4.1 Economic strength and distribution

Rochester survived the depression in the seventies, by placing men of immigrant ethnic groups as leaders in the community. The seventies brought a Philharmonic Society and sports teams. Reynolds Library emerged from the old Athenaeum’s books, while the Mechanics Institute took on it’s practical education and Rochester Academy of Science the science. Men and women benefitted from this new rich community life.

“It became evident that Rochester, lacking convenient access to rich coal or mineral resources, could not compete in the heavy-industry field or in that of mass-production. It would have to rely on the ingenuity of its technicians, the skills of its workers, and the enterprise of their managers,” (McKelvey, 15). That in mind, people started to realize just how awful the public schools were. The Good Government Clubs improved schools, made parks, recreational facilities, and playgrounds, maintained an efficient police force, developed a fire department, and adopted fire precautions.

While many companies collapsed during the 1890’s depression, Eastman Co. (cameras) expanded. George Eastman warded off unionization in the early 1900’s and in 1911 announced the first regular wage dividend.


4.2 Industry and major employers

George Eastman, of Eastman Co., promoted: skilled craftsmanship, scientific knowledge, and artistic sensitivity. Eastman was also one of the first to practice a paternal benefit system in an attempt to keep his workers from unionizing. He offered benefits to his workers, all on his terms, to attempt to assuage their want for better treatment on their own terms. This was a point of contention among workers.

In 1919, the clothing industry’s managers and laborers signed a pact for an impartial arbitrator to keep harmony. The most popular clothing company, and the largest to come from Rochester, was Hickey Freeman, a name that is still popular among men's suits today.

Rochester Telephone Corporation
RTC was created in 1899 after the Bell Company's patent expired. There were no phone numbers at this time: instead, calls were placed through a switchboard manned by operators, who connected parties by name. Calls passed over lines strung along streets on poles with crossbars, which many complained were ugly and unsightly.

Customers were more satisfied with the independent Rochester Telephone Company than they had with the Bell system, but they were unable to make long-distance calls. This meant people were forced to have two telephone systems in their place of residence or business. This brought growing pressure for consolidation of operations. In 1915, negotiations between Bell and the independents began in New York State. Two years later it was agreed that a new corporation, independent of the Bell organization, would be created to buy and operate the telephone systems of both companies.

RTC was for most of the 20th century, the sole phone company servicing Rochester and surrounding counties in upstate New York. Some telephone equipment in the Rochester area still bears the company's name. Its initial development benefited from the vision of Albrecht Vogt, an early founder of and investor in several Rochester industries, and yielded a successful company that remained independent from the Bell System up to and through the national monopoly’s divestiture in 1984.

The newly constituted company had 1,200 employees and assets worth about $6 million. In 1921 the two halves of the new independent system began operating as one. During the ensuing decade, Rochester Telephone grew dramatically, as the nation's economy boomed in the aftermath of World War I. At the end of 1921, the company had more than 55,000 phones in service. Two years later, after a long controversy, Rochester Telephone won the right to bill its business customers by call, rather than on a flat rate. By 1926, the number of phones had grown to 84,000. Despite these gains, Rochester Telephone worked continuously to convince people that the telephone was not just a luxury or a gimmick—it was a necessity.


4.3 Professions

During World War I, women swarmed cities to fill jobs in business, industry, and service to fill vacancies left by soldiers. “The shortage of male mechanics gave 16-year-old Dorothy Rieke the opportunity to repair cars in her father’s garage at 258 Andrews Street,” (Mancini, 2). “Violet Stroud [10] sold more than one million dollars in Liberty Bonds through impassionate speeches,” (Mancini, 7); Dr. Mary Jane Foley filled the vacancy left by the ambulance surgeon at Hahnemann Hospital; and Mary Catherine Beck was the only female Rochester Marine Corps Soldier. “Women drove trucks and street cars and worked on railroads. They served as mechanics and gas station attendants...women attended Mechanics Institute (now RIT) to learn mechanical drafting or to drive cars...The first female professors took their places at University of Rochester...Seven [of University of Rochester’s alumnae] were in Military Hospital Service, four were in war service with the YMCA and one served the American Red Cross,” (Mancini, 8). Rochester opened the second Red Cross Chapter and enrolled 5000 women to sew and package supplies for Rochester’s Base Hospital #19.

McKelvey, Blake. "Rochester in Retrospect and Prospect." Rochester History XXIII.3 (1961): n. pag.
<http://www.libraryweb.org/~rochhist/v23_1961/v23i3.pdf>.

Mancini, Al, Ellen More, Dr, and Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck. "Rochester during World War I."
Rochester History LI.3 (1989): n. pag.
<http://www.libraryweb.org/~rochhist/v51_1989/v51i3.pdf>.