George Kellogg, senior partner of his family’s Amsterdam linseed oil factory in the early 20th century, was a collector of English-made porcelain dishes and other objects called Old Blue Staffordshire china.
By the time Kellogg died at age 73 in March 1925 from a bout with pneumonia, he had amassed one of the largest Old Blue Staffordshire china collections in the world. Eight months after his death a two-day auction of over 300 of his dishes in New York City raised $30,000, equivalent to over $400,000 today.
The Old Blue series depicted scenes in New York State and elsewhere in America. The china was an 1820s effort by Staffordshire potters to gain back market share in America where anti-British sentiment still lingered because of British actions in the Revolution and the War of 1812.
Collecting china grew in popularity in the late 1800s. Kellogg’s wife Susan bought an Old Blue plate around 1900 which started her husband’s hobby.
Kellogg was an early and enthusiastic automobile owner. He made extended auto trips to various parts of the country in his search for more Old Blue dishes.
In Kellogg’s collection were many New York City views and a series depicting scenes from Marquis de Lafayette’s second visit to the United States. Kellogg owned three pieces that commemorated the opening of the Erie Canal. One depicted the aqueduct at Rochester, another showed the canal at Little Falls, and a third the entrance of the canal into the Hudson River at Albany.
The source of George Kellogg’s wealth was a factory, Kelloggs & Miller, built along Church Street in Amsterdam. The factory produced great quantities of linseed oil, used as a drying ingredient in paint and varnish.
George’s grandfather Supplina Kellogg founded the business in West Galway in 1824, apparently the oldest linseed oil plant in the country. In 1850 Supplina’s sons moved the operation down the Chuctanunda Creek to Amsterdam, taking over a former distillery that had been owned by merchant and local Congressman Benedict Arnold.
Linseed or flaxseed was cleaned, crushed, heated and pressed at the Amsterdam mill. Linseed oil then drained into troughs and was aged in large metal vats inside six brick roundhouses. The residue from the oil-making process became seed cakes which were shipped to Europe for animal feed.
At first the linseed was grown in upstate New York but great demand led to using linseed from other parts of the country and the world, in particular Canada and Argentina.
The firm built an elegant $10,000 administration building in 1874. Carpet magnate Stephen Sanford, whose mills were nearby, said the Kelloggs & Miller administration building was “not excelled in the state.” In 1887 the firm was at its peak and employed 500 people.
Much of the linseed oil was shipped in five-gallon containers, which have become collector’s items. Customers who bought in large quantities received oil in the company’s own railroad tank cars.
A local rail short line — Amsterdam, Chuctanunda & Northern — was built by the company in 1879 that took tank cars from the plant to the railroad mainline and delivered railroad car loads of linseed to the Church Street factory. Some raw material came on the Barge Canal.
George Kellogg was born in Amsterdam in 1851. He and his wife Susan had two children, a boy and a girl, and lived at the corner of West Main and Pearl Streets. Susan died in 1924, a year before George’s death.
George’s younger brother Lauren died several years later and the family business was purchased by an out-of-town company, Bisbee Linseed Oil. Bisbee closed the Amsterdam mill in 1948.