New York, $525; Springfield, $1250; First National of Worcester, $1250; National of Hartford, $1100."

To modern eyes the insurance arrangement probably looks strange but in the 19th century it was common for many companies to spread the risk by each insuring only a small percentage of high-risk properties. With the wood frame structure, boiler, woodworking, and volunteer fire protection Noble & Cooley was about as high risk as it got. Even with this elaborate arrangement Noble & Cooley was still underinsured. A year later (1890) Industrial Risk Insurers (IRI) was formed in Hartford by multiple insurance companies to provide a simpler and more reliable insurance pooling arrangement for higher risk manufacturers like Noble & Cooley.

On the 23rd The Republican updated their story, adding more than a little self-serving editorial commentary:

"Our Granville neighbors are in sackcloth and ashes, literally as well as figuratively, because of their big fire Thursday night. It is a crushing blow to the little town from which it may not recover, for the property destroyed constituted practically the business life of the place, employing 100 hands and quite half a hundred families depending on it for support... [Noble & Cooley's] name and fame for toy drums has gone far and wide and the business is too valuable to give up, but it is not unlikely, now that every vestige of the plant is destroyed, that some place with better facilities for transportation may be selected, and if so we have two or three factory buildings [in Springfield] now unoccupied, either of which would give the concern ample quarters. Were there a certainty of the proposed railroad from the Hudson river being pushed through in the near future, without doubt the business would remain in Granville, for there can be more easily procured than in a place like this the lumber used for making drum-barrels, and this measurably offsets the nine miles of teaming finished goods to reach a railroad for shipment."

The Noble and Cooley families received many overtures from other cities and towns inviting them to abandon their friends and neighbors in Granville and move to "some place with better facilities" but community loyalty prevailed and the obvious "right business decision" was set aside in order to do the right thing.

The company was able to recover the cast iron steam box from the old location and move it to the new shop where it not only symbolizes Noble & Cooley's survival, but is still the most important part of the present day drum-making process. Many famous drums began their life in the crucible of Noble & Cooley's steam box and have travelled to the farthest corners of the world.

And the railroad? Nope, it didn't come through Granville either so forever after, the considerable daily production of Noble & Cooley was loaded up in Granville and trucked to "the big city" for transportation across the country. By the mid-20th century Noble & Cooley was producing over 1/2 million drums annually and operated a semi with a full-time driver to make the daily runs to Springfield, until globalization and market changes made it economically unfeasible to continue manufacturing toy drums on a large scale.

In spite of all that, to this day former Noble & Cooley employees come to the factory for old times' sake to help knock out some of the small number of toy drums still produced in Granville on the same machines they ran back in the day, proving that small town loyalty and sense of community are still alive and well.

So how did Noble & Cooley manage to stay in Granville? Stay tuned for the next installment......

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

NCCHP Industrial Trade Catalog Collection- Phase 1

The Archives Project has completed the first phase in the process of collecting, sorting and cataloging some of the many trade catalogs in the archives. As a result the covers of 142 catalogs dating primarily from 1890 to 1910 have been added to the NCCHP Online Collections site.

More will be added as they are discovered but until then you can now view Phase 1. Simply CLICK HERE.

The cover of one of the 142 trade catalogs sorted and indexed so far.
Click on the image for a larger version.
Due to the massive amount of scanning that would be needed to digitize the entire contents of every catalog we have only done the covers. The paper catalogs are available to researchers by appointment.