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.

William Kennedy

Award-winning writer and journalist William Kennedy is known for his novels and non-fiction works that use Albany’s rich history and intriguing cast of residents as inspiration. Born in Albany in 1928, Kennedy attended Christian Brothers Academy and Siena College, where he graduated in 1949. A year later he was drafted into the army and began writing for his military unit’s newspaper. After being discharged in 1952, he spent the next decade working as a reporter and editor in Albany, Miami, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he also began writing fiction full-time. He returned home to Albany in 1963 and has never left.

Kennedy used the L. C. Smith & Corona typewriter shown here to compose his first five novels, from The Ink Truck (1969) through Quinn’s Book (1988). His second novel, Legs (1975), began his “Albany Cycle,” which later included his best-known work, Ironweed (1983). Set in depression-era Albany, Ironweed earned Kennedy a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. It also won him recognition in the movie industry. With Francis Ford Coppola, Kennedy wrote the screenplay for the 1984 film The Cotton Club, and the following year he wrote the script for Ironweed, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

In addition to writing, Kennedy taught journalism and creative writing at SUNY Albany from 1974 to 1982, and also taught writing at Cornell University from 1982 to 1983. With money from a 1983 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Kennedy founded the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, and is its Executive Director.

William Kennedy’s Typewriter

L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriters, Inc.

c. 1930

Metal, paint, enamel, plastic

Courtesy of William Kennedy

William Kennedy


Gelatin silver photographic print

Courtesy of William Kennedy

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