by [Photograph album - basket manufactory for the grape industry]; [The Westfield Factory]
Westfield, NY, 1915. Photograph album, (18 x 27 cm), with ninety-seven black-&-white photographs (6 x 10 cm) pasted on rectos and versos of the first seventeen leaves. The pre-published blank album has neatly handwritten captions, and the photographs capture the landscape, surveyal, excavation, machinery, and building of a basket manufactory near Cassadaga Lake, in the center of the Chautauqua-Erie grape belt. Long before the Welch's Grape Juice Company relocated to Chautauqua County and incorporated in Westfield in 1893, the landscape between Lake Erie and the escarpment of the Allegheny Plateau had been transformed by cultivation of grape vines, most especially the cultivar of the North American fox grape known as Concord. An ancillary economical development in the region was the proliferation of basket factories. A manufactory begun by the Stoddard family of Busti may have been established before the Civil War. By the late 1870s basket factories were operating in Gerry (George Noble), Forestville (W.F. Miller), Portland (W.E. Dudley), Ripley (W.B. Rickenbrode), and Stockton (Frederickson & Bussing), in addition to Westfield itself (Andrew Burns; Dexter Morse), a locality known as a specialist in fruit and vegetable transport baskets as much as for its production of grape juice. In 1897 the Grape Union reported to the New York State Agricultural Society that it had shipped more than twelve and one-half million baskets of grapes from Chautauqua County. A principal mode of export was the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburgh Railroad (D.A.V.& P.R.R.), a snow-covered line of which is identified in the present album (in a photograph of scrub timber near Cassadaga Lake). Much clearer is a stretch of track running alongside the completed mill, in a photograph dated July 15, 1915, evidently the same track holding train cars pictured in two more photographs showing the loading and unloading of basket stock. The appreciation for landscape aside, the majority of the photographs track the stages of construction in some considerable detail, from the excavation of the boiler room to the laying of concrete masonry blocks, from the installation of the peeling lathe to the raising of the ventilation stack with a gin pole. For the moment, The Westfield Factory and its builders have a bifurcated existence, vividly represented in these carefully arranged images yet lost among the mislaid pages of history. The conceivers and executors of the project are provisionally known to us as W.A.B. and C.G.B., as the captions of two of the photographs have it. The second of the two sets of initials corresponds to that credited on the title page, and it is tempting to suppose that he may be the Charles standing in front of the mill in another photograph near the end, where the completed buildings of the enterprise are shown off. A detailed photographic record of the transition of an industry to mechanized production, and also of the dreams of an American businessman coming to fruition. The original commercial binder is a bit age toned, otherwise very near fine condition.
(Inventory #: 5087)
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