Tag Archives: Troy

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rensselaer County Historical Society May Close


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The Rensselaer County Historical Society has announced that they may be forced to close due to economic hardship. I will reprint here the message they sent:

We Need Your Help!
Keep the lights on and history alive!

To our members and friends,

As you may have read in [yesterday’s] Times Union, RCHS is currently experiencing severe financial difficulty. The organization been running annual deficits for several years, and despite special efforts, the situation has now become critical. In a matter of weeks RCHS will no longer have funds available to meet its basic operating needs. What may have seemed – even ten years ago – a reasonable endowment with sustainable cash reserves has now dwindled to the point where we are no longer able to pay our bills. Without an immediate and substantial infusion of funds (upwards of $150,000), it appears that we will be required to close our doors while we work to implement a prudent fiscal strategy.

If we must close,

· our loyal and hardworking staff will be furloughed. Together these professionals have over 74 years of service to our community.

· exciting new educational initiatives, popular public programs, and long-planned exhibits would cease or be cancelled. The loss to our community – both economically and psychologically – would be incalculable. RCHS collections hold over 60,000 items of decorative arts, furniture, paintings, and sculpture. None of these items would remain available to the public. More importantly, an even greater number of documents relating to our past would be completely inaccessible. The utility bills alone for maintaining these collections are almost $6,000 a month.

· RCHS efforts as a major catalyst in highly visible efforts to use the historic fabric of our county to stimulate economic development will be curtailed. We hope to be able to continue serving – in fact inspiring – our community through these efforts.

We are beginning a public campaign to “keep the lights on and history alive!” As in the past, we are grateful for your active interest and suggestions regarding strategies to ensure RCHS’s survival. We also urgently need your personal assistance in providing immediate financial support during this financial crisis.

Our plan is to take the next three to four months to develop – in partnership with our supporters – a new business plan for RCHS, designed to ensure its long-term sustainability. We are fortunate to have Rachel Tooker, a very experienced and energizing Transitional Executive leading this effort. The dedicated members of the RCHS board are prepared to join Rachel to discuss our finances and future plans in detail. Please give us a call if you have questions or suggestions for us.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do to help RCHS:

Help us to spread the word about RCHS and its positive impact on the community.

Distribute RCHS membership and program brochures to your clubs and community organizations.

Hold a brunch or get-together and make a group donation to RCHS.

Give an RCHS membership as a birthday present or gift to a new neighbor.

Volunteer to help with an RCHS program or project.

Send us your ideas for making RCHS sustainable and an even more valuable part of the community.