DANIEL GREEN

 

This article was originally compiled in 1975 by Marion C. Mang, the then Town Historian of Oppenheim, who passed away in the early 1980's.  It was donated to this site by the current Oppenheim Historian, Hector Allen.

 


The Daniel Green Company Factory Complex was entered on the National Register of Historic Places on September 17, 1974. It was given a designation of statewide significance which is rarely bestowed. A copy of the register form as prepared by Mrs. Doris Manley, Research Assistant of the Division of Historic Preservation was sent to Mrs. Eleanor Franz, Historian of Dolgeville. Mrs. Franz had been requested by the State to furnish the research upon which this summary is based.

The Village of Dolgeville is located a short distance to the north of Little Falls in Herkimer County. The structures of the Daniel Green Factory Complex are located partly on the Herkimer side of the East Canada Creek which flows past the village and partly on the Fulton County Side. The large creek is dammed above the factory and water is fed through the turbines to create the electrical power needed by the industry. Surplus power is sold to the Niagara Mohawk Company, a public utility.

The Daniel Green Factory Complex consists of a large limestone building, a frame factory building, a double span iron Pratt Truss bridge on limestone and concrete supports, another large wood factory building, a complex of lesser buildings which make a visually pleasing grouping on either side of the creek, and a large mansion. All were once part of the Alfred Dolge and Sons Felt and Sounding Board factories, and the mansion was his home. The handsome limestone factory of which was erected in 1886 on the site of an abandoned tannery, some of the structural features of which were utilized in the new building. It was constructed of hand-cut limestone drawn by teams from the Inghams Mills quarry. It is a long (300 by 700) feet, three and a half story structure with a clear story running the length of the roof ridge. A mansard roofed tower with dormers holds the administrative offices. The building has windows of normal size and spacing. The stonework, buttresses and moat-type ditch around it confer a fortress-like effect.

Although there are a number of lesser buildings all constructed gradually from 1882 until 1894 of wood and stone, the other principal factory building is across the East Canada Creek in Fulton County. This was at one time a horse barn and was converted into a factory by raising the top story. It has some attractive cupolas.

The two section Pratt Truss bridge of iron is in excellent condition, although it was built in 1887. It is supported by limestone and concrete foundations.

Across the river in Fulton County is the Alfred Dolge mansion and grounds. It is an imposing mansion built of wood in 1895. The interior has ornate decoration and Swiss carvings. The ceilings with cherubs and other ornamentation were constructed by Italian artists. There are sloping lawns, a formal garden with fossil rock and behind the mansion is a wooded hillside, part of a park owned by the village.

The Daniel Green Factory Complex is notable not only for its fine Victorian architecture and the fact that it is a monument to the memory of the truly exceptional man who built it, but also because the entire property has been meticulously maintained in its original condition by the subsequent owners, the Daniel Green Company.

The factory complex was built by Alfred Dolge who desired earnestly to establish an ideal society for his factory workers at a time when profit was the usual motive of industry.

Alfred Dolge was born Dec. 22nd, 1848 in Chemnitz, Saxony. He attended public school in Leipzig until he was 16 when he entered his fathers’ business as an apprentice. (A. Dolge and Co., Piano Manufacturers). He pursued high school studies in a night school conducted by the Free Masons in Leipzig and received his diploma from them. He first came to the US when he was 17 and returned to Leipzig for three months in 1868. Then he returned to the US to make it his home. He worked in piano making and importing in New York City. He first came to Brockett’s Bridge, now Dolgeville, in 1874 in search of a suitable location for more felt manufacturing. In April 1875, he began manufacturing in the old tannery which he purchased. Within a few years the village grew from 325 to over 2,000, many of whom were German Immigrants whom he had interested in the area by advertisements and agents. Eventually, he built felt mills, made felt shoes, autoharps, piano cases, piano sounding boards, piano hammers, and ran lumber yards. He built a railroad, laid out the village, built two schools, installed an electric system, a water system, sewage, a fire department, a free library, a concert hall, a gymnasium, public parks, a newspaper and pioneered in a pension and profit sharing system for employees. In 1887 the citizens unanimously petitioned the authorities at Washington to change the name of the place from Brockett’s Bridge to Dolgeville.

Alfred Dolge failed financially and left Dolgeville in May of 1899. He lived in California and started a business there. He died in Milan, Italy on Jan. 5, 1922 on a round the world tour. He is buried in the Dolgeville cemetary.

Inspired by his early readings of Liebnecht, Marx, Mill and Adam Smith, Dolge Instituted at Dolgeville a form of what we now call social security in his attempt to create an idealistic socialistic utopia. About 1876 when the factory was first well established, Dolge began to set up his Pension Plan which remained almost exactly the same throughout his tenure. It was extremely generous, ranging from 50 percent of wages for disability after 10 years service up to 100 percent after 25 years. Later he added a system of life insurance paid for by the firm and finally by an intricate system of bookkeeping, a program of Earning-Sharing whereby, an employee received a portion of the earnings according to his contribution in brains or the value of his work. This was not to be turned over until retirement, but was to be reinvested. The Pension Plan was non-contributory by the employee. The employer paid all. The government of Germany officially requested details of his Plan and adopted it with some changes. In 1889, the government of France asked for a detailed account. The insurance, pension and endowment plans instituted by Dolgeville were also copies and adapted by railroads and many other corporations in America.

Much source material exists locally on Alfred Dolge’s contribution to the concept of Social Security. He had had printed a 243 page paperbound book entitled "The Practical Applications of Economic Theories in the Factories of Alfred Dolge and Son." This appeared in 1896 and consists of extracts from his speeches. When Dolge’s business failed in 1899, few of the benefits which he had envisioned had been paid, but the ideas which he pioneered proved to be very lasting.

Because of Dolge, Dolgeville has these firsts: first Social Security 1876, first slipper and shoe of felt made in America 1881, first electric dynamo run by water power 1879 (Edison’s was the second dynamo), first public kindergarten in New York State 1889, first park system in the area 1876 and the first upstate village lighted by electricity 1891.

 


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Copyright 1999,2000 Hector Allen/Marion C. Mang
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:14:09 PDT