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.

China Trade

After winning its independence from Great Britain in 1783 following the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the new nation of the United States ventured almost immediately into the lucrative and dangerous world of maritime trade. The distant lands of China became one of the most desirable destinations because of the exotic goods it offered, such as tea, spices, silk, and porcelain.

Captain Stewart Dean of Albany entered the China trade with his sixty-foot-long sloop named the Experiment. The sloop was built in Albany in 1784 and Dean sailed it on several merchant voyages before deciding in 1785 to take it to China. With a tiny crew of seven men and two boys, Dean sailed the Experiment to China and successfully returned to Albany eighteen months later in the summer of 1787, a voyage of 14,000 nautical miles. The cargo he carried back to New York made a sizable profit for Dean, his partner Teunis Van Vechten of Albany, and the voyage’s New York City investors. The Experiment was only the second U.S. merchant ship to make the arduous round trip voyage to China.

Dean’s cargo from the Experiment included the porcelain teacup and saucer shown here. It belonged to a larger tea set that its original owners would have valued as an exotic luxury item.


Chinese Export Porcelain Cup and Saucer

China, probably Jingdezhen | c. 1786

Maker: China, probably Jingdezhen

Dimensions: 1 3/4 H x 3 1/8 Dia (cup).; 1 1/8 H x 4 7/8 Dia. (saucer)

Credit: Gift of Peter Gansevoort Ten Eyck

The Return of the Experiment

Len Tantillo


Oil on canvas

Courtesy of Len Tantillo

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