I used to work at the Noteworthy Company on Church Street in my early twenties and at lunchtime, I’d often walk around the old Bigelow Sanford Mills complex for exercise. Back then, Coleco was thriving and many of those old buildings were bustling with activity and people. They had just opened up the new Willow Street bridge over the Chuctanunda and the first time I walked over it was the first time I saw the remnants of the old Kellogg & Miller Linseed Oil Company. I remember going back to Noteworthy and asking someone what the place was and when they told me, asking them what linseed oil was used for. They didn’t know, so when I got back home I pulled out an encyclopedia and looked it up. The key to linseed oil’s value was that as it dried it hardened into a solid form. It was used in oil based paints, varnishes, and putties as the hardening agent and was also a key ingredient in a new floor covering that became all the rage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, called linoleum. The chief flaw with linseed oil was that as it aged it yellowed in color which is why it was long ago replaced in these products by synthetic resins that harden but do not discolor over time.
Linseed oil is extracted from the tiny seeds of the flax plant. The seeds need to be cleaned, crushed, heated and pressed to extract the oil and then the oil needs to age prior to application.
Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant was the grandson of Supplina Kellogg, who had built this area’s first and very crude linseed oil mill in 1824, on a site further north up the Chuctanunda Creek in West Galway. When Supplina died in 1848, his son’s John and Lauren took over the mill and realized expansion was necessary. They purchased an old distillery from the family of Benedict Arnold (no not that Benedict Arnold) and greatly expanded the site, quadrupling their production capability. When Lauren Kellogg died in the early 1850’s, his brother-in-law James Miller came into the company as a partner of John Kellogg and the name was changed to Kellogg and Miller Linseed Oil.
George Kellogg was born on August 6, 1851 in Amsterdam, NY, the son of John Kellogg and his wife Olive. He was brought into the family business as a full partner in 1872. His younger brother Lauren was added as partner in 1879, the same year James Miller exited the company. Business boomed and by the 1880’s over 500 people were working at the mill and so much linseed oil was being manufactured and sold that a railroad spur was built, providing railcar access to the plant from New York Central’s main line which ran further south along the Mohawk River. At its height of production, the Kellogg & Miller plant in Amsterdam was producing 1.7 million gallons of linseed oil per year.
John Kellogg was certainly the visionary and driving force behind the mill’s growth and commercial success. Due in large part to his efforts and leadership, the role’s of his son’s George and Lauren were more as caretakers of a thriving business. George’s biggest claim to fame may have been assembling one of the world’s biggest collections of Old Blue Staffordshire China.
After the American Revolution and War of 1812, English pottery makers were looking for a way to take advantage of a growing US market that harbored much ill-will toward anything English. They came up with the idea of creating china that depicted scenes of well-known American places and famous events in the young nation’s history. They manufactured a very limited supply, made sure it included no marks that could identify it as being made in England and sent it to the US to be test marketed. The deception did not work and the china failed miserably. The limited supply is why it became such a valuable collector’s item decades later and nobody had a bigger or better collection of this stuff than George Kellogg…
My complete birthday post for George Kellogg will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.
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