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.

Dutch Material Culture

The Dutch settlers of the Upper Hudson River valley brought with them from the Netherlands traditional forms of architecture, furniture, household objects, paintings, and decorative items. Occasionally, actual Dutch objects were carried into the region with colonizing families or were imported and sold through merchants. Traditional painted Dutch tiles and decorated table ceramics were the most common. Most of the time, however, New York Dutch craftsmen borrowed from traditional Dutch styles and forms to create objects that featured a combination of Dutch design and New York innovation.
The large storage cupboard known as a kast is one of the best examples of a New York adaptation of a traditional Dutch cabinet form. In Dutch households the kast held table and bed linens and articles of clothing. Because of its impressive size and prominence in the main room of the house the kast also became a symbol of status.

This early eighteenth-century kast made of red gum, a favored wood among New York makers, was most likely constructed in Albany. It descended through the Glen-Sanders family of Scotia and may have been made for the marriage of Jacob Glen to Sara Wendell in 1717, or the marriage of their daughter Deborah Glen to John Sanders in 1739.

A painting by artist Pieter de Hooch shows a Dutch interior of the 1660s with an elaborate rosewood and ebony kast that is similar to the Albany kast owned by the Glen-Sanders family.

Kast from Glen-Sanders Family

Probably Albany, New York

c. 1710–1740

Red gum, pine, paint, varnish

Courtesy of Schenectady County Historical Society

Interior with Figures

Pieter de Hooch


Oil on canvas

Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975.1.144

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