Is this F. B. Zimmer, beagle breeder of Gloversville?
Every Wednesday we have posted an image on Facebook from our current exhibition, Life Through Bloomer's Lens: Portraits from the Richard M. Bloomer Glass Plate Negative Collection, on view in the Folklife Gallery through June 30, 2022. Audience response has been tremendous, often helping us with more information about the subject.
One week we didn't expect much help. The post was this interesting portrait of a man with his dog, but from a glass plate negative with no identifying markings on its paper sleeve.
Nonetheless, Jon Vidulich responded to our post on Facebook and said, "This very well could be F.B. Zimmer of Gloversville, NY. He owned Debonair Poultry Farm & Kennels. He was also a judge for both poultry/dogs & traveled extensively to various shows." And then he provided the following photograph:
There seems to be quite a resemblance between the two images, and the man in our photograph clearly favors his dog. Could the fellow in our photograph and the one provided by Jon Vidulich be one and the same person? We decided to do a bit of digging in the Folklife Center's research collections to see what else could we find.
A search in our Ancestry (library edition) databases reveal a Franklin P. Zimmer, born January 1, 1853 in Schoharie County, New York. In the 1880 census, he is 27 and married to Alice, living in Gloversville and working as a glove maker. By 1900, he is in the dog and poultry breeding business, on South Main Street, in Gloversville. In 1910 and 1920 he continues to raise dogs from his home on South Main Street, and then he dies on March 1, 1922. An obituary is published in the Albany, Troy and other Capital District newspapers, stating "Francis B. Zimmer, sixty-nine years old, nationally known dog fancier and breeder of beagle hounds and for many years a judge at the New York, and other large city dog shows, died at his home in Gloversville. He was also a well known contributor to fancier papers under the cognomen of "Zim."
We also found a 2017 Blog post, "FB Zimmer, Dog Breeder," in which the Fulton County Historian calls Zimmer "one of the most prominent breeders in the country," as well as well-known judge of poultry shows all around the country. He and his wife were the owners of Debonaire Kennels in Gloversville, and he headed a department for Hounds and Hunting magazine (found to be called the "Beagler's Bible" and still in publication).
Is this "dog fancier" Franklin P. Zimmer of Gloversville, the same fellow pictured with his dog in the unlabeled Bloomer photograph? And what might be the reason for him to sit for a photograph in Hudson Falls when he is based out of Gloversville to the west in the Mohawk Valley? Does he have any connection to this part of the upper Hudson Valley?
What evidence can we find?
The first evidence comes from a search of our newspaper databases that yielded a 1885 Post-Star (Glens Falls, NY) article called "Half-Way Brook Poultry Yards. A Reporter Interviews Messrs. Coffin, Zimmer & Company - What He Saw and Learned in the Poultry Line - An Extensive Business."
The reporter writes about this Glens Falls business, that started small in 1882, and 3 years later is raising some 2000 to 3000 chickens of 14 different varieties a year. Situated on thirty or more acres of land and water, a mile and a half north of the village, the firm is reported to be "the largest and leading dealers in land and water fowls in this section of the country." Of F.B. Zimmer, he says, his entire attention is devoted to the business, with the assistance of his partners. "Mr. Zimmer has had upwards of fifteen years experience in the poultry business, and came to Glens Falls from Gloversville about three years since, when the firm was organized."
More Post-Star articles from 1885 to 1887 report various activities of Zimmer. He takes the train to New York for the annual poultry exhibition at Madison Square Garden. The firm expands to include raising breeds of dogs, including English mastiffs, St. Bernards, English fox hounds, fox terriers, and Beagles, clarified by the newspaper as "a small rabbit hound."
In 1887, the newspaper notes that Zimmer will move with his family to West Springfield, Massachusetts to take charge of a poultry yard and kennel for a Col. R. J. Hamilton. By this time, he is thought to be well known to every breeder and most fanciers in the country, having been in the business for a dozen years, and responsible for two new breeds of poultry. It is reported, "What he doesn't know about birds and dogs is hardly worth knowing." As we noted earlier, by 1900 he's back in Gloversville with his own poultry and dog breeding business.
Though the Zimmers never again lived in Glens Falls, there is a second bit of evidence that his family maintained a link to our region. It comes again from the Post-Star, in a small personal notice on June 15, 1898: "Mrs. C.A. Stupplebeen left yesterday for Gloversville on a visit to her sister, Mrs. F. B. Zimmer." That is to say that Charles and Lela Stupplebeen, who live on Ackley Street in Glens Falls, are F.B. Zimmer's in-laws. Charles is an insurance agent with the Union Central Life Insurance Company, and vice-president of the Glens Falls Automotive Club, and Lena is involved in the Monday Reading Club and the Christ Church Woman's Home Missionary Society.
And finally, a third bit of evidence comes from an article in the Morning Herald (Gloversville, NY), October 20, 1920, with the headline, "Zimmer's Dog Wins. Glens Falls, Oct. 19." The article goes on to say, "In the field trials of the Northern Hare Beagle Association at North Creek today, the event for thirteen inch dogs of all ages was won by Blue Cap Revival, owned by F. B. Zimmer of Gloversville..."
Going back to our unmarked Bloomer glass plate negative, I see an older man with a prominent lump on his neck, proudly and contently displaying his small dog on his lap. None of the evidence we found is definitive, but taken together it helps build a case for a possible identification.
I'd like to think that this is indeed F. B. Zimmer of Gloversville, two years before his death, with Blue Cap Revival, his 13-inch Beagle commemorating his win at the field trials in North Creek, just north of Glens Falls and Hudson Falls, before returning home to Gloversville.
Todd DeGarmo is the founding director of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library, in Glens Falls, NY, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s worked as a public sector folklorist and educator in various venues for over 42 years, and is the editor of Voices: Journal of New York Folklore. He lives in the upper Hudson Valley of upstate New York, a stone’s throw from the Battenkill near the Vermont border.