Following his election as President in 1860, Abraham Lincoln undertook a train ride to Washington that would take him through Albany. He arrived here on February 18, 1861 with his wife and three sons. As their train passed the West Albany railroad shops, an electrical switch was turned off at the nearby Dudley Observatory, causing an electromagnet mounted on the roof of the Capitol in downtown Albany to release a metal ball that slid down a pole, signaling to military officials to start a 21-gun salute in Capitol Park. Continue reading
On a cold and snowy 21st of December in 1808, about two in the afternoon, there alighted at the door of the old tavern in Green Street, Albany, then kept by Whitmore, a dark complexioned but elegant stranger, evidently of southern origin. He stepped to the hall of that ancient house of entertainment, and while shaking from a richly furred mantle, the snow which had profusely fallen that day; he desired the ostler to dismantle his remarkably elegant horse of its riding caparisons and to convey the horse to the warmest stall the stables afforded; when himself hastened to the ample bar-room of that well ordered establishment.
Once inside, the stranger asked the keeper of the inn, whether it was agreeable to entertain him a few days. On further acquaintance, the genteel stranger proved a gentleman of the first order, prepossessing in his manners, agreeable and diffuse in conversation, as he was extremely well informed in the lore of literature, as well of any and all parts of the globe, the governments of the different nations, the workings of universal politics and the balance of power between the different nations of Christendom. Continue reading
An 1881 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine contained an article entitled “A Glimpse of an Old Dutch Town.” The Old Dutch Town was Albany. Albany was already 200 years old.
The article mentioned the principal Albany holidays of Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and Pinksterfeest (now known as Pinksterfest). Continue reading
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, there were a growing number of adventurers anxious to explore the sea, find new lands, chart new islands, and if they made their fortune while doing it, all the better. There were also those just trying to get away from home and signing on to a whaling boat seemed the adventure of a lifetime. Continue reading
In the year 1800, Albany was peaceful and prosperous. The Revolutionary War was over and the conflicts leading to the War of 1812 had not yet surfaced. The Dutch of Albany did what they did best, manufactured products and conducted trade. Van Rensselaers, Schuylers, Lansings, Yates, Livingstons, Gansevoorts, Bleeckers and Ten Broecks were still around and still dominated Albany.
On the northwest corner of State (previously Jonkers Street) and Pearl Streets, the center of Albany at the time, stood the giant elm tree planted in front of the home of Philip Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Livingston had planted the elm around 1750 and this corner was known as the Elm Tree Corner for the next 150 years. Continue reading
Abraham Van Santvoord, a descendent of one of the earliest Dutch settlers in Albany, was born in Schenectady on December 18, 1784. At the age of 14, he worked with his granduncle John Post who owned a shipping business in Utica. Since, at the time, there were few roadways, and the ones they had were snow covered in the winter and mud bogs in the spring, most shipping was done by water.
Van Santvoord successfully ran a shipping business on the Mohawk River. During the War of 1812, he contracted with agents of General Stephen Van Rensselaer of Albany to store and ship provisions westward on the Mohawk to support Van Rensselaer’s troops planning to invade Canada. Continue reading
Tjerck Claeszen DeWitt, the son of Nicholas DeWitt, immigrated to New Amsterdam (New York City) from Grootholt in Zunterlant in 1656.
Grootholt means Great Wood and Zunterland was probably located on the southern border of East Friesland, a German territory on the North Sea only ten miles from the most northerly province of the Netherlands. Continue reading
In 1798, Robert R. Livingston, Jr. (1746-1813) requested and obtained a monopoly from the New York State Legislature granting him the exclusive right to operate passenger steamboats on the Hudson River.
The Livingston family was very wealthy and owned the large estate, Clermont, just south of Albany. They ran an iron foundry and machine shop for many years where they had installed a steam engine to power the equipment. Continue reading
During the four years of the Civil War, New York would send 474,000 men, 1/8 of New York’s entire population, to comprise 1/5 of the Union Army. Ten regiments and one artillery battery would be raised in Albany County and Albany troops would play major roles and take casualties at almost every major battle of the Civil War. Continue reading
As had happened during the French and Indian War and later the Revolutionary War, from the first days of the Civil War Albany was converted into a military camp. Lincoln’s original request for troops designated Albany, New York City and Elmira as military marshaling points. Troops from the entire northeast, including upstate New York as far west as Buffalo, east to Vermont, New Hampshire and western Massachusetts reported to Albany. Continue reading