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Club Men

The late Howard Hosmer, a longtime Rochester newspaper and TV journalist, was a grand collector of books. I was fortunate to be the recipient of some editions from him, as an early mentor for my career, and later from his son Geoff, my late brother-in-law.

One of those was a book from the early days of the 20th century. The “Club Men of Rochester in Caricature” was published in 1914 by the Roycrofters in their shop in the Buffalo suburb of East Aurora.

It shows the key men of the times featured in artwork by Jack Sears, director for associated cartoonists, and associate artists. The introduction explains its use of the caricature aims to show the true likeness of the individual.

The book begins with the Honorable Hiram H. Edgerton, mayor of Rochester. The drawings include a bespectacled man holding an unfurled scroll that states “Rochester The City That Makes Conventions Famous.”

Interestingly, a chap who would become just a bit famous locally and globally, George Eastman, does not appear until the sixth individual—he is shown standing with a camera on what appears to be a tripod and in front of, literally, a camera factory—as in built out of cameras. Following George is William Bausch, listed as secretary of Bausch and Lomb Optical Co., driving a car with orphans and a flag stating Orphan’s Annual Christmas Outing.

So who are the luminaries shown ahead of those well-known local businessmen?

No. 2 was Robert M. Searle, vice-president of Rochester Railway and Light Co. and of New York State Railways; No. 3 was Warner Wesley Salmon, president of General Railway Signal Co.; No. 4 was Hiram W. Sibley; and No. 5 James S. Watson, president of Security Trust. Co.

Some—perhaps one out of every half-dozen in the early pages—are familiar, either because of their companies or became some building in Rochester bears their name, but bookwide most have been lost into the past for me.

The caricatures are fantastic and suggest a close knowledge of the subject and some humor. Many of the items accompanying the featured gent on each page, however, have lost their meaning—at least to me.

Many are business owners or officers, but there are attorneys, physicians and scientists as well as political figures and government officials. Interesting is the number of automobile company owners.

Some names likes the Sibleys, Strong, McCurdy and Odenbach draw immediate attention.

The more than 350-page book ends the caricatures with Samuel R. Cornish, secretary and treasurer of Lyell Avenue Lumber Co., who apparently was a hunter and fisherman of some sort—possibly not the most-skilled given the drawings.

According to roycroftbooks.org, similar editions were published in Cleveland, Columbus, Louisville and other cities.

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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