Faces of Schenectady Seminar Announced

Due to the interest generated by the exhibit “Faces of Schenectady: 1715 &#8211 1750” as well as brand-new research, support from the First Reformed Church of Schenectady, and generous grants from the New York Council for the Humanities, and Schenectady County, the Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) is offering a two day seminar this October.

Participants will be able to experience, first hand, new research related to eighteenth-century art, politics, and culture in Schenectady County. Along with one-of-a-kind lectures, SCHS is also offering a one-on-one gallery talk with co-curator Ona Curran and a 17th century Dutch Luncheon made possible by the Glen Sanders Mansion!

FRIDAY October 15

Exhibit Tour with Gallery Lecture Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue Schenectady NY 12305

Registration 1:30

2:00 &#8211 3:15 Ona Curran Nehemiah Partridge: His style, use of mezzotints, English influence Clara Clack van Beek &#8211 Account ledger of Annatje Beck, tavern keeper and seller of dry goods

3:30 &#8211 4:30 Ona Curran Peter Vanderlyn and John Heaton

Schenectady Portraits &#8211 Susanna Truax and Deborah Glen Other portraits &#8211 Albany, Hudson Valley, The Van Bergen Overmantel, the Oliver portrait

5:30 &#8211 7:30 Evening Fare and Folklore (Additional $10.00 Fee) First Reformed Church of Schenectady 8 North Church Street, Schenectady NY 12305 Buffet and Story Telling Joe Doolittle

SATURDAY October 16

Exhibit Open 9:00 &#8211 9:30 Schenectady County Historical Society

Registration 9:00

Lectures First Reformed Church of Schenectady

9:30 &#8211 10:15 Susan Blakney, 17th Century Double Wedding Portrait

10:15 &#8211 11:15 Nancy Hagadorn Ph.D., Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen Cultural Broker and Interpreter

11:30 &#8211 12:30 John Townsend The Mohawk Prayer Book

LUNCHEON 12:30 &#8211 2:15

2:15 &#8211 3:00 Karen Hess The Indomitable Ariantje Coeymans: Bangles and Beads &#8211 Jewelry in Portraiture

3:00 &#8211 3:45 Rod Blackburn Scripture Paintings

3:45 &#8211 4:30 Rod Blackburn and Ruth Piwonka The Data Base of early 18th century paintings

4:30 &#8211 5:00 Questions and Closing Remarks

Register online here.

Civilian Conservation Corps Program, Reunions

On Friday, June 25th, 2010, the Schenectady County Historical Society will host a reunion of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alumni, family, & friends, from 10:00 am to noon at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY. Marty Podskoch, CCC researcher, will give a short presentation and will invite participants to share memories of the camps.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began on March 31, 1933 under President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to relieve the poverty and unemployment of the Depression. Camps were set up in many New York towns, state parks, & forests. Workers built trails, roads, campsites, dams, fire tower observer’s cabins & telephone lines- fought fires- stocked fish- and planted millions of trees. The CCC disbanded in 1942 due to the need for men in WW II.

A part of the history of the CCC was saved recently by the daughter of a man who was in one of the camps. She donated a CCC Schenectady District yearbook for 1937 to the Historical Society. The yearbook has a history of the District, along with photos of officers and the men at the camps. Many men from Schenectady were in Company 219 (Cherry Plain, NY)- and Company 222 (Middleburg, NY).

Marty Podskoch is a retired teacher and the author of five books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, two Adirondack fire tower books: Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts, and Northern Districts and two other books, Adirondack Stories: Historical Sketches and Adirondack Stories II: Historical Sketches from his weekly illustrated newspaper column.

Presently, Marty Podskoch is conducting research on the Civilian Conservation Camps in the Adirondacks and Connecticut. He is interested in meeting individuals who may have CCC stories to contribute to his next book. Marty Podskoch will have all of his books available after the presentation for sale and signing. For those unable to attend this reunion, Marty Podskoch has planned five other reunions:

June 22 6:30 pm Oneida Historical Society, 1608 Genesee St., Utica (315) 735-3642
June 23 6:30 pm Franklin Co. Hist. Society, 51 Milwaukee St. Malone (518) 483-2750
June 26 1 pm Fulton Co. Hist. Society, 237 Kingsboro Ave., Gloversville (518) 725-8314
June 27 2 pm Bolton Landing Hist. Society, Bolton Free Library (518) 644-2233

For more information on the reunion in Schenectady, contact Katherine Chansky,Librarian/Archivist, Grems-Doolittle Library at: (518) 374-0263, librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking.

If any one has information or pictures to share of relatives or friends who worked at one of the CCC camps, please contact, Katherine Chansky (518) 374-0263 at the Grems-Doolittle Library, or Marty Podskoch at: 36 Waterhole Rd., Colchester, CT 06415 or 860-267-2442, or podskoch@comcast.net

Soap Box Derby Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum

Seventy years after the debut of Albany’s first Soap Box Derby, the New York State Museum will mark the occasion with the opening of a small exhibition on the Derby June 8, followed by an awards ceremony at the Museum in conjunction with this year’s Albany competition. “Derby Doings: The All-American Soap Box Derby,” will be open in the Museum lobby until August 15.

The annual Capital District Soap Box Derby competition will be held in front of the State Museum on Madison Avenue on Saturday, June 12th and Sunday, June 13th. The awards ceremony in the Museum’s Huxley Theater will immediately follow Sunday’s races at approximately 5 p.m. The winners in three divisions will advance, all expenses paid, to the World Championships in Akron, Ohio later in July.

The exhibition traces the history of the Derby to the summer of 1933 when Dayton, Ohio Daily News photographer Myron Scott saw three boys racing down the hill and proposed what he expected would be a one-time competition. Nineteen children showed up and Scott was compelled to arrange for another competition on August 19, 1933. Intensely publicized, the event attracted 362 contestants and about 40,000 spectators.

The first national championship which Scott called the All-American Soap Box Derby was launched the following year with promotional and financial support from newspapers, magazines and Chevrolet. In 1935, the Derby relocated to Akron, Ohio.

Albany’s first competition dates to 1940 when 15,000 people watched 100 boys compete in the first races on Clermont Avenue. The Derby was locally sponsored and promoted chiefly by Chevrolet automobile dealers and the Albany Times Union. Ongoing support from both allowed such large events to continue through the 1940s. The Derby was televised by WRGB in 1949. Racing continued off and on at various locations, with different sponsors, until it ceased in the 1970s.

However, the Albany Derby was revived in 2006, managed by Ginger Miller. Boys and girls, ages 8-18, are now invited to participate.

The Derby was also held in Schenectady at one time. Richard Russell built two cars – one in 1948 and the other in 1949 &#8212- for the annual races on Fehr Avenue in Schenectady. He constructed both of his cars in a building at the Mattice service station and Mattice Fuel Oil service facility at 1025 Altamont Ave. in Schenectady, a business dating from the 1920s. It is still operated by the Russell family, including Richard Russell and his son, Richard Russell Jr., who donated the Russell car to the State Museum in 1995.

The 1949 Russell car will be on display in the exhibition, along with a contemporary Super Stock model built by Michael Morawski in 2007. He won with it on Madison Avenue in 2008 and went on to compete in Akron later that summer. Visitors can also see a helmet worn by Russell at the Schenectady races in 1948 and 1949, a trophy won by Donald Matthews in the Albany derby in July 1941, and several photographs that appeared in the Times Union and Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

Photo: Richard Russell in his car that is on display in the New York State Museum exhibition “Derby Doings: The All-American Soap Box Derby.” This photograph was used in a Mattice ad which appeared in the Schenectady Gazette on July 30, 1949. (Courtesy of NYS Museum)

Faces of Schenectady 1715-1750 Exhibit Opens

The recent acquisition by the Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) of the portrait of Laurens Van Der Volgen attributed to Nehemiah Partridge lead to the exhibit “Faces of Schenectady 1715-1750” running now through November 1st at the SCHS. Portraits of Schenectadians who were neighbors of Van DerVolgen in “Old Dorp” (now the Schenectady Stockade historic district) are included in the exhibit.

These twenty portraits have never been shown as a group before. Three are in the SCHS collection. Most of the portraits are in other museum collections and four in unknown locations. The portraits are attributed to Nehemiah Partridge, Pieter Vanderlyn and John Heaton. The sitters in addition to Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen include Gerrit Symonse Veeder and his wife Tryntje Otten Veeder, Caleb Beck and his wife Anna Mol Fairly Beck, Jacob Glen and his wife Sarah Wendell Glen, Deborah Glen, John Sanders, Catherine Van Patten and Adam Swarth, Helena Van Eps and Tobias Ten Eyck

Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen was an important figure in colonial New York history. He was captured by the Mohawks as a young lad during the infamous attack on Schenectady in 1690 and taken to Canada where he became immersed in native American customs and ways and learned the Mohawk language. He returned to Schenectady about ten years later. His
knowledge of the customs and language of the native Americans made him a valuable asset to the New York Provincial government. He was appointed by the governor of the province as interpreter and liaison between the natives and the New York provincial government a post he held until his death in 1742.

Laurens translated part of the Dutch Reformed Prayer book into the Mohawk language. The prayer book was printed by William Bradford an early printer in NYC in 1715. The
portrait of Laurens, another portrait of a young child and other family memorabilia were donated to the SCHS by a descendant of Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen.

There are several Schenectady portraits from this period that are known to exist but their location is unknown e.g. Barent Vrooman, John Dunbar and his wife Jeanette Von Egmont Schermerhorn and Cornelius Van Dyke. The Vrooman portrait is attributed to Pieter Vanderlyn, the other three are attributed to Nehemiah Partridge. The Society would appreciate hearing from you if you know of their whereabouts.

Ona Curran is guest curator of the exhibit and author of the catalog. Kate Weller is curator. A seminar scheduled for mid October is in the planning stages. Topics will include the portraits, the artists and the sitters, the use of mezzotints in early portraits, the use of engravings from the early Dutch bibles in paintings, early printing and the Mohawk prayer book and the role of the interpreter in colonial New York relations with the native Americans. If you have questions contact Ona Curran ocurran@nycap.rr.com or Kate Weller curator@schist.org

The Schenectady County Historical Society is located at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady NY 12305. Hours are M-F 10a.m. &#8211 5 p.m., Sat. 10a.m. &#8211 2 p.m.

Why New Netherland Matters Lecture by Joyce Goodfriend

The prevailing history of the Dutch settlers in America has been illustrated with depictions of quaint Dutch villages, and tales of characters such as Rip Van Winkle and St. Nicholas . Dr. Joyce Goodfriend offers a new look at the story of the Dutch settlement called New Netherland.

On Saturday, June 12th, 2:00 pm, at the Schenectady County Historical Society, Dr. Joyce Goodfriend will give a talk titled, “Why New Netherland Matters.” Her presentation answers fascinating questions about our founding myths and legends, including a new look at the lives of slaves in New York. Celebrations throughout 2009 of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River in 1609 inspired many researchers, Dr. Joyce Goodfriend among them, to bring to our attention the latest research on the history of early New York.

Dr. Goodfriend’s scholarly research into contemporary traveler’s accounts and her examination of period artwork reveals a more complete picture of our nation’s early
multicultural history. Dr. Goodfriend’s talk is based on an essay by the same title, in which she writes: “New Netherland may have been dissolved as a political reality by 1674, but it remained a cultural reality well into the nineteenth century, and in this guise indelibly influenced the course of history in the mid-Atlantic region.” The audience for her talk on Saturday, June 12th, will be treated to a broader understanding of the importance of early New Amsterdam and the Dutch in New York.

Dr. Goodfriend has written extensively on the subject of New Netherland including articles on religion and women’s roles. Her books include Before the Melting Pot: Society and Culture in Colonial New York City, 1664-1730Going Dutch: The Dutch Presence in America 1609-2009 and Revisiting New Netherland: Perspectives on Early Dutch America, as well as numerous articles in collective history on Dutch New York. Goodfriend is a professor of history at the University of Denver and received her B.A. from Brown University and her M.A. and PhD from UCLA.

Only 75 tickets are available for this event. A $5.00 donation per person is requested. For reservations call (518) 374-0263, and for more information e-mail librarian@schist.org.

Schenectady County Public Library Local History Collection Unavailable

Due to an asbestos abatement project on the second floor of the Central Library, the storage collections of the Schenectady County Public Library will be unavailable from now until approximately the middle of June, according to Bob Sullivan of the Schenectady Digital History Archive.

The shutdown will affect the bulk of the libraries local history collection, including most of their yearbooks and some of their city directories. The newspaper microfilm and the city directories on the main floor will remain accessible, as will the library’s Ancestry and HeritageQuest subscriptions.

NY Folklore – Textured Stories: The Works of Denise Allen

The New York Folklore Society will be presenting &#8220Textured Stories: The Works of Denise Allen&#8221 at its gallery at 113 Jay Street, Schenectady through March 26th. I asked the Folklore Society to describe Lisa’s work for us and this is what they sent:

She lived for many years in Bedford-Stuyvesant (in Brooklyn), her hometown. Her mother was a seamstress in the sense that she made a lot of the family cloths, etc. Denise, however, was not a trained seamstress. She worked as a legal secretary, and had no intention of becoming an artist. After her mother died, however, she became very depressed. She walked into a Woolworth’s store one day, saw the embroidery kits there, which reminded her of her mother, and felt &#8220called&#8221 to take that up to feel a connection with her mother. She has been doing needlework ever since.She does a unique kind of textured embroidery, not only involving needlework, but layering and adding material onto the fabric, such as wood, cardboard, wire, etc. She also creates dolls from the original design to the finishing touches. Her signatures pieces are her story cloths, textured artwork that often tells specific stories from her own life, as well as fictional stories that otherwise capture an expressive truth.

Her work focuses on themes of African-American life, particularly in the colonial period in America, and country living. She addresses themes of slavery, traditional life, life in the country, and so on.

After her son was killed in 9-11 (he worked in Tower 1), and her husband barely escaped (he worked on the 97th floor as a drafter for the Port Authority), she became extremely despondent. Because she had always been fascinated with country life after seeing a county fair event that had come to Brooklyn when she was a little girl, she and her husband decided to move up to upstate NY and live on a farm. She moved up to Palatine Bridge, and has been living there among the Amish for the past several years. She has a wonderful relationship with her neighbors, some of whom contribute wooden frames for her art. She has been working on a 9-11 story cloth, and recently completed it. It is now under consideration to be placed at the 9-11 Museum that is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Newspaper Vital Records Index Reaches 50,000 Entries

Bob Sullivan of the Schenectady Digital History Archive at the Schenectady County Public Library has announced that the organization’s obituary index has passed the 50,000-citation mark. The index includes scattered records from Schenectady newspapers before 1822, more complete coverage from 1822 to 1858, some later 1800s, 1902, 1993 to mid-1995, and Dec. 2005 to date. Some other papers from neighboring areas are also included from 2005 to date including regional papers such as the Saratogian, the Gloversville Leader-Herald and the Glens Falls Post-Star. Also available are some years of the Hamilton County News, the Business Review, the Jewish World and the Evangelist.

Most of the newspapers are available in the collections of the Schenectady County Public Library or the Schenectady County Historical Society. See &#8220What Newspapers Are Included?&#8221 and &#8220How May I Obtain Copies?&#8221 at the top of each obituary page for more information about specific dates and holding libraries.

The index can be accessed here http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/vitalrecords/

Folk Concert to Benefit NY Folklore Society, May 29

Witch tales from Otsego County. The famed Binghamton spiedie sandwich. Irish ballads sung in New York City. African-American spoken word genres. North Country quilting. The work rituals of Saratoga racetrack workers. What do all of these have in common? These are a few of the rich and varied traditions of New York State, which the New York Folklore Society has been documenting and helping to preserve since 1944.

To help celebrate sixty-five years of the Society’s work, and to coincide with the release of the latest issue of Voices, the Society’s bi-annual journal, the New York Folklore Society announces “Voices: Roots & Branches of New York Folk Music”, a benefit concert to be held on Friday, May 29, 2009 in Schenectady, New York at 7 p.m.

Featured performers include Joe Bruchac, Abenaki storyteller and flute player and his son Jesse Bruchac- Adirondack singer/songwriter Dan Berggren- multi-instrumentalist John Kirk and Cedar Stanistreet- ballad singer Colleen Cleveland- Sengalese drummer and dancer Fode Sissoko- and performer/interpreters Kim and Reggie Harris. The concert will be held at Proctor’s Theatre, 432 State Street, in Schenectady, NY.

A Reception/Meet the Artists party will precede the concert at 5:30 p.m. in the Robb Alley at Proctors. The concert begins at 7 p.m. (Reception and Concert: $41.50, Concert only: $21.50). All proceeds will benefit the New York Folklore Society, a service organization dedicated to the study, promotion, and continuation of New York’s diverse folklore and folklife. Tickets are available through the New York Folklore Society, at 518-346-7008, or at http://www.proctors.org/events. A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible.

49th Annual Schenectady Stockade Walkabout

With a slogan that says &#8220Party Like It’s 1662,&#8221 the Schenectady County Historical Society, the Stockade Association and the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation present the 49th Annual Stockade Walkabout and Waterfront Faire on Saturday.The Walkabout showcases the oldest continuously occupied historic district in the United States, which was designated the first Historic District in New York state in 1962. During the event, from 11 a.m to 5 p.m., you can interact with historical characters from Olde Schenectady, stroll through the neighborhood, tour privately owned 18th- and 19th-century homes, visit historic churches, view the Stockade’s only archaeological dig and join an archaeological tour or an architectural tour.

The Walkabout House Tour includes: guided tours of historic homes, churches and public buildings- an archaeological dig at a historic house garden- an architectural tour- an archaeological tour- historic boats along the Mohawk River- carriage rides along the river path and through the streets- children’s activities in the park- live music and refreshments throughout the day- an antique car exhibit- guided tours of the old Erie Canal- and Colonial artisan demonstrations and fine crafts.

Tickets for adults purchased in advance are $18, and the day of the event are $25- tickets for children younger than 12 are $7. Park free at Schenectady County Community College and other public lots.

The free Waterfront Faire features arts and crafts vendors- family activities- live entertainment and music- food and refreshments- carriage rides- Schenectady County Faire &#8212- Colonial artisans and demonstrators- and an authentic bateau and turn-of-the-century launch boat.

For more information, visit http://www.stockadewalkabout.com. You can also find information or purchase tickets with credit cards by calling 374-0263. Tickets can also be purchased at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Ave., Schenectady, NY 12305.