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.


On September 24, 1831, the first successful steam passenger train to operate in the United States, the DeWitt Clinton, made its inaugural  “grand excursion” from Albany to Schenectady in one hour and forty-five minutes. Its route eventually joined other rail lines in the formation of the New York Central Railroad Company in 1853, which was guided by the business acumen of industrialist and railroad owner Erastus Corning.

The New York Central Railroad, Hudson River Railroad, and the Delaware and Hudson Rail and Steamer lines were the premiere rails servicing the Hudson River Valley for more than one hundred years, until the mid-twentieth century. The New York Central Railroad also operated a large repair shop in the Capital Region known as the West Albany Shops, which employed hundreds of workers.

Some of the best known trains running in the Hudson Valley included the Empire State Express, or the 999, which set a world land-speed record in 1893 of 112 ½ miles per hour, the Commodore Vanderbilt, built in 1934, and the 20th Century Limited, which ran between 1902 and 1967. The rise of the automobile and the building of roads and interstate highway systems eventually led to the demise of most passenger rail systems.

NYCRR Train Engine # 999 Scale Model

Frank DeSantis | 1952

Maker: Frank DeSantis

Credit: Gift of R. Paul Carey

Storm King in the Heart of the Hudson Highlands

Walter L. Greene (1870-1956) | c. 1927

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 39 1/4 H x 25 1/4 W

Credit: Gift of the New York Central Railroad

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