Over the past few days I’ve been enjoying a lighthearted and wide-ranging romp through Albany history while reading Kenneth Salzmann’s Albany Scrapbook. The book is a montage of sorts of life in Albany, often neatly tying the city’s past with its present. Salzmann wrote the essays collected in this volume while working as a freelancer for the now-defunct weekly magazine Albany, New York. The author debunks a few of legends, such as the story that Fidel Castro was once scouted by the Albany Senators, and delves into four centuries worth of the people and places. Salzmann’s fascination with Albany is evident in his introduction, where he writes: “Where else, after all, do Henry Hudson, a slave named Pomp, Mario Cuomo, Philip Schuyler, the inventor of basketball (perhaps), Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, a flamboyant nineteenth century detective named Elisha Mack, a geographer named Simeon DeWitt, Charles Dickens, the putative Dauphin of France, Fidel Castro, Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Evers, early stage star Joseph Kline Emmet, a nineteenth century renaissance man named Solomon, both Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth, and a host of other colorful and compelling characters cross paths?”
The book is broken into five sections: “Yesterday’s News,” “Polling Places,” “Public Safety,” “Stage Directions,” “Character Studies,” “Sportin’ Life,” and “Recommended Reading.” Each section contains interesting and well researched details, mostly about Albany, but occasionally straying to Saratoga and Troy, as with a short look at one of my favorite Trojans, John “Old Smoke” Morrissey. All-in-all, an entertaining and engaging read.
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