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A One Stop Transportation Shop in Upstate New York, c.1931


Cooperstown, New York is best known today as the location of the Baseball Hall of Fame but it had yet to be built when our photo was taken there in the early 1930’s. The town’s location on the south shore of Otsego Lake probably explains the two handsome wooden motorboats sharing the showroom with the pair of 1931 Chryslers and a Packard of similar vintage.

The presence of the bicycle is a little harder to figure out unless the owner of this business saw the need to cater to all the transportation needs of the citizens of his tiny village. He apparently also sold Plymouths, but we have so far been unable to identify the dealership. We hope one of our readers might know it. You’ll find more photos of garages and dealerships from many different eras on The Old Motor. Photo courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

One response to “A One Stop Transportation Shop in Upstate New York, c.1931

  1. This is Cook’s Auto & Supply Company, “The Complete Automotive Establishment,” 139 Main Street, Cooperstown, New York. The proprietor was J. (John) Harry Cook.

    Printed in the June 18, 1943 newspaper “The Otsego Farmer” was the following. “He was born and reared on a farm in Springfield Center, attended public school there and Albany Business College. He taught school in Middlefield, then entered the employ of the First National Bank of Cooperstown, where he remained until 1911 when he entered the automobile business for himself, and is now sole owner of Cook’s Auto & Supply Co. He is past president of Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce; served six years on the village Board of Trustees; and was Transportation chairman of the Cooperstown Baseball Centennial celebration here in 1939. He married Miss Grace Wiles of Springfield. They have one son, Lieut. Robert W. Cook, U.S.A., New York City.

    From mostly old newspaper ads, and a couple small feature articles, I was able to ascertain the following details of his business over more than 50 years.

    His first automobile related business in 1911 was operating a taxi business on Nelson Avenue. Within a year of starting the firm he quit working at the First National Bank where he had been employed full-time for three years. In 1912 he began selling Cole autos, and by 1915 he was also selling Hudson and Hupmobiles along with gasoline, oils, greases, and he rented cars from his location at 126 Main Street. In addition to automobiles he sold Delco-Light products including Delco-Light plants that were used to supply power to electric lights (like those used by the Army, Navy, Y.M.C.A. and Red Cross during WWI).

    In 1921 Cook’s became an official AAA garage and he was a member of the Cooperstown Automobile Club. In 1924 he was selling Willys-Knight, Overland, Hudson, and Essex automobiles, and by 1925 he was a member of the National Automobile Dealer’s Association.

    In 1926 he completed the first portion of the dealership shown in The Old Motor photo above. At this time he was also selling Chrysler, and Packard cars in addition to those shown for 1924. At the opening of the new location he held a lavish party. He provided food, refreshments, an orchestra, and the 3,000 square feet of hardwood floors in part of the dealership were used for dancing. That same year his company was named an official headlight adjuster by the (New York) Motor Vehicle Bureau.

    A total of 100 new cars were sold in 1927 which was celebrated with a turkey dinner for all employees in January 1928. Also in 1928 he began selling Sunoco gasoline (he previously sold Standard Oil brands). He provided space for a week long tractor repair school in February 1928. Men could bring their own tractors and receive assistance, use tools in the shop, and also participate in the lectures each day (cost was $3). Cook completed his first addition to his Main Street location in 1928. The opening was also used to celebrate the discharge of Theodore Hanlon from the hospital after several months of surgery.

    Advertisements in the “Otsego Farmer” from 1929 indicate they sold Chrysler, Plymouth, and Packard automobiles along with Stewart and Fargo trucks as well as General and Cooper tires. And, as suspected, they sold Columbia bicycles. For the housewife (Cook’s words) they sold Copeland refrigerators.

    A February 1930 ad is the only one I found that mentions him selling motor boats, but a brand is not named. In 1931 Cook’s Auto & Supply is featured in the September issue of “Motor” (Volume 56, Page 28-29). In 1932 Cook hosted the founding of the Otsego County Division of the American Automobile Association and he served as their first treasurer.

    On December 9, 1934 Cook lowered the price of gas he sold to 11 cents a gallon plus 4 cents tax due in part to a local gas price war. In October 1935 Cook participated in a Packard drive-away of $2.3 million of new cars. In 1938 they sold Seiberling Tires and Tubes, as shown in the photo of the Plymouth portion of the showroom, and they now had a “Check-N-Spect” tire service machine. Cook’s also organized a service club for motorists of the village and vicinity.

    By 1940 their franchises had changed to Chrysler and Plymouth cars, International trucks, Allis Chalmers Farm Machinery, Delco batteries, and Blue Sunoco gas and oil. Chrysler presented them three sales awards early in the year. As early as June 8, 1945 Cook’s was advertising new REO trucks with immediate delivery. He was also advertising new food freezers.

    By August 1946 he had hired at least six returning military personnel to work in his shop. Cook’s painted a 1 1/2 ton Chevrolet for the Cooperstown Fire Department, equipped with a 275 gallon booster tank and a 500 gallon per minute pump, that had been acquired from the War Assets Corporation. Cook’s dealership was used as the food collection point for Cooperstown in cooperation with the President’s Famine Emergency Committee. The food was distributed, along with other donations from around the country, to the millions of Europeans desperately in need of food after the conclusion of WWII. Gas and electric stoves were now in his inventory.

    In 1947 Cook’s began selling Willys Jeeps and Austins. We was also selling outboard motors and food mixers, and in 1948 he was selling Rototillers. In 1949 he was selling General Tires, he purchased another taxi service, and by 1950 he no longer was selling Plymouths. From 1950 on he appears to have only had a Chrysler franchise.

    In January 1958 Cook sold his business to John G. Burns of Madison, New Jersey, but he bought it back in July 1958 after Burns closed the business. The business was temporarily known as Burns Auto & Supply Co., Inc.

    The final ad I found was in 1964. It shows Cook’s selling Chrysler, Plymouth, and Valiant cars. In 1965 he offered to sell his Main Street location to Otsega County to use as a replacement county office building. By 1967 it appears that he had stopped selling new cars, but he continued to sell Sunoco gasoline and provide storage for cars.

    In 1970 the main showroom became a grocery market after the market’s primary location had a fire. The location later became a newspaper office. The location is now a book store.

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