New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects

New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects


Each region of the nation has its own distinctive history and identity. The New York’s Capital Region—consisting of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties—is no different. But what best identifies the region? What events, objects, people, and ideas have contributed to its character and uniqueness?

To learn the answers, we presented these questions to the numerous museums, historical organizations, libraries, and residents of the Capital Region. The fifty objects that were ultimately selected present an exciting history of the Capital Region, including well-known favorites but also unexpected surprises. Some of the fifty objects characterize very broad topics like the textile industry and the Hudson River School of art, while others embody large populations of people who shaped the character of the region, such as the Dutch and the Iroquois. Many objects represent specific people or events, such as writer William Kennedy and the Battle of Saratoga. In some instances, the objects represent themselves, like the GE Monitor Top refrigerator and Albany’s beloved Nipper statue. A complementary image accompanies each of the fifty objects, providing context and additional information.

Overall, the fifty objects clearly demonstrate that this narrowly circumscribed part of New York State has played an astonishing role in shaping the history of the nation and, in several instances, the world beyond the confines of our national borders.

Albany Congress

At the outbreak of the French and Indian War, British officials urged colonial leaders to meet and prepare a defense strategy. The meetings that resulted are known as the Albany Congress, and they took place at Albany’s Stadt Huys (City Hall) from June 19 to July 11, 1754.

Discussions focused on two specific issues: Indian negotiations and unification of the British colonies. Colonial officials specifically wanted a commitment from the Iroquois Confederation supporting the British instead of their enemy the French. Iroquois leaders, however, were not anxious to commit themselves to either side, but prefered to wait and see if they could ally with the victor. Despite these obstacles, the Albany Congress did succeed at winning a moderate commitment from the Iroquois Confederation in return for bribes of weapons and supplies.

Prior to the meeting at Albany, Benjamin Franklin published a cartoon in the May 9, 1754, issue of his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, that showed a dissected snake with each part identified as one of the British colonies. The cartoon visualized the importance of unity as they confronted the French over control of the North America.

At the Albany Congress, Franklin and Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson served as the main authors of what became known as the Albany Plan of Union. Simply stated, the document was a plan for a federated colonial government with an executive officer appointed by the King. This single executive officer would be responsible for Indian relations, military preparedness, and the execution of laws regulating various trade and financial activities. Delegates at Albany approved the Plan of Union, but neither King George II nor a single colonial assembly ratified it. Despise its rejection, some features of the plan were later adopted in the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution.

Bust of Ben Franklin

Late nineteenth century

Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art

“Join or Die” Cartoon

Printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette

May 9, 1754

Woodcut on paper

Courtesy of Library of Congress

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