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.

Cast Iron Stoves

Location, location, location. These three words  summarize the strategy of success for Albany’s and Troy’s cast iron stove industry in the nineteenth century. Iron smelting furnaces, used to produce the iron for cast iron stoves, relied on three main ingredients: charcoal, iron ore, and limestone. All three resources were found locally and were transported to Albany and Troy through the region’s well-developed transportation systems. Charcoal was produced in Albany and iron ore came from the Adirondack region to the north and Columbia and Dutchess Counties to the south. Limestone, also quarried locally in eastern New York, was the third ingredient used for smelting iron. Known as flux, it separated impurities from iron ore in the furnace. By heating charcoal, iron ore, and limestone together, the resulting molten iron could be used for castings or could be sold to fineries for further processing.

The task of making cast iron stoves required a skilled workforce that included pattern makers, molders, furnace operators, finishers, and others. Pattern makers derived many their designs for stoves from published architecture and pattern books that illustrated examples of neoclassical columns and pediments, gothic arches, and rococo revival scrolls. Human figures derived from illustrated novels and gift books also decorated stove panels. The stove makers of Albany and Troy were known for casting extravagant works that combined a mixture of historical styles like the four-column parlor stove made by John Morrison of Green Island Stove Works, Troy, New York.

Parlor Stove

Ransom & Rathbone, Albany, NY | c. 1840-1844

Maker: Ransom & Rathbone, Albany, NY

Medium: Cast Iron

Dimensions: 49" H x 32 1/2" W x 19 D

Credit: Gift of John Mesick

Eagle Furnace, Steam Engine, Machinery, & Stove Works

Elijiah Forbes | c. 1845

Printer: J.H. Hall, Lithographer

Medium: Lithograph

Dimensions: 18 ¼ H x 24 ¼ W

Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase

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