On January 19, 1887, the New York Times reported on the Albany winter carnival and noted that “the toboggan slides at Ridgefield and the West End are in splendid order and are much frequented.”  Brought to the United States from Canada, the sport of tobogganing became a craze in the Capital Region in the 1880s. Slides were erected in Albany, Saratoga, and Troy.

Averaging fifty to sixty feet in height and supported by frames made of heavy timbers, the slides were paved with ice and angled at about forty-five degrees with the incline gradually decreasing. Toboggans were made to carry two to six or even eight people and differed from ordinary sleds because they were made with flat boards that turned up at the front end.

This new sport was accompanied by the need for appropriate outerwear. According to Huybertie Pruyn Hamlin of Albany, who wore the wool coat shown here, the Edward Miller & Company hardware store on Maiden Lane in Albany sold the blankets used to make the tobogganing suits, the long double mittens, the knitted caps, and the Canadian moccasins along with snowshoes and toboggans of all sizes. Hamlin, a member of Albany’s Ridgefield Athletic Club (Partridge and Madison Streets) frequented the club’s slide and described it as having four chutes and steps up the center with a space on each side for pulling up the toboggan. Spectators could watch from a bridge built over the chutes. Oil flares placed at ten foot intervals illuminated the slide.

 

Magnifying Glass
Tobogganing Coat for Ridgefield Athletic Club
Sold by Edward Miller & Company, Albany, New York
1880–1890
Wool with cotton lining and wood buttons
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Huybertie Lansing Pruyn Hamlin, 1941.70.106
Magnifying Glass
West End Slide
Brown, Albany, New York
c. 1886–1887
Colored albumen photograph collage
Courtesy of Fort Orange Club, Albany, New York