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Greene History Notes: When Coxsackie went high-tech

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Superior Projector.
October 9, 2018 11:48 am Updated: October 9, 2018 12:03 pm

 

Motion pictures were the rage in the early 20th century.

In an attempt to capitalize on this new form of entertainment, Coxsackie resident John Doherty designed and built a motion picture projector. His plan was to manufacture the projectors in Coxsackie and ship them all over the country. There was just one problem: lack of capital.

Doherty appealed to the Local Board of Trade — a forerunner of today’s IDA. He hoped they would see the potential for increased employment, payroll spent in the community and long-range growth and prosperity for the area.

In those days, the early 1920s, the Board of Trade did not have the resources the IDAs have today. They existed more to broker a deal and broker a deal they did!

They decided the vacant Kennedy Valve Building would work just fine for the production of the projectors. The brick building was located about halfway down Mansion Street hill and would later serve as the Coxsackie Village Building.

It was razed over a decade ago and the land is now used by the Coxsackie Department of Public Works.

To raise capital advertising was placed in the Coxsackie “Union News.” A salesman was even hired to sell the stock and over 80 investors came forward bringing in about $13,000.

By Oct. 4, 1922, the company was all settled in and the first locally manufactured projector was tested. It was demonstrated the following day.

Writing in the Nov. 11, 1995 issue of The Catskill Daily Mail, my predecessor, Raymond Beecher, said the following about early sales: “That display [demonstration] resulted in the machines sale to Loew Circle Theater, Broadway and 60th Streets, New York City.

“The second from the Coxsackie factory was placed on display before the Visual Instruction Association of America then meeting at New York on Nov. 2. The Dolan Opera House [in Coxsackie] would purchase the third machine.”

Initially, events seemed to be transpiring in the right direction for Superior Projector Inc.

In an article titled “Promising Outlook for Coxsackie” the “Recorder,” a Greene County Newspaper, reported March 7, 1924: “Tools necessary for production have been completed and it is expected that 40 machines will be ready for distribution within the next five weeks… The distributors are very enthusiastic about the Superior and seem to have no trouble in convincing prospects of the merits of the machine with sales resulting.”

Unfortunately, Superior Projector did not put Coxsackie on the map as hoped — it would take the Coxsackie Virus years later to do that.

The undoing seems to be the fact that the company was just an assembler and fabricator. They lacked a foundry and sheet metal department, nickel plating and japanning departments.

They were dependent on suppliers to do this work. As a result, other companies could build machines at a more competitive price. The exact date of the company’s demise is unknown at this point.

Reach David Dorpfeld at gchhistorian@gmail.com.