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.


When WGY started broadcasting in 1922, it was one of the earliest radio stations in New York State. The station, established by General Electric (GE), originally broadcast from building 36 at GE’s Schenectady Plant. Station managers recognized the mass appeal of radio and the possibilities of entertainment, and in August 1922, WGY presented the first ever radio drama, “The Wolf,” The performers were challenged to create realistic sound effects and inspire listeners’ imaginations. They used rocks in bathtubs to represent a landslide and walked through crumpled paper to substitute for a chase scene through a forest.

By the 1930s, millions of people across the country owned radios. Locally, three stations ruled the airwaves: WGY, WABY, and WOKO. Each station presented a variety of news, information, and entertainment. WGY, its signal being among the most powerful in the country, courted listeners as far away as Utica and Vermont. Network programming brought a variety of music, comedy, and drama programs into the home, introducing America to Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and “The War of the Worlds.”

By the 1970s, the clearer sound of FM radio, which was actually developed in the 1930s, finally gained in popularity and most music broadcasting shifted from AM to FM radio. WGY transitioned into a talk radio format, which continues today.

Microphone Used at WGY



Courtesy of MiSci (Museum of Innovation and Science)

WGY Towers on Building 40, General Electric Plant, Schenectady

Published by General Electric, Schenectady, New York


Collotype on paper

Courtesy of MiSci (Museum of Innovation and Science)

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