The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861

Honey Bee Biology

Pages from The American Beekeeper, a Journal Published by the W. T. Falconer Manufacturing Company

- October 1, 2015 - Dr. Wyatt A. Mangum - (excerpt)

In the previous article, we examined the W. T. Falconer Manufacturing Company. In 1890 the factory was in Falconer, New York and shown in their catalog (see Figure 1). The picture of the factory had several features indicating a thriving production of beehives. The buildings had active smoke stacks implying busy production. In the foreground, the lumber reserves suggested plenty of wood for production, no back orders.

Not perhaps prominent to the modern eye, but important for beekeepers, more than a century ago, suffering from unreliable shipping, and considering whether to order supplies with the Falconer Company, were the two railroads in the scene. Steam engines pulled both trains, sending up smoke trails, again a mark of industrial activity (not then generally seen as pollution). Both trains made the railroads seem more alive. One train is across the river, running to the left, far off. The other is behind the big building, apparently stopped at the direct factory loading dock. Then the track runs straight back, across the river, and crosses the other track in the background, suggesting the railroads have junctions for interchanging shipments. That was important because in the late 1800’s most railroads existed as numerous short lines, some only several miles long, where interchanging shipments at junctions was a necessity (done today by the entire railroad car).

In the 1892 introduction section of the Falconer Company catalog, the proprietors of the company gave important announcements as done in today’s catalogs. They proudly listed their five railroad connections (by initials), up from three railroads listed just two years before in 1890. The proprietors claimed more railroad completion would lower shipping rates for the beekeepers, sensitive as others in business to excessive rates. The subtext also said, the Falconer Company is connected to the modern shipping world to send your bee supplies safely and reliably. New York and regional beekeepers back in those days would have known the list of railroad initials strung out across the catalog page, railroads now long extinct, sunk in bankruptcy or most subsumed in mergers. Today we might guess some of now archaic initial codes, like the N. Y. L. E. & W. R.R., which meant the New York Lake Erie and Western railroad, serving local beekeepers near the Falconer Company. The D. A. V. & P. R.R. would be more cryptic, which stood for the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley & Pittsburgh railroad. For the Falconer Company, D. A. V. & P. R.R. reached south serving Pennsylvania beekeepers. Quite strangely, one of those old long-gone railroads serving the Falconer Company was very familiar to me. I had seen the N. Y. C. & H. R. R. R. initials in metal, which meant the New York Central and Hudson River railroad. I have a pair of railroad lamps marked with those initials, which hung on the front of the steam engine, their function to give the classification of the train according to the old rules.

By 1896, the Falconer Company had grown to the scene shown in Figure 2, showing the complicated railroad connections and a switch track even into the lumberyard, suggesting they moved wood by the larger railroad cars for more beehive production, not just by horse-drawn wagons. The prodigious Falconer Company also published the monthly journal titled, The American Beekeeper, with a wide variety of articles. February 1896 was a Special Issue. The journal (see Figure 3) had their catalog attached, which apparently they did rarely (see Figure 4).

Looking through my issues of The American Beekeeper (which are incomplete), here is a smattering of subjects that caught my eye, which still ….