The Albany Common Council from 1929 through 1945
by Candice Knight

       Between the years of 1930 and 1945, the United States lived through both the worst depression the country has ever seen and a major world war. In the midst of this, cities throughout the country, such as Albany, New York, were trying to modernize themselves. The Great Depression and World War II, while they left their scars on cities such as Albany, did not destroy these cities. Albany itself did a noteworthy job in coping with the Depression and the war, and in keeping up with the city's everyday obligations. In addition to providing economic relief to its citizens during the Great Depression, Albany continued to repair its sidewalks and streets, and to modernize its schools and general infrastructure. This was not an easy task, especially in the aftermath of the Great Crash.

     On October 29, 1929, which we now refer to as "Black Tuesday," 16.4 million shares were traded on Wall Street. By the end of the day, the Times index was, devastatingly, down forty-five points. The next day, although the stock market showed a tremendous recovery, regaining two-thirds of Tuesday's losses, the Crash was far from over. Historian Robert McElvaine writes, "When the Crash bottomed out, the Times index had lost 228 points since the high point of September 3. Fifty-percent of the value of stocks in the index had been lost in ten weeks."[1]  Cities throughout the United States were drastically affected by the Crash, and by the Depression that soon followed. Albany was one of these cities.

     At the time of the Crash, and throughout the Great Depression, Albany's Mayor was John Boyd Thacher, 2nd, who held office from 1926 to 1941. Thacher, in an attempt to promote optimism during this difficult time, delivered an encouraging message to the Common Council in January 1932. In his speech Thacher painted a rosy picture of the city of Albany, and assured council members that Albany had no reason to worry:

     Some idea of the enormity of the task confronting Albany in the matter of the care of the unemployed can be derived from the fact that entirely apart from organizations voluntary or philanthropic in nature, this city has contributed during the year 1932 the sum of $375,000.00 for work relief projects, approximately $175,000.00 for home relief, $40,000.00 for veteran relief, and $44,000.00 for work provided by the "Man-a-Block" plan. Of this latter sum, the employees of the city of Albany contributed approximately $12,000.00. . . . All work relief projects have been designed to result in permanent improvements and betterments for the city of Albany.[2] 

     The projects included improvements in roads, parks and schools. Thacher went on to speak of Albany's most recent accomplishments, including the new water supply, which he referred to as "the finest supply of water possible to obtain." He also noted the opening of the Port of Albany, and the increased volume of business at the Albany airport. Furthermore, said Thacher, "in 1931 Albany was rated by the United States Department of Commerce consistently as among the ten cities of the country having the lowest death rate from automobile accidents."[3] 

     Other accomplishments Thacher spoke of concerned the Department of Health, the Police and Fire Departments, the municipal golf course, building permits, Philip Livingston Junior High School, the Albany-Rensselaer Bridge, the municipal market, and improvements of South Pearl Street, Central Avenue, and Holland Avenue.[4]  Thacher concluded by wishing the people of Albany greater happiness in the new year, stating: "may Albany continue honorably to discharge its obligations to its own people, and may it continue to merit the good will and regard of all neighboring communities by reason of its friendly interest and helpful support in all the worthy projects which affect their welfare."[5] 

     Albany, like the rest of the country, did find its way out of the Great Depression, with the help of both President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal Programs and World War II. By the time Erastus Corning, 2nd (Mayor between 1941 and 1983) assumed office, the city was well on its way to recovery. Corning became Mayor the same year that the United States entered World War II. As a matter of fact, Mayor Corning left behind his mayoral duties in order that he might fight for his country. At an April 12, 1944 Common Council meeting, Corning appointed Frank S. Harris to serve as temporary Mayor while Corning went to war. In his leave-taking speech, Corning concluded on a heartfelt note: "My prayer now is that I may return soon to our fine old city of Albany. I leave with my heart full of pride and love for it, a deep feeling that I will always have, wherever I may be."[6] 

     Even while at war, thousands of miles way, Corning entered for re-election in 1945. He was able to do so through the help of Dan O'Connell, the leader of the Democratic political organization. Paul Grondahl, in his book about the Mayor, states that Corning's "wartime service was being viewed by O'Connell, at least in part, as re-election insurance." Grondahl further notes, however, that Corning did not need such insurance, due to his charm and his ability to connect with all classes. These attributes, writes Grondahl, made Corning "a proven vote-getter."[7]  Corning did, in fact, make it home in time for the elections, returning to City Hall on September 20, 1945. Arriving in his uniform, "Corning settled into his unadorned brown chair behind his utilitarian gray metal desk, as unpretentious as ever, and went right to work on a full slate of postwar projects."[8] 

     During each year between 1930 and 1945, nineteen Aldermen (one per Ward) and one President served on the Common Council. Forty-two different Aldermen served on the Common Council during these sixteen years, and there were two Alderwomen; three different Presidents served during these years. Patronage (to Dan O'Connell's Democratic political organization) played a large role in the election of Aldermen. William Kennedy, in O Albany, uses his next door neighbor from childhood, Jack Murray, as an example of someone who worked in this patronage system. Murray, according to Kennedy, "became president of Dan's obedient Common Council for a double decade until he became postmaster."[9]  Meanwhile, the Aldermen, between 1930 and 1945, were paid salaries of $750 a year, and the Common Council President was paid $1,000 a year. All of the men and women on the Common Council during these years were Democrats, and many were members of the middle class.[10]  For a more a more detailed account of the Council during this time period, please see Appendix A.

     Appendix A indicates that while many left their jobs as Aldermen because of death, a larger number left for other reasons. For instance, many switched jobs after completing their time as Aldermen, usually for the better. Henry Schmeder (Second Ward), for one, was a clerk of the Children's Court, while acting as Alderman, from 1930 to 1933. In 1934, he became a clerk of the Albany County Board of Supervisors. Edward G. Koreman (Fourth Ward) was a commercial traveler in 1929 before he became an Alderman, and became a deputy collector for the Internal Revenue Service in 1935, the year after leaving his Alderman post. Two other such instances involved Edward J. Thornton and Michael T. Gorman, both of the Nineteenth Ward. The former was an Albany County Supervisor for Ward Nineteen in 1929, the year prior to becoming an Alderman. By 1938, Thornton had become a superintendent at the court house. Gorman moved up in more gradual steps. Prior to becoming an Alderman, Gorman was a salesman. While an Alderman, he became a Deputy Clerk for the county in 1944, and worked for the Auditor's Office by 1945.[11] 

     Other changes concerning Aldermen did not involve their changing of jobs. John H. Gottschalk (Sixteenth Ward), for example, retired from his Alderman's post in 1933, yet he continued to list himself as an Alderman for many years.[12]  His job, as a store manager at 348 State Street, remained the same prior to, and following, his Aldermanship. On December 18, 1933, Alderman Gottschalk "spoke to the Board, expressing the pleasure he had had during his association with them, and extending his best wishes to Mayor Thacher and to all of the members of the Council."[13]  Also significant was the addition of two women to the Common Council in 1943 and 1944. These two women, Barbara Schenck and Margaret E. Conners of the Eighteenth and Ninth Wards respectively, temporarily replaced their husbands while the latter went away to war.

     First, on March 15, 1943, Barbara Schenck, at a Common Council meeting, was formerly inducted into the Common Council, to replace, temporarily, her husband Martin, Eighteenth Ward Alderman and lawyer. This was a special event, for Mrs. Schenck was the first woman ever to serve on the Albany Common Council. A special announcement, was made in Mrs. Schenck's honor on her first day with the Council. This announcement welcomed Mrs. Barbara A. Schenck as a member of the Common Council, "honoring her as being the first woman to hold such office in the City of Albany, and calling attention to the fact that the only introduction of an ordinance at her first meeting had been made by her."[14]  Mrs. Schenck's first ordinance involved the city's purchase of a high pressure cleaning machine to clean the streets.[15]  In taking note of Albany's first Alderwoman, The Albany Times Union wrote:

     Mrs. Barbara Archibald Schenck, comely 26-year-old wife of former aldermen Martin B. Schenck, made history last night. She sat as the first woman alderman in the annals of Albany. With friends and relatives, including her father-in-law, Supreme Court Justice Gilbert V. Schenck, looking on, Mrs. Schenck, replacing her husband, who has gone into the armed forces, was given the added distinction of introducing the first ordinance at last night's Common Council meeting. After President John J. Murray had extended to her the official welcome of the council and similar remarks had been made by Majority Leader George F. Honikel the Council proceeded to business. Before adjourning, Alderman John H. Cogan moved that the presence of a woman alderman and her introduction of the first ordinance be noted permanently in the record.[16] 

     While the induction of the first Albany Alderwoman was certainly a reason to celebrate, the Common Council (and the world) still had some way to go in terms of equal rights. First, the council referred to Mrs. Schenck as an Alderman, instead of an Alderwoman. Also, in the first line of the newspaper article, Mrs. Schenck is referred to as the "comely" wife of Martin Schenck. When Margaret E. Conners took the place on the Common Council of her husband Richard, on February 7, 1944, there was no mention as to her being the second woman to sit on the Common Council. Instead, the Mayor merely announced that Mrs. Conners would be temporarily replacing her husband while he was away at war, along with announcing other recent appointments in the city.[17]  There were no formal ceremonies nor any newspaper articles announcing the event. Was Mrs. Conners not comely enough?

     The Common Council, between 1930 and 1945, met for regular meetings twice a month, on every other Monday. Often during these years, no Aldermen would show up for regularly scheduled meetings. This happened when there was no legislation to discuss. Meanwhile, Aldermen often missed regularly scheduled meetings in which there was legislation. Thus, it was not out of the ordinary for there to be only fifteen or sixteen, of nineteen, Aldermen present at a regularly scheduled meeting. Sometimes, Aldermen missed out on important meetings, such as appeared in the Albany Times Union on April 19, 1932. The article was titled "Hoogkamp loses out," and read: "Majority leader Herman F. Hoogkamp did not get his chance to make an adjournment motion at last night's Common Council meeting. President Lester W. Herzog made it for him and closed the meeting without assistance."[18] 

     Meanwhile, eight Aldermen died between the years of 1930-1945. The chart below indicates who died and when, and where the men's funerals were held:

RECORD OF DEATHS OF ALDERMEN, BETWEEN 1930-1945*

Nov. 30, 1930 Thomas F. Barry 6 St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
May 15, 1935 William J. Esmond 12 St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
April 10, 1936 John J. Dunn 8 St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church
Sept. 14, 1936 Dennis H. Hickey 3 St. John's Roman Catholic Church
Sept. 20, 1936 Maynard H. Schuster 6 his home
Jan. 4, 1937 John. P. O'Keefe 11 St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church
April 8, 1938 Martin L. Hotaling 14 his home
June 14, 1939 William J. Kresser 1 St. James's Roman Catholic Church
June 1, 1944 Joseph Henzel 4 St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church
     *These data are taken from the Albany Times Union , under the "Death Notices" section, between 1930-1944. These announcements were usually listed the day after the deaths of the Aldermen.

     As the chart indicates, most of these Aldermen's funerals were held in Roman Catholic Churches. Perhaps this is suggestive of the Aldermen of this time, as a whole. Ward leaders, for one, were "mostly Irish Catholic," according to Frank Robinson, in Albany's O'Connell Machine.[19]  Dan O'Connell, the longtime leader of the Democrat's political organization, was, like Alderman Henzel, buried at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Albany. According to Kennedy, O'Connell

     not only kept his rosary beads next to his telephone and coffee cup, but had holy-water fonts mounted in both his Albany home and his summer camp. . . . Generosity had endeared Dan to the Diocese for generations-gifts of money, land, moral stricture. . . , plus gifts of special services, such as paving, snowplowing, and sewer work, whose like did not necessarily accrue to other denominations. . . . In its turn, the Diocese had favored Dan and his Machine: pressuring the Franciscan order to silence a radical priest who kept pillorying Albany politicians in the newspapers; giving communion in a body (i.e., as a group) to Dan's police force. . . , but denying the same kind of communion to George Harder and his friends, maverick Catholic Democrats challenging Dan for various public offices.[20] 

     Like the Catholic Church, O'Connell's Police Department, was very influential in Albany from 1930-1945. In 1936, the Common Council voted to create the position of "Commissioner of Police." Alderman Zimmer moved the passage of this law, Local Law Number Two, and, as usual, there were no negative votes. The Police Commissioner would be appointed by the Mayor, and would act as head of the Police Department. After being appointed, the Commissioner would "hold office during the pleasure of the Mayor."[21]  In 1936, Mayor Thacher appointed James A. Kirwin, former Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety, as the first Police Commissioner.[22]  He was paid a yearly salary of $6,671,[23]  which was more than the Mayor's salary of $6,500.

     The Police Department was arguably central to O'Connell's political organization. "One of the Machine's first actions upon assuming power in 1921 had been to raise police salaries," explains Kennedy.[24]  By 1944, the Police Commissioner was making $6,921 a year,[25]  and by 1945, he was making $7,536.[26]  Political patronage, alleges Robinson, resulted in Police Department jobs during the O'Connell days. Robinson goes on to say that while police salaries might have been lower than those of other occupations, they were "high for municipal salaries in Albany."[27]  Robinson also notes that the patronage system guaranteed police loyalty to the party, and that any challenges to that loyalty were not permitted.[28] 

     The policemen's high salaries, however, did not necessarily equal the amount of money they took home. Arguably, policemen, during election time, were required to make "donations" to the Democratic political organization. "The advantage to the party in controlling the police," writes Robinson, "is simply that the police do things the party's way. What the machine basically wants is for the voters to be happy, and this means that the police must keep a lid on things, and avoid bad publicity."[29]  Other ways in which the police helped the political organization included fixing parking tickets, for say, newsmen; controlling crowds at the polls on Election Day; and investigating nonresident business men for the party.[30] 

     In the Common Council's budget report between 1930 and 1945, the police budget stands out as one of the largest expenditures, second only to the Department of Audit and Control and the Department of Education. Even during the Depression, when other budgets were being drastically cut, the Police Department's budget often increased from one year to the next. During the Depression years (1930 to 1941) the Police Department's budget increased by $63,493.75, or by eight percent. Between 1930 and 1945, its budget increased by $134,326.09, or by seventeen percent. The charts below represent the budget amounts for the years of 1930, 1935, 1940, 1941 and 1945, indicating whether they had increased or decreased.[31]  I have included 1941, even though it does not fall into the five-year interval, because this was when the United States entered World War II, ending the Depression. I have included the Fire Department's budget, as a means of comparing a public service comparable to that of the Police Department's.

BUDGETS FOR 1930-1945</B>*

  POLICE FIRE TOTAL CITY BUDGET
1930

785,048.75

525,750.00

7,144,159.43

1935

831,740.00

522,190.13

7,523,804.92

1940

847,860.50

524,448.85

6,566,494.04

1941

848,542.50

536,398.85

6,716,162.88

1945

919,374.84

570,558.85

8,943,076.39

AMOUNT & PERCENTAGE INCREASES (+) OR DECREASES (-)*

YEARS POLICE   FIRE  
  amount percentage amount percentage

1930-35

(+)46,691.25

(+)6%

(-)3,559.87

(-).0006%

1935-40

(+)16,120.50

(+)2%

(+)2,258.72

(+).0004%

1940-45

(+)71,514.34

(+)8%

(+)46,110

(+)9%

1930-41

(+)63,493.75

(+)8%

(+)10,648.85

(+)2%

1930-45

(+)134,326.09

(+)17%

(+)44,808.85

(+)9%

     *These data were gathered using budget information in the 1930-45 Proceedings of the Common Council. This information was found toward the back of the vol. 1 books.

     As evidenced by these charts, while the Fire Department enjoyed overall budget growth during these years, it was nowhere near the increase (neither in dollar amount nor in percentage) in expenditures for the Police Department. Even during the years that the Police Department's budget decreased, or when it did not increase very much, most members of the department were not affected. For instance, for the 1933 budget, the Police Department estimated its budget at $800,455.75, yet it was only allowed $795,161.75. Thus, in comparison to the prior year, the budget had only increased by .0003 percent, or by $2,814. Although there was not much more money to work with that year, many policemen were promoted, and received pay increases. All of the "estimated" costs for the patrolmen, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and assistant chief and chief were allowed by the Police Department that year. Incidentally, the Police Painter, whoever this was, received about seven percent less than was estimated. Furthermore, in the following year (1934), the Painter suffered a pay cut of almost twenty percent.[32] 

     The budget aside, the Common Council passed many ordinances that benefited the Police Department. In 1933, a year when many departments were experiencing decreases in their spending, the Police Department received radio outfits for its cars. On June 19 of that year, the Common Council passed an ordinance that gave the Police and the Public Safety Departments $10,000 for this purpose.[33]  Three months later, another ordinance increased the amount to be spent on Police car radio outfits to $11,000.[34]  And, on November 20, 1933, $3,000 was given to the Police Department because of an ordinance which directed the reinforcement of municipal buildings needed for the construction of the police radio system.[35]  On February 5, 1934, another $2,000 was given to the Police Department to reconstruct municipal buildings for radio broadcasting.[36]  Civil Works Projects, used during the Depression to reduce unemployment, were even used for the benefit of the Police Department. For instance, on March 5, 1934, a Civil Works Project that involved improving and extending the police garage on Sheridan Avenue, was passed. $5,000 was appropriated for this purpose.[37]  Another $4,000 was appropriated, again under the heading of Civil Works, for the completion of these improvements.[38] 

     To turn back to the Aldermen, according to the 1930 tax assessment records, only four of the nineteen owned their own homes. These four, in order of affluence, were: Frederick M. Lamb, Edward G. Koreman, John H. Gottschalk, and Henry Schmeder. Lamb was the Thirteenth Ward Alderman and the treasurer of the City Savings Bank. His home and property were valued at $12,000. Koreman was the Fourth Ward Alderman and a commercial traveler in 1929 (in 1930, he listed no other occupation besides Alderman). The value of Koreman's home and property was $4,500. Gottschalk was the Sixteenth Ward Alderman and a store manager. His home and property were valued at $3,500. Lastly, Schmeder was Second Ward Alderman and clerk of the Children's Court. The value of Schmeder's home and property was $1,200.[39] 

     There were differences in the sizes and wealth of each Ward. The following chart depicts the 1930 value of real property and land in each Ward:

1930 PROPERTY/LAND VALUES IN ALBANY ($)**

WARD #

REAL PROPERTY VALUE

LAND VALUE

1

9,986,350.00

347,824.58

2

6,047,305.00

210,627.64

3

3,838,450.00

133,693.21

4

1,986,450.00

69,205.47

5

9,612,950.00

334,819.05

6

71,388,318.00*

2,486,455.12*

7

3,095,080.00

107,801.64

8

2,615,183.00

91,086.82

9

14,452,185.00

503,369.60

10

11,470,905.00

399,531.62

11

4,430,605.00

159,317.97

12

3,669,185.00

127,797.71

13

22,470,072.00

782,632.61

14

15,117,630.00

526,547.05

15

3,494,200.00

121,702.99

16

11,496,705.00

400,430.24

17

6,234,725.00

217,155.47

18

21,649,570.00

754,054.52

19

157,585.00

5,488.69

*Represents the commercial district in Albany of the time.

**These data were collected from City of Albany's tax assessment rolls from 1930.

     By 1945, only two more Aldermen owned the homes in which they lived. Of the nineteen Council members in 1945, six owned their own homes. Again in order of affluence, these Council members were: Thomas A. Geary, John H. Cogan, Thomas F. Mulhorn, Myron J. Kenneally, Thomas Leonard, and Joseph J. Brady. Geary was the Fourteenth Ward Alderman and a newsdealer. His home and property were valued at $15,400. Cogan was the Thirteenth Ward Alderman and a lawyer with his own firm; the value of his home and property was $9,300. Mulhorn, the Second Ward Alderman and a pressman, owned a home and property valued at $4,600. Kenneally, the Twelfth Ward Alderman and a compositor, owned a home and property valued at $3,500. Leonard was the First Ward Alderman and a compositor at the Albany Times Union; his home and property were valued at $2,780. Lastly, Brady was the Eighth Ward Alderman and an insurance agent; the value of his home and property was $2,200.[40] 

     It could not be determined whether or not two of the Aldermen, Thomas J. Smith (Third Ward) and Richard A. Conroy (Fifth Ward), owned their own homes. Smith, an interior decorator, and Conroy, a general foreman at New York Power and Light, both listed home addresses in places where no homes could be found in the tax assessment records, either as being rented or owned. According to the tax assessment records of 1945 (as well as for 1944 and 1946), there was no building on 96 Arch Street, where the city directory listed Mulhorn's home address. This was also the case for Conroy's listed home address of 26 Myrtle Ave. As a matter of fact, according to the 1945 tax assessment records, a common alley lay between 24 and 28 Myrtle Ave.[41]  This might mean that Smith and Conroy actually lived elsewhere, perhaps outside of the Wards they represented, while listing their home addresses as being within these Wards. By doing such, Aldermen could circumvent the requirement that stated that they had to live within the Wards they represented. The following chart depicts the 1945 value of real property and land of each Ward:

1945 PROPERTY/LAND VALUES IN ALBANY ($)**

WARD #

REAL PROPERTY VALUE

LAND VALUE

1

12,617,690.00

482,511.00

2

7,555,431.00

289,524.33

3

3,682,070.00

141,096.87

4

1,844,870.00

70,695.23

5

7,821,096.00

299,704.24

6

65,535,457.00

2,511,318.52

7

2,969,460.00

113,789.59

8

2,599,389.00

99,608.70

9

14,300,330.00

547,988.26

10

9,987,920.00

382,737.10

11

4,465,245.00

171,108.89

12

3,437,944.00

131,741.92

13

30,719,152.00*

1,176,870.31*

14

17,475,050.00

669,643.81

15

3,552,736.00

136,140.86

16

10,539,878.00

403,888.08

17

6,241,739.00

239,184.91

18

21,591,745.00

827,433.99

19

167,170.00

6,408.73

*Represents the commercial district of Albany at the time.

**These data were collected from the City of Albany tax assessment rolls from 1945.

     The total real property value for the city of Albany, in 1933, was $236,506,362; total personal property value was $1,022,000; and total special franchise value was $8,417,808. Therefore, the total assessed values of property subject to taxation was $245,946,170. The values of property exempted from taxation (including city-owned property) totaled $131,559,045. The 1933 city tax rate was 2.87; the county rate was .43 (county .41, state .023). The total amount of taxes which were to be collected in 1933 was $8,684,442,23. Of this amount, only $7,721,991.93 in taxes was collected, leaving $962,450.29 uncollected, amounting to .10881 of the levy. The funded city debt, at the beginning of 1933, was $32,696,755; by the close of 1933, it had reached $33,107,025.[42] 

     The Common Council, between 1930-1945 (as well as during the years prior to 1930 and following 1945), was involved in a substantial number of modernization projects, even while coping with the Great Depression and World War II. The Common Council, on May 20, 1929, passed a law limiting the number of animals allowed in the city. This law, which was labeled a "sanitary ordinance," read: "No person or persons shall hereafter keep any swine, goats, or more than one cow in the city of Albany, except by permission of the Department of Health."[43]  The law also called for fining a person $5 for each day he/she violated this law. Furthermore, any animals found in violation would be confiscated and brought to the public pound, where they would be "kept or disposed of in the same manner as animals running at large."[44] 

     At a regular Common Council meeting on Monday, February 17, 1930, Common Council President Lester W. Herzog addressed the problem of the Great Depression to the Aldermen:

     Following the recommendation made some weeks ago by President Hoover that municipalities hasten building programs so far as compatible with sound judgement, and in view of the wide spread unemployment due to financial stress of hard times, I have asked the Common Council of the City of Albany to make immediately available the necessary funds for school additions, for the enlargement of the municipal storehouse and garage, and for the building of a swimming pool and locker house in Lincoln Park.[45] 

As usual, all of these ordinances were passed.

     On June 16, 1930, the Common Council passed a law regulating taxi licenses in Albany. To receive such a license, a person first had to apply for a driver's license to the Chief of Police. Prior to receiving this license, the applicant had to have already obtained a State chauffeur's license. To receive the driver's license, not only did the applicant have to be physically and mentally capable of operating a motor vehicle, but he also had to "be clean in dress and person and not addicted to the use of intoxicating liquor or drugs."[46]  To prove he met the above qualifications, the applicant had to submit "affidavits of good character from two reputable citizens" of Albany and a recommendation from his employer. These requirements could be overlooked, though, if "in the opinion of the Chief of Police sufficient reason is given for its omission."[47]  If and when the applicant received his driver's license, he had to reapply to the Chief of Police every year for renewal.[48] 

     This system gave the Chief of Police a great deal of power over those applying for taxi licenses. On December 18, 1933, though, Alderman Hoogkamp moved to pass an ordinance which slightly changed the 1930 law. The prior law would in essence stay in effect, except now the applicants would have to apply to the Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety, instead of to the Chief of Police. The ordinance was passed.[49]  The whole process, in both 1930 and 1933, was most likely a lengthy one. By 1972, this application process, still a lengthy one, had become entwined in a political system which involved the Ward leaders. According to Robinson, applying for a taxi license in Albany was complicated and lengthy. "Temporary licenses, however, may be issued so that a driver can work during this period. The official channels for getting a temporary license are none too clear, but one thing is certain: a taxi driver cannot get one. A ward leader, and only a ward leader, must be the one who asks for it."[50] 

     Between 1930 and 1945, the Common Council passed many ordinances which concerned other means of public transportation. Bus lines, for instance, were constantly being extended. On January 5, 1931, an ordinance was passed that further extended the allowed time, over certain highways and streets in Albany, that Castleton and Albany Autobus Co., Inc. could operate their buses. The ordinance was adapted from a June 18, 1923 ordinance, which was more restricted in allowed hours of operation.[51]  Also in 1931, the Common Council passed an ordinance which allowed the Commissioner of Public Works to buy a motor bus, with city money, for the use of employees of the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Water. The bus cost the city $5,500.[52]  On October 2, 1933, the Common Council passed an ordinance which permanently substituted buses for street cars on certain United Traction Co. routes.[53]  A few years later, the Common Council (on February 17, 1936) gave its consent to the Champlain Bus Corp., to operate a busline in Albany. In return, Champlain had to pay Albany a $250 yearly fee for "wear and tear of pavements and improvements."[54]  By 1943, many more bus lines were operating in the city of Albany, and during more hours. On February 15, 1943, the Common Council passed an ordinance that granted the transfer by the Champlain Bus Corporation to the Central Greyhound Lines, Inc. to operate a bus line on certain streets in Albany.[55] 

     The expansion of bus lines was included in Albany's modernization process. Just as the trolley had replaced the horsecar in the 1890s, the bus soon replaced the trolley. The benefits of the bus line over the trolley, though, were not equal to the benefits the trolley had over the horsecar. As Kennedy notes, "the gift the trolleys brought was new power and speed and longer runs-extending the city's lifelines, connecting with the lives of other cities, making possible the expansion from the city center."[56]  There is little indication that the buses better achieved these goals than the trolley had.

     Other major legislation between 1930-1945 included the building, expanding, and repairing of many roads. During the Great Depression, such work became one of many Emergency Work Relief Projects. In 1932, many Emergency Work Relief Projects were passed by the Common Council, including numerous street repairs. On September 19, 1932, an ordinance to grade and improve Hillcrest Avenue ($3,000), as an Emergency Work Relief Project, was passed.[57]  Other street repairs under the Emergency Work Relief Program in 1932 included: the improvements of Mill and North First Streets ($2,000 and $1,000, respectively);[58]  further extensions in grading and improvements of Hillcrest Avenue ($4,000);[59]  and the grading and improvements of Rosemont Street ($5,000),[60]  to name a few.

     Many more Emergency Work Relief Projects were passed in January 1933. Other than street repairs, they included improvements of parks, sewage systems, and lakes. A few examples of the Emergency Work Relief Projects passed on January 16, 1933 are: the construction of a road to the Thirteenth Ward sewerage pumping station ($7,500);[61]  improvements of Hackett Park ($5,000);[62]  the grading and improvements of Tivoli Park;[63]  and the grading and improvements of Buckingham Lake and Buckingham Boulevard.[64] 

     To further cope with the Depression, ordinances other than Emergency Work Relief Projects were passed. On September 4, 1930, the Common Council passed an ordinance that appropriated an additional twenty-thousand dollars to Albany's Department of Public Welfare, "for temporary relief of the indigent poor."[65]  On November 21, 1932, an ordinance was passed that authorized the comptroller to borrow money from the city, as temporary loans, in anticipation of uncollected taxes for that fiscal year.[66]  On March 20, 1933, an ordinance was passed to pay veterans' relief for the posts of the American Legion, and also for the relief of the posts of the grand army of the Republic,"[67]  as provided for by Section 117 of the Public Welfare Law. On May 1, 1933, the Common Council passed an ordinance that authorized the county treasurer to accept a reduction of interest due on taxes and water rents.[68]  On May 15, 1933, Aldermen passed an ordinance that authorized the Mayor (in contract with the Board of Supervisors) to allow Albany county to take from Albany's water supply, to provide water to the county poor house (Ann Lee Home), and the Albany County Jail.[69] 

     In 1930, a "Charities" section was added to the city budget. Included in this section were the following: temporary relief of the indigent poor; overseer of poor; inspector; special investigator; two stenographers; furniture, stationary, records, supplies, etc.; burial fund.[70]  By 1931, these subtopics were under the heading of "Welfare." Also in 1931, there was a "Charities and Corrections" section, which included: an office of Commissioner; outdoor relief; hospital relief; relief of veterans, soldiers and sailors; and a probation officer. Also in this year, there was a "Department of Charities" which included: salaries and stationary, postage, etc.[71]  In the 1933 budget, "Welfare" was labeled "Public Welfare," and included more costs. The topics under this heading were: permanent and temporary relief of indigent poor; Deputy Commissioner of Public Welfare; inspector; special investigator; bookkeeper; stenographer; file clerk; confidential investigator; furniture, etc., and a burial fund.[72]  Notice that the word "permanent" was added for the relief of the indigent poor, in 1933. From 1940 to 1945, neither "charities" nor "welfare" were included in the budget.[73]  Yet, some Emergency Work Relief Projects continued into the early forties, and the Department of Health provided some means of charity.

     The chart below gives the total amount of "Charity" or "Welfare" included in each year's budget. It also gives the budgets for the Bureau of Health and the total yearly budgets.

YEAR* WELFARE* BUREAU OF HEALTH* TOTAL YEARLY BUDGET*
1930

$49,200.00**

145,545.00

7,144,159.43

1931

114,800.00

144,645.00

7,224,061.33

1932

52,200.00

136,045.00

7,421,521.18

1933

52,400.00

87,540.00

7,594,991.66

1934

15,900.00

87,340.00

7,528,531.52

1935

15,900.00

89,740.00

7,523,804.92

1936

20,500.00

91,650.00

7,523,804.92

1937

20,500.00

95,150.00

7,469,879.61

1938

112,500.00

110,500.00

7,200,425.72

1939

177,700.00

109,500.00

6,998,440.67

1940

--------------

111,500.00

6,566,494.04

1941

--------------

112,500.00

6,716,162.88

1942

--------------

118,800.00

6,713,977.43

1943

--------------

120,800.00

7,357,621.70

1944

--------------

120,800.00

8,620,071.70

1945

--------------

128,310.00

8,943,076.39

     *These budget data were collected from the Proceedings of the Albany Common Council 1930-1945.

**was labeled "Charities" in the budget report.

     The chart indicates decreases in the budgets for Welfare and the Bureau of Health, from 1934-1937. This probably has much to do with the enormous number of Federal Emergency Work Relief Projects in Albany during these years.

      The Common Council, between 1930-1945, passed many ordinances that regulated business. On March 7, 1932, an ordinance which regulated the sale of "goods, wares, and chattels at public auction" was passed.[74]  Included in this ordinance were the following requirements: the public auctioneer had to be licensed and in possession of a written sworn inventory of auctioned goods; there had to be a licensed clerk present, who would examine all the goods; no public auction could last longer than fifteen days, and never could be conducted on Sundays or legal holidays, nor between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.; and misrepresentation and fictitious bids (the use of "cappers" or "boosters") were illegal.[75]  On September 19, 1932, the Common Council passed an ordinance that prohibited "the exhibition of common shows, street fairs, and carnivals" in the streets of Albany.[76] 

     In 1933, an ordinance was passed that regulated the sale of soda in Albany. So, any business that wanted to sell any non-alcoholic beverage, other than tea, coffee, milk, cocoa, or lemonade, had to apply for a separate license. The application of this license had to be submitted to the Chief of Police, and the license would cost the applicant ten dollars a year. An application could have been refused by the Police Chief, if the applicant was "not of good moral character, or have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor," or anyone who had already had his license revoked, or his application denied. For those who received licenses, the following requirements were in effect: the store could not be open for business between 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m.; the view of the store could not be obstructed with screens, partitions, or other obstructions; the store could not "harbor intoxicated persons"; liquor and gambling were not allowed in the store; the premises were to be kept sanitary; and the Health Officer would inspect the business at least monthly.[77] 

     Two days later, the Common Council passed an ordinance that regulated the sale of alcoholic beverages. The applicant, for this license, had to apply to both the Chief of Police and the Mayor. Also, the applicant had to sign the application in front of a notary public, to prevent him from applying under a false name. The same moral standards of character expected of those applying for non-alcoholic beverage licenses, applied here. Furthermore, those applying for liquor licenses had to be at least twenty-two years old. There were three kinds of licenses pertaining to the sale of alcohol: "on sale" licenses, which gave the business the authority to sell alcohol for consumption on premises only (such as taverns); "off sale" licenses, which allowed the business to sell alcohol in its original package for consumption off premises only (such as liquor stores); and "distributors" or "wholesalers" licenses, which allowed the business to sell alcohol in cases, to be consumed off the premises. The fee for all three of these licenses was $25 a year.[78] 

     The erection of billboards was regulated at a Common Council meeting on May 1, 1933. This ordinance regulated the height of the billboard (none over six feet, without the consent of the Common Council) and required that those who wanted to erect billboards had to receive the permission of the Common Council. Furthermore, any billboard had to allow for the "preservation of good order, peace and health, and for the safety and welfare of the inhabitants" of Albany.[79]  On February 5, 1934, the Common Council passed an ordinance that regulated the retail sale of coal and coke (the bi-product of coal, not the beverage) in Albany.[80] 

     The Common Council passed many ordinances that regulated businesses, in 1935. On January 7 of that year, an ordinance was passed that regulated the business of retail florists and the sale of flowers and plants.[81]  On January 21, the Council passed an ordinance that established a milk and cream code in Albany, which would provide for "examination of people engaged in the handling of milk and cream for inspection of dairy herds, dairies, milk plants, and plants were milk and cream [were] produced, collected, distributed or sold."[82]  On that same day, an ordinance was passed that required the licensing of "all persons buying or offering to buy goods, wares, and merchandise in Albany by soliciting from door to door."[83]  Also in 1935, the Common Council passed an ordinance, on March 4, that regulated "the sale of contraceptive devices or prophylactic rubber goods."[84]  The regulations involving the sale of these items were: they were not to be sold in vending machines; they were not to be given away; and only established drug stores could sell them. These regulations were established "for the preservation, good order, peace, health, and the safety and welfare" of Albany residents.[85] 

     Throughout 1930-1945, many ordinances were passed that regulated the height and bulk of buildings. Usually, these ordinances were passed without any problems. On May 7, 1945, though, after such an ordinance was passed by the Common Council, there was some protest: "Mr. John Schneider, attorney for a group of property owners appeared against the ordinance. Mr. Evariste Lavigne, attorney for Mrs. Helen M. Schezmerhorn, of 560 Delaware Ave, appeared in favor of the ordinance. No others appearing either in opposition to or in favor of the ordinance. The President declared the ordinance closed."[86] 

     In 1932, motion pictures were a big topic at Common Council meetings. Ordinances were passed that authorized the exhibition of motion pictures in Albany theatres. For instance, on January 15 of that year, an ordinance was passed to allow for motion pictures to be shown on Sundays, beginning January 17, January 24, January 31, and February 7, after 2:00 in the afternoon.[87]  There was no opposition to this ordinance. On April 18 of that same year, a similar ordinance was passed, allowing more motion pictures to be shown on Sundays after 2:00 in the afternoon. This time, though, there was a negative vote from Alderman John H. Gottschalk of the Sixteenth Ward. As mentioned, this was the only negative vote cast by an Alderman from 1930-1945. Alderman Gottschalk, though, was not alone in his opposition to Sunday movies. Many people of the time found this practice to be inappropriate and disrespectful. Again, as noted, Alderman Gottschalk retired from his Alderman's job in 1933, and was replaced by John J. Corp in 1934.

     On September 8, 1932, Mayor Thacher sent a letter to the Common Council, asking for their support in opposing Congress's July 3, 1930 act. This act would have ceded the state-owned canals of Erie and Oswego to the Federal Government. Thacher also asked the Council to oppose the development of the St. Lawrence water route, both from the standpoint of transportation and power development under the treaty recently signed, but yet to be approved by the U.S. Senate. Thacher closed his letter by asking the Council members to help to preserve State ownership of these valuable transportation facilities.[88]  As was expected, all of the Council members gave their support to the Mayor on this matter.

     The years between 1930-1945 were quite eventful for the Common Council. Besides having the responsibility of modernizing Albany, Council members also had to cope with the Great Depression and World War II. Furthermore, during the war, Council members had to work without the direct guidance of the elected Mayor, Erastus Corning 2nd, who was away fighting the war. It is evident, though, that the Common Council (and the Mayor) worked under the direct guidance of Dan O'Connell and his Political Organization during these years. During 1930-1945, and for nine years prior to 1930, and for thirty-years following 1945, a great number of people worked under the guidance of this one man. A man, according Kennedy, who "went to Public Schools 15 and 17 but quit in the sixth, or maybe fifth, grade (he seemed unsure which)."[89] 

     Nonetheless, in conclusion, the Common Council's legislation between these years added to the improvement and progress of the city of Albany. Streets were built and repaired, schools were constructed and improved upon, and transportation systems were expanded upon, all making the lives of Albanians much easier and more pleasant. These represent only a few of many ordinances passed which improved the city of Albany, and the lives of those who lived in it. The subtitle of Kennedy's book, O Albany, I think, sums up the city of Albany (and to some extent its Common Council) fairly well. Kennedy's subtitle refers to Albany as: "Improbable City of Political Wizards, Fearless Ethnics, Spectacular Aristocrats, Splendid Nobodies, and Underrated Scoundrels."

APPENDIX A

ALBANY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBERS (1930-1945)**

PRESIDENTS

DATES NAME OCCUPATION(S)
1930-39 Lester Herzog President Herzog & Vernoy, Inc. HV Oil (1930-34) President and executive director, Albany City-Council Administration (1935-39)
1940 Frank S. Harris President of Common Council (1940)
1941 John J. Murray clerk D&H Mill (Acting President)
1942-45 John J. Murray President, Common Council

 

ALDERMEN

     
FIRST WARD:    
     
1930-39 William J. Kresser* orderly at the Capitol
1940-45 Thomas J. Leonord compositor, Times-Union
     
SECOND WARD:    
     
1930-33 Henry Schmeder clerk, Children's Court
1934-41 John P. Hummel Alderman (1934-41) clerk, Board of Supervisors (1942)
1942-45 Thomas F. Mulhern pressman, William Press, Inc
     
THIRD WARD:    
1930-36 Dennis H. Hickey* store manager
1937-45 Thomas J. Smith interior decorator
     
FOURTH WARD:    
1930-34 Edward G. Koreman Alderman (1930-34) commercial traveler (1929) deputy collector, internal revenue (1935)
1935-37 William J. Lavery assistant engineer
1938-43 Joseph Henzel* salesman, Henzel Electric Co.
1944-45 William M. Daum president, Albany Metal Forming Works, Inc.
     
FIFTH WARD:    
1930-45 Richard A. Conroy Alderman (1930) Supervisor, Ward 5 (1929) general foreman, NY Power and Light (1931-45)
     
SIXTH WARD:    
1930 Thomas F. Barry* salesman
1931-36 Maynard H. Schuster*chief train announcer  
1937-45 Timothy C. Lyden salesman
     
SEVENTH WARD:    
1930-45 Thomas F. Martin Alderman
     
EIGHTH WARD:    
1930-35 John J. Dunn* Alderman (1930-35) laborer (1929)
1936-1945 Joseph J. Brady insurance agent
     
NINTH WARD:    
1930-41 John J. Murray clerk, D & H Mill (1930-41) President of Common Council (1941)
1942-43 Richard J. Conners insurance broker
1944-45 Mrs. Margaret E. Conners Alderwoman
     
TENTH WARD:    
1930-45 George F. Honikel carpenter
     
ELEVENTH WARD:    
1930-36 John P. O'Keefe* bookkeeper
1937-45 Joseph F. Keane patrolman
     
TWELFTH WARD:    
1930-34 William Esmond* Alderman (1930-34) Supervisor, Ward 12 (1929)
1935-39 Joseph J. Zimmer president, Grand Taxi Service
1940-45 Myron J. Kenneally compositor, J.B. Lyon Co.
     
THIRTEENTH WARD:    
1930-39 Frederick M. Lamb treasurer, City Savings Bank
1940-45 John H. Cogan lawyer, Cogan & Cogan
     
FOURTEENTH WARD:    
1930-37 Martin L. Hotaling* meter worker
1938-45 Thomas A. Geary newsdealer
     
FIFTEENTH WARD:    
1930-40 Herman F. Hoogkamp Alderman
1942-45 Charles A. Smith lab Court House
     
SIXTEENTH WARD:    
1930-33 John H. Gottschalk store manager
1934 John J. Corp not listed in directory
1935-37 John J. Cox building superintendent
1938-45 Arthur C. Finkelstein owner, Fink's Men's Shop
     
SEVENTEENTH WARD:    
1935-40 Mortimer A. Cullen Alderman (1935-40) turntable operator, NYC (1941)
1941-45 William H. Hiney assistant examiner, Fidelity & Casualty
     
EIGHTEENTH WARD:    
1930-41 Edward A. Condon owner, J.R. & Sons
1942 Martin Schenck lawyer
1943-45 Mrs. Barbara A. Schenck Alderwoman
     
NINETEENTH WARD:    
1930-37 Edward J. Thornton Alderman (1930-37) Supervisor, Ward 9 (1929) Superintendent, Court House (1938)
1938-45 Michael T. Gorman Alderman (1938-43) deputy, Clerk County (1944) auditor (1945)
*Left office because of death

**These occupational data were taken from the published city directories for the years 1930-45.


[1]  Robert S. McElvaine, , The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 (New York: Random House, 1984), 48. Return to Text

[2]  Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Albany A.D. 1930, 2 vols. (Albany: Argus Co., 1930), 1: 6. Return to Text

[3]  Ibid., 7-9. Return to Text

[4]  Ibid., 10-15. Return to Text

[5]  Ibid., 18. Return to Text

[6]  Paul Grondahl, Mayor Erastus Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma (Albany: Wahsington Park Press, Ltd., 1997), 198. Return to Text

[7]  Ibid., 209. Return to Text

[8]  Ibid., 212. Return to Text

[9]  William Kennedy, O Albany: Improbable City of Politiacl Wizards, Fearless Ethnics, Spectacular Aristocrats, Splendid Nobodies, and Underrated Scoundrels (New York: Viking Press, 1983), 45. Return to Text

[10]  Proceedings . . . 1930-45, 1. Return to Text

[11]  These occupational data wre taken from the published Albany city directories (various titles) for the years 1929 through 1945. Return to Text

[12]  Ibid., 1933. Return to Text

[13]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:472. Return to Text

[14]  Proceedings . . . 1943, 1:32. Return to Text

[15]  Ibid., 22. Return to Text

[16]  Albany Times Union, 16 March 1943, p. 3. Return to Text

[17]  Proceedings . . . 1944, 1:11-12. Return to Text

[18]  Albany Times Union, 19 April 1932, p. 9. Return to Text

[19]  Frank S. Robinson, Albany's O'Connell Machine (Albany: Washington Park Spirit, 1973), 122. Return to Text

[20]  Kennedy. O Albany, 276. Return to Text

[21]  Proceedings . . .1936, 1:18. Return to Text

[22]  Albany City Directory 1936 (Albany: Sampson & Murdock Co, 1936), 112. Return to Text

[23]  Proceedings . . . 1936, 1:403. Return to Text

[24]  Kennedy. O Albany, 278-9. Return to Text

[25]  Proceedings . . . 1944, 1:403. Return to Text

[26]  Proceedings . . . 1945, 1:403. Return to Text

[27]  Robinson. Machine, 199-200. Return to Text

[28]  Ibid. Return to Text

[29]  Ibid. Return to Text

[30]  Ibid., 201. Return to Text

[31]  These budget data were taken from the Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Albany for the years 1930-45. Return to Text

[32]  Ibid. Return to Text

[33]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:236. Return to Text

[34]  Ibid., 312. Return to Text

[35]  Ibid., 346. Return to Text

[36]  Ibid., 58. Return to Text

[37]  Proceedings . . . 1934, 1:93. Return to Text

[38]  Ibid., 156. Return to Text

[39]  City of Albany Assessment Rolls, Wards 1-19, 1930. Return to Text

[40]  Ibid., 1945. Return to Text

[41]  Ibid., 1944-46. Return to Text

[42]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:27. Return to Text

[43]  Proceedings . . . 1929, 1:215. Return to Text

[44]  Ibid. Return to Text

[45]  Proceedings . . . 1930, 1:67. Return to Text

[46]  Ibid., 308. Return to Text

[47]  Ibid. Return to Text

[48]  Ibid., 310. Return to Text

[49]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:465. Return to Text

[50]  Robinson. Machine, 122. Return to Text

[51]  Proceedings . . . 1931, 1:17. Return to Text

[52]  Ibid., 269. Return to Text

[53]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:314. Return to Text

[54]  Proceedins . . .1936, 1:53-54. Return to Text

[55]  Proceedings . . . 1943, 1:20. Return to Text

[56]  Kennedy. O Albany, 64. Return to Text

[57]  Proceedings . . . 1932, 1:353. Return to Text

[58]  Ibid., 507-8. Return to Text

[59]  Ibid., 515. Return to Text

[60]  Ibid., 517. Return to Text

[61]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:20. Return to Text

[62]  Ibid., 48. Return to Text

[63]  Ibid., 52. Return to Text

[64]  Ibid., 58. Return to Text

[65]  Proceedings . . . 1930, 1:395. Return to Text

[66]  Proceedings . . . 1932, 1:442. Return to Text

[67]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:116. Return to Text

[68]  Ibid., 190. Return to Text

[69]  Ibid., 217. Return to Text

[70]  Proceedings . . . 1930, 1:616. Return to Text

[71]  Proceedings . . .1931, 1:122. Return to Text

[72]  Proceedings . . . 1933, 1:433. Return to Text

[73]  Proceedings . . . 1940-45. Return to Text

[74]  Proceedings . . . 1932, 1:159. Return to Text

[75]  Ibid. Return to Text

[76]  Proceedings . . . 1932, 1:348. Return to Text

[77]  Ibid., 139-42. Return to Text

[78]  Ibid., 161-168. Return to Text

[79]  Ibid., 203-4. Return to Text

[80]  Proceedings . . . 1934, 1:67. Return to Text

[81]  Proceedings . . . 1935, 1:16. Return to Text

[82]  Ibid., 27. Return to Text

[83]  Ibid., 52. Return to Text

[84]  Ibid., 97. Return to Text

[85]  Ibid. Return to Text

[86]  Proccedings . . . 1945, 1:77. Return to Text

[87]  Proceedings . . . 1932, 1:42. Return to Text

[88]  Ibid., 311-12. Return to Text

[89]  Kennedy. O Albany, 273. 34