History Timeline 1810s

Image above: The U.S.S. Constitution captures the British war ship Guerrier, War of 1812. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Right: Battle of New Orleans, E. Percy Moran, 1910. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

War of 1812

U.S. Timeline - The 1810s

The War of 1812

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  • Timeline

  • 1813 - Detail

    June 1, 1813 - The city directory of Albany, New York is first published.

    Albany 1805

    It may seem odd that a focus on the publication of a city directory would be an important accomplishment in the midst of the second year of the War of 1812 with battles taking place just north at the border at Fort George in Ontario and elsewhere between American forces and the British, and yes, it might be. It may also seem odd that the city directory of Albany was published for the first time in the midst of that war, but it was. And it has become such a tradition, published into the present era, that telling its story amidst other topics seems a bit of a nice respite from the war news of the day.

    The directory was published at the request of Common Council, collected and arranged by Joseph Fry, former publisher and now the city guager, with publication by Websters and Skinners. Note: a guager was an old term that meant exciseman whose job was to close down illegal stills. We're assuming that here, uncertain as to its accuracy. Yes, that Webster does refer to Charles R. Webster, who had founded the Albany Gazette in 1784 and published other works such as the New England Primer, but not Noah of dictionary or Blue-Backed Speller fame, which would succeed the Primer in American education.

    There would be two thousand names or so names listed, actually one thousand six hundred and thirty-eight (it did not include resident of the Colonie, i.e. the Fifth Ward), supposedly all other residents in the city, eleven thousand total population, who would be taxable. Remember, this was not a telephone directory. There was no such thing as a telephone at this, June 1, 1813 date. From Mr. Fry's standpoint, it was published for profit.

    "The following work will be found to contain an alphabetical list of actual residents of the city of Albany, as correct as the circumstances under which it is undertaken will afford, and as works of this kind are generally found to exhibit. Such as it is, the publisher offers it to the public, with a hope (though feeble) of a competent reward for his labor in the liberal purchase of the books."

    The directory of the first year contained sixty pages. By 1853, it would have five hundred and four pages. And what did it contain? A list of the Officers of the City of Albany, the Mayor being the Hon. Phillip S. Van Rensselser, Esquire. Yes, Joseph Fry is listed here as City Guager. The Societies in the City of Albany are included, such as the Albany Library, the Mechanics' Society, St. Andrew's Society, St. Patrick's Society, Typographical Society, Washington Benevolent Society, Albany Humane Society, Albany Ladies' Society, Columbian Friend's Union Society, Albany Water Works, Albany Lancaster School, Albany Academy, Albany Bible Society, and the Bible and Common Prayer Book Society.

    The Banks of the City were listed: Bank of Albany, New-York State Bank, Mechanics' and Farmer's Bank, plus the Albany Insurance Company. There was a schedule for mail service, and its cost. A letter traveling under forty miles cost 8 cents while a letter traveling five hundred miles cost 25 cents. After that the directory focused on those taxable citizens, listing their name, profession, if known, and address.

    First up ... Abbot, Asa, carpenter, 128 Washington. Final name ... Zeeman, Dirk, 37 Chapel.

    History of Albany

    It is not often thought of as a settlement as old as it is, as Albany, first settled by Europeans in 1610, is predated by only St. Augustine, 1565, and Jamestown, 1607, although that can be debated whether you consider something a settlement or a town. The Mohegans (Mohicans) had already established a native town on the site of Albany when Englishman Henry Hudson sailed up the North (Hudson) river on his boat Half Moon for the Dutch East India Company, claiming it for the United Netherlands in 1609. For some, the Dutch settlement dates back to 1614 when Hendrick Christiaensen built Fort Nassau, a fur trading post on Castle Island, which lasted until it was abandoned in 1617-18. Fort Orange would be constructed in 1624 by eighteen men two miles north of Castle Island. Traders remained there during the next years, although many of the settlers had returned to New Amsterdam by 1628.

    In August 1629, the States General of Holland had given out a charter of liberties and exemptions for the New Netherlands colonies, of which Kiliaen Rensselaer, ancestor of the 1813 Mayor and founder of the Dutch West India Company, established 1621, purchased lands in the area for the company from the Dutch, then local Mohican leaders, and built a small fort on Bear Island, where he conducted commerce, beaver, with the tribes. His residence, Rennsselaerburg, was on an island below the town. By 1652, Fort Orange and the surrounding area was incorporated as the village of Beverwijck.

    Fort Orange and Beverwijk was captured by Major Cartwright from the Dutch in 1664, leading to one hundred and twenty-two years of English rule under a new name, Albany. The town contained the fort, an English and Dutch church, market, town house, and guard house. By 1754, the colonies were growing weary of English rules and held the Albany Congress in the town, organized by Benjamin Franklin with representatives of seven British North American colonies. By 1776, during the American Revolution, Albany was in Continential Army hands. It was still a stockaded military post under the command of General Lafayette, a post where the Continental Army could threaten Montreal and Quebec. By 1790, the population had risen to 3,506, growing rapidly in the next two decades (5,349 in 1800, 10,762 in 1810). The 1810 census included the Colonie for the first time as part of the city, even though past historians, Joel Munsell, state the directory does not.

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    Image above: Drawing of Albany, North Pearl Street from Maiden Lane North, circa 1805, James Eights. Courtesy Albany Institute of History and Art via Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Drawing of Albany in 1853, 1853, George W. Hatch, Charles Severyn, Smith Brothers and Co. Courtesy Library of Congress. Source Info: "The Annals of Albany, Volume 5," 1854, Joel Munsell; "The Albany Directory," J. Fry; https://exhibitions.nysm.nysed.gov/, New York State Museum; Albany Public Library; "War of 1812," 2013, Albany.org; Wikipedia Commons.


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