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 January 19, 1887, the New York Times reported on the Albany winter carnival and noted that “the toboggan slides at Ridgefield and the West End are in splendid order and are much frequented.”  Brought to the United States from Canada, the sport of tobogganing became a craze in the Capital Region in the 1880s. Slides were erected in Albany, Saratoga, and Troy.

Averaging fifty to sixty feet in height and supported by frames made of heavy timbers, the slides were paved with ice and angled at about forty-five degrees with the incline gradually decreasing. Toboggans were made to carry two to six or even eight people and differed from ordinary sleds because they were made with flat boards that turned up at the front end.

This new sport was accompanied by the need for appropriate outerwear. According to Huybertie Pruyn Hamlin of Albany, who wore the wool coat shown here, the Edward Miller & Company hardware store on Maiden Lane in Albany sold the blankets used to make the tobogganing suits, the long double mittens, the knitted caps, and the Canadian moccasins along with snowshoes and toboggans of all sizes. Hamlin, a member of Albany’s Ridgefield Athletic Club (Partridge and Madison Streets) frequented the club’s slide and described it as having four chutes and steps up the center with a space on each side for pulling up the toboggan. Spectators could watch from a bridge built over the chutes. Oil flares placed at ten foot intervals illuminated the slide.

Tobogganing Coat for Ridgefield Athletic Club

Sold by Edward Miller & Company, Albany, New York


Wool with cotton lining and wood buttons

Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Huybertie Lansing Pruyn Hamlin, 1941.70.106

West End Slide

Brown, Albany, New York

c. 1886–1887

Colored albumen photograph collage

Courtesy of Fort Orange Club, Albany, New York

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