Collection

Spotlight Artifact: Pacemaker

From the TBHM Collection Medtronic Minneapolis, MN 1965

From the TBHM Collection
Medtronic
Minneapolis, MN
1965

In 1958, Dr. Wilson Greatbatch of Clarence, NY invented and patented the lifesaving cardiac pacemaker. Dr. Greatbatch worked alongside Dr. William M. Chardack and Dr. Andrew A. Gage to create the device and it was first used in humans at Millard Fillmore Hospital in 1960. The variable rate/variable output artificial implantable cardiac pacemaker and the fixed rate/fixed output artificial implantable cardiac pacemaker, which are shown in the photograph above, are on permanent display in the Bflo. Made! Exhibit. These two medical marvels are perfect examples of the ingenuity and inventiveness that Western New York has to offer.

Dr. Greatbatch founded Wilson Greatbatch Ltd. in 1970 to develop long-lived primary batteries to fuel pacemakers. He created the lithium iodide battery system to replace the mercury batteries that powered the early models that are on display in the museum. To this day, both the pacemakers and the special batteries that meet the particular needs of the pacemaker’s pulse generators are made by Wilson Greatbatch, Ltd. in Clarence. Dr. Greatbatch’s exceptional inventions maintain a profound, global impact in our lives.

– Rebecca Justinger, Registrar

*This article was featured in the Winter 2013 issue of “The Album”

Impact of the Library

TBHM LibraryIf you’ve taken up genealogy, you know the impact of finally finding a picture of your great-grandfather’s tavern. Or seeing a picture of the long-demolished corner deli where you bought Atomic Fireballs as a kid.

And then there’s the impact when a new fact upends your understanding of what happened back when. Gospel truth does gets demoted to urban legend, but first it puts up a fight. One of the just-will-not-die Buffalo urban legends is that in 1901, every house in Buffalo was supposedly photographed for the Pan-American Exposition and we have the pictures. If only it was true!

We do have an estimated 12,000 house pictures dating mostly from 1870-1970, but there was no campaign to photograph the entire city for the Pan-Am. We don’t have pictures of everyone’s house, then or now. There are another estimated 12,000 pictures of schools, factories, churches, hotels, office buildings, grain elevators, and so on. Our pictures are not online, so an in-person visit is needed to see them.

This extensive collection of architectural imagery has another kind of impact: economic.

How so?

Maybe you’ve noticed that Buffalo’s often deteriorated buildings are getting restored, repurposed, and re-occupied at an unprecedented rate. The Lafayette Hotel renovation was just the most celebrated of a long and growing list of rehabs. In Buffalo, existing buildings are attracting more private construction dollars than new-builds. This resurgence has a lot to do with the National Register and New York State’s preservation tax credit program.

In most Buffalo neighborhoods, getting listed on the National Register opens up tax credits for the restoration of old buildings, both residential and commercial. Property owners typically depend on professional architectural historians to write National Register nominations. In turn, professional architectural historians depend on the Library’s collection for historical evidence, visual and otherwise, to make the case for National Register eligibility. We have the region’s largest collection of period photographs, atlases, and architectural drawings.

TBHM LibraryInvestment = jobs, and not just for architectural historians. Bringing back old buildings means hiring architects, engineers, roofers, plumbers, plasterers, electricians, painters, carpenters, decorators, and more. Preservation is good for Buffalo’s economy because when you renovate an existing building, you typically spend about 60% of your budget on labor, which is usually supplied by local talent. In turn, those paychecks are spent mostly in the local economy on rent, groceries, etc. The remaining 40% goes to materials, which are usually manufactured elsewhere. For a new build, that ratio is reversed. Forty percent of your budget goes to labor and 60% leaves the local economy to buy materials made elsewhere.

We like to think that in our own indirect way, the Library is helping save Buffalo, one building at a time.

To learn more about New York State’s preservation tax credit program, go to: http://nysparks.com/shpo/tax-credit-programs/

To learn more about the National Register, go to: http://www.nps.gov/nr/faq.htm

To learn more about the economic impact of historic preservation, go to: http://www.achp.gov/economic-general.html

– Cynthia Van Ness, Director of Library and Archives

*Article featured in the Fall 2013 issue of “The Album”

Spotlight Artifact: Sholes & Glidden Typewritter

TypewritterC.L. Sholes, an American mechanical engineer, along with his colleagues Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule, invented the first practical typewriting machine in 1866. After many years of alterations, experiments, and patent applications, the Sholes & Glidden typewriter, pictured in the image above, was first manufactured in 1873. This was a drastically improved model from their first attempts and, in many ways, is similar to today’s typewriters. Sholes sold the rights to Densmore, who in turn approached Philo Remington, the maker of Remington rifles, to help produce and market the new device. The first “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer” was offered for sale to the public in 1874, but was not a commercial success until several years later when some improvements to the keyboard were made by the Remington engineers. This particular typewriter was sent by Sholes to Julius H. Dawes of Buffalo. It is a handmade prototype, one of only five created and the last known to exist. It was used in Dawes’ law office for 17 years before being donated to The Buffalo History Museum.

An important aspect of Sholes’ invention, one that is still with us today, is the creation of the QWERTY keyboard. So named because of the first 6 letters on the top left of the keyboard, the design was so important to the creation of the typewriter that it was included in Sholes’ patent applications. The placement of the keys was a specific choice on Sholes’ part so as not to jam the moving parts of his machine. In his very first model, Sholes placed the keys in two rows, in alphabetical order. The result was sluggish and the machine often halted whenever someone tried to use it. The early letters were placed on the ends of rods called ‘typebars.’ If two typebars that were located next to each other were used in succession, they would clash with each other. So Sholes figured out that if he took the most common letter pairs and made sure that their typebars were not next to each other, then the type writer was much less likely to jam. The QWERTY keyboard was the result of this design and has been with us ever since.

–  Rebecca Justinger, Registrar

*This article was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of “The Album”

Spotlight Artifact: 129 Year Old Piece of Cake

President_cleveland_weddingOn June 2, 1886, President Grover Cleveland and Miss Frances Folsom married in the White House’s first wedding ceremony. Folsom, only 21 years old, was well-educated, beautiful, and charming, endearing the new First Lady to her American Public. 2013 Valentine ClevelandWhile critics of the President considered the May-September marriage scandalous, the public was enamored by the First Lady’s youth and beauty, likening the White House romance to Royal nuptials. The President’s handlers also capitalized, using France’s age as a positive image for the 40-year-old Cleveland. Today, 129 years after America’s first “royal” wedding, the Buffalo History Museum shares in its memory by displaying a small slice of wedding cake. Guests attending the ceremony were given cake boxes, holding small groom’s cakes. These cakes were dark and soaked in alcohol which may account for its excellent state of preservation. grovercakeIn 1886 it was not uncommon to receive a piece of wedding cake as a parting favor from the wedded couple. Tradition dictated that if one placed the cake under their pillow they would dream of their future spouse. – Rebecca Justinger, Registar   *This article was featured in the Spring 2013 issue of “The Album”

 

Celebrate Grover Cleveland’s Birthday & learn more about our only president to serve two non-consecutive terms tonight at 6pm. 
Visit http://www.buffalohistory.org for more details. 

Howard Beach Collection: Student Notes

Our project to research a portion of the Howard Beach is underway. My group and I have selected a number of glass slides. Some of us chose a theme, like military uniforms or wedding day portraits, or whatever they found interesting. My selections range from a high school hockey team portrait, to a gentleman outfitted in an elaborate tux, to a rather humorous baby. I look forward to researching these individuals and learning more about them and their lives.

Figure 1: 39837 Bishop Colton Negative

Figure 1: 39837 Bishop Colton Negative

Since our slides have been selected, we have photographed them so that they can be preserved digitally. Once these were digitized we were able to invert them, bringing the image to life. I must admit the first time I saw one of my slides inverted I shouted in excitement; the image was so much better than I had imagined. Here I have a sample of a slide of one Bishop Colton and what I assume was his cathedral. I have more research ahead of me to know for sure.

Figure 2: 39837 Bishop Colton Positive

Figure 2: 39837 Bishop Colton Positive

Helping in part of this research is the card catalog that was also found along with the slides. Having an archives in original order like this is incredibly important, this gives us a look into the mind of the archives creator, in this case, Beach himself. It shows us how he thought, how he worked, what a typical business day would be like for him. Once we located the associated catalog card for each of our slides, we digitized these as well, as seen in Figure 3 here. Another aspect I particularly like about the catalog card is that they were all hand written by Beach himself, this is just another of the rich connections to the past that this project has to offer.

Figure 3: 39837 Bishop Colton Catalog Card

Figure 3: 39837 Bishop Colton Catalog Card

From here I have hours of research to look forward to. I hope to uncover everything I can about the people in these images. I can only imagine the histories, mysteries, war stories, scandals, or family legends I may discover.

– Megan Barr
Museum Studies student at Buffalo State

Summer Intern Diaries

When I came to The Buffalo History Museum for an internship with the Collections department in the Resource Center, one of my primary tasks consisted of cataloguing a collection of Fisher-Price toys from the 1960s through the 1990s.

The collection is a treasure trove of Fisher-Price at its best: Little People and lap desks, chime balls and a cash register, telescopes and a Toot-Toot steam engine. ???????????????????????????????There’s a rainbow grand piano, a saxophone, and a xylo-drum. The oldest toy is a 1963 “Huffy Puffy Steam Engine” with a cheerful face on the engine and a caboose; the newest toy is the brightly colored saxophone, which chirps peppy notes and dispenses soap bubbles from its bell when played.

Aside from getting to revel in the nostalgia that accompanied cataloguing toys from my childhood, I was also lucky enough to interview one of Fisher-Price’s retired toy engineers. Fred Robjent worked as a Product Development Engineer from 1978 to 2005. After receiving his Associate’s degree in mechanical engineering and his Bachelor’s degree in agricultural mechanization, Mr. Robjent worked at a few smaller companies before joining the Fisher-Price team. Once hired, he went through a rigorous training program. He went on to work as an engineer for the company through its periods of massive growth, its time under Quaker Oats, and finally its purchase by Mattel.

Mr. Robjent helps Walter Mayer, our Director of Collections, with the upkeep and repair of an apostolic clock in the collection. When he heard we were doing a project on Fisher-Price artifacts, he brought a number of his own personal artifacts, vintage catalogs, and limited employee edition books to the Resource Center for me to use in my research. He was happy to shed light on the design process and share his knowledge of the specific artifacts in our collection.

Fisher Price Roller SkatesMr. Robjent personally worked on the iconic Fisher-Price roller skates. He designed and patented a mechanism that made the toy skates safer for preschoolers. If you had a pair of the skates in the early ‘90s, like I did, you might remember the yellow switch on the bottom of the skate that allowed parents to choose from three settings. One stopped the wheels from moving at all, one stopped the skates from rolling backwards, and one allowed uninhibited skating. While Mr. Robjent has eight patents in his name, this was the one that seemed to make him most proud.

Fred Robjent spoke often of the company’s desire to make the toys as safe as possible. Fisher-Price set numerous safety standards in the toy industry that remain in place today. However, when asked what he loved most about working for Fisher-Price, Mr. Robjent said that it was the company’s family atmosphere he loved most.

Samantha Vandermeade
Summer Intern, Collections Department

Spotlight Artifact: Bathing Suits

Now that summer is finally upon us, we decided to share a past article from our Summer 2013 issue of “The Album,” featuring two bathing suits from our collection.


 

Wool Swinsuit, 20-30s

Bathing Suit • “Neptune’s Daughter” • Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation Wool • 1920s-1930s

The swimsuit has a long and varied history. In the early 1900s, women wore long gowns with bloomers underneath. These bathing gowns were weighted down by several heavy layers of material, occasionally with weights sewn into the hem so the material would not float. Fabrics were chosen for bathing suits that would not become transparent when wet. By the 1920s, swimsuits were mostly made out of wool for that very reason. Being so absorbent, swimsuits tended to become heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention itchy in the summer sun. This black wool swimsuit from our collection dates from the 1920s to the 1930s. Labeled “Neptune’s Daughter,” this one-piece swimming suit with attached knickers was made by the Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation of New York, NY.

Bathing Suit Rose Marie Reid of California Acetate 1960s-1970s

Bathing Suit • Rose Marie Reid of California • Acetate • 1960s-1970s

By the 1930s and 40s, bathing suits were rapidly changing. Hemlines were shorter and more bare skin was showing. It was not until the late 40s and early 50s that one-piece bathing suits, or maillots, started to be produced in a variety of fabrics, moving away from wool. For comparison, we have a patterned swimsuit, from the 1960s to the 1970s. This brown, yellow, and black stripped acetate bathing suit, donated by Angela Georgi, was created by Rose Marie Reid of California. Made from a light-weight, stretchy fabric, one would imagine that this would have been much more comfortable to wear to the beach.

Rebecca Justinger
Registrar

Introducing our new Picture Store

Ladder No 8 Interior_web

From the collection of The Buffalo History Museum.

The Buffalo History Museum is proud to present our new online store, created so individuals, families, or businesses may purchase images from our vast image collection! The museum library is working closely with Digital Ark Corp. out of Providence, RI to deliver high quality scans directly to the purchaser. The new store, “The Picture Store by the Buffalo History Museum,” can be accessed through our website on the Gift Shop page and the Research Library page.

From the collection of The Buffalo History Museum.

From the collection of The Buffalo History Museum.

Currently, there are 191 images to choose from, and every month we are sending new images to be uploaded. Each picture is tagged for a category which will make searching easy and, we hope, intuitive for the user. Starting at $25, you can order these museum quality productions and all proceeds go to collections care and museum operations.

We have worked hard to dissect our collection and to choose images which we feel would help Buffalonians better understand the history of our city and our current place in it. Ultimately, it is our wish that this store can offer insights into the people who have come before us to work, live and play in Buffalo, NY.

Shane Stephenson
Library Technician