Tag Archives: Rensselaer County

30,000 Rensselaer County Marriage Records Online


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The Renssealer County Clerk’s office and the Troy Irish Genealogical Society (TIGS) have joined forces to put more than 30,000 early 20th century marriage records online. The Marriage Index Automation took five years to complete. The online records include a 10-volume set of indexes to marriages in Rensselaer County between 1908 and 1935. The records, which cover every person married in Rensselaer County, not just those with Irish surnames, are available online through the TIGS website.

Rennselaer County Clerk Frank J. Merola lauded the efforts of TIGS members in bringing the project to fruition, including former TIGS president Donna Vaughn, current president Kristin Cooney Ayotte, project coordinator Bill McGrath and webmaster and librarian Jeanne Keefe.

“I am very pleased to have been involved in this partnership with TIGS, and I commend them on taking the time and effort to open our historical records to the widest audience possible,” Merola told the Troy Record newspaper.

“We have made tremendous progress in restoring county naturalization records with the help of organizations like TIGS, and I am thrilled about our future projects and the future of genealogy in Rensselaer County,” he was reported to have said.

Troy: Chances to Tour ‘Limited Access’ Sites


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Hidden history will be revealed as the Rensselaer County Historical Society offers unique opportunities to tour limited-access sites around Troy. From a riverfront warehouse painstakingly renovated into an elegant loft apartment to the attic of the 1786 Melville House, the Rensselaer County Historical Society’s Hidden History programs offer the public opportunities to tour historic buildings and sites not normally open to the general public.

Participants may register for individual programs ($12 members/$15 not-yet-members) or for the whole 4-program series ($45 members/$50 not-yet-members). All tours last an hour and meet at the location specified. Call 518-272-7232, x12 to register or register online at http://www.rchsonline.org/registration.html.

HIDDEN HISTORY: 169 River Street Renovation
Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2010; 4:30-5:30 pm

Place: 169 River Street, Troy

169 River Street was once home to the Wustefeld Candy Company. Now, this renovated warehouse building on Troy’s riverfront is a great example of the adaptive re-use of historic structures. Explore this former warehouse building and learn about how it was transformed into a modern loft apartment – with some wonderful traces of its industrial past remaining.

HIDDEN HISTORY: Herman Melville House
Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2010; 4:30-5:30 pm

Place: Corner 1st Ave and 114th Street, Lansingburgh
The 1786 Melville House was home to Herman Melville while he wrote his first two novels and is now home to the Lansingburgh Historical Society. Join us for a tour of this historic building, including its “Attic Museum” which highlights Lansingburgh’s unique contributions to the area economy.

HIDDEN HISTORY: Lighting Research Center/Gurley Building
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 4:30-5:30 pm

Place: 21 Union Street, Troy
This National Historic Landmark building was built in 1862 and opened just 8 months after the original building on the site burned to the ground in the Great Fire of Troy. Rensselaer’s innovative Lighting Research Center occupies floors of the building that were once home to production lines for Gurley’s world famous surveying equipment.

HIDDEN HISTORY: Rensselaer Model Railroad Society
Date: Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 4:30-5:30 pm

Place: Davison Hall, RPI.

Hidden deep within the RPI campus and not normally open to the public, the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society has created a 33 feet wide by 123 feet long historically accurate railroad layout of 1950s Troy. RMRS has generously opened their doors for us to see this unique re-creation. For more information, please visit http://railroad.union.rpi.edu. Please note – the layout is not handicapped accessible and for safety reasons, is only open to ages 12 and up.

Books: The Rescue of Fugitive Slave Charles Nalle


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On April 27, 1860, a few months after John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, a group of blacks and whites, including Harriet Tubman, came together to free fugitive slave Charles Nalle from slave catchers bent on returning him to his owner in Culpepper, Virginia. A new book Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War by Scott Christianson tells the tale of Nalle, a man whose skin was so fair he could have passed for white but didn’t, and relates the of racial inequality, rule of law, civil disobedience and and violent resistance to slavery that circulated in the abolitionist movement during the antebellum period in Troy.

Christianson follows Nalle from his enslavement by the Hansborough family through his escape via the Underground Railroad after fearing that his heavily indebted master planned to sell him. Nalle’s wife and children, emancipated on their master’s death, had already moved to nearby Washington, DC and Nalle had hoped to be reunited with them in Canada.

The Nalle rescue was one of the fiercest anti-slavery riots to take place after Harper’s Ferry and it tested the convictions of the black and white citizens of Troy in challenging the Fugitive Slave Law.

The incident that forms the basis of the book began when Charles Nalle was betrayed to his southern master by Horace Averill (for whom my home village of Averill Park was later named) while trying to seek Averill’s help to write letters in an effort to free his family.

Nalle then moved to Troy and found work with Uri Gilbert, of the Gilbert Car manufacturing Company in West Troy, and began living with the family of William Henry, a black grocer, and also a member of local Vigilance Committee.

Nalle was arrested at a Troy bakery and taken to the District Circuit Court at State and First Streets. Hundreds of people rushed to the court house and Nalle’s jailers took him to a judge’s office in Albany County, with the crowd in hot pursuit.

The crowd stormed the office, and were fired on by police who wounded several people, but Nalle was put in a wagon and escaped to Schenectady County, spending a month on the run. Only Lincoln’s election and the rise of local Republicans kept members of the Vigilance Committee from being convicted.

Local people raised $650 to buy Nalle’s freedom from his master, a man who was also his younger half-brother, and he and his family were reunited three months after his escape. They lived in Troy for another seven years. After the war, the Nalles moved to Washington DC to be closer to relatives and Charles Nalle died there in 1875. He was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Tracing Your Ancestors to the Dutch Settlers


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Theodore P. Wright, Jr., Ph.D., Vice President of the Dutch Settlers Society of Albany and a trustee of the New Netherland Institute, will discuss resources to aid in tracing your ancestors to the Dutch Settlers, specifically in an area under the jurisdiction of the Court of Rensselaerswijck prior to the year 1665 or in Esopus (Kingston, NY) prior to the year 1661. The program will be held in Librarians Room, New York State Library, Cultural Education Center, 7th floor 310 Madison Avenue, Albany 12230 on Thursday, June 17th, 12:15 – 1:15 PM Online registration is available.

The Dutch Settlers Society of Albany was founded in 1924, in connection with the celebration of the tercentenary of the settlement of the City, and was instituted to: perpetuate the memory and virtues of the individuals who resided here during the time it was a Dutch colony; and to collect and preserve records and information concerning the history and settlement of Albany and its vicinity, including genealogical records of the settlers and their descendants without regard to race, creed, or country of origin.

For more information about this program, contact Sheldon Wein or Mary Beth Bobish at NYSLTRN@mail.nysed.gov, or call at 518-474-2274.

Books: Kenneth Salzmann’s Albany Scrapbook


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Over the past few days I’ve been enjoying a lighthearted and wide-ranging romp through Albany history while reading Kenneth Salzmann’s Albany Scrapbook. The book is a montage of sorts of life in Albany, often neatly tying the city’s past with its present. Salzmann wrote the essays collected in this volume while working as a freelancer for the now-defunct weekly magazine Albany, New York. The author debunks a few of legends, such as the story that Fidel Castro was once scouted by the Albany Senators, and delves into four centuries worth of the people and places. Salzmann’s fascination with Albany is evident in his introduction, where he writes:

“Where else, after all, do Henry Hudson, a slave named Pomp, Mario Cuomo, Philip Schuyler, the inventor of basketball (perhaps), Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, a flamboyant nineteenth century detective named Elisha Mack, a geographer named Simeon DeWitt, Charles Dickens, the putative Dauphin of France, Fidel Castro, Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Evers, early stage star Joseph Kline Emmet, a nineteenth century renaissance man named Solomon, both Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth, and a host of other colorful and compelling characters cross paths?”

The book is broken into five sections: “Yesterday’s News,” “Polling Places,” “Public Safety,” “Stage Directions,” “Character Studies,” “Sportin’ Life,” and “Recommended Reading.” Each section contains interesting and well researched details, mostly about Albany, but occasionally straying to Saratoga and Troy, as with a short look at one of my favorite Trojans, John “Old Smoke” Morrissey. All-in-all, an entertaining and engaging read.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

History Groups Among Recipients of Canal Grants


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The New York State Canal Corporation has announced the recipients of the 2010 Canal Corporation Tourism Matching Grant Awards Program and the list includes several public history organizations. A total of $30,000 is being awarded to a total of 16 projects for local and regional initiatives to promote the New York State Canal System and Canalway Trail as a year-round recreational resource and tourism destination. A full list of the 2010 grant recipients is below, but it includes the Niagara County Historical Society, Schenectady Heritage Area, and Historic Palmyra among other groups whose goals include historical tourism.

The grant program was open to designated Tourism Promotion Agencies (TPAs), Chambers of Commerce, Nonprofit organizations and canal communities in New York State for the development of Canal System promotional material consistent with regional themes set forth in the Canal Recreationway Plan and recommendations contained in the state’s “A Report on the Future of New York State Canals”.

The grants provide up to $2,500 for the development of promotional materials that promote the Canal System and/or Canalway Trail, or specific Canal-related events, festivals or attractions.

Special consideration was given this year to applications that involved collaborative partnerships among several TPAs and/or private industry to create multi-county, regional thematic canal destinations and self-guided tours consistent with historical, cultural, urban and environmental assets and attractions contained along or within the Canal System and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Additionally, all awarded projects incorporated Canal Corporation logos and the New York Canal System’s promotional theme: “Cruise the Past, Unlock the Adventure”. Materials will be made available to the public at no charge.

The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles across New York State, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture. For more information regarding events, recreational and vacation opportunities along the Canal System, visit www.nyscanals.gov or call 1-800-4CANAL4.

The New York State Canal Corporation is a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority (Authority). Since 1992, following State legislation transferring the Canal System from the New York State Department of Transportation to the Authority, Canal operating and maintenance activities have been supported by Thruway toll revenue.

2010 CANAL CORPORATION TOURISM MATCHING GRANTS (listed by Canal)

Agency Name – Contact – Grant Award

Canal System-wide

• Canal New York Marketing and Business Alliance, Inc., Victoria Daly, $2,500.00

Erie Canal

• Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition, Inc., Eric Hamilton, $2,500.00

• Schenectady Heritage Area, Maureen Gebert, $2,500.00

• Stockade Association, Lyn Gordon, $800.00

• U.S. Water Ski Show Team, Kara Pangburn, $2,000.00

• Town of Niskayuna, Lori Peretti, $500.00

• Historic Palmyra, Bonnie Hays, $1,050.00

• Fairport Village Partnership, Scott Winner, $2,500.00

• Niagara County Historical Society, Douglas Farley, $1,117.50

• Lockport Main Street, Inc., Heather Peck, $2,400.00

• Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, Joyce Santiago, $2,500.00

Champlain Canal

• Lakes to Locks Passage, Inc., Janet Kennedy, $2,500.00

• Hudson Crossing Park, Inc., Marlene Bissell, $2,500.00

• Rensselaer County, Christine Golden, $1,427.84

Oswego Canal

• Oswego County Dept. of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, Janet Clerkin, $2,500.00

Cayuga Seneca Canal

• Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, Sarah Osterling, $700.00

Rensselaer County Historical to Offer Walking Tours of Troy


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The Rensselaer County Historical Society will offer walking tours of historic downtown Troy on Saturday mornings, leaving from the Market Table at the Troy Farmer’s Market at 10:30 am. “Our walking tours are a fun way to stretch your legs, and learn about the history that surrounds us,” explains Mari Shopsis, Director of Education for the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Each week brings a different theme for the tours, which are led by Historical Society staff and frequently incorporate historic photographs and readings from letters and diaries. The tours last approximately an hour. Cost: $5 for not-yet-members of the Historical Society/members free.

HISTORY WALK: Troy’s Great Fire of 1862
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 10:30 – 11:30 am

One of the most formative events in Troy’s history happened on May 10th, 1862 when within just a few hours a major bridge over the Hudson and more than 500 buildings in the city were destroyed by a huge conflagration known even today as “The Great Fire.” Using excerpts from newspapers and the letters and recollections of people who lived through this event, you will walk back into history as you retrace the progress of this fire and see what impacts this disaster had – not only locally, but nationally.

HISTORY WALK: People, Place & Progress
Saturday, May 15, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

This introduction to Troy history and architecture looks at how the city evolved from its initial founding in 1789 as a village to its 19th century heyday and on into the 20th century. The sites of many important events will be discussed along with some of the people who made the name Troy known around the world.

HISTORY WALK: Underground Railroad Walking Tour
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10:30 – 11:30 am

Troy was a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the 19th century. This walking tour will highlight the sights associated with the African American community in the first half of the 19th century. Included will be sites associated with the famous rescue of escaped slave Charles Nalle by thousands of Trojans and the now famous Harriet Tubman.

FAMILY HISTORY WALK: History Underfoot and Overhead
Saturday, June 5, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

History is everywhere in Troy. Families with kids ages 5 and up will enjoy this interactive walk through Troy’s past. We’ll look at the buildings around us for clues that tell us about the past and get hands-on with history. You’ll come away saying “I never knew that about Troy!”

HISTORY WALK: People, Place & Progress
Saturday, June 12, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

This introduction to Troy history and architecture looks at how the city evolved from its initial founding in 1789 as a village to its 19th century heyday and on into the 20th century. The sites of many important events will be discussed along with some of the people who made the name Troy known around the world.

HISTORY WALK: Spiritual Troy
Saturday, June 19, 2010; 10:30am – 12:00 pm

This special 1.5 hour walking tour looks at the history of Troy through the history of its houses of worship. Early settlers, increasing diversity, changing populations – all these stories are illustrated by the development of Troy’s religious institutions.

HISTORY WALK: Who Worked Where
Saturday, June 26, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

From night soil removers to buttonholers, night watchmen to steamboat captains – the occupations of 19th century Trojans will surprise and intrigue you. For this walking tour we explore the streets of downtown Troy to see who worked where – and why.

The Art of History High School Art Competition


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The public is invited to the opening of the 2010 “Art of History” exhibition and competition awards ceremony at the Rensselaer County Historical Society on Saturday, April 24, 2010 from 3-5pm. Light refreshments will be served.

For the “Art of History” competition, students from Rensselaer County high schools were invited to create original artwork inspired by documents from the Rensselaer County Historical Society collection. The documents focused on early African-American history in Rensselaer County and included an 1824 estate inventory listing enslaved persons as property, a newspaper account of the rescue of fugitive slave Charles Nalle in 1860, and a powerful letter from an African-American man threatened in Troy’s 1863 draft riots.

The exhibition of student work will be on display through June 19, 2010.

The Art of History competition is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and generous support from Alane and Paul Hohenberg and the United Group.

A Fugitive Slave Rescued: Paintings of Charles Nalle


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150 years ago, on April 26, 1860, escaped slave Charles Nalle was kidnapped from a Troy bakery and taken to the District Circuit Court at State and First Streets, in Troy where he was to be sent back to Virginia under the Fugitive Slave Act. Hundreds of people, including Harriet Tubman, rushed to the site where a riot ensued, allowing Nalle to escape across the Hudson to West Troy and ultimately to freedom.

On February 27, 2010 from 5-8 pm, the Rensselaer County Historical Society opens a major new exhibit, A Fugitive Slave Rescued: Paintings of Charles Nalle by Mark Priest, which will kick off an examination of this nationally important event. Artist and University of Louisville professor Mark Priest worked with RCHS staff to research the history of the Nalle rescue. His dramatic narrative paintings and drawings depict the events of April 26, 1860, immersing viewers in the emotions and issues of the day. This exhibit is presented in partnership with the Sage Colleges, which also host part of the exhibit through April 26, 2010.

Mark Priest is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Louisville. He received his MFA in painting from Yale University and has exhibited his work at museums and galleries throughout the United States and internationally. His Underground Railroad series developed from an interest in Harriet Tubman:

“I began my research in 2003 and in May of 2004 I followed the routes on which Tubman took passengers to freedom. Forever etched in my memory are an infinite number of untold stories of individuals who toiled tirelessly to attain freedom. Many events were recounted to me by noted historians, genealogists and descendants while I traveled through, Maryland, Delaware, New York, and Canada; retracing the steps of many who went before me on this route to freedom. The wealth of personal experiences and detailed information I obtained is the foundation of this series or artworks. I strive to create dramatic compositions to portray the intensity of each moment. The life Tubman chose was one of uncertainty. Every moment could have been her last. She carried on undaunted and these are the ideas that I strive to portray in this series. Figures are tugging and heaving, hoisting and dragging. Figures depict the mental, emotional, and physical prowess needed to succeed on the UGRR. Every muscle is strained to the limit. Vibrant color and light are used to lead your eye through the composition.”

Exhibition-Related Events:

Russell Sage College Reception with Mark Priest
Thursday, February 25, 2010, 4-6pm
Schacht Fine Arts Center Gallery
Division & Front Streets, Troy
Free & Open to the Public
(518) 244-2248

High School Student Artist Gallery Talk with Mark Priest

How does Mark Priest get inspired to create his art? What is the life of a professional artist like? High School artists are invited to attend a free workshop and gallery talk with artist Mark Priest and get answers to these questions and more. This workshop is offered as part of the 2010 Art of History Competition, however students need not be preparing work for the competition to participate in the student workshop. Pre-registration is required – call or email Mari Shopsis at 272-7232, x17 / mshopsis@rchsonline.org or register online at http://artofhistory.eventbrite.com/ .

Thursday, February 25, 2010, 5-7 pm
Rensselaer County Historical Society
57 Second Street, Troy
(518) 272-7232, x17

Exhibition Opening & Book Signing
Saturday February 27, 2010; 5-8 pm, remarks at 6 pm
Rensselaer County Historical Society

Join RCHS and the Underground Railroad History Conference attendees for a reception at RCHS celebrating the exhibit of artist Mark Priest’s Charles Nalle paintings and the release of author Scott Christianson’s new book, Freeing Charles, The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War. Freeing Charles is the culmination of 18 years of research into Nalle’s life, escape from slavery, and the operation of the Underground Railroad. In this book, Christianson follows Nalle from his enslavement in Virginia through his escape via the Underground Railroad to his experiences in the North on the eve of the Civil War. Christianson also presents a richly detailed look at slavery culture in antebellum Virginia, and probes the deepest political and psychological aspects of this epic tale. His account underscores fundamental questions about racial inequality, the rule of law, civil disobedience, and violent resistance to slavery in the antebellum North and South. Both Scott Christianson and Mark Priest will speak briefly at 6pm and will be available for discussion and book signing afterwards. Light refreshments served.

Photo: “The Altruist,” Mark Priest, 2008, Acrylic on canvas, 7.5’ x 7.5’ – shows Charles Nalle struggling to break free from a mob at the corner of Second and Congress Streets, Troy. Portions of what is today the Russell Sage campus are visible in the background.

RCHS to Host Monthly Travel and Tourism Book Series


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In a unique collaboration, the New York Council for the Humanities has joined forces with the Rensselaer County Historical Society to offer Reading Between the Lines: Travel and Tourism Narratives of the Empire State, a monthly reading and discussion series that runs from March through June, 2010.

“Reading Between the Lines offers an unusual twist on the standard book group format with focused thematic discussions led by humanities scholars,” says Council Executive Director Sara Ogger. At the Rensselaer County Historical Society, the discussion leader will be Shealeen Meaney, Assistant Professor of English at Russell Sage College.

Meaney will lead four discussion sessions each focused on a book related to the series theme: Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Tales, by Washington Irving; The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862, by Carol Sherrif; The Second Greatest Disappointment: Honeymooning and Tourism at Niagara Falls, by Karen Dubinsky and Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver, by Graham Russell Gao Hodges.

Mari Shopsis, Director of Education at the Rensselaer County Historical Society adds: “The Rensselaer County Historical Society is very pleased to host this Reading Between the Lines program. Groups like this provide an important venue for civic engagement and social interaction, and Professor Meaney’s work on women’s travel writing and the Historical Society’s collection of travel diaries, postcards and letters are an interesting counterpart to the books being discussed.”

Participants in the series read works of non-fiction and works of literature that are discussed within an historical context. The program is free and open to the public, although pre-registration is required. The group will meet on the third Thursday of the month – March 18, April 15, May 20, and June 17 from 7-8:30pm at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second Street, Troy, NY. For more information on the program, visit http://www.rchsonline.org/programs.htm#RBTL or contact Mari Shopsis at 518-272-7232, x 17 or at mshopsis@rchsonline.org.

Reading Between the Lines is designed to promote lively, informed conversation about humanities themes and strengthen the relationship between humanities institutions and the public. Reading Between the Lines series are currently being held in communities across New York State. The project is supported by the We The People initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information about Reading Between the Lines: Travel and Tourism Narratives of the Empire State, visit www.nyhumanities.org/discussion_groups.

State Museum Showing Major Stoneware Exhibit


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“It’s a prime example of American folk art, probably one of the best collections of decorated stoneware in the country,” is how John Scherer, Historian Emeritus of the New York State Museum characterized the Weitsman Stoneware Collection. The over 200-piece collection was donated to the museum by Adam J. Weitsman, one of the leading collectors of 18th and 19th Century stoneware.

Forty unique vessels from the collection titled Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection are currently on exhibit at the Albany museum’s New York Metropolis Gallery. The show was recently extended due to popular demand through the summer of 2010. “We are delighted with this collection. It attracts a lot of visitors to the museum. They are very, very impressed and almost overwhelmed by the quality of the collection,” said Scherer.

The exhibition features decorated stoneware vessels, including jugs, crocks, pitchers, jars and water coolers. The designs are considered premier examples of American folk art. Most were created in New York State and many are “presentation pieces,” oversized and often richly decorated with cobalt blue designs and folk art illustrations. Decoration tools, early pottery related graphics and photography complement the exhibit.

After the exhibition, it will become a permanent part of the New York State Museum. The collection is also the subject of a color, coffee-table format book being published by the museum that will be released this spring. The book is being funded by the generosity of Mr. Weitsman.

“We had a few important pieces of stoneware, but nowhere near the quality that Adam donated. The Weitsman Collection is supreme,” said Scherer.

Adam Weitsman collected his first piece of stoneware in 1980 at age 11 and the experience sparked his passion for the genre. Since then he acquired rare pieces at antique shows, estate sales and auctions. One example was a water cooler decorated with a portrait of a Civil War general and his wife. He purchased it at auction for $88,000 which set a record price for American stoneware at the time.

In 1996, Weitsman donated 100 pieces to the museum to ensure his collection would be preserved. From those and pieces acquired subsequently, 40 were carefully selected for the current exhibition. Most have never been publicly displayed.

Stoneware was vitally important to the development of New York State and its central role in western expansion of the country via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal and its network of feeder canals, and through the Great Lakes to the western river systems. Stoneware was in high demand for storage and preservation for things like drinking water, milk, butter, eggs, beer, ale, whisky, pickles and salted meat. Clay deposits ideal for making stoneware were found in what is now South Amboy, New Jersey, lower Manhattan and eastern Long Island. As a result, New York State became a large stoneware producer.

Potters sprang up along the Hudson River and throughout the New York State canal system making vessels of various shapes and sizes. During kiln firing, salt was applied to vessels that combined with clay silica to create a smooth, lustrous finish. Chocolate brown Albany Slip, named for where the clay was mined, was used to coat the insides of vessels. To identify or decorate the vessel, a painter applied a metallic oxide clay slip that turned a rich blue when fired. Sometimes manganese that turned purplish-brown was used. Simple identification included the makers’ mark and the vessel’s capacity. Elaborate designs and highly creative illustrations such as those found in the Weitsman Collection represent the sublime expression of this folk art period.

Historically significant of examples of stoneware from the Weitsman Collection include:

A Jar made by Paul Cushman of Albany in 1809–Weitsman acquired it from the personal collection of PBS’ Antique Road Show host Leigh Keno.

A Jug created by William Lundy & Co. of Troy, New York in the 1820s that depicts cobalt blue caricature of a merman, a male version of mermaid.

Crocks displaying a prancing zebra and a camel were inspired by the traveling circuses of the era.

A Jug displaying a fisherman with a pole on a lake signed Nathan Clark, Lyons, NY.

A Crock decorated with a Dutch or German-style church with a gambrel roof and round tower and a weather cock, signed W. A. Maquoid, Little West 12th Street, New York City.

A two-gallon crock made by Charles W. Braun of Buffalo around 1870 is decorated with what appears to be a caricature of Buffalo Bill.

A humorous long-necked gooney bird on a six-gallon water cooler made by M. Woodruff of Cortland, New York around 1860. It was acquired from the collection of Donald Shelley, former director of the Henry Ford Museum.

A highly decorated five-gallon water cooler came from the famous George S. McKearin Collection. It was created by Julius and Edward Norton of Bennington, Vermont and shows three types of decoration commonly associated with potters at Bennington, Troy and Fort Edward, New York.

One of the rarest is a six-gallon crock made by Nathan Clark & Co. of Rochester, New York in about 1845. Decorated with the mythical phoenix firebird, it was rendered in such detail that it has a three-dimensional quality.

“I emphasized to Adam how important his collection was and how important it is to New York State. He not only donated it, but also acquires new pieces every year to add to it which is wonderful for us,” Scherer concluded.

While not engaged in collecting stoneware and fine art, Mr. Weitsman is busy with his other passion as President of Upstate Shredding LLC. With numerous locations, Upstate is the largest privately owned metal processing and recycling operation on the East Coast.

Photo: Two-Gallon Jug, (c. 1815) by Israel Seymour (1784-1852) of Troy, New York. The finely incised figure of an American Indian decorates this early ovoid jug. He carries a sword in one hand and a banner with the letter T (for temperance) in the other. Some intricately decorated stoneware pieces commemorate special events and historical figures. The Indian is believed to be Handsome Lake (c. 1734-1815), the Seneca religious prophet who in 1799 began to tell his people to refrain from drinking and doing evil.

Rensselaer County Historical Society Host Valentine Programs


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Celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Rensselaer County Historical Society and Museum (RCHS) for a series of valentines programs.

Tokens of Love; from lockets and hair jewelry to ornate cards people have always found ways to express their love for one another. View some of the unique expressions of love from the collection of RCHS and enjoy a three course lunch at Daisy Baker’s Restaurant.

Love in the Marble House; join us for a romantic candlelight tour of the Hart-Cluett House and learn about the stories behind the numerous weddings held here over the years. Guided tours will include the second floor rooms. All Valentines programs include a sweet treat from Uncle Sam’s Chocolates.

RCHS Valentine’s Day Program details:

Tokens of Love, Lunch & Learn. Thursday, February 11. Program 11am-12pm at RCHS, Lunch 12-1pm at Daisy Bakers.

View some of the unique expressions of love from the RCHS collection then enjoy a three course lunch at Daisy Baker’s Restaurant just a block down the street. RCHS Members $27/person; not-yet-members $30/person, includes program and lunch. Registration required by Feb. 9th.

Candlelight House Tour – Love in the Marble House. Friday, February 12, 6-8pm.

Join us for a romantic candlelight tour of the Hart-Cluett House. See the house in a different light and learn about the stories behind the numerous weddings held here over the years. Staff-led tours will include the second floor rooms. Special Valentine’s Day treat included. $15/person, $25/couple. Registration required by February 11th.

Second Saturday House Tour: Love in the Marble House. Saturday, February 13, 2-3pm. See the house in a different light and learn about the stories behind the numerous weddings held here over the years. Staff-led tours will include the second floor rooms. Special Valentine’s Day treat included. $10/person, $15/couple. Registration required by February 11th.

Pre-registration for RCHS programs is easy, Click on our website, www.rchsonline.org; call 518-272-78232 ext 12; or come in to RCHS at 57 Second Street, Troy, Thursday-Saturday 12-5pm.

Folk Art: New Joseph Hidley Painting Comes to Light?


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A newly discovered piece of folk art appears to be the early work of Rensselaer County artist Joseph H. Hidley. The work, a small graphite drawing signed “Drawn by Joseph Hidley, 1841, age 11,” was purchased at a Massachusetts auction by Halsey Munson, a Decatur, Illinois a dealer in early American furniture, accessories and folk art. Although the authenticity of the piece has not yet been definitely established, it is an early townscape of the Hudson River village of Saugerties, similar in style and composition to Hidley’s other work.

Joseph Hidley’s short career is well represented in regional, state, and national museum collections. If authenticated, “Saugerties” would be the earliest known work of Hidley who painted genre scenes, religious allegories, and land and townscapes while also working as a taxidermist and house, sign, and wagon painter.

The work is remarkably similar to a portion of William Wade and William Croome’s Panorama of the Hudson River from New York To Albany, which was published in 1846. The finding suggests that Hidley may have known William Croome, and copied his work before it was published.

The first step, according to Munson, is authenticating the work. “In all of this, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying the published Hidley works and comparing them with the piece I have,” Munson told me via e-mail. “Even allowing for my understandable desire for this piece to be right, I’ve found enough solid points of similarity to give me quite a bit of confidence that this could easily be by Joseph Hidley.”

The image shows the first lighthouse at the mouth of the Esopus Creek at Saugerties, built in 1838 with funds appropriated from Congress, to guide ships away from nearby shallows and into the Esopus Creek when Saugerties was a major port. The light used five whale oil lamps with parabolic reflectors and was replaced in 1869, by a lighthouse that still stands. The foundation for the original lighthouse can still be seen adjacent to the existing lighthouse.

Photo provided by Halsey Munson.

53rd Annual Greens Show At Rensselaer County Historical


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The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) will present the 53rd Annual Greens Show this December 3rd through the 6th. This year¹s version of the longstanding tradition transforms twelve rooms of the 1827 Federal-style Hart-Cluett House into “A Christmas Celebration of the Hudson¹s Gifts.” Members of the Van Rensselaer Garden Club incorporate fresh trees, greens and flowers to create beautiful history-inspired displays that are truly a feast for the senses. The 2009 Greens Show theme was inspired by this year¹s Quadricentennial celebration and features splendid arrangements that evoke Henry Hudson, the Dutch heritage of our region, and the natural beauty of the Hudson River.

The RCHS Greens Show will also offer a number of new features this year, including a special tour and lunch package, the new exhibit, “Uncle Sam: The Man in Life and Legend,” and the unveiling of the commemorative Hart-Cluett House print recently commissioned by RCHS from George E. Shear of ARCHistration.

The Greens Show is open to the public from Thursday, December 3 ­ Sunday, December 6, 2008, from Noon-5:00 pm daily. Admission to the Greens Show is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and children over five. Admission is free for children under five.

Highlights of the 53rd Annual Greens Show include:

Troy¹s Treasurers, Tour & Lunch, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons.
RCHS and Daisy Baker¹s Restaurant have partnered to offer a Greens Show tour followed by a delicious three-course luncheon for groups of 4 or more ($25/person). Call 272-7232 x17 for more information or reservations.

Holiday Arrangement Demonstration & Sale, Thursday 2-4 pm, Friday ­ Sunday 1-4 pm.
Learn how the Van Rensselaer Garden Club members create their unique holiday arrangements.

Wreath Display and Silent Auction, 12-5 pm daily.
Visit the Carriage House to view and place bids on one of 50 wreaths decorated by Van Rensselaer Garden Club members.

Free Family Night, Thursday, 5-8 pm
Make family memories together during the Greens Show Family Night. The Show will be open until 8:00 pm and admission is free beginning at 5:00 pm. Family night activities include self-guided tours of the Hart-Cluett House, craft activities for kids, and holiday stories under the big tree in the Front Parlor. Photos with Santa will be available in the Toy Room for $10.

Candlelight House Tour, Friday 5:30-8 pm
See the Hart-Cluett House as you¹ve never seen it before! RCHS staff members will lead guided tours of the house on the evening of Friday, December 4th, from 5:30-8 pm. The admission fee for this special tour is $10.00 per person

Lecture by Michael Halloran on Saturday at 2pm entitled Thomas Cole¹s Mythical River: Hudson River School paintings viewed from the bottom of the Poestenkill Falls.

Music and Merriment during the Victorian Stroll , Sunday, 2-4 pm
On Sunday, December 6th during the Victorian Stroll, harpist Lydia Zotto will perform seasonal music in the Front Parlor from 2 to 4 pm. This is the fifth year that this talented young musician has been part of the Greens Show.

Rensselaer County HS’s Uncle Sam Exhibition


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The Rensselaer County Historical Society and Museum (RCHS) will become the new home for Uncle Sam and his story with the opening of its new permanent exhibition Uncle Sam: The Man in Life and Legend on Wednesday, November 11, 5-7 p.m., at 57 Second Street in Troy.

Samuel ‘Uncle Sam’ Wilson (1766-1854) is undoubtedly Troy¹s most famous son. Arriving in Troy in the late 18th century and participating in the community¹s early growth and success, he was also a witness to the expansion of our nation and the development of our national identity.

The Historical Society’s exhibit examines both the real man and the national symbol using objects from the museum¹s collections, including archeological artifacts from the site of one of Sam Wilson¹s houses and historical prints and images of our national symbol. Visitors will be able to see how the story of Uncle Sam evolved and learn how this real person and national icon continue to impact us today.

Fittingly, Uncle Sam opens on Veterans Day, November 11, 2009. The opening is free and open to all. A modern Uncle Sam will make an appearance at the event and RCHS encourages attendees to wear their Uncle Sam inspired attire. The event will also be the official launch of the Rensselaer County Historical Society¹s online Uncle Sam Resource Center.

Photo: WWI Recruiting Poster: ³Uncle Sam Wants You² by Montgomery Flagg. Provided by the RCHS.

Presentation On The Poesten Kill Thursday


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John Warren (yours truly) has written the first history of the Poestenkill ­which flows through the center of Rensselaer County and enters the Hudson River at Troy, will offer a book talk and signing this Thursday (October 22nd, 6:30 to­ 8 pm) at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy (57 Second Street, Troy). The event is free and open to the public. Copies of The Poesten Kill will be available for purchase at the event. The Poestenkill has been home to American Indians who hunted, gathered, fished and farmed along its shores, frontier Dutch farmers and traders, colonial tradesmen, merchants, millers, and lumbermen, and nineteenth century iron, steel, textile, and paper workers.

Shirley Dunn To Speak On Mohicans And Dutch


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Shirley W. Dunn, who has published two books about the Mohicans (The Mohicans and Their Land 1609-1730 and The Mohican World, 1680-1750) and has one in press, will speak on October 22nd at the Smithsonian Institution’s Heye Museum in Manhattan (a branch of the Museum of the American Indian) beginning at 6:00 pm. Her topic will be the Mohicans and the Dutch, and the she will deal with contributions of the Mohican Indians to Dutch settlement and to the Colony of Rensselaerswijck. The talk is free and open to the public.

Rensselaerswijck Seminar Scheduled For Oct 1-3


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The Rensselaerswijck Seminar, this year themed “Kiliaen van Rensselaer’s Colonie: The Beginning of European Settlement of the Upper Hudson,” will be held in the New York State Museum’s Carole Huxley Theatre October 2nd and 3rd. Scholars and historians from this country and the Netherlands will present seminar topics over the two days, giving current information about the origins and history of Rensselaerwijck, a million acres that encompassed what is now Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia counties. Admission to the seminar is $75 for both days, $50 for one day, and $25 for students.

Noted author Russell Shorto will speak on “Oh, Henry: What Has the Hudson Year Wrought?” at the opening reception of the 32nd Annual Rensselaerswijck Seminar, Thursday, Oct. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at the NYS Museum, Albany. Admission to Shorto’s talk is free.

The New Netherland Institute’s conference theme is a return to its roots as a platform for local historians to present their latest research on the only successful patroonship in New Netherland.

The members of the New Netherland Project staff will all take part. Charles T. Gehring, Ph.D., director of the project, Janny Venema, Ph.D., assistant director, and Martha D. Shattuck, Ph.D., editor, will present new information from their research specialty areas.

Shorto will also take part on a panel of authors Friday at 10:30 a.m., with other contributors to the institute’s recent publication, “Explorers, Fortunes & Love Letters: A Window on New Netherland.” Martha D. Shattuck, Ph.D., editor, will be moderator.

More detailed information and registration forms are available at the New Netherland Institute website at www.nnp.org.

Rensselaer County Historical Society Hosts Walking Tours


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The Rensselaer County Historical Society will offer walking tours of historic downtown Troy on Saturday mornings, leaving from the Market Table at the Troy Farmer’s Market at 10:30 am. The topics will vary each week ­and include the Underground Railroad, the history of Troy’s fire and police departments, and more.

The tours are being led by Historical Society staff and frequently incorporate historic photographs and readings from letters and diaries. The tours last approximately an hour. Cost: $5 for not-yet-members of the Historical Society; free for Society members.

HISTORY WALK: People, Place & Progress
Saturday, September 19, 10:30 – 11:30 am
This introduction to Troy history and architecture looks at how the city evolved from its initial founding in 1789 as a village to its 19th century heyday and on into the 20th century. The sites of many important events will be discussed along with some of the people who made the name Troy known around the world.

HISTORY WALK: Jacob Vanderheyden and the Village of Troy
Saturday, September 26, 2009, 10:30 – 11:30 am
Before Troy was Troy, it was known as Vanderheyden, after Jacob Vanderheyden, the Dutch farmer who laid out the streets and alleys of what is now the city of Troy. Explore the one square mile area in the city’s downtown historic district where the early settlement of Troy took place.

HISTORY WALK: “To Protect and Serve”
Saturday, October 3, 2009, 10:30 – 11:30 am
Firehouses, church bells, and night constables – and a dash of murder and mayhem. This walking tour focuses on the colorful history of Troy’s municipal police and fire departments, from their volunteer origins to today’s public servants.

FAMILY HISTORY WALK: History Underfoot and Overhead
Saturday, October 10, 2009, 10:30 – 11:30 am
History is everywhere in Troy. Families with kids ages 5 and up will enjoy this interactive walk through Troy’s past. We’ll look at the buildings around us for clues that tell us about the past and get hands-on with history. You’ll come away saying “I never knew that about Troy!”

HISTORY WALK: Troy’s Amazing Architecture
Saturday, October 17, 2009, 10:30 – 11:30 am
This walking tour uses Troy’s rich 19th and 20th century built environment to explore and learn about a range of styles and types of buildings. You’ll never see it the same way again!

HISTORY WALK: Underground Railroad Walking Tour
Saturday, October 24, 10:30 – 11:30 am
Troy was a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the 19th century. This walking tour will highlight the sights associated with the African American community in the first half of the 19th century. Included will be sites associated with the famous rescue of escaped slave Charles Nalle by thousands of Trojans and the now famous Harriet Tubman.

HISTORY WALK: Murder and Mayhem
Saturday, October 31, 2009, 10:30 – 11:30 am
Who knows what ghosts might haunt the streets of Troy? You will, after taking part in this walk through the more colorful stories of Troy’s past.

NYS Library’s September Noontime Programs


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In September, the New York State Library will offer three noontime author talks and book signings. On Wednesday, September 9th, Mark Jodoin will discuss his book “Shadow Soldiers of the American Revolution: Loyalist Tales from New York to Canada,” which tells the stories of ten young men and women who were forced to flee north, into what became Ontario and Quebec, because they remained loyal to the British government. On Wednesday, September 16, Dr. Margaret Lynch-Brennan will discuss her new book, “The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930,” one of the first books written on Irish servant girls. And on Wednesday, September 23, Michael Esposito, author of “Troy’s Little Italy (Images of America),” will talk about the Italian immigrants who settled in Troy, beginning in the late 1880s, and the community they created there. All programs run from 12:15 to 1:15 and are free and open to the public.

Sept. 9: Shadow Soldiers of the American Revolution: Loyalist Tales from New York to Canada

In 1778, New York State patriots forced colonists loyal to the British government to flee north into what became Ontario and Quebec. Many of the defiant young British Americans soon returned south as soldiers, spies and scouts to fight for their multigenerational farms along the Mohawk River, Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley. Eventually defeated, they were banished from their ancestral homelands forever. Mark Jodoin, author of the book Shadow Soldiers of the American Revolution: Loyalist Tales from New York to Canada offers an enlightened look back at ten young men and women who were forced north into what became Ontario and Quebec, sharing the struggles that these Loyalists faced during our nation’s founding.

Sept. 16: The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930

“Bridget” was the Irish immigrant servant girl who worked in American homes from the second half of the nineteenth century into the early years of the twentieth century. She was widely known as a pop culture cliché: the young Irish girl who wreaked havoc working as a servant in middle-class American homes. Many contemporary Irish-American families can find one or more of these Irish Bridgets in their background. Come hear Dr. Margaret Lynch-Brennan discuss her new book, “The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930.” This is the first book to be written on Irish servant girls. This program will be held in the Huxley Theater on the first floor of the Cultural Education Center.

Sept. 23: Troy’s Little Italy

Italian immigrants began arriving in Troy in large numbers in the late 1880s, escaping the abject poverty of their homeland. They settled among Irish immigrants who had arrived fifty years earlier in Troy’s first and eighth wards just south of the central business district, an area bustling with activity. The neighborhood contained blocks of two and three story brick buildings, a mix of row houses and free standing homes. Within a few years, these Italian immigrants began opening small businesses, particularly on Fourth Street, the neighborhood’s “Main Street,” and it was typical of the mixed residential and commercial communities in many American cities. Michael Esposito will discuss the neighborhood and its people from his new book “Troy’s Little Italy.”