Category Archives: Curcio

Circa 1912: Peter Laurence’s Working Animals

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.

Photo postcard: Peter D. Laurence with horse Nelly and dog Diamond (circa 1912). I believe this photo was taken at 12 Wells St., Gloversville, N.Y., where Peter and family were living by 1920. This may be the stable shown at that address on a 1912 Sanborn map. Wish I knew what those lapel pins said. Scan by Molly Charboneau

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.

Back of the photo postcard. My maternal grandmother, Liz (Stoutner) Laurence, penned Peter’s name. I added the names of the horse and dog, which were provided by my mom Peg (Laurence) Charboneau. Scan by Molly Charboneau

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.

Gloversville stables

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.

1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Gloversville, N.Y. Detail of the 12 Well St. stable (labeled E at right) where Peter’s horse Nelly may have boarded. Source: Library of Congress/Sanborn Maps

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.

Building at the back of 128 E. Fulton St., Gloversville, N.Y. (1992). Could the vintage Diamond Tires sign have been the inspiration for Peter’s dog’s name? Photo by Molly Charboneau

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.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

1906-1914: Picturing the Del Negro Brothers’ Worksites

Sepia Saturday 588Fourteenth 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.

Kasson Opera House (later Memorial Hall) on N. Main St. in Gloversville, N.Y. (circa 1907). 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 St. in the building before that awning — with a darker awning of its own. Photo: Front Page Gloversville.

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.

Kasson Opera House and North Main Street commercial district, Gloversville, N.Y. (1908). Uncle Mike’s parlor was located off camera — past the white building on the right.  The colorful awnings and pedestrian traffic indicate this was a great location for his boot black shop. Photo: cinematreasures.org

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 Kingsborough hotel at 34 S. Main St., Gloversville, N.Y. (undated). James Del Negro was a shoe shiner at this hotel in the Gloversville business district.

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.

The Kingsborough Apartments, Gloversville, N.Y. The former hotel, where Jimmy Del Negro shined shoes from 1909-1911, has been converted into a modern apartment building. Photo: apartments.com

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.

Storefront at 2 S.Main St, Gloversville, N.Y. (2019). 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. Photo: Google Maps/street view

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.

Windsor Hotel, Gloversville, N.Y. (Undated). In this vintage photo, the railroad ticket office where Uncle Mike worked was located in the yellow building at the far right. Photo: Pinterest

The building is now gone. However, the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville shows an Electric Railroad Waiting Room at 7 S. Main St. — right around the corner from the Windsor Hotel, which was demolished in 1977.

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.”

http://frontpagegloversville.squarespace.com/pictoral-history/hotels/
Windsor Hotel, Gloversville,N.Y. (Undated). The railroad ticket office where Uncle Mike shined shoes was located at street level in the building labeled “Crockery.” Photo: Front Page Gloversville

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.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

1906-1917: The Del Negro brothers’ shoe parlor careers

Sepia Saturday 586. Twelfth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

In these days of low-priced, mass produced shoes — often made with synthetic components — it’s hard to imagine how important cobbler shops and shoe parlors were during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

However, in the 1800s and early 1900s, occupations like cobbler, shoemaker, shoe shiner and bootblack were significant, long-lasting careers that were integral to the creation, repair and maintenance of leather footwear — especially in the era of dusty, unpaved streets.

https://www.northcountryatwork.org/archive-items/hurlbut-and-prestons-boot-and-shoe-parlor-in-heuvelton/
Hurlbut & Preston’s Boot and Shoe Parlor, Heuvelton, St. Lawrence County, N.Y. (1890-1900). This shoe parlor was typical of many that existed in upstate New York, including Gloversville, during the heyday of leather footwear. Photo: northcountryatwork.org/Huevelton Historical Society.

Nowhere was this truer than in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. — the U.S. home of my maternal Italian ancestors, many of whom were employed in tanning, glove making and other leather trades.

Which explains how the brothers of my second grand-grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio — Michael and Vincenzo “Jimmy” Del Negro — were able to earn a living working as bootblacks in various Gloversville locations.

A decade of shoe parlor work

To investigate where my second great-granduncles Mike and Jimmy lived and worked, I turned to previous research in the Gloversville and Johnstown Business Directories from 1906-1917 — both on microfilm at the NYS Archives and online. The table below summarizes what I found.

Michael and Jimmy DelNegro in Gloversville and Johnstown Business Directories – 1906-1917; Sources: NYS Archives & Ancestry
Year Name Residence Workplace Occupation
1906 Michael Del Negro h. 128 E. Fulton St. 12 N. Main St. Bootblack
1906 James Del Negro r. 128 E. Fulton St. 2 S. Main St. Bootblack
1909 Michael Del Negro h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St. Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor at 12 N. Main St. Bootblack
1909 James Del Negro 41 Church St. The Hotel Kingsborough & 10 S. Main Bootblack
1910 & 1911 Michael Del Negro h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St. 12 N. Main St. Bootblack
1910 & 1911 James Del Negro 41 Church St. The Hotel Kingsborough Bootblack
1914 – 1916 Michael Del Negro h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St. 12 N. Main St. Bootblack
1914- 1917 James Del Negro h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St. Bootblack
1917 Michael Del Negro h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St. 7 S. Main St. Bootblack

A bustling glove manufacturing town

Detail from a 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing Michael Del Negro’s two-story home at 72 1/2 E. Fulton Street toward the back of the property. Source: Library of Congress

Gloversville was a bustling glove manufacturing town when the Del Negro brothers were pursuing their service careers.

Hundreds of glove factories all over town — and in neighboring Johnstown — brought prosperity, as evidenced by the stately buildings that remain from that period.

There were busy hotels for visiting glove buyers, department stores with all manner of goods, cultural venues like the Kasson Opera House and a splendid Carnegie Free Library, which is still open and active.

In this environment, a shoe shine parlor could prosper. And my second great-granduncles Mike and Jimmy appear to have done well in their occupations.

The city directories show that Mike had his own parlor by 1909 — and he also bought a house at 72 1/2 E. Fulton St. (see map and photo).

His home was located down the street from his sister Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio and her family at 128 E. Fulton St. And their brother Jimmy eventually came to live with Mike and his family.

Former home of Michael Del Negro and family (2019). This is the house at 72 1/2 E. Fulton St in Gloversville, N.Y., as it looked in 2019 — one of the few homes of my maternal Italian relatives that remains standing today. Source: Google maps/street view

This made me curious about the Del Negro brothers’ various work locations. So I turned once more to Sanborn Fire  Insurance Maps for the next phase of their story.

Up next: Mapping the Del Negro Brothers Gloversville, N.Y., workplaces. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.