Crane's Clarion 2014

John Thomas Stanley

John Thomas Stanley

John Thomas Stanley

My maternal Great Grandfather, John Thomas Stanley left England at 17, booking passage for America in 1860 and bringing with him his skills in making soaps and candles. He opened his first factory on Jane Street in Greenwich Village, moved to West 15th Street and, in 1892, the John T. Stanley Company moved one last time to 30th Street and the Hudson River, a building routinely pointed out by the Circle Line until it burned down mid-1980s. I can still smell the soaps: Almond, Gardenia, Tar(!), Sapolio. Growing up I was proud that Stanley was ‘real New York’: “Stan & Lee” ads on the subway; the High Line when it was a railroad; iconic local customers Bloomingdale’s, B. Altman, Al Roon’s Health Spa in the Ansonia (later Continental Baths). Stanley would make the soap & stamp the customer’s name on the back. It remained a family business for three generations, with the always given names of John, Thomas and Alfred, working in the company until competition with the giants (Lever Brothers & impending corporate take-overs) closed it down.

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Marie Crane

Marie Crane and her boys

Marie Crane and her boys


Marie Crane's Bedroom

Marie Crane’s Bedroom


Marie Crane in her younger days

Marie Crane in her younger days

My paternal grandmother Mary Augusta Storer was quite a character! A fierce New Yorker, she claimed roots going back to the Schuylers, married three times, played and worked hard. Just like the George M. Cohan song, she changed her name to Marie, socialized like a grand dame in ball gowns and elaborate costumes (1st prize: Cleopatra on her barge), was part of the machine gun squad of the Women’s Police Reserve, a preservationist, a superb horsewoman (many newspaper articles) and, in 1925, built “an exclusive club hotel” in the Adirondacks of New Jersey, Culver’s Lake, naming it the Crea-Mont after “my boys”. Creagh Heydecker (#2 husband) and Montgomery Crane. Husband #1, John Russell Crane, was a Civil War veteran- 7th Regiment. After his death March 3, 1901, she took over Crane Oxygen and Ambulance, America’s first (1897) private ambulance company. In 1905 the New York Sun headlined “Private Ambulances, the Invention of a Woman”. The article went on to say “Few people know that the most elaborate ambulances in this country were invented by a New York woman and were built to her order. It took her an entire year to think out all the little points.” The article praised and described but never once mentioned her name, an omission they acknowledged in the 1920’s when the Sun wrote another piece headlined: “Her Business Rise Described, “Mrs. Crane, Pioneer of Her Sex as Executive, Talks” and quoting her: “I never had any trouble with my male employees, even back in the early days.” Her first ambulances were horse-drawn till she patented a horseless ambulance, also becoming an officer of the newly formed National Women’s Automobile Club of America. Husband # 3 was Burnet Tuttle Wenman, (member Cotton Exchange). Her west-side town-house and stable by Central Park (Spanish Room, Italian Room, solarium etc.) now houses 10 apartments, her horse was Decanter and her yacht was “The Tranquil”. Quite a life!

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“This week we went to 1277 York Avenue to call upon Crane Oxygen & Ambulance Co., the oldest such concern in town. They haven’t shut up shop one minute, night or day, since they opened in 1897. The firm has eight orchid-colored ambulances, which dash about town and a factory in New Jersey . . . Actors are appreciable users of oxygen, having found that it gives them gusto without being habit-forming. Several years ago, the Crane Company delivered two hundred gallons of oxygen daily to the “Ziegfeld Follies” . . .

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