1897-1912: Evolution of a Shoe Shine Parlor

Sepia Saturday 587 and the Genealogy Blog Party. Thirteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

The previous post chronicled the 1906-1917 Gloversville, N.Y., shoe shine careers of Michael and Vincenzo “Jimmy” Del Negro — the brothers of my maternal Italian second great-grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio.

https://pixabay.com/photos/shoeshine-shoe-polish-shine-brush-72477/
Tools of the shoeshine trade. Photo: Pixabay

I wondered what more I could learn about the Del Negro brothers’ various work locations, which were listed in the Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directories. So I turned once more to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the next phase of their story.

Evolution of a shoe shine parlor

Michael Del Negro moved to Gloversville, N.Y., in the late 1800s — buying property in 1896 from his sister and her husband Antonio Curcio and moving in with the Curcio family by 1900.

By 1909, he was the proprietor of Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor at 12 N. Main Street — with a commercial listing under Boot Blacking in the Gloversville-Johnstown City Directory.[1]Gloversville, New York, City Directory, 1909, p. 385. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line accessed 9 Aug. 2021]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Which made me wonder: what was the evolution of his shoe shining parlor?

In 1897, a Cigar Store operated at 12 N. Fulton St in Gloversville, N.Y., a small yellow wedge labeled Cigars on the lower left of this map. By 1909, Michael Del Negro operated Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor from that location. What was the evolution of his parlor? Source: Library of Congress/Sanborn Map

The detail above — from an 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville — shows that when Uncle Mike arrived in town, a cigar store operated at 12 N. Fulton St., the future premises his shoeshine parlor.

The tiny building labeled “Cigars” was a one-story, wedge-shaped wooden structure (yellow on the map) with a slate/tin roof in a long line of stores near the Kasson Opera House.

Uncle Mike builds his career

On the 1902 Sanborn map of Gloversville, the 12 N. Main St. building still housed a cigar store. However, on the 1907 map (see detail below) “Shoe Shining” was added to “Cigars” at that location — the same address Uncle Mike gave as his place of employment in the 1906 Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory. The “x” indicates the tiny building then had a shingle roof.

https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3804gm.g3804gm_g059511907/?sp=21
In 1907, 12 N. Main St. offered Shoe Shining and Cigars as shown in this detail from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville, N.Y. Michael Del Negro gave this as his work address in a 1906 city directory. Image: Library of Congress/Sanborn Maps

A shoe parlor of his own

Fast forward another five years and the cigar store is gone. The 1912 Sanborn map of Gloversville shows “Boot Black” as the sole business operating from 12 N. Main Street (below) — the address listed as Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor in the 1909 Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory.

 https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3804gm.g3804gm_g059511912/?sp=8
By 1912, 12 N. Main St. was exclusively a Boot Black parlor as shown in this detail from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville, N.Y. Michael Del Negro listed “Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor” at this address in a 1909 city directory. Image: Library of Congress/Sanborn Map

Not only that, but the neighborhood had improved. A fireproof bank with a clock dome had been constructed at the corner of E. Fulton St. and N. Main St., two doors down from Uncle Mike’s parlor — which undoubtedly added some foot traffic to his shop. And the shoe shine parlor had a black dot, indicating a composite roof.

Alas, the building that housed Uncle Mike’s shoe shine parlor at 12 N. Main St. has not survived — but many of the surrounding buildings have. In the next post, we’ll take a look at the once bustling Gloversville neighborhood that made shoe shining a successful career — including for Uncle Jimmy, who shined shoes at various other locations.

Up next: Modern and vintage photos of the Del Negro brothers’ workplaces. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants. Then visit the September 2021 Genealogy Blog Party: What You Learned to check out the skills genealogy bloggers have shared.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 Gloversville, New York, City Directory, 1909, p. 385. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line accessed 9 Aug. 2021]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

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.

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The Del Negro brothers of Gloversville, N.Y.

Sepia Saturday 585. Eleventh in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

Although I try to focus on researching my direct forebears, my attention is inevitably drawn to collateral relatives — aunts, uncles, cousins and their families — who were part of my ancestors’ lives.

Case in point:  Vincenzo “Jimmy” Del Negro and Michael Del Negro — the brothers of my Italian second great-grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio. So let’s take a brief detour to learn about them.

Bleeker Street near Fulton Street, Gloversville, N.Y. (circa 1900). My maternal Italian immigrant ancestors were just beginning to establish themselves on E. Fulton Street when this photo was taken. Image: Front Page Gloversville

Close ties from back home

My second great-grandparents Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio immigrated to the U.S. from Atena Lucana, Salerno, Campania, Italy — with Antonio arriving first then sending for Antoinette to join him, according to family oral history.

In Vincenzo Del Negro Witnesses a Wedding, I wrote about Antonio and Antoinette’s 1880 New York City civil marriage, which was witnessed by her brother Vincenzo — known in our family as “Jimmy.”

Subsequent census research revealed that Antoinette’s brother Michael Del Negro and his wife and children lived in the Curcio’s Gloversville household at 128 East Fulton Street from 1900-1910.

So close ties between the Curcios and Del Negros appear to have predated their arrival in the U.S. — and continued once they established their new Gloversville homes.

An interesting land record

I assumed that Michael’s residence in the Curcio household was a favor extended to a relative to help him and his family get established. However, I recently discovered an illuminating land record[1]FamilySearch requires free login to view records.that gave him a financial stake in a portion of the Curcio family property.

Gloversville Business Directory map detail (1868). In 1896, my second g-grandparents Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio sold a half-interest in their property at 128 E. Fulton Street — labeled E. Coon above — to Antoinette’s brother Michael for $1.00. Was there a legal reason for this sale? Image/scalable map at: NYPL Digital Collections

On Feb. 22, 1896, for the sum of $1.00, Antonio Curcio and his wife “Antonia” sold Michael Del Negro, of Amsterdam, N.Y.,  “one individual half interest” in the land they owned, which was “known as the Coon property” and located on the south side of E. Fulton Street in Gloversville.

The map detail above, from an 1868 Gloversville Business Directory,[2]Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Gloversville Business Directory; Gloversville Fulton Co. N.Y. [Village]” New York Public Library Digital … Continue readingshows the name E. Coon on the 128 E. Fulton Street property that eventually became the Curcio’s home and business.

The 1896 land conveyance stipulates that Michael “shall not part with the ownership of the heretofore described premises without the written consent of Antonio Curcio.”[3]“United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975,” database with images, FamilySearch … Continue reading

Detail from a 1902 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the Curcio home at 128 East Fulton Street — top center with a letter D for dwelling — with the junk yard at the back and a Cobbler Shop (also a dwelling) next to the house.

The cobbler shop mystery

There must have been a legal reason why my second great-grandparents sold Michael Del Negro an individual half interest in their property for merely $1.00.

Which brings me back to the cobbler shop from the last post, which appears on Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of 128 E. Fulton Street beginning in 1902[4]Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1902. Map 20. Detail: Antonio Curcio Junk Shop at 128 E. Fulton, Gloversville, N.Y. … Continue reading.

As will be discussed in the next post, Antoinette’s brothers Jimmy and Michael worked as “bootblacks” in Gloversville, N.Y., shoe parlors.

So is it a stretch to imagine that they may have launched their careers from the cobbler shop on the Curcio property?

Did Michael need a financial stake in the property in order to legally open/operate a business? And how did Jimmy come into the picture?

Up next: The Del Negro brothers’ shoe parlor careers. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Please like and share:

References

References
1 FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
2 Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Gloversville Business Directory; Gloversville Fulton Co. N.Y. [Village]” New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1868. Accessed August 28, 2021. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-6f06-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
3 “United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9WC-635K?cc=2078654&wc=M7H1-QP6%3A358134701%2C358862601 : [Accessed 27 Aug. 2021]), Fulton > Deeds 1894-1904 vol 90-91 > image 357 of 619; multiple county courthouses, New York.
4 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1902. Map 20. Detail: Antonio Curcio Junk Shop at 128 E. Fulton, Gloversville, N.Y. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn05951_004/ Accessed 12 Aug. 2021.

Growing family trees one leaf at a time