Tag Archives: Union College

The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman


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The Last Amatuer - Life of William StillmanIn a new biography being released in October by SUNY Press, The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman, author Stephen L. Dyson tells the story of William J. Stillman (1828–1901), a nineteenth-century polymath. Born and raised in Schenectady, NY, Stillman attended Union College and began his career as a Hudson River School painter after an apprenticeship with Frederic Edwin Church.

In the 1850s, he was editor of The Crayon, the most important journal of art criticism in antebellum America. Later, after a stint as an explorer-promoter of the Adirondacks, he became the American consul in Rome during the Civil War. When his diplomatic career brought him to Crete, he developed an interest in archaeology and later produced photographs of the Acropolis, for which he is best known today. Continue reading

Lecture Series: ‘Who Were the Adirondackers?’


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Entering Adirondack Park“Who Were the Adirondackers?” a five-part “lunch and learn” series exploring the social history of the Adirondacks with Hallie Bond, will be held at Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center in Schenectady, beginning Monday, Jan. 13.

Bond was a staff member of the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake for 30 years. Her writing on regional history and material culture has appeared in a number of scholarly journals, magazines and books. She lives in Long Lake with her husband, author and boat builder Mason Smith. Continue reading

William Henry Burr: Gloversville’s ‘Great Literary Detective’


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DSC_0147Many people probably remember that at the end of the 19th century the city of Gloversville, in Fulton County, was recognized as the glove-making capital of the world. However, one of Gloversville’s famous sons, William Henry Burr, has been all but forgotten.

Referred to as “the great literary detective” by one of the 19th century’s foremost orators and political speechmakers, Robert G. Ingersoll, Burr was born in Gloversville on April 15, 1819. His father, James Burr, was one of the founders of the glove industry in the community, once known as Stump City. Continue reading

Lecture: 19th-Cent African-Americans in Schenectady


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At a lecture this Saturday in Schenectady, Marsha Mortimore will highlight the relationship of Union College with the African-American community and discuss some early notable African-American residents, including abolitionist Richard P.G. Wright; Theodore Sedgwick Wright, the first African-American to graduate from an American Theological seminary; and Bartlett Jackson, the first African-American hired by the Schenectady Police Department.

Mortimore has been active in a wide range of organizations that help her community and tell the stories of African-Americans’ impact on the community, including the YWCA of Schenectady and the League of Women Voters.

She is a founder/organizer of Women of Color for Change, is the current vice-president of the Schenectady Silhouettes, and was instrumental in establishing the monthly Dr. Jesse T. Henderson Black History Series in September 2010 due to her love of history and sharing the stories she uncovers. Mortimore recently developed a website and fact sheet about the Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in June 2012.

This event will take place on Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady. The cost is $5.00 admission – Free for SCHS members.

For more information, please contact Librarian Melissa Tacke at 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

Union College to Aquire Adirondack Library


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Union College has entered into an agreement with the private conservation group Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT) to purchase a building complex in Niskayuna that includes the former home of the noted Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer (1908-1996) and a modern addition that houses the Adirondack Research Library.

The decision to acquire the two-acre property on St. David’s Lane and preserve and expand its use as an educational learning center “reaffirms and builds upon the College’s long connection to the Adirondacks,” college officials said in a prepared statement.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to provide a home for and advance the College’s curricular and co-curricular offerings related to mountains, wilderness and waterways in general and to the Adirondacks in particular,” said College President Stephen C. Ainlay. An anonymous donor has made it possible for the College to purchase the property.

The property is located on a two-acre parcel of land, three miles from the Union College campus, adjacent to the adjacent 111-acre H. G. Reist Wildlife Sanctuary, which is stewarded by the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club. The complex includes a 2,400 square-foot Dutch replica home built by Schaefer in 1934 used for offices and meetings and a 3,900 square-foot addition completed in 2005 that houses additional offices, conference rooms, and the Adirondack Research Library.

The library, which contains more than 15,000 volumes, as well as extensive collections of maps, photographs, documents and the personal papers of some of the region’s foremost conservationists, was the creation of Paul Schaefer. The building is surrounded by award-winning perennial gardens that have been maintained by Garden Explorers of Niskayuna and a bluestone amphitheatre used for public lectures and musical events.

PROTECT was incorporated in 2009 following the consolidation of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks with which Schaefer was associated for many years and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. “PROTECT has elected to focus its activities within the Adirondack Park, prompting the organization to begin exploring appropriate uses for the building and protection of the highly respected library,” the College’s statement said.

President Ainlay noted that Schaefer once taught a course on the Adirondacks at the College and in 1979 was awarded doctor of science degree for his conservation efforts. Union alumni and members of the faculty have been involved in the Adirondacks for well over a century. Numerous faculty members have conducted research in the Adirondacks and incorporated it into their courses. The College also has hosted a number of academic conferences and symposia centered on the Adirondacks, and the six-million-acre Adirondack Park is a destination for student field trips.

The College will explore collaborative partnerships with other colleges and universities involved with the Adirondacks, as well as museums and preservation groups the statement said.

According to David Quinn, treasurer of PROTECT, when the transaction is complete the Adirondack Research Library will be transferred intact to the College on permanent loan, to be managed by Union’s Schaffer Library.

“Union College will provide the quality of stewardship the place deserves,” said Quinn. “The building and library and the history they represent will be associated with a first-rate institution of higher learning and the public and park will be the ultimate beneficiaries.”

Sanford Family Diaries Now Available Online


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The Sanford collection, which was donated to the NYS Library last summer, consists of nine manuscript journals, a small group of letters, and a manuscript recipe book. Nathan Sanford (that’s him at left) was Chancellor of NYS from 1823-1826, a NYS Assemblymember and Senator, US attorney general, and a US senator. The family was well connected and Nathan’s descendants married into other prominent families such as the Gansevoorts, Stuyvesants, and Motts.

Most of the journals were kept by Nathan’s son, Robert; covering his days as a student at Union College to 1881, they provide a wealth of detail into the daily lives of New York’s upper class. The other journals were kept by female family members. The recipe book is marvelously descriptive and comprehensive and would be of interest to anyone researching aspects of the domestic sphere in the 19th century.