Tulip Festival

The city of Albany takes pride in its Dutch heritage, and nowhere is this more apparent than the annual Tulip Festival. In 1940, Mayor John Boyd Thacher II proclaimed the week of May 18 to 26 “Albany Tulip Week,” with festivities centered around the tulips planted in Washington Park. But World War II interrupted celebrations. In 1947, Albany adopted the Dutch city of Nijmegen as a sister city and sent supplies to help rebuild the war-ravaged city. In return, Nijmegen sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Albany, which in 1948 Mayor Erastus Corning proclaimed Albany’s official flower. He sent a request to Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands to name a variety of the flower as Albany’s tulip. The Queen selected Orange Wonder, a bronzy orange and shaded scarlet variety.

The first Tulip Festival took place May 14 to 22, 1949, and the first Tulip Ball was held at the Colonie Country Club under the auspices of the Albany Artists Group. Twenty-year-old Jeanne Coakley, an employee of Associated Hospital Service, was crowned the first Tulip Queen and Philip Schuyler High School student, Kenneth Irish, was crowned Tulip King. The royal couple wore crowns designed by artist Hajo Christoph and fabricated by George Righthand of Metal Arts Craft, Albany.

Today, the three-day event still begins with the scrubbing of State Street by young women wearing costumes inspired by traditional Dutch dress. The tradition of cleaning the street is based on the perception associated with the cleanliness of Dutch housewives. The rest of the festivities and the crowning of the Tulip Queen take place in Washington Park where more than 140,000 tulips radiate a rainbow of color.

 

Magnifying Glass
Albany Tulip Queen Crown
Designed by Hajo Christoph
Made by George Righthand
c.1949
Brass and copper trimmed with rabbit fur and ermine
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Katherine G. Herrick, 1985.2
Tulip Festival Street Scrubbers
Unidentified photographer
c. 1955
Gelatin silver photographic print
Albany Institute of History & Art Library, Morris Gerber Collection, 1993.010.5415P