Sanford Family Diaries Now Available Online

The Sanford collection, which was donated to the NYS Library last summer, consists of nine manuscript journals, a small group of letters, and a manuscript recipe book. Nathan Sanford (that’s him at left) was Chancellor of NYS from 1823-1826, a NYS Assemblymember and Senator, US attorney general, and a US senator. The family was well connected and Nathan’s descendants married into other prominent families such as the Gansevoorts, Stuyvesants, and Motts.

Most of the journals were kept by Nathan’s son, Robert- covering his days as a student at Union College to 1881, they provide a wealth of detail into the daily lives of New York’s upper class. The other journals were kept by female family members. The recipe book is marvelously descriptive and comprehensive and would be of interest to anyone researching aspects of the domestic sphere in the 19th century.

A Van Rensselaer Era Program at NYS Library

Friends of the New York State Library are presenting a program entitled &#8220The Van Rensselaer Era&#8221 that features Stefan Bielinski and Charles Gehring with senior librarian Fred Bassett. The program, which unfortunately costs $35 per person, will be held this Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 1:00 p.m at the Huxley Theatre of the Cultural Education Center (Madison Avenue between Eagle and Swan Streets in Albany).

Stefan Bielinski, founder and director of the Colonial Albany Social History Project (a model community history program at the New York State Museum), will describe and depict the individual members of the Van Rensselaer family, Albany’s &#8220First Family&#8221 within the city context for the period 1700-1860 (1:00-1:55 p.m.).

Dr. Charles Gehring, Director, New Netherland Institute and translator of New York Colonial Dutch documents, along with senior NYS Librarian Fred Bassett will display ten of the most significant of the original Dutch documents in the New York State Library’s Van Rensselaer Manor Papers collection dating from 1630 concerning Rensselaerswyck. These scholars will describe the historic importance and relevance to the people of Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties of the Van Rensselaer Manor and the Van Rensselaer family (2:00-3:00 p.m.).

To reserve seats send send $35 per person by Monday, April 20, 2009 to:

The Friends of the New York State Library
P.O. Box 2247
Empire State Plaza Station
Albany, NY 12220

Ticket will be held at the Huxley Theatre on April 23 after 12:15 p.m- Tickets at the door will be $40.

State Library Puts Military History Records Online

In 1895, Governor Morton appointed a state historian whose duties were &#8220to collect&#8230- edit, and prepare for publication all official records&#8230- and data, relative to the colonial wars, war of the revolution, war of 1812, Mexican war and war of the rebellion.&#8221 The New York State Library recently digitized the State historian’s 1st Annual Report (1895), 2nd Annual Report (1896) and 3rd Annual Report (1897). The 2nd Annual Report includes Volume 1 of the Colonial Muster Rolls for 1664-1760 (Appendix H)- the 3rd Annual Report includes Volume II of the Colonial Muster Rolls (Appendix M), as well as an index of names contained in the Colonial Muster Rolls (pages 899-1130). The annual reports of the State Historian are among the many historical documents that the New York State Library has made freely available online. [Link]

Sir William Johnson Papers on CD Revised

Twenty volumes of papers and correspondence of Sir William Johnson have been released in a revised second edition digital CD format by the New York State Library, which holds the papers. Johnson was British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in New York from 1755 through 1774. He is best remembered for his diplomatic achievements among the various Native American tribes and as a military leader during the French and Indian War. This set of primary documents dating from 1738 to 1808 provides a fascinating glimpse into the pre-Revolutionary interactions among the British, French, and Iroquois empires.

The Sir William Johnson Papers were originally published in 14 volumes of print, including a general index, from 1921 to 1965. Valuable for colonial research, the earliest six volumes have been out-of-print for years. The newly released CD is a revised and expanded second edition of an earlier CD released in 2007. It includes the complete 14 volume set along with the “Calendar of the Sir William Johnson manuscripts in the New York State Library” compiled by Richard E. Day in 1909. The
CD also features several enhancements, including: more than 100 newly digitized illustrations from the New York State Library collections- dozens of new color digital photographs of locations and scenes from the Mohawk Valley and Lake George appropriate to Johnson’s legacy, including Johnson Hall and Fort Johnson- improved accuracy of scans to nearly 98%- electronic indexing allowing simultaneous searching of the entire collection- and bibliographic consistency in volume and page numbering with printed volumes.

The CD is available from the New York State Library for $20. To purchase a copy, contact Aimee Pelton in Documents and Digital Collections via phone at (518) 474-7492 or email apelton-AT-mail-DOT-nysed-DOT-gov.

Movies and The Streets of Albany: 2 Public Programs

The New York State Library is hosting two noontime talks in December. &#8220From Nickelodeons to Cell Phones: A Brief History of the Motion Picture&#8221 on Wednesday, December 3rd, and &#8220Gutters and Street Paving: Elkanah Watson, the New England Migration, and the Improvement of Albany, New York in the Early Republic&#8221 on Wednesday, December 10th.

From Nickelodeons to Cell Phones: A Brief History of the Motion Picture

Bruce G. Hallenbeck, author of the upcoming book &#8220Comedy Horror Films: A Chronological History&#8221 and director of the independent feature film &#8220The Drowned,&#8221 will present a freewheeling history of the movies, from the earliest silent films of Thomas Edison and others to today’s Hollywood blockbusters. The focus of the program will be on how films and filmmaking have changed and evolved over the past hundred-plus years and of how cinematic cycles come and go. A discussion of how digital filmmaking has &#8220democratized&#8221 the process will also be included. The talk will be interspersed with numerous film clips from such classics as Fritz Lang’s &#8220Metropolis,&#8221 Alfred Hitchcock’s &#8220Blackmail,&#8221 and Jean Cocteau’s &#8220Beauty and the Beast.&#8221 This program will be held in the Huxley Theater on the first floor of the Cultural Education Center.

Gutters and Street Paving: Elkanah Watson, the New England Migration, and the Improvement of Albany, New York in the Early Republic

In 1800, the culture of the New England migrants collided with the culture of Dutch Albany’s burghers, thus changing the city forever. Albany’s most vocal migrant, Elkanah Watson, settled in Albany in 1789 and criticized Albany and its Dutch citizens for their backwards ways. In attempting to make Albany a competitor in both the domestic and European trade, Watson launched many campaigns to “improve” Albany by encouraging New England-branded improvements to the city’s landscape such as street lighting, paved streets, better wharves, and proper street drainage and gutters. Elizabeth M. Covart, 2007 research resident at the New York State Library, will examine Albany’s changing public spaces in the Early Republic and the true impact that Elkanah Watson and his fellow New England migrants had on Albany and its longtime Dutch-American residents.

NY State Library Research Grants Announced

The New York State Library has announced the availability of grants for research in New York State history. The Cunningham Research Residency Program was established to benefit scholars using the unique collections of the New York State Library to study the history and culture of New York. The New Netherland Institute and the Library will also make a Quinn-Library grant for specialized research in Dutch-related documents and printed materials at the New York State Library. Four Cunningham residencies ($1,000) and at least one Quinn fellowship ($2,500) will be awarded in 2009.

The Anna K. and Mary E. Cunningham Trust Fund

Funds for the research residencies are provided by a trust fund endowment created by a bequest from the estate of Anna K. Cunningham on behalf of her sister, Mary, and herself. It is a fitting celebration of the sisters’ lifelong interest in the study of New York State history. Anna Cunningham (1906-1996) was Supervisor of Historic Sites of New York State, as well as serving on the boards and councils of many state and national historic preservation organizations. Mary Cunningham (1917-1986), whose personal papers are among the collections of the State Library, held various executive positions in the New York State Historical Association, was a founder and the first editor of American Heritage magazine, and was a founder of the Yorkers program for teaching and involving young New Yorkers in the State’s history.

Quinn-Library Research Residency For 2009

Through generous support from the Doris Quinn Foundation, the New Netherland Institute ( and the New York State Library will make a special Cunningham grant of $2500 in 2009 for specialized research in Dutch-related documents and printed materials at the New York State Library. Researchers interested in the history of New Netherland and the Dutch Colonial Atlantic world are encouraged to apply for these funds.

Eligibility requirements and application information are available online here.

Bernard Margolis Appointed NY State Librarian

The Board of Regents has announced the appointment of Bernard A. Margolis as the New York State Librarian. He will assume his new responsibilities in January 2009.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, “We live in an age of information, and libraries play a critical role in providing us with access to that information. They are vital to our economy and our communities. They promote literacy and lifelong learning. And in these trying economic times, they are vital to people seeking information about jobs. I am thrilled that the Regents have appointed a dynamic and innovative person like Mr. Margolis to serve in the critically important position of State Librarian.”

The New York State Library provides information and library services through its Research Library and the Division of Library Development. Mr. Margolis will have oversight responsibility for a $13.4 million operating budget, 180 employees, over 20 million collection items and nearly $100 million in State and federal aid to libraries.

One of the largest research libraries in North America, the New York State Research Library is the only state library which is a member of the Association of Research Libraries. The Library’s holdings include a significant manuscript and rare book collection, as well as holdings in a wide variety of formats, including paper, microform, digital and electronic records. It is also a Federal Depository and Patent Library- has the responsibility for the acquisition, distribution and maintenance of New York State documents- and is a regional library for the blind and visually impaired in New York’s 55 upstate counties.

The Division of Library Development provides leadership and technical assistance to New York’s 73 library systems through a comprehensive program of State aid for public, school, academic and special library services. Staff experts work with librarians, trustees, school administrators, public officials and local leaders to solve problems and find new ways of making library services and resources available to their community. Library Development administers more than $100 million in State and federal aid to New York’s libraries and helps them to take full advantage of federal and private funding programs like E-rate telecommunications discounts and Gates Library Foundation grants.

Mr. Margolis served as the President of Boston Public Library (BPL), Boston, Massachusetts, from 1997 to 2008. BPL is the oldest municipal public library in the country, with 27 neighborhood branches. The Library’s collections of over 34 million items include the library of President John Adams, Shakespeare’s first folio, Gutenberg’s Catholicon, and many other unique and rare materials. BPL is a member of the Association of Research Libraries.

Mr. Margolis’s achievements as BPL president include expansion of branch library hours- appointment of a children’s librarian in every branch- creation of a nationally recognized Homework Assistance Program and online tutoring program- implementation of Reading Readiness to prepare preschoolers for school success- creation of local history centers in eight branch libraries- creation of the award-winning Norman B. Leventhal Map Center- development of a collection conservation program- and growth of the BPL’s trust funds from $37 million to $55 million. Under Mr. Margolis’s leadership, BPL secured $7 million of direct grants and $18 million in federal funds for technology improvements and many foundation grants, designated gift funds, and major bequests.

Mr. Margolis led the effort to restore and renovate the historic central library building, securing funding from a number of sources. He worked with the City of Boston to establish a critical repair fund, allowing BPL to address building and equipment repairs in a timely manner. BPL collaborated with other cultural institutions and more than 4,500 different community groups and organizations.

Mr. Margolis holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Librarianship, both from the University of Denver. His library experience includes management and executive positions in libraries and library systems in Colorado and Michigan. Prior to moving to Boston, he served as Director/CEO of the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs (from 1988 to 1997).

Mr. Margolis’s service includes a number of elected positions within the American Library Association, leadership in the Association of Research Libraries, service as a professional delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries, and service on the boards of library organizations in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Michigan. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Library Administration and Bottom Line: The Magazine of Library Financial Management. He has contributed to several books and has published articles in American Libraries, Pub­lic Libraries, and Library Journal.

State Library Thief Expected to Plead Guilty

Capital News 9 is reporting that former state employee Daniel Lorello is expected to plead guilty today in Albany County Court. He was arrested for stealing hundreds of documents from the New York State Library and selling them on eBay.

Lorello was an archivist in the Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. He was arrested in January after an investigation led by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo found about 200 state documents [sic: actually it was a lot more than that, read on] had been stolen for profit.

Among the items Lorello is accused of stealing is a letter written in 1823 by Vice President John Calhoun.

Officials said history buff Joseph Romito, a lawyer from Virginia, alerted state authorities after seeing some of the historic documents being sold on eBay.

A piece from earlier this year in the Albany Times Union fills-in more of the picture:

Lorello admitted selling &#8220Davy Crockett’s Almanack&#8221 from 1835 for around $3,200 and an 1837 almanac of the frontier hero for $2,000, both to a Colorado collector late last year. Around the same time he sold a copy of &#8220Poor Richard’s Almanac&#8221 for $1,001, authorities said.

He was thwarted after he tried to sell an 1823 letter from Vice President John C. Calhoun to a New York general on eBay, posting it as a historical document, authorities said.

Lorello, an expert on Civil War history, coordinated a three-year plan to renovate the storage of state historical records on the 11th floor of the State Library. His duties also included acquiring new artifacts and working with researchers, said State Education spokesman Alan Ray. Ray noted that Lorello is accused of stealing items from the State Library &#8212- not the State Archives, where he was employed. The State Archives and Library, along with the State Museum, are part of New York’s Office of Cultural Education. The library alone contains more than 20 million items.

Staffers have so far recovered 263 items, Ray said.

In his statement, Lorello estimated stealing 300 to 400 items in 2007 alone. He told the attorney general’s office he delivered the artifacts by way of FedEx, United Parcel Service and other shippers. Lorello accepted money orders and bank checks for the items, according to the court papers.

&#8220I particularly liked items associated with the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Mexican War, Black Americana, WWI, anything related to the Roosevelts, Jewish items,&#8221 he told investigators.

UPDATE: From the Schenectady Gazette this afternoon:

In Albany County Court, 54-year-old Daniel Lorello of Rensselaer admitted stealing artifacts since 1997. He faces two to six years in prison at sentencing Oct. 1. He must also pay $73,000 in restitution to buyers who later returned stolen property and forfeit seized items and his private book collection.

1800s Natural History Survey of New York Online

The mid-1800s Natural History Survey of New York has been posted online at the New York State Library here. According to a recent note from the Library’s staff:

The Natural History Survey of New York, undertaken in the mid-1800s, covered zoology, flora, mineralogy, geology, agriculture and paleontology. The NYS Library has digitized the first three components of the survey so far. The &#8220Zoology of New York&#8221, or the &#8220New York Fauna,&#8221 is a five-volume set published from 1842-1844. This pioneering study by James E. De Kay addressed both recent and fossil mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mollusks and crustaceans. The hand-colored plates in part 1 (Mammalia), part 2 (Birds) and part 5 (Mollusca and Crustacea) can be found at the end of those volumes. &#8220A Flora of the State of New-York,&#8221 a two-volume set by John Torrey, was published in 1843- at the time, it was the largest single work of its kind published. The hand-colored plates are listed after each volume. &#8220Mineralogy of New-York&#8221 by Lewis C. Beck was published in 1842 and provided detailed descriptions of minerals found in the state, with information on their uses in the arts and agriculture.

Here is a description of the Northern District from the Survey’s preface (note the presence of wolverines [photo above] &#8211 alternate spellings are in the original):

The Northern District comprises, as its name imports, the northern portion of the State, which forms an irregular truncated triangle, bounded on its western side by Lake Ontario and the River St. Lawrence, on its eastern side by Lake Champlain and Lake George, and lying north of the Mohawk valley. This district, in its southern and southeastern portions, rises into numerous conical peaks and short ranges, attaining in some places an elevation of more than five thousand feet. Towards Lakes Champlain and George, these subside suddenly to the level of those sheets of water. To the north and northwest, this descends by a gradual and almost imperceptible slope towards the River St. Lawrence. This slope is watered by the Oswegatchie, the Moose and Black rivers, the Raquet [sic] and Grass and St. Regis rivers, all arising from numerous lakes embosomed in the mountainous regions of its southern parts. Lake Champlain, a part of its eastern boundary, extends north and south one hundred and forty miles, is twelve miles wide in its broadest part, and discharges its water through the Sorel river into the St. Lawrence. Into the southern part of this lake is also poured the waters of Lake George or Horicon, thirty-seven miles long, and varying from one to seven miles in breadth. The cluster of mountains in its southeastern portions may be considered as an offset from the great Appalachian system, which, descending through the States of Maine, New-Hampshire and Vermont, passes southwesterly between the Western and Hudson river districts, and is continued under the name of the Allegany range of mountains. In this region too we find the Sacondaga, Cedar, Jessup, and other tributaries of the Hudson, within a short distance of those which pour into the St. Lawrence. This mountainous region comprises the counties of Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer and Warren, and the southern part of the counties of Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence, and has been estimated to contain an area of about six thousand square miles. Its zoological character is strongly impressed by the features just alluded to. The chief growth of trees in this district are the Spruce, Pine, Larch, Balsam, Fir and Cedar. We find in this district many of the fur-bearing animals, such as the Sable, the Fisher, and the Beaver. Here too roam the Moose, the Wolverine, and others now only found in high northern latitudes. It also forms the southern limits of the migration of many arctic birds- and we accordingly meet here with the Canada Jay and Spruce Grouse, the Swan, the Raven and the Arctic Woodpecker.