Sepia Saturday 591. Sixteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
The first studio photo of my Italian-American maternal grandfather Antonio W. Laurence was take in 1904 when he was 2 years old. My great-grandparents Peter and Mary “Mamie” Laurence were married circa 1901 in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.
Tony was their first child, born 10 May 1902. And I’m sure Peter proudly sent a copy of this photo to his family back in Italy.
A jaunty nautical portrait
My grandfather looks so cute in this photo, wearing a belted wool sailor-collared shorts-suit, lace-up boots and a cabbie hat — with a nautical striped shirt completing the picture. I particularly love his impish grin — which lasted throughout his life.
This toddler photo of Tony was taken at the W.L. Havens studio, located at 16 Bleeker Street in Gloversville, N.Y. — the same studio where his father Peter had his wedding photo taken.
The Laurence/di Lorenzo family takes shape
With my grandfather Tony’s birth, the Laurence/di Lorenzo family began to take shape. A couple of years later, my grandfather’s younger brother Joseph B. Laurence (aka Uncle Joe) was born — completing the family unit.
This might give the impression of a small family of parents and two sons. However, my great-grandparents Peter and Mamie lived with her parents (Antonio and Antoinette Curcio) at 128 E. Fulton St. for more than 15 years — a family within a family.
The vibrant Curcio household
This meant my grandfather Tony and his brother Joe grew up in the vibrant Curcio household of their maternal grandparents — surrounded by relatives and Italian culture.
There were some Curcio aunts their own age (their mother Mamie’s younger sisters) along with a few Del Negro cousins (children of Antoinette’s brother Michael Del Negro, whose family also lived there). So Tony and Joe had plenty of playmates and surrogate siblings during their childhoods.
Not until 1920 did the Laurence family move into a new house at 12 Wells Street — around the corner from the Curcios — to set up their own household. And by then, Tony and Joe were teenagers.
Up next: More childhood studio photos of Tony and Joe Laurence. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
Sepia Saturday 589.Fifteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
Returning to the history of my direct-line ancestors, this post features a favorite photo of my maternal Italian immigrant great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence (nee Pietro di Lorenzo) with what I assume were his working animals.
To the right stands his horse Nelly and in front sits his dog Diamond. I have two copies of this photo, which was printed on a postcard — so I assume multiple cards were printed to send to family back in Italy.
Peter may have been a farmer in his hometown of Limatola, Benevento, Campania, Italy. That’s the occupation his younger brother Antonio listed on his passenger manifest when he came to the U.S. to visit Peter in 1902. So it’s possible my di Lorenzo ancestors had a family farm in the Italian agricultural region.
A mark of prosperity
Owning a work horse — which cost about $150 in 1870 and probably more by 1912 — was a mark of prosperity that any farm family would appreciate. The $150 price would be about $3,100 in today’s dollars — plus the ongoing cost of food, board and upkeep for the animal.
The same was probably true of owning a dog. Diamond may have been a working dog — whose bark would scare intruders away from Peter’s home/business. Or the canine may have been a pet. Either way, owning a dog presupposed a level of income over and above what was needed to raise a family and keep a roof overhead.
To board a horse required a stable — which appears to be where this photo was taken. That took me back to the 1912 Sanborn Map of Gloversville, N.Y. to see just where my great-grandfather’s horse Nelly may have spent her leisure time.
Stables on Sanborn maps are marked with a large X on top, and there were still quite a few on the 1912 Gloversville map — the last year that digitized maps are available for the town.
On the map above, there is a 2-story stable marked X between No. 4 and No. 14 Wells St. — around the corner from my second great-grandfather Antonio Curcio’s home/junk yard.
The address is 12 Wells St. (labeled E on this map) where Peter Laurence eventually built a house and moved by 1920 with his wife Mary (Curcio) Laurence and sons Antonio (my maternal grandfather) and Joseph.
My mom, Peg (Laurence) Charboneau, told me that the photo of Peter, Nelly and Diamond was taken on Wells St. So it’s possible that Peter first boarded his horse there — perhaps purchasing the property when there was only a stable and later building a house.
Diamond in the rough
How Peter’s dog Diamond ended up with his sparkling name leads me down another family history path. In 1992, my mom and I made a family history road trip to her Gloversville home town so she could show me around.
We stopped at 128 E. Fulton St. — the location of the junk shop/garage where our Curcio and Laurence/di Lorenzo ancestors worked and where the Curcio home once stood.
The house was gone, but I snapped a photo of the remaining building — a wood frame structure at the back of the property with a vintage Diamond Tires sign nailed to the front.
The tire company took that name in 1909 — before the photo of Peter and his animals was taken. While it may be pure coincidence, I have to wonder: Could that sign have been the inspiration for the little dog’s name? Perhaps a nod to the future of car travel while Nelly symbolized the past?
Up next: My grandfather Antonio W. Laurence and his brother Uncle Joe. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
Sepia Saturday 588. Fourteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
The last post mapped Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor, where Michael Del Negro — younger brother of my second great-grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio — operated his small business in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y., in the early 1900s.
Yet as fascinating as maps are, it’s nice to see the buildings in three dimensions. So this post will focus on vintage and contemporary images of the Gloversville neighborhoods and buildings where Uncle Mike and Vincenzo “Jimmy” Del Negro (the oldest sibling) worked as shoe shiners.
Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor in context
The photo below shows the Second Empire style Kasson Opera House (later Memorial Hall) on N. Main St. in Gloversville, N.Y., in the early 1900s. Down the block at the right, before the trees, is a small building with a light awning. Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor, owned by Michael Del Negro, was located at 12 N. Main Street — in the building just before that awning, with a darker awning of its own.
Another view of the Kasson Opera House appears on the 1908 postcard below. The color photo shows how vibrant North Main Street was when Uncle Mike operated his shoe shine parlor there from about 1909 — when it was first listed in the Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory.
Alas, Uncle Mike’s parlor doesn’t appear on the post card — it is off-camera past the white building on the right. Yet the colorful awnings on neighboring shops and the abundance of pedestrian traffic indicate that North Main Street was a great location for his boot black shop.
Uncle Jimmy’s workplaces
While Uncle Mike operated his own parlor, the oldest Del Negro sibling — Uncle Jimmy — was successfully shining shoes elsewhere around town. One of the prominent places he worked was at The Kingsborough, a Gloversville hotel located at 34 S. Main Street and shown on the post card below.
The Renaissance Revival style Kingsborough hotel likely catered to spiffy out-of-town glove buyers and similar travelers — the perfect place for Uncle Jimmy to set up shop. He worked there from 1909 to 1911, according to his Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory listings — and the hotel structure still stands, converted into the modern apartment building shown below.
One other place that Uncle Jimmy worked was at a parlor in the brick Italianate style flatiron building known as the Heacock Block at Gloversville’s Four Corners — the the former business district, now a historic district, where Main St. and Fulton St. intersect.
I was thrilled to discover that Uncle Jimmy shined shoes in this iconic corner building and that the storefront at 2 S. Main St., where he worked in 1906, is still there — shown below with blue-and-white striped awning.
Uncle Mike’s 1914 workplace
By 1914, Michael Del Negro had apparently given up his shoe shine parlor and was working a block away at 7 S. Main St — also in the Four Corners area and across the street from the flatiron building (above) where Jimmy once worked.
In the vintage photo above of the Windsor Hotel, the ticket office where Uncle Mike worked was located in the yellow building at the far right — another great location for a shoe shine stand.
Below is another photograph of the corner hotel and surrounding buildings, with a view up the block toward the ticket office — located at street level in the building labeled “Crockery.”
Contributing to Glovesville’s service economy
The glove industry was the financial driver of the Gloversville economy in the early 1900s — leading to a period of prosperity that can still be seen in the stately buildings that remain in the once-bustling commercial areas.
With this prosperity came a demand for ancillary services — shoe shining, junk collection and similar trades — that allowed my maternal Italian immigrant ancestors to survive and thrive, buy homes, raise families and play their own valuable roles in Gloversville’s community life.
Which makes it such a pleasure to unearth and share their stories!
Up next: More on my Italian great-grandfather Peter Laurence/Di Lorenzo. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other.Sepia Saturday participants.