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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Sanford Adams

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 532-535 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of Sanford Adams

Portrait: Sanford Adams

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Though forty years have passed since Sanford Adams departed this life, he is still remembered by many of the older residents of Rome as one of the prominent representatives of industrial activity here for almost a half century. The enterprise which he assisted in establishing in 1835 is still continued under the name of the Adams Foundry, having enjoyed a continuous existence of nearly nine decades and being therefore the oldest business concern in the city, if not in the state. Sanford Adams was in the seventy-eighth year of his age when called to his final rest on the 5th of June, 1884, his birth having occurred in Litchfield, Herkimer county, New York, on the 7th of November, 1806. His father, Willard Adams, was an agriculturist by occupation.

Sanford Adams devoted his attention to the work of the fields until eighteen years of age, when he secured employment in the blast furnace at Litchfield. He afterward learned the moulder's trade under the direction of a man named Daniels, who started the first foundry in Utica, and in 1826 he obtained a position with the firm of Hart & Pond in Utica. Two years later he went to Carthage, New York, and began working in the blast furnace there. The following is an excerpt from a review of the career of Sanford Adams which was published in the Rome Daily Sentinel on the day following his demise:

"Rowland Bones was one of the employes at that furnace at that time. A friendship sprang up between Messrs. Adams and Bones, which continued as long as they worked together at Carthage and was afterward renewed when they both became Romans. This friendship was close and true up to Mr. Adams' dying day. Scarcely a week passed over the heads of these gentlemen, when both were well, that they have not visited together. Their recollections and reminiscences of old times were interesting. For a long time they were the only survivors of the old thirty-five employes of the Carthage furnace, and by Mr. Adams' death Mr. Bones is now left alone. Mr. Adams' brother Edwin, now deceased, was also an employe of the furnace at Carthage at the time mentioned. Mr. Adams also worked in Toronto, Canada. In 1835 Mr. Adams was an employe of a furnace in Utica, in which Hon. Horatio Seymour was a partner. On the night of the 4th of July, 1835, Mr. Adams and the late Eri Seymour, who was a fellow workman, left Utica on a packet on the old canal and arrived in Rome the next morning."

In association with a Mr. Johnson, who furnished the necessary capital, Messrs. Seymour and Adams at once purchased the small foundry and machine shop of Josiah Wood, which was located at No. 315 West Dominick street. Sanford Adams and Eri Seymour bought out Mr. Johnson in 1840 and carried on business there under the firm name of Seymour & Adams until the early spring of 1851, when they erected the machine shop and foundry at No. 108 South George street — at the corner of George street and the Erie canal. They built up a prosperous trade and made a name that was known far and wide. Mr. Seymour died in 1860. Mr. Adams and the executors of Mr. Seymour continued the business until 1863, when Mr. Adams assumed the entire business and admitted as a partner his son, Sanford Adams, Jr. The firm name became S. Adams & Son, remaining so until the death of the senior partner in 1884, after which time the business was conducted by Sanford and Henry Adams as S. Adams' Sons, a style under which it continued until 1917, when Henry Adams died. Since the death of Sanford Adams in 1920 the business has been conducted under the style of the Adams Foundry by Mrs. Elizabeth Adams, widow of Henry Adams, and the children of Sanford Adams — William S., James H. and Mrs. William E. Francis. The business consists of the manufacture of grey iron castings of all kinds, and the plant has been enlarged from time to time.

Sanford Adams, Sr., was the inventor of a lath and shingle machine which is still being made, and was the originator of the old Era plow, which for many years was manufactured at the foundry, together with water wheels. The Rome Daily Sentinel said:

"Mr. Adams saw many changes in business and political scenes during his life, and the improvements that were made in arts, sciences and trades were wonderful. When he came to Rome no such piece of machinery as an iron planer was known. Iron had to be clipped with a chisel and filed. A job that would then take a man four days to do, can now be done in four hours. Nothing but hand-fed lathes were then known. Mr. Adams had of late years taken much pride in the fact that he had so long been engaged in the same business, in the same town. If he had lived until next month he would have been engaged in the same business here continuously for forty-nine years, with only one change in the location of his shop, and that but a stone's throw from where he began. It was his opinion that no other man in Oneida county and very few in the state could say so much. He always retained his love for the farm, and for a long time after he has ceased to direct any work in the foundry and machine shop, he gave orders for the care of his farm, which is located west of the city."

Mr. Adams erected his residence in Rome in 1835 and ten years later built three houses on the south side of Dominick street.

Mr. Adams was twice married. He first wedded Frances Doloff of Utica, who passed away on the 24th of April, 1841, leaving two sons, Sanford and Willard. For his second wife he married Martha A. Lamphear of Rome, and to them was born a son, Henry V. Adams.

Sanford Adams always took great interest in public affairs and politics. He was a whig and afterward a republican of the most uncompromising sort. In 1848 he was elected treasurer of Oneida county and during the years 1850 and 1851 served as trustee of the village of Rome. He joined the Masonic fraternity in early manhood and throughout the remainder of his life continued a worthy exemplar of the teachings and purposes of the craft, in which he attained the Knight Templar degree. For several years he was master of Rome Lodge, A. F. & A. M. The Rome Daily Sentinel ended its tribute to this old and honored resident with the following words:

"Mr. Adams was one of the most genial and social of men. He always had a kind word and pleasant nod for all whom he met. His familiar figure will be greatly missed by those who were wont to meet him day by day."

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