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.

Tulip Festival

The city of Albany takes pride in its Dutch heritage, and nowhere is this more apparent than the annual Tulip Festival. In 1940, Mayor John Boyd Thacher II proclaimed the week of May 18 to 26 “Albany Tulip Week,” with festivities centered around the tulips planted in Washington Park. But World War II interrupted celebrations. In 1947, Albany adopted the Dutch city of Nijmegen as a sister city and sent supplies to help rebuild the war-ravaged city. In return, Nijmegen sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Albany, which in 1948 Mayor Erastus Corning proclaimed Albany’s official flower. He sent a request to Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands to name a variety of the flower as Albany’s tulip. The Queen selected Orange Wonder, a bronzy orange and shaded scarlet variety.

The first Tulip Festival took place May 14 to 22, 1949, and the first Tulip Ball was held at the Colonie Country Club under the auspices of the Albany Artists Group. Twenty-year-old Jeanne Coakley, an employee of Associated Hospital Service, was crowned the first Tulip Queen and Philip Schuyler High School student, Kenneth Irish, was crowned Tulip King. The royal couple wore crowns designed by artist Hajo Christoph and fabricated by George Righthand of Metal Arts Craft, Albany.

Today, the three-day event still begins with the scrubbing of State Street by young women wearing costumes inspired by traditional Dutch dress. The tradition of cleaning the street is based on the perception associated with the cleanliness of Dutch housewives. The rest of the festivities and the crowning of the Tulip Queen take place in Washington Park where more than 140,000 tulips radiate a rainbow of color.

Tulip Queen Crown

Designed by Hajo Christoph, Created by George Righthand | 1949

Maker: Created by George Righthand

Medium: Brass, copper, rabbit fur and ermine tail

Dimensions: 7 H x 6 ¼ W

Credit: Gift of Katherine G. Herrick, (Mrs. D) Cady

Tulip Festival Street Scrubbers

Unidentified photographer | 1954

Photographer: Unidentified photographer

Medium: Gelatin silver print

Dimensions: 6 1/2 H x 8 1/4 W

Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art Library

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