Merrill & Humphries – Delhi, New York Photography Partnership

February 06, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

The partnership of Merrill and Humphries operated a drug store located at the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York while also publishing scenic postcards of the western Catskills region from 1911 to 1928. After the partnership dissolved in 1928, Pierre B. Merrill continued to publish postcards under his own name.

 

Fitch's Bridge and Delaware River, Delhi NYFitch's Bridge and Delaware River, Delhi NYEast Delhi, Delaware County

Vintage postcard of Fitch’s Covered Bridge as it spans the Delaware River at East Delhi in Delaware County. New York. The postcard was published by Merrill & Humphries, located at Delhi, New York.

The historic Fitch’s Covered Bridge was constructed in 1870 by James Frazier and James Warren at a cost of $1,900. The bridge is a single span, one lane wide, constructed using native materials and is 106 feet long as it spans the West Branch of the Delaware River. The bridge was originally located on Kingston Street in Delhi but was moved in 1885 when the town decided to replace the covered bridge with a newer, more durable iron structure. Instead of destroying the relatively new bridge (constructed only 15 years prior), it was moved several miles upstream to its current location. The historic bridge was recently restored in 2001 at a cost of $425,000. Fitches Covered Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Fitch family website, the bridge is named for Dr. Thomas Fitch (1774-1849) and his younger brother Dr. Cornelius Root Fitch (1783-1846). “Thomas bought a farm at the (site of the future) bridge on the river in 1803. When he left Delhi for Philadelphia in 1806, he sold the farm to Cornelius, who continued to practice medicine in Delhi for 33 years.”

Fitch's Bridge and Delaware River, Delhi N.Y. No postmark. Published by Merrill & Humphries. Author’s collection.

 

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The photographic work of the firm Merrill and Humphries was the fifth, and last, in a succession of photographers to own the same company at the village of Delhi. The firm began with E. C. Riggs, the “Ambrotype Artist,” who operated his gallery from 1856 to 1859; he was succeeded by B. F. Gilbert, who operated from 1859 to 1867; West Coast photographer Byron R. Johnson then purchased the gallery, operating from 1867 to 1869; next, Maurice Farrington acquired the gallery in late 1869, and operated for the next 45 years from 1869 to 1914; and, finally, the partnership of Merrill & Humphries operated well into the 20th century.

 

Vintage postcard published by the partnership of Merrill & Humphries of Watauga Falls at Delhi in Delaware County, New York.Upper Watauga Falls, Delhi, N.Y.This vintage postcard depicts beautiful Watauga Falls located at Delhi in Delaware County, New York. It was published by the partnership of Merrill & Humphries located at Delhi, New York. The reverse side shows that the postcard was mailed but the postmark is illegible.

Watauga Falls are located in a small glen on Falls Creek near its junction with the West Branch of the Delaware. They are about one-mile northeast of the village of Delhi near the intersection of Route 28 and Falls Mills Road. Although they were once accessible the falls are now located on private property.

The village of Delhi website highlights how the region earned its reputation as the “Garden Spot of the Catskills”: “Due to the majestic presence of the Catskill Mountains, the intriguing presence of babbling brooks that flow through the mystical valleys created by these mountains and the delightful presence of flora and fauna indigenous to the topography of this rural area, Delaware County exudes a sense of peaceful and tranquil beauty unsurpassed by other areas of our country. So sensuous is the magnificence of this area, an early postcard producer developed a series of postcards photographically depicting the local area as “Delhi – The Garden Spot of the Catskills.”
Upper Watauga Falls, Delhi, N.Y. Postmark illegible. Published by Merrill & Humphries. Author’s collection.

 

The beginnings of the drug store firm of Merrill & Humphries can be traced back to around 1868, when Dr. John Calhoun opened a drug store at Delhi. According to W. W. Munsell in his History of Delaware County, N.Y., John Calhoun was an influential member of the Delhi community. “DR. JOHN CALHOUN was born in 1819, in Scotland, and in 1834 came to America, settling at Bovina with his parents. In 1841 he commenced the study of medicine at Andes with Dr. Peake; in 1844 was admitted, and practiced there two years, then in Bovina until 1865, when he was elected sheriff of the county of Delaware. At the expiration of his term of office in 1868, he resumed his practice and opened a drug store in Delhi, the firm name being J. Calhoun & Son. The son, J. D. Calhoun, died suddenly on Christmas, 1878. Mr. Calhoun married Jane Davis, of Andes, in 1845. He has been prominent in the history of the county.” (History of Delaware County, N.Y. New York: W. W. Munsell & Co., 1880. p. 167.) Dr. John Calhoun died on April 20, 1893, leaving behind his wife and daughter.

In 1886 when Maurice Farrington, in addition to his photography business, entered the drug store business. In that year “Dr. John Calhoun has sold the stock of goods in his drug store and rented his store to Maurice Farrington for a term of five years. The doctor will keep his office in the store and assist in conducting the business.” (Delaware Republican. ~1886.)

By 1891 Maurice had been occupying the Dr. Calhoun Drug Store for quite some time. That year he purchased the building from J. S. Page for $3,500. His son, Frank Farrington, helped his father manage the drug store, later purchasing the business from him.

Frank Farrington would eventually sell the drug store business to P. B. Merrill and W. A. Humphries. The partnership of Pierre “Pete” Merrill (1880-1975) and William A. Humphries took over the drug store on May 2, 1911. Both of them had worked at Farrington’s Drug Store for several years before taking over the business. Upon taking over the store they wrote in an advertisement in the local newspaper that

 

“We Make Our Bow.

This is our first appearance as proprietors.

We have bought the business of the Farrington Drug Store. We take possession May 2d.

We have been connected with the store long enough so that we feel that its customers have been our customers and we hope that you will continue to be so.

We are here to stay and we are going to treat every man, woman and child coming to store in the very way we know how.

With two licensed pharmacists, both graduates of college of pharmacy, in charge of the store you can be sure that your drugs will be just what they ought to be.

Anything that you buy from us that is not just as we represent it to be will be made so. We want every customer to be a satisfied customer.

Our advertising will occupy hereafter the space formerly used by Mr. Farrington and we believe that you will find something there every week worth reading.

Send us mail or telephone orders just the same as heretofore and they will receive the same care.”

(Delaware Gazette. May 3, 1911.)

 

Pierre B. Merrill, the first half of the partnership, was born on January 23, 1880 to Augustus and Sarah (Pierce) Merrill at Homer, New York. He graduated from the Homer Academy in 1902. In 1906 Merrill graduated from the Buffalo College of Pharmacy. Upon graduation he moved the following year from his hometown of Homer, New York to the village of Delhi where he began working for Frank Farrington at Farrington’s Drug Store.

 

Vintage postcard depicting a scenic spot along the Delaware River in Delhi, New York published by the partnership of Merrill & Humphries.Delaware River, Delhi, N.Y.This vintage postcard depicting a scenic spot along the Delaware River in Delhi, New York was published by the partnership of Merrill & Humphries. The postmark on the reverse side shows that the postcard was mailed in 1922. Delaware River, Delhi, N.Y. Postmark 1922. Published by Merrill & Humphries. Author’s collection.

 

Pierre married Marguerite Honeywell at the age of 36 on September 27, 1916. She was the daughter of James R. and Mary (Walsworth) Honeywell. Marguerite was a graduate of the Delaware Academy, the Wells College in 1912 and attended Columbia University for post-graduate study. She was a school teacher, as well as an active member of the Village Improvement Society and the Tourist Club. She was a 56-year member of the First Presbyterian Church, where she was a teacher and superintendent of the Sunday school. She passed away on June 24, 1976 at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York. Together Pierre and Marguerite had two children.

 

Pierre B. Merrill marriage licensePierre B. Merrill marriage licenseThe partnership of Merrill and Humphries operated a drug store located at the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York while also publishing scenic postcards of the western Catskills region from 1911 to 1928. After the partnership dissolved in 1928, Pierre B. Merrill continued to publish postcards under his own name. Pierre B. Merrill and Marguerite Honeywell marriage license, 1916.

 

Pierre B. Merrill, World War I Registration CardPierre B. Merrill, World War I Registration CardThe partnership of Merrill and Humphries operated a drug store located at the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York while also publishing scenic postcards of the western Catskills region from 1911 to 1928. After the partnership dissolved in 1928, Pierre B. Merrill continued to publish postcards under his own name. Pierre B. Merrill’s World War I Draft Card from 1918.

 

Pierre and Marguerite’s daughter, Sarah “Sally” Merrill, was born in 1920. She was a graduate of the Delaware Academy and was a graduate of Cornell University, College of Home Economics, class of 1942. In 1944 she married Richard Alan Shotwell. They had one daughter, Beth. She was a teacher for two years at Andrew S. Draper Central School at Schenevus, New York. He was a graduate of Cayuga Lake Academy and a graduate of Cornell University, College of Agriculture, class of 1942. He was a vocational agriculture teacher at Union Springs Central School. She resided at Union Springs from 1946 until her passing in 1988. She died on April 3, 1988 after a long illness. She is buried at Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Union Springs, New York.

Pierre and Marguerite’s son, Lewis H. Merrill, graduated from the local Delaware Academy. He served three years in the U. S. Army Air Force, and was stationed in the North Pacific, including at the headquarters of the 11th Air Force in the Aleutians. For college he graduated from Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio in 1950. At Ohio State he received a bachelor of science degree in in agriculture, with a specialty in floriculture. Lewis began working at Baker & Sons at Utica, New York, a wholesale and retail florist company that specialized in roses and orchids. He was later employed by Stamford Hall in Stamford, Connecticut; and then worked at Ezzles Florist and Garden Supply House at Stamford, Connecticut. He married Helen Marie Peterson in 1958. She graduated from New Canaan High School and for a time worked as a secretary for Jon Whitcomb in Darien, Connecticut.

Walter A. Humphries, the second half of the partnership, was the son of William J. Humphries and Charlotte (Tucker) Humphries. As per his obituary in the local newspaper, the father

 

“Mr. Humphries was born Aug. 17, 1856, at Mt. Brydges, Ontario, Canada, son of Samuel and Caroline Bowen Humphries, who came from England and settled in Canada. In 1885 he married Charlotte Tucker of New York City.

As a young man he went to New York City and was employed by the Brewster Carriage Co. as a carriage draftman. He came to Delhi in 1884 and was employed by the Huber Carriage Co. and had lived in Delhi for 66 years.

He was a member of the Baptist Church and of Delhi Lodge, F & AM, Delhi Chapter, RAM. He was master of the Delhi lodge in 1885 and 1886, high priest of Delhi Chapter, 1889 through 1902. Recently he received the Masonic 70-year medal.

Surviving are a son, William A. Humphries of Delhi; one sister, Mrs. William Laurie, Tampa, Fla.; a granddaughter Mrs. John F. Steel, of Pittsfield, Mass.; and two grandsons, W. A. Humphries, Jr. of Bethlehem, Pa., and Robert W. Humphries of Delhi.” (“Humphries’ Funeral Today at Delhi.” Binghamton Press. June 19, 1950.)

 

Walter A. Humphries was a graduate of the Delaware Academy and then the Albany College of Pharmacy. He went to work for Frank Farrington at Farrington’s Drug Store in Delhi upon graduation.

 

Vintage postcard by Merrill and Humphries of the Delaware River below Sherwood’s Bridge in Delhi, New York.Below Sherwood’s Bridge, Delhi, N.Y.Sherwood’s Bridge crosses the West Branch of the Delaware River on Sherwood Road in the town of Delhi, New York. According to the history of the county “The first church in the town of Delhi stood just below Sherwood’s bridge on the opposite side of the river, and was built in 1811.”

The postcard was published by Merrill & Humphries of Delhi, New York. The postmark on the reverse side shows that it was mailed in 1919.
Below Sherwood's Bridge, Delhi, N.Y. Postmark 1919. Published by Merrill & Humphries. Author’s collection.

 

Walter married Gertrude Whitney Young on October 21, 1915. Gertrude was born on December 5, 1889 at Delhi to Robert A. and Emma (Whitney) Young. She was a graduate of the Delaware Academy and Cornell University, class of 1913. She was a member of the Village Improvement Society and was over a 50-year member of First Presbyterian Church. Gertrude passed away on February 13, 1975 at O’Connor Hospital at Delhi, New York. A private funeral service was held on February 15, 1975, with Reverend David H. Foubert and Reverend Kenneth White officiating.

Together Walter and Gertrude had three children, including William A. Humphries, jr., of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Mrs. Ruth H. Steele, of Delhi; and Robert W. Humphries, of Delhi. Both of Walter’s sons, William and Robert, as well as his son-in-law, John Steele, honorably served during World War II.

William, jr. first reported as an aviation cadet in the communication division of the United States Army Air Corps and upon graduation was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Force. He was later promoted to Captain, working as navigator and briefing officer for the Air Transport Command in the Army Air Force. He spent some time stationed in the country of Brazil. In November 1944 he reported for duty with the 7th Ferrying Group, Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command, at Great Falls, Montana. Around September 1945 he was reassigned to A. T. C. headquarters at Cincinnati, Ohio where he served as an administrative and services inspector. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from Syracuse University. In August, 1950 William married Congetta A. Ronca of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She was a graduate of Fountain Hill High School and the Bethlehem Business College; and worked in the secretarial division of the Legal Department at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. At the time of his marriage William was an assistant in the property and tax division of the Bethlehem Steel Company but would become the controller of the Bethlehem Steel Company (Canada) L.T.D.

Robert Humphries (b. 1924), Walter and Gertrude’s son, entered the service in February 1943, serving at Camp Swift in Texas, at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and later in Hawaii. By July 1944 he was sent to the Pacific theater of operations. He was assigned to a joint assault company of infantry forces, and fought in several invasions in the Pacific Ocean including the Battle of Luzon and the Battle of Leyte. On April 13, 1945 he was wounded at the battle of Okinawa against the Imperial Japanese Army. He had a leg injury and was moved to the fleet hospital in the Marianas. After his recovery he was moved to the Philippines where he rejoined the 96th Division. After the war he resumed his college studies at Syracuse University in 1946 and graduated from Delhi. In July, 1950 Robert married LaVonne Marie Hartman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John F. Hartman of Wooster, Ohio. She was a graduate of Mushingham College in New Concord, Ohio and at the time of the marriage she was a dramatics teacher at Delaware Academy and Central School; but would become a professor of Dramatics, Speech and English at the State University of Delhi, NY. Robert was active in the community, being a member of the Delhi Volunteer Fire Department and the Delhi American Legion. He worked as the Assistant Secretary of the Security Mutual Fire Insurance Company and was president of the Associated Cooperative Inland Marine Conference. His wife LaVonne (“Bonnie”) passed away on August 10, 1988 at Elmira. William passed away the next month at the age of 64 on September 25, 1988 at Elmira, New York.

Ruth Humphries, Walter and Gertrude’s daughter, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and drama from Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She was married in 1942 to John S. Steele at Trinity Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was the son of Mrs. James E. Steele of Longmeadow. John also served during World War II, including time at Camp Millard and in the country of India.

In 1914, three years after first acquiring Farrington’s drug store, Merrill and Humphries “bought the one [drug store] across the street (later occupied by the A. & P.) owned by Harry England. Both were operated separately until 1917 when the men purchased the building where the store is now located and moved both into the new location.” (“Merrill’s Drug Store Now Has New Owner.” Delaware Republican-Express. October 4, 1956.)

The partnership firm of Merrill and Humphries lasted for 17 years. In 1928 the partnership dissolved as Humphries began work at an insurance company, with Merrill continuing as the sole proprietor.

After leaving the Merrill and Humphries partnership, Humphries went to work for the Security Mutual Fire Insurance Company at Delhi, starting as secretary and manager and later becoming its president. He later held various senior executive positions with insurance organizations at Delhi, Albany and Ithaca, including the Security Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Ithaca. He was an influential member of the community. He was a member of the Delhi Board of Education, a 50-year member of the First Presbyterian Church, a 29-year trustee of the Cannon Free Library and served as a director and vice president of the Delaware National Bank of Delhi. In addition, he was a member and later president of the Board of Education for the Delaware Academy and Central School, member of the Board of Visitors of State University College and a charter member of the Delhi Kiwanis Club. He retired from business around 1964.

 

Vintage postcard by Merrill and Humphries of South Main Street in Delhi, New York.South Main Street, Delhi, N.Y.The partnership of Merrill and Humphries published the postcard of quiet, residential South Main Street in the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York. The postmark on the reverse side shows that it was mailed in 1926. South Main Street, Delhi, N.Y. Postmark 1926. Published by Merrill & Humphries. Author’s collection.

 

While owning the drug store the partnership of Merrill and Humphries published scenic postcards from around the Delhi area. Based on the history of the drug store, postcards with the caption of “Merrill & Humphries” can be dated from between 1911 and 1928. Existing inventory may have carried over for a few years, leading to postmarks after 1928. After the drug store partnership dissolved in 1928 postcards no longer used “Merrill & Humphries,” and were then published under the name “P. B. Merrill” or “P. B. Merrill, Pharmacist.”

 

Vintage photograph by P. B. Merrill of the Cannon Free Library in Delhi, New York.Cannon Free Library, Delhi, N.Y.The Cannon Free Library at the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York was established on January 24, 1917 with a charter from the Regents of the University of the State of New York.

According the library’s website “The object and purpose of the corporation was to maintain a circulating library and reading room free for the public use to the inhabitants of the Town of Delhi and vicinity. Plans for a library building then began. The library was built as a gift to the community by Mr. Henry White Cannon in memory of his parents, George Bliss Cannon and Ann Eliza White Cannon, and he endowed the library with money to keep it functioning.

On April 9, 1918, the doors to the new library building were opened to the public. Over 4,000 volumes were stacked on the shelves, and the first librarian, Miss Pauline Farrington issued 159 library cards.”

Pauline Farrington was born at Delhi on August 3, 1876 at Delhi, New York. As a youth she attended the Delaware Academy. For 14 years from 1905 to 1918 she worked as a music teacher at the New York Institution for the Blind in New York City. She then served as librarian from 1918 to 1948 at the Cannon Free Public Library in Delhi. Upon her retirement from the library, The Stamford Mirror-Recorder, the local newspaper wrote of contributions to the community.

“The retirement of Miss Pauline Farrington as Librarian at the Cannon Free Library cannot fail to leave a vacuum in the cultural life of Delhi. Her withdrawal from service terminates a period of thirty years faithful attendance at this institution, she having been the only librarian since the inception of the library. She was ever courteous and kindly toward the patrons of the institution, and has done much in guiding the reading habits of both young and old. Any book not immediately available she would get from the State Library, and no one was ever greeted with aught but a smile. Miss Farrington is withdrawing to enable her to do some of the things she has wanted to do and not be so confined, after a long period of fine service. The Library has been efficiently staffed, and while her pleasant and kindly smile will be missed, her influence will be indelibly stamped upon it. She was a keen student of books, and not at all averse to some of the modern trends. Her resignation is and will be a great loss to the patrons of the library.” (“Librarian Leaves Excellent Record.” Stamford Mirror-Recorder. August 12, 1948.)

Always committed to her Second Presbyterian Church, Pauline served as the organist, was a Sunday School teacher, a member of the Ladies’ Aid and the Missionary Society. She died after a brief illness at the age of 88 on December 24, 1964. Funeral services were held at the R. J. McCall Funeral Home at Delhi in a service officiate by the Rev. Cameron B. Reed. There were no close survivors. She is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Delhi.

The postcard was published by P. B. Merrill of Delhi, New York. The postcard was never mailed.
Cannon Free Library, Delhi, N.Y. No postmark. Published by P. B. Merrill. Author’s collection.

 

Vintage postcard of the Second Presbyterian Church, now the United Ministry of Delhi, at the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York.Second Presbyterian Church, Delhi, N.Y.The Second Presbyterian Church of Delhi was established in 1831. The church building was designed by Charles Hathaway, a county judge and an agent for Robert Livingston during the Anti-Rent Wars. “The one story clapboard church with gable roof has an elaborate centre steeple of varying levels, one of which houses a clock face. The doorway is centered under the tower and framed by a moulded entablature and ionic columns.” Some of the early Reverends of the church included Samuel G. Orton 1831-32; Orlando Kirtland 1832-35; Daniel W. Waterbury 1836-38; Bloomer Kent 1838-39; and Nathaniel H. Griffin 1839-41. The Second Presbyterian Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Delaware County Courthouse Square District. Today the church operates as the United Ministry of Delhi.

The vintage postcard of the Second Presbyterian Church was published by P. B. Merrill located at Delhi, New York. The postcard was never mailed.

Source: Levy, Steven S. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Delaware County Courthouse Square District. Albany, NY: National Park Service, June 26, 1973.
Second Presbyterian Church, Delhi, N.Y. No postmark. Published by P. B. Merrill. Author’s collection.

 

Merrill continued to operate the store as sole proprietor for decades, from 1928 to 1956. He sold the business on October 1, 1956 to Marc E. Guy. Merrill continued to assist at the store until the 1960s. Marc Guy was a 1952 graduate of the Albany School of Pharmacy and was a veteran, having served for two years from 1953 to 1955 as a medic in Korea. Richard K. Aikens joined the business as a partner in 1968.

In 1984 Merrill’s Pharmacy closed after 73 years of operation. Co-owners Marc E. Guy, then mayor of the village of Delhi, and Richard K. Aikens sold the store to the Rite-Aid Corporation. Guy and Aikens continued to work there as pharmacists.

Upon his exiting the drug store business in 1956, the local newspaper editor wrote of Merrill. “Forty-five years is a long time to serve community as druggist and owner of a store completely stocked with all the items people have come to learn they could find at Merrill’s A friendly, accommodating atmosphere has made a lasting reputation for Merrill’s Drug Store. Its patrons extend thanks to its former owner for the years of service.” (“Merrill’s Drug Store Now Has New Owner.” Delaware Republican-Express. October 4, 1956.)

Merrill was active in local community organizations. He was a member of the Delhi Lodge, N. 439 F. and A. M., the local Masonic fraternity, for over 60 years; he was a member and past president of the Delhi Kiwanis Club; and he was a 68-year member of the First Presbyterian Church at Delhi.

Pierre B. Merrill passed away at the age of 95 on September 9, 1975 at O’Connor Hospital in Delhi, New York. The funeral was held on September 11, 1975 at the Moxley McCall Funeral Home at Delhi. Services were officiated by Rev. David H. Foubert, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Delhi. He was survived by his wife; his daughter, Mrs. Sarah Shotwell, of Union Springs; and his son, Lewis H. Merrill of New Canaan, Connecticut. He is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Delhi, New York.

William A. Humphries passed away on August 1, 1974 at Fox Hospital in Oneonta. He had been sick for extended period. He was survived by his wife, Gertrude (Young) Humphries; a daughter, Mrs. Ruth Steele, of Delhi; two sons, William A. Humphries, Jr. of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and Robert W. Humphries, of Delhi.

 

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         If you should have any additional information, comments or corrections about the photographer partnership of Merrill and Humphries please add a comment to this page, or send me an email using the contact page. Where possible, please include any available references. Thank you.


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