Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cocktails and Capitalists

In June 2014, Gossips reported that the first known definition of the word cocktail appeared in The Balance and Columbian Repository, published right here in Hudson on May 13, 1806.

Asked by a reader what a cocktail was, Harry Croswell, the editor of The Balance, explained: "Cock-tail . . . is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters--it is vulgarly called bitter sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else." (The Balance and Columbia Repository was a Federalist newspaper.)

Recently, while exploring a book called Farm, Shop, Landing, by Martin Bruegel, Gossips learned that an early appearance of the word capitalist was in another Hudson newspaper. The following passage is quoted from that book:
When the Hudson Northern Whig pondered the conditions of economic development by the second decade of the nineteenth century, its editor hoped that the city of Hudson on the west bank of the river would capture the commerce of "the almost boundless western country." The problem was geography because "the Merchants of Athens . . . will stop that trade on their side of the river. Have they the Capital to do this?" the writer wondered, only to produce a short answer. "No. But Capitalists may move there.'" Still, his city held an advantage. "Merchants will rarely be induced to settle in Athens at all, as the city of Hudson must hold out greater inducement to capitalists."
The quotes from the Hudson Northern Whig appeared on March 7, 1815, and on September 17, 1816.

Farm, Shop, Landing, subtitled The Rise of a Market Society in the Hudson Valley, 1780-1860, studies the social and economic evolution of the Hudson Valley, particularly Columbia and Greene counties. Needless to say, Hudson plays a prominent role in the story.


  1. Great find, Carole. This guy Martin Bruegel (author of Farm Shop Landing) appears to be French and a wonderful candidate for an Opera House lecture!

  2. Meanwhile, the amazing Harry Croswell should have a historical plaque erected for him at the corner of 2nd and Warren.

  3. Even then Hudson honed the cutting edge: the city's two favorite things, capitalists & cocktails.