The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or email@example.com to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
One artifact that is in the collection of the Fenton History Center was sitting out on a table ready to be processed. There was a name on the item that I had seen while doing research about another artifact. The name is "Benj. Strauss, Jamestown, N.Y." The artifact is a stoneware jug about 7 inches high with a 4-inch diameter. The top tapers up to the spout, and there is a handle by the spout. The name and place are in dark blue on the front of the jug. Benjamin Strauss was in the wholesale liquor business in Jamestown. Wholesale liquor business makes one think of barrels of whiskey, not small jugs holding less than a quart.
A small jug from Benjamin Strauss’ liquor business, located in Brooklyn Square from 1895 into the 1910s.
Benjamin Strauss first appears in the Jamestown city directories in 1895-96 as a clerk at Main and First streets. What business has not been determined at this point. In 1899-1900 he is listed as a wholesale liquor dealer at 3 S. Main and living at 141 Chandler St. The National Police Gazette in 1900-01 has an entry in the personals column: "Benjamin Strauss has a fine liquor and bottling establishment at 3 South Main Street, Jamestown, N.Y."
It is not until the 1907-08 city directory that a bottling company is mentioned with Benjamin Strauss. That entry is "Strauss, Benj., & Co., liquor store, also bottlers of Buffalo Iroquois beer, 3 South Main."
And those same years he had the European Hotel at 5 S. Main St. Earlier in 1903-1906 Benjamin Straus was also associated with the Brooklyn Square Restaurant at 5 S. Main St., not to be confused with an earlier Brooklyn Restaurant at the corner of Market and Steele streets.
By 1910 he had Leon L. Mills as a partner in the hotel and F. A. Ochs as a partner in the liquor store. By 1911-12 the city directory lists Benjamin Strauss as a road-work inspector, and in 1913-1914 he is a contractor. He is not listed after that. He may have seen the forthcoming prohibition and gotten out of the liquor business, or he may have just changed careers in his mid-50s.
Benjamin Strauss was the son of Jacob Strauss. Benjamin was born in Buffalo in 1858 but grew up in Titusville, Pa. According to the 1880 Federal Census, Benjamin, at the age of 21, in Titusville was a clerk in a liquor store, and his father was a wholesale liquor dealer. He had the experience in the business before he came to Jamestown to create his own business. What happened to him has not yet been researched. He was married to Eva (Evangeline E.) and she was listed in the 1895-96 city directory as a milliner and dressmaker at 16 E. Third St. with the name Mrs. E. E. Lawrence-Strauss. She was listed in the 1892-93 Jamestown city directory as Miss E. E. Lawrence, milliner and dressmaker, so it looks like they were married between 1892 and 1895.
South Main Street began at the south side of the outlet and continued into Brooklyn Square. This liquor jug is the first of a look at some of the businesses that were in the same area. "Hometown History" will have an occasional look back at more of the businesses of Brooklyn Square as represented by artifacts in the collection.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.