11 October 2012

Getting the Name Out, Street Level

Usuall, when you want to see a faded ad in New York City, you look up. They're typically haunting the upper stories of old brick buildings, painted there back in the day because that's the perch where the company's name and message would meet the most eyeballs.

Not this ad on the west wall of 24 W. 26th Street. The words are almost to the ground. As far as I can tell, the name of the long-gone company was Randall & McAllister. I can find out nothing about the business. But it's curious the sign should remain at such a low level. The address of the parking lot, 26 W. 26th, was once the first permanent address of the theatrical Lamb's Club. In 1897, it became a Yale Club. So there was a building here long ago. And yet the sign seems very old. Maybe there was an alleyway between 24 and 26.


Peter said...

Even if there were an alleyway the sign wouldn't make sense. It is readable only when seen from some distance, which would not be possible in a narrow alleyway.

upstate johnny g said...

Hi Brooks,
I found a reference online to Randall & McAllister. Seems that one John Freeman Randall and Henry McAllister went into the wholesale coal trade during the Civil War. Soon Randall was in sole control, although the bi-party name was retained. The business had headquarters in Portland, Maine. Randall became known as "the coal King of New England" as R & M came to dominate the wholesale coal business. According to the source cited below, the company supplied coal to railroads in Maine and to the many steamers that sailed out of Portland and Nova Scotia. The company also used railroads to ship coal all across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and I think it's safe to assume their customers were both homeowners and factory owners switching from water power to steam. They shipped coal to Portland from Norfolk, Baltimore, Philly, and New York, and may have supplied coal for hundreds of ships (or else he owned hundreds of ships in which coal was transported...kind of hard to tell from the source). Randall is said to have died at the age of 54 in 1889 but the company lived on, as witness by a webpage about the history of Mercy Hospital in Maine. One of the items in their account discusses the hospital being worried about a fuel oil shortage in 1948, and receiving advice from Randall & McAllister to convert one of the hospital's boilers back to coal (they had all been converted FROM coal TO oil a few years earlier, apparently).

It seems likely to me that the building that carries this sign was either just used for an advertising backdrop, or it may have housed R & M's NYC offices, for it seems improbable that they would NOT have had offices in the city. Peter's point above is important, too. The only way the sign would have been visible is if the neighboring space was a vacant lot. Have you any info on that site?

Here are my sources:
this site got it's info here:

and here's the one re the hospital:

Love your blog!!