Albert Larson Company

By Boyd A. Larson

For over half a century the firm of Albert Larson and Company was in business on main street in Cooperstown.

To pick up the thread of ancestry of Albert Larson, one must travel back to Telemarken, Norway, where Albert's father, Halvor S. Larson, was born in 1824.  Halvor migrated to the United States in 1847 and first settled in Boone County, Illinois.  In 1856 Halvor married Kari Berg and this family later settled in the Lake Mills, Iowa, area.  Halvor and Kari had six children: 

1.     Soren Larson

2.     Albert Larson

3.     Maria (Larson) Berg

4.     Emma (Larson) Berg

5.     Lewis Larson and

6.     Sara (Larson) Saxerud.

Around 1880 Albert and one of his cousins bought a threshing machine and threshed for several seasons around the Lake Mills area.  About two years later Albert, one brother, two cousins and a friend decided to try Dakota and moved to the Goose River settlement near Mayville where they worked for the railroad, and broke sod and threshed for local established farmers.  Following this Albert filed a claim on some land near Binford where he was again involved with threshing rigs and the buying and selling of horses.

Albert and a cousin, Rollef Berg, entered the machinery business in Cooperstown around 1885.

Dorthea Qualey of Romness Township, Griggs County and Albert Larson were wed in 1889.  Mr. and Mrs. Larson's family was made up of four children: 

1.     Oliver

2.     Mabel

3.     Selmer and Rolf. 

Mrs. Larson was fatally burned in a household accident in 1928.  Oliver died at the age of 24 and Rolf died in infancy.  Mabel, who has spent her life in Christian education work, is a resident of Minneapolis.  Albert died in 1930.

Albert Larson, Andrew Berg, Lewis Berg, Eric Erickson and a Mr. Johnson formed a partnership that was known as Berg Brothers and Company in 1895.  This was really quite a significant business enterprise as it involved a general mercantile establishment, machinery outlets, vast farm holdings and interests in fine-blooded livestock.

It is to be noted that the Andrew Berg mentioned, as a partner with Albert in Berg Brothers and Company is the same Berg whose name is associated with Berg Memorial Gymnasium in Cooperstown.  'Just prior to this, Albert Larson had donated a parcel of land north of the high school for a playground.  This has since been developed as a part of the current Cooperstown High School athletic field.

A picture of the employees of Berg Brothers and Company taken around the turn of the century shows many unidentified men but one can identify Gustav Hanson, Albert Larson, Eric Erickson, Lewis Berg, Andrew Berg, Andrew Hoel and Martin Garlid.

The two Berg gentlemen associated in Berg Brothers were, of course, brothers and were cousins of Albert Larson.  In addition, Albert's sister, Emma, was married to Andrew Berg.

As is sometimes wont to happen with partnerships, especially when relatives are involved, it was deemed wise to dissolve the partner ' ship with each partner getting a portion of the holdings.

As his share, Albert Larson received the general mercantile store in 1905.  This then was the origin of the landmark on Cooperstown's main street, Albert Larson and Company.

Albert Larson and Company was open every business day from 1905 to December 1956 when the death of Albert's son Selmer and the retirement of his partner Gustav Hanson caused the closing of this community institution.

Albert Larson and Company had as its slogan, "The One Price Department Store.€  This has a story behind it.  In early days prices were not marked on the items as they are today but rather a "code" would appear.  The code indicated the wholesale cost of the merchandise to the store.  The clerks could read the code but hopefully the customers could not.  Everyone liked to make deals so the clerk and the customer would haggle over the price.  The code told the clerk how low he could go.  About the time Albert Larson and Company was established this practice was disappearing, and the merchant would take the cost plus a fair markup to cover his overhead and profit, and this became the selling price.  Albert Larson and Company took advantage of this new trend in merchandising in their slogan to advertise the fact that they charged the same price to everyone, no matter who they were.

Several years after assuming ownership of the store, Albert Larson invited two employees, Gustav Hanson and Peter H. Carlson to join him in a partnership.

Self'-service was unheard of, when a clerk waited on a person that's what he really did.  The customer would read his grocery list and the clerk would write it down on his pad and then go to the many shelves, bins and drawers and get each and every item for the customer.

Until the 1940's most people did not call it shopping or marketing but rather "trading" and that is literally what many did.  They would bring in eggs, butter, potatoes, handmade fancy work or whatever they might have that was salable and trade it for groceries they needed.  If the grocery bill was larger than the worth of the goods or produce, then they had to pay the difference in cash "to boot.  If it were less, then they received "chips" that were redeemable only at that given store.  Albert Larson and Company had chips minted in the denominations of $10.00, $5.00, $1.00, 500, 250, 100, and 50.  They used real pennies in this form of barter.  Albert Larson and Company stopped trading in butter in the late teens or early '20s but continued to trade in eggs way into the '40s when the State egg grading laws became so strict it was no longer practical.  They would still accept garden produce and fancy work right up to the time the store closed.

Albert Larson's son, Selmer, married a teacher in the Cooperstown school system, May Boyd, in 1922.  To this marriage three children were born: 

1.     twin daughters Dorthea and

2.     Jeannette who died in infancy

3.     and a son Boyd who is a school administrator at Chaska, Minnesota. 

He married LaVonne Herberg of Crookston, Minnesota and they have one son Eric Rolf born in 1964.  Boyd had the distinction of being Cooperstown's first Eagle Scout.

Selmer and May Larson were members of Trinity Lutheran Church and were active in the life of Cooperstown.

Selmer participated in the Democratic Party, served several terms on the City Council, was an organizer and charter member of the Griggs County Wildlife Association as well as being a long time secretary and life member of the Cooperstown Fire Department.

May Larson served for years as a member of the Cooperstown school board and was president of that elected body.  She was active in the program of Christian education at Trinity Lutheran Church, a charter member of Chapter W. of the P. E. O. , as well as being a member on good standing of the Order Of Eastern Star and Past Matrons Club.  She also had a part in founding the public library in 1944, and served as librarian.

May died in 1953 and Selmer in 1956.

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976 Page 43

 
News & Events