Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Szulinski Brothers of Schenectady

"The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future."
The above quote comes from the title page of a booklet called "Growing with Schenectady". It was prepared for the 1948 sesquicentennial of the city. If you, like me, have never seen this word before it means a one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary. The booklet told the development story of one of Schenectady's key industries: the American Locomotive Company (ALCO).
The photo shown here is a postcard image of the ALCO plant. This company along with General Electric served the world by their respective industries and my two great uncles contributed to the effort by devoting their life's work to these companies. Our immigrant ancestors were true die-hard industrialists.

My grandfather, Adam Siulinski, Sr., had two brothers. Their names were Joseph Szulinski and Walter Szulinski. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of these two men but they lived their entire lives in Schenectady, and they were blue collar workers. The little information I found comes from newspaper articles I found on the FultonHistory website (these were articles orginally published in the Schenectady Gazette).  According to the articles, they both died in their fifties of unstated illnesses. Eventually I would like to find some living relatives, descendants or friends of these men who can speak about them from knowing them. Walter had a daughter, possibly adopted, and Joseph did not have any children.

Walter worked for General Electric for eighteen years in the Relations and Utilities Department until he became ill. Chris Hunter from the Schenectady Museum says that this department was probably located within GE’s Central Station Department, which was responsible for equipment sales, installation, and service to utilities. Walter was an Army veteran from World War II. Walter's passing in March 1959 garnered a full newspaper article in the Schenectady Gazette: "Szulinski Dies at 51; Was GE Employe". Notice the misspelling of "employee". The Gazette's copy editor was apparently on vacation. He was survived by his wife, Ann Olejnik Szulinski, and a daughter, Miss Patricia Ann Szulinski.

Source: Wikipedia
In the early 1880's, on a train trip from Albany to New York, Thomas Edison envisioned Schenectady as the perfect factory location for his new business that was to become General Electric. He liked the area because of its transportation, roads, railroads, and water. If anyone is interested to learn more about the history of General Electric, there is a comprehensive book available on the web called Men and Volts.

The 1923 Schenectady Directory has Joseph Szulinski working at General Electric. When he got married to Gladys Niegowski in 1945, the marriage announcement (Schenectady Gazette, 8-1-45) showed he worked for the Army Service Forces Depot as a "Packer". The Depot was a United States Department of the Army maintenance, distribution, and supply depot from 1941 through 1969. Mostly the depot shipped motor vehicles to the Port of New York. At its peak it employed four thousand people. Joseph died July 6, 1960 and is buried in the family plot at St. Mary's Cemetery.
These men were common and hard working folks but the stories involving the companies they worked for were anything but common. Like the story of the first transcontinental truck delivery accomplished by five crew members of the ALCO company arriving at San Francisco City Hall on September 20, 1912. Their cargo was three tons of Parrot Brand Olive Silk Soap. It took them 91 days. Although, ALCO was known for building locomotives, they also made cars and trucks.

Thanks to Chris Hunter from the Schenectady Museum for providing research information for my post.
Sources for this post:
Army depot information: http://www.fsadva.com/ and http://dmna.state.ny.us/forts/fortsQ_S/schenectadyServiceForceDepot.htm
Photo of ALCO plant: http://web.me.com/gino.dicarlo/ginospage/TandS/Schenectady.html
Edison story information: http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/resources/mvgw/history/113.html