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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
George Kellogg

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[This information is from Vol. IV, pp. 58-62 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Portraits | Illustrations | Maps

Portrait of George Kellogg

Portrait: George Kellogg

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George Kellogg, in association with his brother, Lauren, owns and conducts the great linseed oil establishment of Kelloggs & Miller in Amsterdam, which had its inception a century ago and has been operated continuously to the present time, making it the oldest linseed oil manufacturing concern in the United States, and the only one with an uninterrupted record of one hundred years in business. At the same time that he has controlled important industrial interests, George Kellogg has managed to gather together what is unquestionably the finest and most complete collection of Old Blue Staffordshire china in the world. He was born in Amsterdam, Montgomery county, New York, on the 6th of August, 1851, his parents being John and Olive (Davis) Kellogg. He is a descendant of Lieutenant Joseph Kellogg, who was baptized in Great Leighs, England, on April 1, 1626, and died in Hadley, Massachusetts, in 1707 or 1708. The name of Mr. Kellogg's great-great-grandfather, Ebenezer Kellogg, of South Hadley, Massachusetts, appears on the muster roll of Colonel Dwight's regiment on the Western Frontiers, August 11 and 21, 1748.

The business now carried on by the firm of Kelloggs & Miller, of which firm George Kellogg is the senior partner, was established by his grandfather, Supplina Kellogg, in 1824, at West Galway, when he began there the manufacture of linseed oil, using a small hand mill having a capacity of two barrels daily. Supplina Kellogg was succeeded by his sons, John and Lauren, who enlarged the business, which was removed to Amsterdam in 1850. Following the death of Lauren Kellogg in 1853, James A. Miller became a partner under the firm name of Kellog & Miller. From its small beginning this enterprise has become one of the largest producers of linseed oil and its by-products in the world.

John Kellogg, father of George Kellogg, was for years one of the most prominent citizens of Amsterdam. For twenty years he was president of the Farmers' National Bank, was for many years a member of the board of water commissioners, a director of the Chuctanunda Gas Light Company and of the board of trade, and was an incorporator and treasurer of the Reservoir Company that has been so important a factor in the industrial development of Amsterdam. He was a member of the assembly from Montgomery county in 1864, and for many years was a member of the republican state committee. On September 11, 1850, he married Olive, daughter of Benjamin Davis, of Galway. Mrs. Kellogg, who was a woman of great prominence in the religious, charitable and social circles of Amsterdam, died on the 14th of April, 1909.

George Kellogg received a liberal education, and then entered his father's business, where he thoroughly familiarized himself with all the details of linseed oil manufacture and the marketing of the products. In 1872 he was admitted to partnership, the firm name being changed to Kelloggs & Miller. In 1879 John Kellogg's younger son, Lauren Kellogg, was admitted to partnership. After the withdrawal of Mr. Miller in April, 1896, the Kelloggs continued the business, and since the death of their father, which occurred on the 31st of August, 1911, George and Lauren Kellogg have conducted it under the same firm name.

More than a quarter of a century ago Mr. Kellogg, through the purchase by his wife of a "States" plate, became interested in Old Blue Staffordshire china, and from this beginning has developed the largest and finest collection of its kind in the world. It is more than a collection of china; it is a picture story of America when the country was young. To understand its value from the viewpoint of American history, it is necessary to call attention to the following interesting facts: During and for several years following the Revolutionary war and the War of 1812, feeling in the United States against Great Britain ran so high as to extend to the products of the latter country, and for several years British goods were virtually boycotted in this country. Before the war the product of the British potteries had been in favor and the trade was an extensive one. About 1820, to regain this lost trade, the potters of Staffordshire, with the characteristic enterprise that has made Great Britain one of the greatest commercial nations of the world, conceived the idea of ornamenting the output of their potteries with views of various places in the United States and scenes depicting important events in its history. Regarding the success of the project we quote from a letter recently written by Alexander M. Hudnut, of New York, an extensive collector of Staffordshire Blue China:

"It goes without saying that there was not a large amount of this china sent to America. The English potters undoubtedly thought they would try our market and test the salability of this ware before they manufactured it in very large quantities for the American trade. We know that the pottery did not sell well. It was discovered immediately to be of English make, and the trick of the English potters of decorating it with American views to make it acceptable to Americans was discovered at once. There appears to have been no market for it in the large cities, and it is thought to have been sent south and peddled out among the negroes. This inference is drawn from the fact that most of this china was found among the negroes in the south. From time to time other English potteries took up the making of this china, and tried their hand also at selling it in America with similar results. I take it for granted that all of the pottery made in the Staffordshire district and decorated with American views was sent to America because at one time I wrote to almost every dealer in antique pottery in England to ask if they had any old Staffordshire decorated with American views, and as a result of all of these letters which I wrote I did not get one favorable answer nor the mention of one piece of Staffordshire ware containing an American view."

After a time other colors than blue were used in printing the china and the quality and workmanship deteriorated, so that the efforts of collectors are chiefly confined to the Old Blue, or that produced between 1820 and 1831. In some cases rare pieces have sold at very high prices. For example, to obtain one piece at a public auction, Mr. Kellogg was obliged to run the price up to twelve hundred and twenty-five dollars. This was a platter made by Stevenson and entitled, "New York from Weehawken", printed from a painting by the Irish artist, W. G. Wall, who came to America in 1818 and became famous as a water color artist. The value of this piece is because of the beautiful coloring and perfect condition. Another Stevenson platter, from a painting by Wall, entitled, "New York from Brooklyn Heights", is also very valuable as are many of the rarer pieces. So it takes money as well as unfailing interest and constant devotion to build up anything like a complete collection.

Mr. Kellogg's collection of Old Blue China is very complete in that it contains specimens of nearly all the two hundred or more pictures on American subjects. There are many other examples of Old Blue in the collection, but the American views have always been to Mr. Kellogg the source of greatest interest. It is wonderfully instructive as well as wonderfully interesting. The pictures afford the best means of seeing the country as it was then — in the case of many particular places and scenes, the only way. There are many New York city views, among the number being the rare Stevenson pieces mentioned above. There are many pictures of public buildings — the City Hall, St. Paul's Chapel, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Columbia College and others. There is a series depicting scenes in Lafayette's second visit to the United States — the Landing of Lafayette, Lafayette at Washington's Tomb, Lafayette at Franklin's Tomb, and others. These are all represented in the Kellogg collection by several specimens. The first named is the most celebrated of the output of the Clews potteries. Rarest of Enoch Wood & Sons' pieces are three that commemorate the opening of the Erie canal. One depicts the aqueduct at Rochester, another that at Little Falls, and a third the entrance of the canal into the Hudson at Albany. There are numerous other specimens from the Wood potteries, particularly rare ones being "Castle Garden" and "City of Albany". There are twelve "Coat-of-Arms" pieces of the thirteen original states by T. Mayer, all of the states being represented with the exception of New Hampshire, of which for some reason none were ever found. This is the only collection containing the twelve "Coat-of-Arms" pieces. There are many views of places of scenic interest along the Hudson, a number of Niagara Falls, and several of Albany, Lake George and Trenton Falls. The views are not limited to those of this state. There are many others. Boston, Pittsfield, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., Mount Vernon, Virginia, Hartford, Connecticut, and Baltimore, are represented by many pictures of public buildings and points of historic interest. Views of Louisville, Chillicothe, Columbus, Sandusky and Detroit are also shown. In addition to the American views Mr. Kellogg's collection includes numerous examples of foreign scenes; a very complete collection of the "Dr. Syntax" pieces, the rarest one being a cheese dish which is believed to be the only one in existence and a complete set of the Wilkie designs, the rarest being a nineteen inch platter bearing the picture entitled "The Errand Boy". Mr. Kellogg's entire collection consists of three hundred and twenty-three pieces.

William C. Prime is the first writer on ceramics who called attention to the value of this class of pottery, and many a collector owes his inspiration to the prophetic utterance made in his introduction to "The China Hunter's Club" (New York, 1878), in which he says

"Transfer-printing has abundant illustration in old specimens, exhibiting the art in the last century. Later on, as our country began to have a history, the ceramic art began to do, what it has done in all ages and all civilized countries, illustrate in permanent pictures the events of history. With whatever disdain the collector of Dresden and Sevres may now look down on the blue-printed crockeries of Clews and Wood and Ridgway, the day will come when ceramic specimens showing our first steamboats, our first railways, the portraits of our distinguished statesmen, soldiers and sailors, the openings of our canals, the various events of our wars, and our triumphs in peace, will rank in historical collections with the vases of Greece. And whatever then be the estimate of the art they exemplify, men will say: 'These show the tastes, these illustrate the home life, of the men and women who were the founders and rulers of the American republic'."

In spite of the demands of a large and ever-increasing business and his sustained interest in building up his truly wonderful china collection, Mr. Kellogg has still found time to devote both thought and energy to the welfare of Amsterdam and has taken a prominent part in civic affairs. He is a member of the Amsterdam Board of Trade, and of the Antlers Club of Amsterdam, and a non-resident member of the Mohawk Club of Schenectady. He is an enthusiastic autoist, and has made many extended auto trips into various parts of the country.

On April 30, 1874, George Kellogg was united in marriage to Susan, daughter of Cyrus B. and Emily (Davis) Chase, and granddaughter of Welcome U. and Susan C. (Cole) Chase. Emily Davis was a daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth (Comstock) Davis, the latter being a direct descendant of Colonel Willett, a gallant officer of the Revolution and at one time mayor of New York city. Mr. and Mrs. George Kellogg became the parents of two children: John Kellogg, born September 1, 1876, connected with Kelloggs & Miller; and Elizabeth Ann, born August 20, 1878, who married Stanley H. Swift of Detroit. Mr. and Mrs. Swift reside in Amsterdam. Mrs. Susan (Chase) Kellogg departed this life on January 7, 1924.

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