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 Female Proprietors

The decorated woman’s hat shown here was made and sold by Hendrie & Campbell, an Albany millinery partnership formed by Scottish immigrants Isabelle B. Hendrie and Mary J. Campbell. Located first on N. Pearl Street and then at 11 Leonard Place, the firm of Hendrie & Campbell competed with roughly three dozen other milliners and lasted for over thirty years. A major competitor was the McQuade Millinery Shop at 234 State Street, which was also a female-owned business.

The McQuade sisters, Maude C. and Mary E., and the Scottish immigrants Hendrie and Campbell were four of the thousands of female entrepreneurs who ran small businesses in the Capital Region between about 1830 and 1930. Most female entrepreneurs were found in the millinery and dressmaking trades, but women in the Capital Region also made and sold men’s collars, shirts, boots, furnishings, and cigars. They ran boarding houses, restaurants, commercial laundries, hotels, saloons, tobacco shops, and liquor stores. A few women were undertakers, blacksmiths, coopers, and plumbers. Small businesses like the McQuade Millinery Shop and Hendrie & Campbell began to vanish from downtown neighborhoods in the twentieth century, finding it difficult to compete with department stores.

Was Albany uniquely friendly to businesswomen? It is difficult to say. Thanks to recent scholarship, we know more about female entrepreneurs in the Capital Region than other regions of the United States.

Woman’s Hat

Made by Misses Hendrie and Campbell, Albany, New York | 1915-1922

Maker: Made by Misses Hendrie and Campbell, Albany, New York

Credit: Gift of Mrs. Lawrence O’Donnell

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