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.

Perforated Toilet Paper

On July 25, 1871, the United States Patent Office issued Albany businessman and inventor Seth Wheeler a patent for his improvement in wrapping papers. His simple but novel idea consisted of a “roll of wrapping-paper with perforations on the line of the division between one sheet and the next, so as to be easily torn apart.” The invention revolutionized not only the appearance and dissemination of wrapping paper, but also toilet paper, which became the most important product of Wheeler’s company, the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company (later known as APW), incorporated in 1877. Before the development of perforated rolled papers, manufacturers manually cut their paper into sheets, bundled and wrapped them in more paper, and tied the bundles with string.

Over several decades, Wheeler received nearly a hundred patents in the United States, Canada, and Europe for both machinery and new developments with paper products, including several for improvements with perforations. APW also produced cabinets and fixtures for dispensing their rolled papers and it manufactured a medicated paper “heavily charged with ointment approved by the profession,” which by the 1880s received glowing testimonials from across the country. According to a history of the company published in 1886, “their specialty is hotel paper with fixture,” indicating a broader market than just home consumers.

When Seth Wheeler died in 1925, APW was a flourishing company with headquarters on Broadway in Albany. The rolls shown here with their original bright pink wrappers date to the 1930s and were designed by a German-born graphic designer named Hajo Christoph who updated APW’s packaging with bold, Art Deco styling.

Rolls of Perforated Toilet Paper

Made by Albany Perforated Wrapping Company (APW), Albany, New York

Wrapper designed by Hajo Christoph

c. 1935

Paper, ink

Courtesy of Stewart Wagner

A.P.W. Brand Poster

Designed by G. H. Dunston

Unidentified printer

c. 1900

Chromolithograph on paper

Albany Institute of History & Art Library, PB 281

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