Northrup, Orlo J. - Remembering Peddler's of The Helderbergs

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Orlo J. Northrup Remembers: Peddler's of The Helderberg's

First published in the Altamont Enterprise.

One of the first things I can remember is the occasional pack peddler who traveled the country on foot with a large striped bed-ticking or oilcloth pack on his back, containing about four or five bushels of the dry goods and notions most needed by rural housewives. The last one I remember was a Russian who continued until about 1905.

These were succeeded by the peddlers who drove a single horse with a wagon similar to that used by Martin Patterson and the other candy men. Incidentally, Martie is seriously ill right now. Of course they carried a more extensive line, including clothes, etc. Two of these wagon peddlers whose headquarters were in Albany were Lewis Axelrod and Max Wise. The Wise family purchased the Linn dry goods business at 23 Central Avenue, later going to the property above Northern Boulevard.

These peddlers covered extensive routes, staying out for days at a time, going back to the city for more stock as their assortment became low. They usually stayed overnight with one of their customers.

Then there were the tin peddlers, the glove peddlers and the candy peddlers. They traveled the country at the same time as the old foot peddlers and drove one or two horses. One of the last tin peddlers was a Berne man named Clark Bolster who drove two horses to a wagon somewhat like a western stagecoach but with closed sides. Some of the tin peddlers had bells on their horses. They carried everything imaginable in the line of tin ware.

The candy peddler who serviced this section was a very nice man named Griffin from Ravena and later, Voorheesville. He drove an excellent two-horse rig and usually fed his horses and had his lunch at our place, as my father bought his candy from him. He was succeeded by his son who passed on a few years ago. The son covered the territory by automobile, accomplishing in two days a route that took his grandfather two weeks. Martin Patterson also covered his territory in the same manner.

The wholesale glove business was handled by a gentleman named Perry, who came from Gloversville with a real fancy wagon and a fine team, carrying a large stock of gloves with him. He was succeeded by a Berne man named Warner who had been in Gloversville several years. He drove one horse and, selling mostly to individuals, and as the automobile came along, his business declined until it was discontinued.

The shades of some distributors of various wares might object to the term, “peddler,” but I think there were some pretty high-class gentlemen under that head.