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.

Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd

The desk and chair shown here belonged to the longest serving mayor of a major U.S. city, Erastus Corning 2nd. In office from 1942 to 1983, Corning served forty-two years as Mayor of Albany. He was born on October 7, 1909, into a politically active and affluent family. His father, Edwin Corning, served as Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1926 to 1928 under Governor Alfred E. Smith, and his great-grandfather, Erastus Corning, was mayor of Albany from 1834 to 1837. Corning 2nd was educated at the Albany Academy and later at Yale University. He got his start in politics in the New York State Assembly, rising to the position of New York State Senator in 1937. He held this position until his first campaign for mayor in 1941.

On January 1, 1942, Corning took the office of mayor after a landslide victory over Republican Candidate, Benjamin R. Hoff. Corning served as mayor until he was drafted as a private in the United States Army in 1944. Until his return to office in 1945, Frank Salisbury Harris served as acting mayor. After his military service, Corning ran and won consecutive terms. In 1983, Corning died in office due to heart failure at the age of seventy-three. Today, Corning tower in the Empire State Plaza is dedicated to his life of public service.

Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd’s Desk and Chair

Unknown | 1940s

Maker: Unknown

Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art

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