Tag Archives: Rensselaer County

New-York Historical Aquires Lansing Papers

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At an auction held in May at Sotheby’s the Chairman of the New-York Historical Society, Roger Hertog, purchased the Constitutional Convention notebooks of John Lansing, Jr., a New York delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention. Mr. Hertog has announced that he will donate the exceptionally rare documents to the Library of the Historical Society.

The New-York Historical Society plans to digitize the Lansing papers in their original format to share with scholars everywhere. The documents will also be displayed in an exhibit when the Historical Society’s galleries re-open in November 2011.

“With this magnificent gift, Roger Hertog has secured the New-York Historical Society’s place of privilege as one of the most important repositories in the world for scholarship and teaching around constitutional history,” said Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the Historical Society. “Together with the notes on the Convention written by South Carolinian Pierce Butler—part of the Gilder Lehrman Collection on deposit at the Historical Society—and other extraordinary original resources of both Gilder Lehrman and Historical Society collections, Lansing’s Constitutional Convention Notebooks establish our institution as a principal site for understanding that the Constitution was a product of compromise, negotiation and brilliant thinking, an accomplishment nearly without parallel in modern history.”

“If you love American history, ask yourself how often (if ever) you get the chance to see a first-hand account of one of the most important events in that history,” Roger Hertog stated. “John Lansing’s notebooks from the Constitutional Convention are a rare such account: an eye-witness report of what went into the creation of the U.S. Constitution.”

John Lansing, Jr. (1754-1829) was born in Albany, took up the legal profession and served as a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention. His detailed notes of the Convention join those of Rufus King, which are already in the Historical Society’s collection, and enrich our knowledge of the debates and compromises that helped forge the foundational document of the United States. Lansing was also a major figure in the New York State ratification convention in 1788 in Poughkeepsie, where his insistence that the new Constitution be enlarged by a Bill of Rights helped to secure the protections that citizens enjoy today.

The delegates’ vow of secrecy, which banned the taking of notes for publication, limited the amount of material created documenting the Convention proceedings. Although notes by a number of other delegates, including James Madison, survive, Lansing’s are among the purest and most detailed, providing a unique and unedited first-hand account of the period of Lansing’s attendance at the Convention.

“Reading through the Lansing notebooks is a thrilling experience,” Jean Ashton, Executive Vice President of the New-York Historical Society and Director of the Library Division said in a prepared statement. “Lansing recorded speeches and discussions, assigning names and identifying positions, as the delegates participated in the give-and-take of debate. Lansing became distressed that the meeting was seeking to establish an entirely new government rather than simply amending the Articles of Confederation, as charged. Lansing and his fellow New Yorker Richard Yates left the Convention early, but not before he had participated actively and created this illuminating and highly significant record.”

Illustration: Engraving of John Lansing (1754–1829) from the New-York Historical Society Library, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, Gift of Albert Rosenthal.

New Troy Genealogy Database Goes Online

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The Troy New York Daily Whig for the years 1834 to 1838 is the sixth set of newspapers recently added to the Troy Irish Genealogy Website. There are 821 reported deaths and 1,749 names on the reported marriages during this period. These records will be of great interest to genealogy researchers since the information in this data base predates the 1880 New York State law requiring the reporting of death and marriage records.

You can view these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website (click on PROJECTS then THE TROY NEWSPAPER PROJECT). These records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

While 492 of the marriage records showed no indication of residence, those records where the residence was reported are of interest as they show numerous cities and towns throughout New York State as well as other states and even foreign countries.

At the time of the 1840 census, Troy was the fourth wealthiest city in the USA on a per capita basis. This may account for the numerous individuals from across the United States coming to Troy to be married.

Two other transcription projects are currently being completed by the Troy Irish Genealogy Society. Over 28,000 death and marriage records reported in 40 years of the Troy Daily Whig for the years 1839 to 1878 will be added to the TIGS website in the next few months along with over 4,000 records of interment in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Troy.

Upcoming Lectures at Albany Institute

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The following is a listing of upcoming lectures appearing at the Albany Institute of History & Art. Call (518) 463-4478 or visit www.albanyinstitute.org for more information.

Friday, May 6, 2011, 6:00 pm
Dahl Taylor and William Westwood: Graphic Design Presentation

As part of 1st Friday activities, the Albany Institute will host free presentations on graphic design by two of the Capital Region’s leading designers, Dahl Taylor and William Westwood. In a career spanning more than 25 years, Taylor has created paintings for illustration projects ranging from Broadway play posters to corporate annual reports. He has painted canvases for commemorative limited-edition prints for national memorials and has a 36-foot mural installed in the library of a state university. A board-certified, professional medical artist, William Westwood has more than 25 years of experience creating award-winning medical illustrations (digitally and traditionally), models, anatomical posters, animations, and presentations—all designed to teach anatomy, depict surgeries, educate patients, inform physicians, and promote new drugs and medical products for clients in almost every market in the healthcare industry. The presentations begin at 6:00 pm are free and open to the public.

Sunday, May 8, 2011, 2:00 pm
Ellen Lupton: How to Do Things with Typography: Introduction to an Art

Ellen Lupton, Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and Director of the MFA Graphic Design Program at the Maryland Institute College of Art, will explore examples of contemporary typography and discuss how artists, writers, and designers employ typography as a tool for expression, communication, and action. Lupton is the author of Thinking with Type, 2nd Revised and Expanded Edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010) and many other guides to design. The lecture and book signing is free and open to the public.

Sunday, May 22, 2011, 2:00 pm
Paul Shaw: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

Paul Shaw, an award-winning graphic designer, typographer, and calligrapher in New York City, teaches at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts. Shaw will speak and sign copies of his newest book, Helvetica and the New York Subway System (MIT Press, 2011). For years, the signs in the New York City subway system were a bewildering hodgepodge of lettering styles, sizes, shapes, materials, colors, and messages. Efforts to untangle this visual mess began in the mid-1960s, when the city transit authority hired the design firm Unimark International to create a clear and consistent sign system. We can see the results today in the white-on-black signs throughout the subway system, displaying station names, directions, and instructions in crisp Helvetica. The lecture and book signing is free and open to the public.

Sunday, June 5, 2011, 2:00 pm
Jeanne Winston Adler: The Affair of the Veiled Murderess

Set in 1853 Troy, New York, Jeanne Winston Adler’s latest book, The Affair of the Veiled Murderess: An Antebellum Scandal and Mystery (SUNY Press, 2011), draws on newspapers, court documents, and other historical records in an attempt to uncover the truth behind an unsolved murder. In the process, she addresses a number of topics important to our understanding of 19-century life in New York State, including the changing roles of women, the marginal position of the Irish, and the contentious political firmament of the time. The lecture and book signing is free and open to the public.

For more information about these lectures and other events, call (518) 463-4478 or visit www.albanyinstitute.org.

Books: A History of the High Peaks and The 46ers

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A remarkable book of Adirondack history has been published. Heaven Up-h’isted-ness! The History of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks is a collection of well researched essays on the highest Adirondack peaks, written by 18 members of the storied Adirondack 46ers, along with a short history of the club.

Part meticulously footnoted history of the mountains, trails, and the club itself, and part trail guide, this new volume is a landmark in Adirondack history. Heaven Up-h’isted-ness! is a long-awaited update of Russell Carson’s Peaks and Peoples of the Adirondacks, first published in 1927.

The book is a bit of an homage to the popularity of Carson’s earlier work and the three subsequent 46er volumes that followed, as much as it is to the 46er legends who grace it’s pages. Jim Goodwin’s son Tony Goodwin offers an Introduction that provides insight into why this book is so important. With a hat tip to Carson, who was instrumental in spreading the 46er gospel and “who research gave life to the peaks we all climb”, Goodwin points out that new research opportunities and the rich history since the 1920s “has allowed authors to provide the reader with the most comprehensive histories of the peaks ever written.” I agree.

In a series of in-depth profiles of each of the 46 High Peaks, each author draws on a range of sources from reports, journals, and diaries of the explorers, scientists, philosophers, writers, and other anecdotes describe the geology, history, flora, and fauna. The book is illustrated with a remarkable collection of over 150 photos and illustrations.

It’s not all high peaks. In a substantial first section Suzanne Lance surveys the history of the Adirondack 46ers beginning in 1918 with Bob and George Marshall and their guide Herb Clark, who was recognized with the first spot in 1939 when “the list” was created. The full roster of 46ers now includes more than 7,000.

The strength of this section is in illuminating the contributions of folks like Ed Hudowalski (#6), Grace Hudowalski (#9), and the Troy minister Ernest Ryder (#7), but also the recognition and response of the club to the impacts of the many Adirondack peak-baggers they helped inspire.

By the 1970s, as visitors began to flood into the High Peaks, Glenn Fish (#536) and Edwin “Ketch” Ketchledge (#507) helped shepherd the club away from its strictly social approach toward a stewardship role. Summit ecology and alpine environments, wilderness conservation education, trail maintenance and management, and search and rescue have all benefited from the subsequent efforts of dedicated Adirondack 46ers.

Copies of Heaven Up-h’isted-ness! are available online.

Until you get your copy, you’ll have to settle with this short excerpt on the formation of the Forty-Sixers of Troy:

During the early 1930s Bob Marshall’s booklet, “The High Peaks of the Adirondacks,” and Russell Carson’s Peaks and People of the Adirondacks captured the attention of a small group of outdoor enthusiasts from Grace Methodist Church in Troy, in particular the church’s pastor, the Rev. Ernest Ryder (#7), and two parishioners, Grace Hudowalski (#9) and Edward Hudowalski (#6)…. Ed and the Rev. Ryder had not, originally, intended to climb all 46. According to Ed, their goal was 25 peaks, but when they hit 27 “by accident,” they decided to climb 30. After reaching 30 they decided to climb all of them. The two finished arm-in-arm on Dix in the pouring rain on September 13, 1936. They shared a prayer of praise and thanks for their accomplishment.

Less than six months after the Rev. Ryder and Ed finished their 46, the duo organized a club, comprised mainly of Ed Hudowalski’s Sunday School class, known as the Forty-Sixers of Troy. It was Ryder who coined the name “Forty-Sixer.” The term first appeared in print in an article in the Troy Record newspaper in 1937 announcing the formation of the hiking club: “Troy has its first mountain climbing club, all officers of which have climbed more than thirty of the major peaks in the Adirondacks. The club recently organized will be known as the Forty-sixers…

New Troy Newspaper Project Database

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The Troy Newspaper Project has made considerable additions to their database that includes a multi-volume Index of Death and Marriage Records, transcribed from various Troy, NY newspapers.

The Troy New York Daily Post for the years 1846 to 1851 is the FIFTH set of newspapers recently added to the Troy Irish Genealogy Website. There are 2,343 reported deaths and 2,143 names on the reported marriages during this period. These records will be of great interest to genealogy researchers since the information in this data base predates the 1880 New York State law requiring the reporting of death and marriage records.

You can view these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website and clicking on PROJECTS and then click on THE TROY NEWSPAPER PROJECT. These records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

One of the interesting deaths reported is the one for John Jacob Astor. Johann Jacob Astor was born July 17, 1763 in Walldorf, Palatinate, Germany and died March 29, 1848 in New York City. At the time of his death he was one of the wealthiest people in America with a fortune of 20 million dollars which is equivalent to 110 billion dollars in 2006 dollars. He is buried in Trinity Churchyard in New York City.

While 1,339 of the marriage records showed no indication of residence, those records where the residence was reported are of interest as they show numerous cities and towns throughout New York State as well as other states and even foreign countries. Some specifics are:

Most of the records were for the Capital District Area. Areas with the greatest number were Albany-51 records, Troy-888 records, Lansingburgh-29 records, Watervliet-12 records, Waterford-17 records, Schaghticoke-15 records, Sand Lake-40 records, Pittstown-20 records, Greenbush-15 records, Brunswick-41 records, Cohoes-9 records, West Troy-53 records, Berlin-16
records, Grafton-15 records, Hoosick-23 records, Schenectady-7 records, and Petersburgh-12 records.

There were a sizable number of records from the neighboring states of Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut. Connecticut has 14 records, Massachusetts had 58 records including 11 from Boston and Vermont had 59 records including 32 from Bennington.

For the New York City area, there were 5 records for Brooklyn and 43 records for New York City.

Residence was also indicated from the following states and Washington, DC: Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Missouri, Michigan, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Of interest is the number of records for the state of Wisconsin which had 13 records. Six of the records were from the Wisconsin Territory which was prior to Wisconsin becoming a state on May 29, 1848.

Foreign countries listed as the place of residence were Ireland, Scotland and Canada.

Two other transcription projects that are currently being worked on by the Troy Irish Genealogy Society. One of the projects is another Troy Newspaper, the Troy Daily Whig, covering the years 1834 through 1878. While the data entry has already been completed on these 44 years of newspapers, the files have to be analyzed and combined before they are posted to the website.

The other project being worked on is Book 1 of the interment records for St. Mary’s Cemetery in Troy, NY. Data entry of these interments, covering the years 1900 to 1910, is almost complete.

Troy Underground Railroad Conference This Weekend

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The annual Capital District Underground Railroad Conference will be held this weekend in Troy, NY on April 8, 9 and 10th at the Russell Sage Campus in celebration of the conference’s tenth year presenting workshops, music, and stories about the historic struggle to escape slavery.

In the words of the conference founders, Mary Liz and Paul Stewart, the conference activities are, “a fresh interpretation of an Old Story. “ This is the story of the heroic men, women and children who escaped from slavery and who traveled to new, free, lives along the Underground Railroad.

The international conference is titled, “Abolishing Slavery in the Atlantic World: the ‘Underground Railroad’ in the Americas, Africa and Europe, and its relationship with us today.” Several hundred attendees are expected at workshops, art exhibits, and musical events. The conference is organized by the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc., (URHPCR) co-sponsored by Russell Sage College and the College’s Department of History and Society. Several non-profit groups are collaborating: Rensselaer County Historical Society, Museumwise, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

On Friday April 8th, 2011 the Opening Address will be given by Dr. Robin Blackburn at 7:00 pm, Bush Memorial, Russell Sage College, Troy, NY, “The International Struggle to End Slavery and the Slave Trade and Its Ramifications Today.” Dr. Blackburn, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex in England and Visiting Professor of Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research in New York, will describe the international slave trade which fueled the American Colonial economy and he will explore the ramifications for today of the struggle to end slavery. Performing are Kim and Reggie Harris.

Blackburn has taught in England at King’s College, Cambridge University, FLACSO (Latin American Social Science Faculty); in Ecuador, and at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. He has studied and taught at the London School of Economics and Oxford University. He is the author of many books and scholarly articles on historical sociology and critical social theory. Two of his most important books are The Making of New World Slavery: from the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800, and The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848. In recent years he has written several influential articles on slavery and resistance. He is the founding editor of The New Left Review and an editor at Verso Books. Blackburn’s Opening Address at the conference will bring a high level of scholarship and an international perspective to discussions about the historical struggle for freedom from slavery in the United States.

The Underground Railroad Conference in Troy is a venue for African American art exhibits, storytelling, history workshops, and programs for educators and people of all ages. A Workshop for Educators on Friday April 8th is followed on Saturday April 9th with speakers, workshops, a raffle, art exhibit, reception and evening award ceremony. Keynote speakers on Saturday are Dr. Franklin Knight, Stulman Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, speaking about slave societies. His talk opens the conference at 9:00 am and is titled, “Of Slavery and Abolitions: Perspectives from the World of Slaves.” After the morning workshops at 1:00 pm Tony Burroughs, internationally known lecturer on genealogy, a guest speaker on many television talk shows, will participate in a panel discussion called, “Heritage Preservation Through Genealogical Research, Song and Storytelling.” Joining him on the panel are singer, MaryNell Morgan and storyteller, Miki Conn. Saturday afternoon workshops conclude at 5:00 pm followed by an evening reception and art exhibit held at the Rensselaer County Historical Society located at 57 Second Street, Troy, NY.

The conference continues on Sunday April 10th at 2:00 pm in Russell Sage College’s Bush Memorial Hall with programs devoted to music and performance. There will be performances by the Hamilton Hill Dancers, Garland Nelson, MaryNell Morgan, Eshu Bumpus, Magpie, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Graham and Barbara Dean, the musical group Peter, Paul and George, the Hamilton Hill Dancers, and the Hamilton Hill Drummers.

The conference is possible thanks to leadership from co-founders Mary Liz and Paul Stewart, the contribution of volunteers with the URHPCR, Inc., and conference donors and supporters: M & T Bank, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Russell Sage College, Kate Storms, The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region’s Standish Family Fund, The Alice Moore Foundation, Museumwise, the Arts Center of the Capital Region, New York Council for the Humanities, Pioneer Bank and Troy Savings Bank Charitable Foundation.

Find conference information and register online at www.ugrworkshop.com. Contact Paul Stewart at (518) 432-4432.

Rensselaer County Surrogate Records Index Goes Online

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An index of 31,325 Rensselaer County Surrogate Court Records from 1786 to 1917 has now been added to the Troy Irish Genealogy (TIGS) website. These records, especially those prior to 1880 will be of great interest to genealogy researchers. The information in this data base was copied from a file in the Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second Street, Troy, New York.

To view these records go to the Troy Irish Genealogy website and click on PROJECTS and then click on RENSSELAER COUNTY SURROGATE COURT INDEX. These records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

For each name in the on-line index there is a Surrogate Court Record folder that may contain various original source documents such as Wills, Letters of Administration, Guardianship Papers, Invoice of Property, Depositions Concerning a Person’s Death, etc. The on-line index shows the following information for each record which may help you identify those records that will be of interest to you:

1. NAME – Last, first, middle name or initials if any, and titles like Dr., Rev., etc.

2. FILE NUMBER – Used to locate the files at the Rensselaer County Historical Society.

3. LOCATION – Gives name of city, town or state of residence.

4. DATE – May be year of death or year of legal issue.

5. INV. – Indicates when there is an inventory of household goods in the record. An invoice may be in the records EVEN if this column is not checked.

6. COMMENTS – This column will have an interesting comment for each name. Some comments may show marital status (bachelor, spinster, widow, widower), while other comments may show maiden names, occupations, name of street residence, relationships (wife, husband, mother, father, son daughter, etc.) and number of children.

Copies of any original source documents that are contained in the file folder for each name can be requested from the Rensselaer County Historical Society. The TIGS website has a PRINTABLE FORM that can be used when requesting copies from RCHS. For each request there is a $5.00 fee which will cover RCHS’s cost of locating and pulling a singular file folder from the archives. After the file folder is located, RCHS will contact the requester about the contents of the file to see which documents they want copied at a cost of .25 cents per page plus postage for mailing.

Troy’s Little Italy Midwife Records Online

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Troy area researchers will be interested in the almost 200 midwife records covering 600 surnames that have just been added to the Troy Irish Genealogy Website. These records mostly are for infants born to Italian immigrants who lived in the little Italy section of South Troy. A number of the records, however, are for Syrian immigrants. The records, which range from 1909 to 1923, were completed by the midwife Alesandra Matera, a nurse who lived at 250 Fourth Street in Troy.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York provided the Troy Irish Genealogy Society access to their copies of these records to develop this on-line database.

You can view these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website at www.rootsweb.com/~nytigs/ and click on PROJECTS and then click on MATERA MIDWIFE RECORDS. There are three separate files for the records covering the child’s name, the father’s name and the mother’s name. Clicking on the alphabetical listing of names on the left side of the page will bring up the individual record for that name.

Illustration: 1880 Map of Troy’s Little Italy Neighborhood.

Troy Newspaper Transcriptions Now Online

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In 1935, the Philip Schuyler Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), located in Troy, New York, documented the death and marriage records that were printed in various Troy newspapers during the years 1812 to 1885. This project, which was funded by the Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA), was the largest New Deal agency employing millions to carry out public works projects.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York provided the Troy Irish Genealogy Society (TIGS) access to their copies of these extensive records to develop this searchable online database. These records will be of great interest to genealogy researchers since much of the information in this collection predates the 1880 New York State law requiring the reporting of death and marriage records.

Newspaper records transcribed so far include the Troy Post (1812-1823), the Troy Weekly Whig (1834-1839), the Troy Daily Press (1833-1834), and the Troy Sentinel (1823-1832). Volunteers are currently transcribing the Troy Daily Whig covering the years 1834 to 1873. To volunteer on this project send an email to seamus@nycap.rr.com.

You can view all these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website. Click on PROJECTS and then TROY NEWSPAPER PROJECT. It should be noted that these records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

Past at Play at Rensselaer County Historical Society

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Kids are invited to bring their favorite adults to Troy’s historic Hart-Cluett House tomorrow Saturday, August 7th from 10 – 11:30am for a kid-friendly tour of the House, followed by lemonade, cookies, and historic games in the courtyard. Learn about the lives of many children who grew up in this house and get to know some of the games they played. Recommended for ages 5 and up.

The cost for RCHS Members is $10 for kid + adult, $5 each additional person; Not-yet-members $12/kid + adult & $7 for additional guests. Pre-registration required – call 518-272-7232, x12 to register or register online at http://www.rchsonline.org/registration.html.

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.


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.