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< Gouverneur Benefactors — Burt Orrin Kinney

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Kinney Drugs’ history goes back over 100 years in Northern New York. The company was founded in 1903 at 29 Main Street, Gouverneur, by the late Burt Orrin Kinney. Mr. Kinney was chairman of the board of directors when he died on July 6, 1966. On September 30, 1903, B.O. Kinney purchased the A.W. Dewey Drug Business. Inventory cost just over $6,000. and average prices ranged from $0.35 to $0.70 each. On his first day of business, he recorded $157.90 in sales.

Burt Kinney graduated from the Gouverneur Wesleyan Seminary. He worked for a short time at a local furniture factory, pulling lathes at the Van Duzee sawmill. As a very young man, he started working for the Dewey and Perrin Drug company, then in the "old Whitney drug store." In those days, work began early in the morning often before 7 am with the mopping of the establishment, the icing of the refrigerators, and the making of the ice cream, and continued until 10 or 12 o'clock at night.​

The most a starting clerk could hope for was $8 a week. An experienced man got $10. Overtime was unknown. It was merely an accepted part of the business that clerks could be called out at night to open the store for drugs to fight emergency illnesses that had a habit of developing after midnight. It should be noted that $8 in 1903 was worth $225 in today's money and $10 was worth about $290, making the yearly salary for the average salesperson to be $11,000 to $15,000, about the same as today.

After Burt had been working at the drug store for several years, he came home with the news that his employer had offered to raise his salary from $10 a week to $12 and to send him to Albany College of Pharmacy. Mentor and boss A. W. Dewey, a druggist encouraged him to attend and paid for his education. He graduated in 1901.


In 1902 Burt Kinney took possession of the drug business owned by A.W. Dewey who retired from the business due to poor health. It was slow going in the new store. His first day's sales totaled $157.90 and the second day $36.04. Operating on a limited amount of borrowed capital, he worked hard to keep from going under. It was Burt Kinney's industry and acumen which built the business. Patrons of the store were sure of a welcome when they entered and a courteous and willing attention to their needs. It was never too much trouble for B. O. to search for exactly the article the customer wanted, taking time to show a personal interest in the customer.


Mr Kinney’s vision brought about acceptance of the Rexall agency for his store in 1904. He was one of the first druggists in the country to adopt the Rexall plan. In 1903, a pharmacist named Louis Liggett and his most trusted colleagues had formulated a plan to address a great consumer need: To have America's first patented medicines conveniently available through neighborhood drugstores.

This marked the beginning of the Rexall® company and broke new ground in the budding franchise industry, providing one of the best entrepreneurial opportunities available at that time.


After an honorable discard from the Army at the close of World War I, Harold D. Kinney joined his father in the business. Kinney’s first expansion occurred in 1928 when their store in downtown Massena was opened. In 1937, the Kinney organization joined Harold Glazier of Adams. New York, to form the Glazier-Kinney store in that community.


B.O. Kinney was a fixture in Gouverneur community. Small children in town knew that if they "went to Mr. Kinney" they would receive the same consideration that adults did. And they might also find a horehound drop or a piece of hard candy slipped into their hands. Many children obtained spending money by collecting bottles and taking them to Kinney's to exchange for a few pennies.


Burt Kinney was also a talented baseball player, playing shortstop on the Gouverneur team. His interest in golf helped bring about the founding of the Gouverneur Country Club. He loved to fish. He had a camp at Trout Lake where the family spent time in the summer.

He recognized the need for a hospital in the community and when the Van Duzee hospital building was given to the village, he worked many hours to set it up. He served on the hospital board of directors for many years. He served as a village trustee, director of the Gouverneur Savings and Loan and was a life member of the Gouverneur Lodge F & AM. He waited on customers up to six weeks before he died in 1966 at the age of 92.


Kathleen (Kittie) Draper (1877-1962) was one of six children. She was educated in Gouverneur schools. Her father was considered a master in the trade of plumbing and his industry has become legendary among the older people in the village. Kittie married Burt Kinney when she was nineteen. First they lived in an apartment over the old Gouverneur Reading Room. They were among the first residents of Sterling Street and lived there for more than 50 years. They had 2 children, Harold and a daughter, Bessie Frances, who died in childhood.


Harold (1897-1979) became the "boy" in the firm in 1912, at the age of fifteen. He worked part-time until he graduated from Gouverneur High School in 1914. He then attended Cornell University and received a degree in chemistry. In 1918 he joined the Army.

Harold became associated with Kinney Drugs in 1919. Unsure of what he wanted to do, he worked in the store while trying to decide and finally stayed because he loved merchandising. He served as executive vice president and treasurer for 32 years. He was named president in 1960 and became chairman of the board in 1966, retiring in 1977.


He married Mary Kaley in 1924. They lived at 6 Sterling Street from 1928 to 1962 when they moved to a new home on Rock island St.


They had a daughter, Susan. Aware of tentative plans for an addition to the EJ Noble hospital of an extended care facility they made a sizable donation. They participated in the plans for the nursing home which opened in 1971 and is named the Harold and Mary Kinney Nursing Home. They also contributed to the hospital. In 1972 St. Lawrence University recognized Mr. Kinney as a distinguished person.

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