The Mysterious Cherubs…

Cherub in the right hand corner of the painting of Ella and Charles

Staurring Family

In the dining room there are two paintings of Staurring family. The first painting is of Clarinda Dygert Staurring. The second painting is of her two children; Ella and Charles. In the second painting two small cherubs were painted below the portraits of Ella and Charles, this has always raised questions from visitors about whether the cherubs represented other childrenin the Staurring family that passed away or even if the painting was a memorial to Ella and Charles. Past guides thought that the cherubs indicated one of these scenarios. Ella and Charles both lived to be adults but there were other children in the family who either died young or there is no record of after their birth so there may be some truth to the cherubs depicting other family members.

Although no conclusive evidence could be found to link the cherubic paintings to a family tragedy the Staurrings do have an interesting past. Charles was born in 1817 and Clarinda was born in 1822. They lived; respectively; to past 1900 and to 1897. The couple had many children, although not uncommon for the mid 1800s. Charles first child was James but this was from a previous relationship and not from his marriage to Clarinda. James was born in 1834. Another son Joseph was born in 1840. Joseph only appears in one census account and may have died shortly after the 1855 census or he may have elected to move elsewhere when his family moved to Saratoga sometime between 1855 and 1860. After Joseph, Ella was born in 1844. Ellen’s birth was followed by Charles in 1846. The two painting subjects, Ella and Charles were followed by William. William was born in 1851 and only lived a few years. William’s death happened in May of 1857 when he was just seven years old. Two more children were born into the Dygert Starring family of Charles and Clarinda. Daniel was born in 1858 a year after William passed. Maud was born in 1864.

The Staurring family moved around frequently. Charles Staurring, was born in Little Falls, Herkimer, NY. Evidence also points to Clarinda being born within Herkimer County. The couple moved to Schenectady and lived there until sometime between 1855 and 1860 where Charles worked as a railroad conductor. By 1860 the family had moved to Saratoga where Charles was a hotel keeper. By 1865 the family relocated to New York City where Charles traded horses. Ella, still living at home, worked as a treasurer in the circus. Still in New York City in 1870 Charles stayed in the horse trading business. In 1880 the Staurrings were back in upstate New York, this time in Albany. Twenty years after his move back upstate, in 1900, Charles was a member of the Schenectady poor house.

After a year in Saratoga, the first son James moved back to Schenectady to board at the Fuller Hotel. James was a machinist who began boarding in 1862. From the Fuller Hotel James moved to 10 Quakenbush street in 1868. In 1871 James Staurring moved to 86 College Street where he appears to have stayed. James was married at 25 to Kate Schermerhorn in November of 1859. As was customary for the time Kate Schermerhorn’s name does not appear on any of the directory listings to clarify if she and James stayed together during his various moves.

Ella and Charles Stauring circa 1850, artist unknown

It is possible that the cherubic picture of Ella and Charles is a commemorative or memorial to the departed William but that means the artist would have been drawing Ella and Charles out of memory and not true to life. By the time William passed away in 1857 both Ella and Charles were more than 10 years old, while the painting suggests ages of no more than 2-5. Could the cherubs have been added later after William and possibly Joseph’s death? Without further research into the painting itself, it is purely speculation. The painting is a beautiful work and along with the paintings of Clarinda and Charles (whose painting is currently stored until it can be conserved) it is an amazing glimpse into one family’s life in Schenectady.

Charles born in 1817 and lived past 1900
Clarinda born 1822 and lived to 1897

Family locations
1850- Schenectady
1855- Schenectady
1860- Saratoga
1865- NYC
1870- NYC
1880- Albany
1900- Schenectady

Charles 33
Clarinda 28
James 16
Ellen 6
Charles 4
Charles 38 – railroad conductor
Clarinda 32
Joseph 15
Ellen 10
Charles 8
William 10
William died at 7 yrs old on May 24, 1857
Charles 53
Clarinda 48
Ellen 25
Charles 22
Daniel 12
Maud 6

James marries Kate Schermerhorn on November 29, 1859 married by Rev Dr Backus

Typical family names
Staurring Dygert
Stauring Dygart
Storring Dagget (?)
Storing Diegert
Starring Diegart


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The USS Schenectady

Today I saw that the USS Schenectady has a facebook page (!/pages/USS-Schenectady/68478434203).

Inspiration for USS Schenectady

The USS Schenectady was a Newport Class Tank Landing Ship named after Schenectady, New York. As part of a class-wide writing assignment, a letter, written by Franklin School fourth-grader Kimberly Duto in 1968 asked “Would it be possible to name one of the ships – Schenectady” after the students learned that a new series of ships were being constructed for the NAVY. This letter began a 34-year connection between the ship and the community it was named after.

Schenectady’s Industries Help to Build Ships

According to “On the Line with MAC Motors (v2,n15 May 1, 1970),” a newsletter for employees in the Medium AC Motor Department of General Electric, the name of the ship was not the only thing Schenectady contributed, “…the locomotive and engine products division of Alco Products, with headquarters in Schenectady, was manufacturing 153 engines for LST’s (Landing Ship-Tanks) in their Auburn Plant and General Electric was manufacturing part of the mechanism to propel the crafts.” GE’s SAC (small AC motor department) made motors for deck machinery and the MAC (medium AC motor department) manufactured 51 750 kw service generators according to “Schenectady GE News, v53, n18, 1790”. Also constructed by General Electric for the LSTs were:
* winch controllers and motors
* electrical pump controllers
* a bow thruster motor
* propeller pitch control hydraulic pump
* reduction gear standing lube oil pump
* main reduction gears
* a reduction gear-shaft turning gear
* a reduction gear-salt water circulating pump

The USS Schenectady Launched 1969

The USS Schenectady was built by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego, California. The keel was laid on August 2, 1968, and launched May 24, 1969. Schenectady Mayor Malcolm E. Ellis was the principal speaker at the commissioning ceremonies of the USS Schenectady on June 13, 1970, in San Diego. He recounted the 300 year history of our city. He alongside commanding officer Cdr. David Sigsworth, offered a proclamation to the crew. Many gifts from the citizens of this area were presented to the ship and her crew. Recreation equipment, books, flags, a bronze plaque, a silver tea service and other presents were donated to the USS Schenectady.

LST’s (Landing Ship-Tanks)

LST’s, Landing Ship-Tanks, were ocean-going ships which could be beached to discharge heavy equipment and troops. They were first used in the Solomon Islands during World War II. There were 1052 built during the war. The USS Schenectady was an entirely revolutionary design in amphibious landing ships. A 35 ton bow ramp supported by two derrick arms replaced the traditional bow doors of WWII LSTs. A stern gate permitted back loading, and the new destroyer type bow allowed speeds over 20 knots. Seventeen of these newly designed ships were built in San Diego in the early 1970s.

USS Schenectady’s Career of Service

The USS Schenectady had an active career of service. Early in its career it escorted NAVY ships to the Panama Canal. During the Vietnam War, the USS Schenectady served in the following campaigns:

Vietnamese Counter offensive – Phase VII
23 to 26 May 1971

Consolidation II
12 to 9 December 1971
5 to 7 January 1972
6 to 10 February 1972
15 to 17 February 1972
21 March 1972
24 to 26 March 1972

Vietnam Ceasefire
1 April to 7 May 1972
22 May to 11 June 1972
23 June to 15 July 1972

Earning three campaign stars for its efforts during the war.


T-shirt from the decommissioning of the USS Schenectady

USS Schenectady’s Final Mission

The USS Schenectady was decommissioned on December 15, 1993. Struck from the Naval Register on July 13, 2001, the USS Schenectady’s final mission was its sinking as a target by by B-52’s, B-1’s, F-15’s along with FA-18’s during SINEX – Exercise Resultant Fury 19, 21-22 November 2004.

The former Navy landing ship (tank) USS Schenectady is seen in the waters of the Pacific Ocean just west of Hawaii Tuesday just prior to her sinking by B-52 bombers, including one that flew directly from Barksdale Air Force Base, in Operation Resultant Fury.

“The USS Schenectady has been shot at, bombed, been beached a thousand times, and she’s been there on time ready for work. Schenectady is a dependable, trustworthy work horse of the fleet. She’s hauled thousands of Marines hundreds of thousands of miles, with hundreds of thousands of tons of equipment aboard, and she’s done so admirably…many countries have special memories of Schenectady, sailors coming to orphanages and working hard to bring happiness to homeless crippled children. Our men have told the story of your area more times then we can count to people from around the world…we have been proud to represent your city”

Ltgj L.M. Barney, Public Affairs Officer, USS Schenectady

USS Schenectady’s Awards

Combat Action Ribbon, NAVY “E” ribbon, NAVY Expeditionary Ribbon
National Defense Service Medal (2)
Vietnam Service Medal (2)
Southwest Asia Service Medal (2)
Humanitarian Service Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
(Gold Star)
Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal

For more information on the ship and its history check out:

Click to access History%20of%20the%20USS%20Schenectady.pdf

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What is it – More information on Thomas Brower Banker’s 18th century cloth rule

This season at the Mabee Farm Historic Site Pat Barrot and the volunteers and staff have created a new exhibit “Whatsit?” of intriguing and curious artifacts and what their actual purpose was. One of the highlight artifacts is the 18th century cloth rule made by Thomas Brower Banker, a blacksmith in Schenectady during the 18th century. One of our many talented staff, John Ackner wrote an article based on his research ( Although John has done some of the most extensive research into the cloth rule, he was not the first. Today, a volunteer brought in an article by Larry Hart published in the Daily Gazette in 1961.

Larry Hart interviewed respected historian and SCHS trustee John J. Birch about some of the unusual artifacts found in the collections of the SCHS and particularly the cloth rule. The article stated that before Birch’s research the rule was unidentified but still kept because the society recognized its historical importance. According to Birch the “rod was standard equipment in general stores and drygoods houses years ago.” Birch’s interpretation stressed that in such a mixed community as Schenectady (considered very Dutch by many 18th and early 19th century travel accounts) the inclusion of the Dutch “ell” as well as the standard “yard” helped patrons convert measurements back and forth.

Birch’s research does diverge from our recent discoveries concerning the identity of the “TTB” mark on the cloth rule. In Ackner’s research, Thomas Brower Banker was discovered to be the maker of the rule and therefore the explanation for his mark on the rule. Birch also states that the year on the rule “1768 Mart” “meant that the device belonged to a store that had been incorporated in that year.” while Ackner describes it as the year it was made.

Although further research is needed to establish who used the cloth rule, there is the belief that it could have been made for a store in Schenectady or even possibly for a store owned by Banker. There is a strong connection between this cloth rule and a ladle in the Mabee Farm’s collection which is marked 1767. Similar styles in the markings helped connect the two to possibly the same maker.

Although many believe that history is a solid unchanging thing, it is a fluid and ever-changing discovery of facts, resource materials, and previously unknown connections. As researchers and historians uncover each layer more of our communal history can be exposed and explored. The Thomas Brower Banker cloth rule is a perfect example of an artifact finding its voice through the continued research of historians. To learn more about Thomas Brower Banker and his work, read the above article by John Ackner. To see this insightful piece of Schenectady’s Dutch/English history, visit the Mabee Farm Historic Site’s newest exhibit “Whatsit.” For more information on John J. Birch, or to read the article on your own, visit the Grems-Doolittle Library at the Schenectady County Historical Society. The cloth rule will return home to the Schenectady County Historical Society in late fall, 2010.

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The Yates Dollhouse

The Yates Dollhouse

Generations of children have visited the impressive Yates’ dollhouse over the forty-five years it has been at the historical society. Constructed in 1834, by J.R. Wendell, a local cabinetmaker, the house mimics the Federal style of architecture that still prevailed in popularity in Schenectady. To finish the effect of a stylish townhouse painter Victor D.A. Browere created a faux finish marble brick exterior along with a simple painted trim and brick interior end chimneys. Their names and their contribution to this piece of history were preserved in a plaque located in the front right window of the dollhouse. Commissioned by Governor Joseph C. Yates for his granddaughter Susan Watkins, the dollhouse remains a remarkable example of early American dollhouses.
Its furnishings, many of which have survived in a remarkable state of preservation, depict the popular Empire style that dominated American decorative arts in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Small replicas of the stylish gilded furniture, possibly seen in the home of Governor Yates or in other area homes, were created to adorn the interiors with no detail spared. The piano’s bookcase top contains the decorative folded fabric, which in its full-sized counterpart protected delicate books from fading, gilded paw feet decorate the bottom of the mahogany sideboard, and a drop leaf table has working leaves, for easy storage when not in use.
The Empire style mirrored American’s interest at the time in French fashion. After the War of 1812, Americans depended heavily on France for their decorative arts and fashion. Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power as the Emperor of France in 1804 marked a new style that recalled the classical ruins Bonaparte witnessed on various military campaigns. This style gave birth to reproductions of classical furniture and architecture but also created items that were inspired by the period although unique and original. The Yates’ dollhouse, although meant for a child, was as sophisticated as the most fashionable homes in Schenectady.
Surviving in the Watkins family for over 125 years, the dollhouse was donated to the historical society on July 8, 1960 by Mrs. Delancey Walton Watkins and her daughter Helen Delancey Watkins. Little was done to document or conserve the dollhouse until 1981 when, guided by then curator Marilyn Freitas and trustee Katy Kindl, students from the Cooperstown Graduate Program for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, researched and conserved the dollhouse. Through their efforts, the dollhouse was restored to its former brilliance, lost items located, and what was once an oral tradition of Governor Yates’ connection with the dollhouse was authenticated. Since the grand “re-introduction” of the dollhouse in the early 1980’s, it has had a prominent place on the second floor of the museum.

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Swart Tavern

Swart Tavern
Circa: mid 1800s
Artist: Unknown

Last week I was given the task of researching the Swart Tavern painting that had just been hung in the hallway of the second floor. I was excited to start, especially after my relatively easy breakthrough on researching the Veeder Family Homestead. Initially I was told that the painting was called the Swart Tavern and that it had existed along the old Mohawk Turnpike. Other than that little was known.
I initially decided to find the genealogy of the Swart family and see if they had been living in Schenectady County. I found A Partial Genealogies of Schenectady Families by Neil Reynolds. In this record were listed; Tunis Cornelius Swart and his wife Elizabeth Van de Linde of Holland. Tunis filed a petition for land with the West India Co. in 1663. He received a land grant for property in Schenectady in 1667 and he and his family had settled there. Tunis and Elizabeth had three sons: Cornelis, Adam, and Esaias. Of these sons only Esaias stayed in Schenectady. After this the record gets very confusing.

Adam Swarth

Next I decided to look at the 1790 census records. I found several Swart family members but gleaned not much new information. I decided to do a base search of Swart Tavern on Google. At the top of the list was a website for the Mohawk Valley Library Association. It is an interesting website that is designed for children to learn about their local history. They list the Tavern to be built by Josias Swart in 1792. This sparked my interest and I found that there was a Josias Swart in the area around that time. But I was not completely comfortable with this information. It had no reference list and I could not confirm that Josias had owned the property. I then found a reference to a Nicholas Swart building a brick home on his families homestead in 1792. (Carpenter)
Today I was able to find a Building-Structure Inventory Form created in 1976. It listed Swart Taverns location to be Amsterdam Rd. Scotia, N.Y. 12302. The Taverns main building still stands and can be found on Rt. 5 near Lock 9 of the Erie Canal. This inventory form listed the building to have been constructed by Nicholas Swart around 1792. Interestingly Nicholas family consisted of two males over 16, two males under 16, five females, and one slave. Since the Taverns initial construction many of the other buildings seen in the painting have been torn down, but their foundations can still be found on the property.

Reynolds, Neil B. A Partial Genealogies of Schenectady Families. 1956.

Purtell, Megan.

E. Z. Carpenter’s Notes on 19th Century Glenville Families

Karis, Adrienne. Building Structure Inventory Form: Swart Tavern. 1976

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The Veeder Homestead: A History Re-Visited

Intern James Jenkins is currently researching paintings in our collection for a new “mini” exhibit on architectural paintings of Schenectady County. To see the exhibit and learn more about these beautiful but also informative paintings, visit the Schenectady County Historical Society Monday – Friday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. or Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Watch out for more artifact based blogs in the future!

Recently I was asked to do research on The Veeder Homestead painting that is now hanging on the wall of the second floor hallway. It was donated to the Schenectady County Historical Society by Mrs. Adelaide Vrooman Veeder on December 1, 1962. I was to check the information from previous research and fill in any blanks, so that the Historical Society could present a more detailed picture about the life and times of the painter and painting.
The acquisition information stated that the artist provided the following information on the back of the piece: Veeder Homestead, F.G.Veeder, age 15 years. The donor provided us with the year 1840 as the date that she suspected the painting was completed. Other than that little was known.
The person who accepted the piece provided the following comments on the style and time period of the painting. “It is interesting on the basis of style because of the freshness of technique, the use of color, and the exact concern with detail” Most of this was easily recognizable to my untrained eye. The colors are bright and clear, and the painting has painstaking details of a white fence, a train passing in the background, along with curtains in the windows of the house.
The first research question I had was, who was F.G. Veeder and in what year would he or she been 15 years old. I asked our librarian, Katherine Chansky, what would be a good place to start looking. She guided me to the Veeder family genealogical record in the library of the Historical Society. From this record I was able to identify that the artist was Ferguson G. Veeder. He was born about 1852 to Abraham and Elizabeth Veeder. That meant that the painting was completed around 1866. After this I used the U.S. census records to find that in 1870 Ferguson was listed as a farm worker on the family farm. The 1910 census records Ferguson as a divorced painter. Ferguson was also listed in the 1920 and 1930 census records. Then a newspaper obituary pinpointed his death on January 9, 1941. This information added with the early painting seemed to show that Ferguson wanted to paint at a young age and later followed in his dreams.
I then became interested in were the Veeder Homestead would have been located. Kathrine aided me again on my search. She found a book of old historical buildings in Schenectady County. The book contained a building that had once belonged to the Veeders that was along the old Erie Canal. It looked similar to the painting so I decided to try and locate it on a map. I used an 1866 map of Rotterdam to see if there were any railroad lines in the general area and found that the New York Central Rail Road had run along the Mohawk River. The map also showed that there were several homes owned by the Veeder’s in the general area. With this information I was able to tell that Ferguson had faced North or North by Northwest when he had painted the house. These details were accurate to the information to the old Veeder house provided in the listing of historic buildings. So I believe that the house still stands at 1502 Main Street Rotterdam, New York.

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Volunteer and boardmember Frank Taormina digitizied the below selection about an interesting period in Schenectady’s history. He is currently working on a program on the Trueblue Society for interested organizations!

Trueblue Advertisement

Originally written by Reverand W.N.P. Dailey and Read Before the Antiquarians at the Schenectady County Historical Society in 1940…

A social order known as the “True Blues” was organized in July 1867, and chartered in March 1869.

The press of Schenectady and Albany and adjacent cities devoted much space detailing the parades, the concert and the bazaar held during these years. Also the “New York Herald” and “Frank Leslie’s News” featured the various events conducted by the mystic order.

No authentic history has been written of the club, but we have found an old scrapbook, kept by William J. Van Horne, now owned by the Schenectady Historical Society, sufficient date upon which to base our story. After the climatic parade held in 1870 a few meetings of the True Blues were held, but the order seems to have been dropped after that date. Many programs of all the events and great broad sheets, two by three feet were issued.

In the Evening Star of August 19, 1867, a month following the organization there is a facetious account of this mystic order, and the story was enlarged in an issue of “Leslie’s Illustrated News”. This article might have been written by Baron Munchausen, (Jack Pearl) for it narrates a tale of the Mohawk Valley 16,000 years before, the scene laid at what is now Duanesburgh and Princetown, which terrain was then covered by a great lake and overlooking hills, on the tops of which were royal palaces occupied by True Blues, and prisons in which were endungeoned the degenerate sons of Malta. But a thousand years before Schenectady was founded , huge mastodons that roamed the land were killed by a poisoned crop of potatoes, and drank the lake up (or down), and amid the miasmatic waste all that was left were a few acres of broom corn which the goddess Ceres (or God), and a few survivors of the True Blues cultivated. However, instead of loading the vessels bound for Europe with brooms, they converted the crop into corn whiskey. The Schenectady True Blues are descendants of these survivors, but the historian leaves out all the narrative down the rest of the nineteenth century.

Trueblue Parade

The reporter tells us that this mystic order of the True Blues includes Schenectady’s eminent divines, the faculty of Union College, and certain youth and other inhabitants of old Dorp, “searching for mental and recreational improvement.”

Page 2

The True Blues headquarters was in Fuller’s Hotel, kept by Ed Vrooman, later the A. Brown furniture store – now the Masonic building at State and Dock Streets. The first parade was held on the afternoon of Monday, August 19, 1867, – seventy years ago (1937) and the principal streets of the city from “Frog Alley” to College Hill were covered. In this parade, Romeo made love to Juliet in an upraised balcony, and an obese Falstaff took up a lot of room. Knights of ye olden times, dressed in their periods, and lively dulcienas captivated the crowds. A racial section of the parade contained Mexicans, Hungarians, Spaniards, Irish, Dutch, Turks, Jews, Africans, Orientals, Italians – and a group of Yankees and brigands- all attired in appropriate costume. A Scotch clan cavorted from curb to curb clad in highland dress. Seemingly the True Blues had an international membership, and several of no nation. King Lear was conspicuous and no less Hamlet and Ophelia. The School Board marched in a body and eleven bogus policemen protected(?) women and children. The famous race horse, Dexter, owned in Dorp, proudly prancing was resplendent in brass harness. Mose and Eliza and a hunchback paraded. Continentals and National Guardsmen in uniform, Veterans of the War of 1812 and Zouaves made up a division, and won continued applause by their precise military movements. One huge dray contained a huge dray containing five hen turkeys and a big gobbler. On a catafalque was a “Silver Brick” marked 18 tons which was carried by “Abel Smith and Robert Furman.” A section of the parade devoted to animals, contained a white elephant, just imported from Siam, bears and other beasts, “Hard Times” was in the parade, by whose side marched a big fat boy. The float had the representation of a Post Office, the sign reading – “Male in – It’s a boy,” and the post master, long John Veeder, was caricatured. Brother Jonathan and Sister Prudence were as loving as Shakers in the dark. There were over two hundred persons in costume.



The White elephant was a burlesque on the “Athens Cut Off,” a million dollar dream of the
Vanderbilts and the Hibbards, beginning at Carman, and ending at the Hudson near Athens where ocean vessels would be loaded with wheat for European markets. The road-bed is still visible but the huge depot in Athens is gone these many years. The elephant was so real looking that not a few were fooled. “Billy” Van Horne was the artistic genius back of the paade. The procession formed on the site of Van Voast and Vedder’s lumber yard on Green Street. John L. Hill was the president of the day, and the Schenectady Brass Band of seventeen pieces led the parade.

Page Three

The second carnival and parade of the Mystic Order of the True Blues was held on Thursday afternoon Sept 3, 1868. The “Albany Post” of September 4, 1868, says there were 20,000 visitors in the city. The Albany papers, the “Journal”, “Argus” “Express” and “Post” devoted much space to a description of the same. Music was furnished by Sullivan’s Brass Band of Troy and the Schenectady Cornet Band. Huge Posters, (2 feet by 3 feet) printed by the “Star” at 170 State Street announced the event.
The “New York Herald” featured the event while “Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly” showed a half page picture of the procession, reproduced in the “Union” as the parade, (or part of it” halted before the building occupied by the “Union”, and also the Carley House next door. Four hundred and fifty costumes; Charles Campbell, in Roman Chariot, a brilliant equipage, led the same.

The crowds were immense, and the success of the event was attributed to William J. Van Horne, sometime mayor, as his father was before him. Mrs. M. Pohle of Albany was the costumer. Daybreak was ushered in by peals of the city’s church bells and high noon was announced by the boom of cannons. The Parade, a mile long, was started at 3 p. m. Those who were masked waited till the public dinner at the Carley House and Givens Hotel to remove them. The “Herald” said, “a page would not adequately describe the event.” The editor of the Albany Express said he “had seen fantastic parades in Albany and in New York, but, compared with the True Blues of Schenectady, they were perfect failures.” Never before had anything like it been seen- in numbers, in costumes, in caricature and burlesque, or in style and artistic effects. No description could do it justice.

The Grand Marshall and his aides followed the Roman Chariot, built by Antonius, holding the God of the Day: they were dressed in the costume of the period of Charles II; after them a giraffe, sixteen feet high from Gouriel, “trained by Prince Van Horne, the first Euker of America.” No-olah, the baby elephant, was well behaved, sturdy but fierce looking pioneers were guarded by a burlesque police force, commanded by an artillery officer in Revolutionary uniform, the property of Colonel Campbell. Burlingame’s traveling Chinamen came next, followed by Neptune drawn by bespangled horses led by silver bedecked grooms. It made me think of a Roman myth. Beasts of the field and birds of the air were represented.

Ladies astride dappled equines received the crowd’s cheers. There was a human steam engine – eight feet high with stove pipe hat for smoke, fitted up with furnace and piston rods, and wheel at the side for extra power. We recall that at a certain point in

Page Four

The parade, the engine got too hot and had to be removed to save the human from incineration. Another feature we recall, but not mentioned in the press descriptions was great dray containing a hogshead of beer. Seated in front was a saloon keeper who held forth at or near Liberty and Center Streets of large proportions: gaily dressed maidens drew the ale from the hogshead and gave it to the man to drink. At the close of the parade he had to be skidded into his place. The uniformed Haymakers Base Ball Club of Lansingburg and the Schenectady Base Ball Club were in the procession. Carpenters Union, Good Templars, and other local orders were led by Eastman’s Band of twenty-five pieces from Poughkeepsie. King’s Coronet Band of Schenectady headed the second division , but the big show of music was Sullivan’s Troy Band of a hundred pieces, regally uniformed, led by a giant drum major.

An impersonation of Dan Rice of circus lore, was cleverly done. Even the local press was not left out as Editor Stanford of the “Union” was caricatured by “one who tried to ride two horses at one time, -one horse marked “Republican” and the other “Democrat.” One representative was labeled “Manufactured by the Button-Hole Co.,” a steam suggestion, with a hogshead for a boiler, beer kegs for cylinders, air chambers of muslin, etc.

There were two mid-night parades of the True Blues, one of Sept 5-6, 1867, and another of Oct. 12-13, 1868. Both the “Union” and the “Star” of Sept 6, 1867 devoted considerable space to an account of this parade. In a few words the cause of the demonstration was in the organization of the “Schenectady Silver Mining Co.,” a corporation formed of a number of prominent business men of Schenectady who invested not too wisely in a California silver mine which proved worthless. The Schenectady County Historical Society has a few bonds of the company. At midnight of the fifth, the citizens of the town were suddenly awakened by the roar of cannon to witness a grotesque procession winding its way up State Street to Crescent Park. The “Silver Brick” that had been carried in the parade of the previous month was being solemnly borne to its last resting place. It reposed in an open casket on a black catafalque, drawn by John H. Bame’s big team funereally decorated. There was an hour or more of exercises (printed programs) at the grave. All we quote here is the opening verse of one of the chants;

‘O Brick, thou child of ruined hopes,
And must we lay Thee in the dust;
A mountain labored – brot thee forth,
To live a day and then to bust.”

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The second midnight parade was aburlesque on an ill-fated water system, that the City Council wanted Schenectady to adopt but which by an overwhelming vote, they opposed. It was a plan to buy out a private concern that was supplying water to old Dorp. Another scrap book of Mr. Van Horne’s has outlines on the same which can be seen at the Schenectady County Historical Society. The town papers say there were five hundred in this parade and it was two miles long. (it must have been considerably stretched out.) On this moonless night “The flambeaus of the Mystic Order of the True Blues” flooded the old town with a sea of light, revealing the jewels of the brotherhood who were bent on interring the Schenectady water works. Sullivan’s Brass Band of Troy headed the procession, followed by a catafalque containing the Water Plan – drawn by six heroes in white trappings, led by grooms in white. The base of the design represented Veeder’s Hill, on the top of which was a reservoir where every creepy thing was seen moving about within. From this font a stream rose twelve feet high , and on each corner of the float was a hydrant throwing a continual stream of six feet. On the sides, at the feet of the hill, were engines pumping the water from Veeder’s pond. At each hydrant were imps with huge tumblers doling out the water to the thirsty. On the reservoir was painted “Pure Water,” but what the imps offered was of a brown mixture. The whole affair was brilliantly illuminated. Following this came the grave diggers with picks and shovels, and after them six “carpet baggers” with satchels illuminated and labeled “conditional contracts”. The city commissioner’s contracts were conditioned on the people/s vote which was decisively against the plan. At the center of the parade was a float bearing three huge banners, one showing the fire commissioners (impersonated), seated at a table “concocting the plan and concocting sherry cobblers.” On a second banner the scene at the polls was depicted. The third had a painting of an old abandoned pump representing the present condition of the water system. (Doubtless these were the creations of of the local artist, Mr. Delamano.)
Arranged in a triangular form the banners concealed a bell that mournfully tolled the death-knell of the water bill.

King’s cornet band of Schenectady had the post of honor on the left of the parade, following which came the master of ceremonies in priestly robes, then the Chief Fiend seated on a throne drawn by a team of horses bedecked in white, led by grooms attired in white. All of these participants wore hoods. The city and surrounding country had turned out to see the parade. Many houses were illuminated. The burial service was begun by the order singing “An Aqueous Dirge,” the lines of which ran:

“Brothers gently lay the body
In the grave – and drop a tear;
All our hopes now lie in toddy,
Or in drinking lager bier.”

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The body of the bill was now placed in the grave which was surmounted with blue lights. Sullivan’s band accompanied with a dirge. A eulogy was pronounced by the priests, a poem recited by the “Chief Fiend” and then the order sang a quatria(“Aqueous Finale”) the last verse of which ran –

“Now good night, ye mourners few,
Fare thee well “six hundred true”
Till Gabriel blows his judgment trump,
Draw your water through a pump.”

The procession wended its way slowly back to the True Blue headquarters, led by dirge music, the press account closes with a low Dutch comment:

The Union of October 13 says “On account of the scarcity of water no tears were wasted—the crowd dispersed, the city clock struck two – the city sank into its usual midnight silence, the Recording Angel of the Ancient Order of True Blues with his immortal pen wrote in the secret annals of that order the translation of another day. “

In 1869, instead of a parade, though this was considered at a meeting held August 9, 1869, a Grand Carnival and Bazaar was held in the Armory, just completed. This ran from January 27 1869 through February 9th, omitting Sunday. Four page daily programs were published. It was a strange mixture of world events and exhibits. One attraction was a velocipedalist from the True Blue Lodge of Paris. A history of the order was on sale, a copy of which is owned by Mrs. William J. Marlette. Among the booths at the fair was a New England kitchen – also a Dutch one, and an early New York dining room. In the gallery, lit by seven hundred gas jets, were booth attendants garbed in the dress of Italian, Japanese, Mohammadan, Chinese – all the oriental and western world were represented, and every period of American life. No wonder the Bazaar cost $4000.00 to run. Of the surplus the True Blues gave $1000.00 to the Society for the Home of the Friendless in permanent endowment.

There was a “Rebecca at the Well”, and “Oyster Bay,” a “Fish Pond,” “Comanche Lodge,” a Shakespeare Booth and dozen others. The names of those in attendance at the booths represented the important men and women of that day in every walk of life in the City. We sigh as we recall the 3000 curiosities that Ed Vrooman had in the Museum Booth – if they had only been kept. It was the first use of the new armory, built by Michael Nolan who had enough brick left over to erect the brick houses still standing at Albany Street and Veeder Avenue.

Among the museum curios was a large picture of Schenectady, an old lock and key said to have been used to lock the stockade gates of the City (pure fiction) old Revolutionary muskets, a 1702 Bible, a 1766 “N.Y. Gazette” a 1799 Albany “Gazette” containing an account of the death of Washington, a pair of flatirons, 300 years old,

Page Seven

a small sword found beneath the surface of the of the armory, a whistle made from a pigs tail by a local genius, a 1725 Holland bowl, teapot and plates three centuries old, a bowl and salt dish which did service at Washington’s wedding, owned by Dr. Voorhees of Amsterdam, an Anneke Jans salt cup, old bell dug up where the old court house now stands on Union Street, a warming pan 150 years old, a Sir William Johnson powder horn, walrus tusks, a trunk that came over in the Mayflower (?) a sword worn by General Gates, Nicholas (Clausha) Veeder’s musket, an original portrait of Anneke Jans in her youth, a small operating engine resting on a three seat silver piece studded with diamonds and other jewels, said to have been put together by Wm. J. Van Horne, etc. etc.

In 1870, Sept. 6, a Grand Carnival concert of the True Blues was held at Union Hall, corner State and Jay streets. The music was furnished by the celebrated Dodsworth Band, orchestra and military combined. The program gives the True Blue Officers: President – William J. Van Horne, Vice Presidents: Madison Vedder, John C. Mills, James G. Caw, Ethan A. Maxon, William Newman, John Gilmour, James J. Spier, James Wiseman, James Dimout, Livingston Ellwood, William Martin and
Cornelius Gill. Cor. Secy. T. Low Barhydt, Rec. Secy. A. P. Strong, Treasurer, John Banker, Marshall Edward Ellis. Master of Ceremonies: Walter T. L. Sanders, and John De Remer. Com. On concert: T. W. McCamus, John B. Marsh, B. L. Freeman, B. A. Mynderse, and Willard H. Moore.

Following the concert, the next day, came the final parade of the True Blues, September 7, 1870. It climaxed all previous ones. Special trains ran from Albany, Troy, Saratoga, Ballston, Utica, Syracuse and other places. Thirteen coaches from Albany were jammed with passengers. The “Star” reported 30,000 visitors in Schenectady. The rendezvous was the Fair Grounds from which the parade started. A delay was caused owing to the stampeding of a double yoke of white oxen who were joined to the dray, carrying the Cardiff Giant. They must have thought this hoax was a real dead giant. Horses had to be substituted. The parade took three hours to pass a given point. The bands engaged were Dodsworth’s of New York, Sullivan’s of Troy, Eastman’s of Poughkeepsie and King’s Cornet Band of Schenectady. There was also a True Blue Band grotesquely decorated, but played fair music. An imitation of the Cardiff Giant was created by President Van Horne, who, by the way, later sold the monster, according to a true bill of sale, dated October 3, 1870, to Jerome Myers and Wm. Howes Smith for the sum of one cent. The paper was duly drawn up and witnessed by Robert Payne.

Some of the features of this parade were an old Franklin press worked by comically dressed pressmen and a printer’s devil and two female compositors “sticking type”. The Alaska purchase by Seward (a proven diamond mine) in the form of an ice berg, lambasted the government’s investment. Ed Vrooman had a swaying “Albany-Schenectady R. R. train” (hauled by horses) passengers masked , who kept leaving and boarding their cars while in motion. Neptune was again shown, this year its headquarters being at Neptune Engine Company Number 4. A model of the Neptune float is at the historical society. There was another steam man eight feet high, and the giraffe came out again with its sixteen feet height. A yacht club was in sailor garb; a sprinkling cart hauled by Susan B. Anthony (incognito); heat and cold were shown in costume representing fire and frost; A shaker family was in the parade; the “Voyage of Life” after Cole’s famous paintings, a youth in graceful gondola of gold and silver trimmings was a beautiful sight. Napoleon was on hand, and the prince imperial, and an old carriage said to have been used by Washington on his trip to Fort Schuyler in 1785, owned by Peter R. Fox of Palatine. Other features of the parade were Knights and crusaders in battle array, cavaliers and men and women of various nations. Notwithstanding the crowds and all the varied features of the parade, not a single untoward incident occurred to mar the festivities. A meeting of the True Blues was held October 2, 1871, when King’s Cornet Band furnished the music. And when Jerome Meyers died, February 20, 1878 the order attended the funeral. But here the record closes, while the public record ends with the parade of 1870.

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Early Travelers’ Account of Schenectady

* We will be reprinting articles from our past newsletters. This article appeared in March 1966. It has not been updated or altered in anyway.*

By Jean H. O’Hara

Descriptions of America have been recorded in letters, newspapers and books since Captain John Smith sent his impressions of the new lands home to England where they were published in 1608. Through complimentary or derogatory comments, these impressions of native or foreign travelers are especially valuable in any study of the early communities of our country. In many instances they provide the only insight into the past of areas on which no other records are available.

Most of the earliest writers were transients, and through their words it is possible to trace the growth of Schenectady from a frontier trading village into a thriving commercial town long before the Civil War and the industrialization which transformed it into a city of the twentieth century.

Missionaries and explorers, the earliest of non-native visitors, were moved to remark on this beautiful and fertile valley even before Arendt Van Curler envisaged a settlement on these flatlands. Others obviously shared their enthusiasm, for in 1661 a courageous few agreed to build homes in the wilderness. By 1680 travelers to “Schoonechtendeel” found a village of thirty houses and one of these, Jasper Danckaerts, was enthusiastic in his praise of its rich soil and wheat crops but critical of its religious atmosphere. He noted in his Journal that “…this place is a godless one, being without a minister and having only a homily read on Sundays…”

Little more than a decade had passed when the shocking massacre of its inhabitants made Schenectady a topic for discussion throughout the colonies and abroad. Reports on the holocaust promoted visits from the curious and those on official business, including Governor Henry Slaughter, who viewed the village on June 30, 1691 and later reported that he “…found that place in great disorder, our plantations and Schenectady almost ruined and destroyed by the enemys during (sic) the time of the late confusions here. I have garrisoned Schenectady…”.

With the advent of resident troops, the village advanced from being little more than a trading settlement to a frontier military post, worth of being mentioned in official reports to England. The importance of this northern frontier focused ever- increasing attention on this area. In 1698 Col. William Romar was commissioned by Governor Bellomont to inspect the northern fortififications, and he reported that Schenectady was “…neglected, built of wood and palisades of poor defense…”.

Because of its strategic locations, the village on the banks of the Mohawk became the center for early negotiations with the Indians, and was often visited by emissaries from the Sachems and the Royal Governors. Drawn by Conferences with the Five Nations, Governor Edward Lord Cornbury honored Schenectady with a visit in July of 1702, and Governor Robert Hunter arrived in August of 1710.

In November of 1710, Governor Hunter returned with on John Bridger, who had been commissioned to seek wood for His Majesty’s ships. England drew upon the natural resources of her colonies to supply naval stores for the vessels of the Royal Navy. Aside from their importance to the colonists, the vast forests along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers attracted the attention of the Royal authorities. Mr. Bridger reported a successful journey by writing to his superiors that”…I have with the Governor been up Hudson’s River at Albany and Schinectedy (sic) and have seen and viewed several great Tracts of Pitch Pine proper for making Tar, Pitch…”.

Visitors during these early years of the 18th century were confined mainly to the above mentioned officials, courageous pioneers migrating westward into the wilderness, and military personnel passing through to engage the enemy during the French and Indian Wars. But interest in exploring America encouraged both native and foreign travelers to visit the northern frontier. Scientific studies brought Europeans such as Peter Kalm into the area around Albany, while an inquisitive nature prompted a physician from Maryland, Dr. Alexander Hamilton, to accompany an Albanian surveyor to Schenectady on June 28, 1744. His description of the approach to the village from the Albany Road is most poetic:
“…(Schenectady) is a trading village, the people carrying on a traffic with the Indians – their chief commoditys (sick) wampum, Knives, needles and other such pedlary ware. This village is pretty (sic) near as large as Albany and consists chiefly of brick houses, built upon a pleasant plain, inclosed all round att (sic) about a Mile’s distance with thick pine woods. These woods form a copse above your head almost all the way betwixt Albany and Schenectady, and you ride over a plain, level, sandy road till (sic), coming out of the covert of the woods, all att (sic) once the village strikes surprisingly (sic) your eye, which I can compare to nothing but the curtain rising in a play and displaying a beautiful scene.”

The end of the Seven Years War brought resumed migration of settlers along the Mohawk and an increase in visitors, including many distinguished persons on their way to confer with Sir William Johnson. In the winter of 1760, Sir William’s brother Warren, passed through – apparently amazed that the Mohawk river was frozen enough to permit crossing on foot at Schenectady. He was not favorably impressed with the settlement, for he referred to it as “…a little dirty village…”.

A more complimentary description of the village and its growing commercialism is found in the comments of Col. Thatcher T. P. Luquer on his arrival in 1767 – when there were approximately 300 houses and about 3000 inhabitants. His words also illustrate that the growing British influence in New York had also reached this outpost of civilization-
“…The houses, which are mostly of wood, are built in the Dutch taste, there are some good edifices, lately built, after the English manner. Along the river are storehouses from which the goods for the upper trade are shipped in bateaus…Here are built all the bateaus for the transportation up the Mohawk River, and a number of the inhabitants of the towns and settlements on the banks of the river are employed, and get their livelihood by navigating them. Three men are commonly in each bateau, they are paid from Schenectady to Oswego 5 pounds a man…”

Despite such lucrative sources of income, a lively trade with settlers and Indians up river, and fertile soil for crops, villagers at this period were still dependent on older settlements to the East for some items. Richard Smith, traveling through in 1769, mentions in hi Journal that “…The Tounspeople are supplied altogether with Beef and Pork from New England most of the Meadows being used for Wheat, Peas and other Grain…”

In the following year the inhabitants of Schenectady were exposed to the religious experience which affected all colonies in the years prior to the Revolution. The Reverend George Whitefield, harbinger of the Great Awakening, honored villagers with a visit in July of 1770. He in turn “…was struck with the the delightful situation of the place…” and his enthusiastic reception.

The American Revolution transformed the quiet village into a rendezvous for militia and regulars marching westward and a haven for refugees fleeing from Tory and Indian raiders. During this period General George Washington was certainly the most distinguished visitor, but there were others of importance including the Marquis de Chastelux, one of the many Frenchmen who gave assistance to the American cause. The Marquis was particularly interested in colonial life and inspected the Oneida encampment while in Schenectady in 1780.

He recorded a sympathetic view of the state of these Indians for he found the settlement”…nothing but an assemblage of miserable huts in the woods along the Road to Albany. The Framework consists of only two uprights and one cross pole, this covered with a matted roof, but is well lined with a quantity of bark…”. This encampment was destined to be an eyesore for both residents and transients for many years.

With the coming of peace the movement of settlers westward began again, with the Mohawk valley a natural passageway to Ohio and beyond. Schenectady prospered through trade and reached new importance as a transportation center. One of the many making use of its facilities in 1793 was John Heckewelder, who travelled in the interests of the Moravian Church. He found a village which had grown to include almost 400 houses, 3 churches and an Academy. His description illustrates a vigorous atmosphere:
“…The Inhabitants of this place (seemingly generally pretty Industrious) are likewise chiefly Low Dutch, and appear pretty Sociable. The keep up a Number of light Waggons to transport the Produce brought down the River to this place, to Albany, to which place they go and return the same day. The 8 new boats made here for the purpose of transporting our Baggage, and for our Use to Niagara being loaded we sat (sic) off at 3 in the Afternoon, with 30 hands from hence to work the boats.”

But work was intermingled with pleasure along the banks of the Mohawk, and villagers joined with the rest of America in annually celebrating the anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. In the early days of the 19th century a new awareness of nationalism swept the country, and a Scotsman, J.B. Dunlop arrived in Schenectady on July 4th, 1810 – in time to witness its celebration of the holiday. With glowing words he wrote:
“…There was a grand display of fire works on the Mohawk river, the banks of which, as well as the beautiful bridge over it, were crowded with people, whilst innumerable boats, filled with the genteel class, moved upon the smooth surface of the river to the reverberating echo of a band of music which filled up the intervals between each fire rocket with martial music. The moon shone beautifully bright on all…”

The bridge mention above, which was built in 1809, attracted an even greater number of visitors who wished to view the latest and, in the opinion of many, the great greatest accomplishment of its designer Theodore Burr. Another attraction was Union College and one typical traveler of 1818 who expressed interest in the institution was William Darby, who passed through the town on his way from New York City to Detroit. He made special note of Schenectady’s buildings and its college by commenting that “…Many of the buildings are large, expensive and elegant…For my own part, I viewed the buildings composing the three colleges which bear the name of Union in Schenectady, with a similar reverence, with which I had formerly felt passing Cambridge, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Dickinson. Those, and other such edifices, are the true temples of reason.” During the following year many of the town’s buildings were destroyed in the disastrous fire of 1819.

Mr. Darby also found exceptional the regularity with which properties and streets were laid out. Its design gave credit to the first proprietors, whose orderly division of lands avoided the haphazard growth found in most other early settlements in New York.

While construction of the Erie Canal made it possible for boats to navigate eastward to Albany, most travelers found it easier and quicker to ride by stage or carriage to Schenectady for embarkation. This meant additional income for the coffers of local businesses, as the importance of canal transportation advanced. Typical of the many who chose this method of moving westward was the notorious Mrs. Frances Trollope, who wrote”…The first sixteen miles from Albany we travelled in a stage, to avoid a multitude of locks at the entrance of the Erie canal; but at Schenectady we got on board one of the canal packet-boats for Utica…”

Some comments on the American scene were written for private viewing while others were produced for their commercial value, and by the 19th century any publication containing information on America was guaranteed to experience immediate popularity abroad. Mrs. Trollope found it even more profitable in 1831 to produce a scathing report of her travels in the “Domestic Manners of the Americans”, a book which made her name an infamous one for many generations.

Old Union College Building N.E. corner of Union and College Sts.

A fello-countryman and admirer, Asa Greene, an ex-barber to the King, followed Mrs. Trollope’s example within two years. Among his uncomplimentary remarks about America, he wrote of Schenectady: “…The only thing worthy of note here, is a college, as it is dominated in America; which means nothing more than a school where a parcel of boys learn Latin and Greek, and a few other things; but as I am credibly informed, are never whipped, as the boys are in England…”.

First Schenectady Railroad Depot (Destroyed by fire 1842)

But Mr. Green had the exciting experience of riding on the newly opened railroad between Albany and Schenectady, the western terminus of which was the imposing Roman-style depot on a bill east of the town. The traveler, who rode at the rate of fifty miles an hour, had mixed emotions about the journey, and commented; “…To tell the truth, this is quite an easy mode of traveling; and were it not for the vile republican company with which the rail-road cars are continually crowded, would be a very agreeable one…”.

But the “republican” atmosphere in America by this time constituted one of largest elements in the formula which produced national growth and democratization. The railroad on which Mr. Green travelled was soon to change the complexion of Schenectady, and by the time of the Civil War the town had grown to the point where it was ready for the industrialization which was to follow – ready to retain its importance in a modern world.

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Throughout its history, the Schenectady Jewish community identified with its co-religionists at home and abroad. As early as 1861, when a representative of the Jewish community in Tiberias, Palestine came to Schenectady to solicit funds for a synagogue and school, Congregation Gates of Heaven collected $14.50, and promised future contributions, a premonition of future pledge campaigns for Israel Bonds. When World War I broke out, Workmen’s Circle’s local chapter, started a campaign in October 1914 to raise money for European and Palestinian Jews displaced by the war, and other Jewish organizations in the city joined to hold a mass meeting at Agudas Achim. President Woodrow Wilson recognized January 27, 1916 as Jewish Relief Day, and the Jewish community met to contribute, and as a local newspaper observed: “the gathering was of the Jewish of moderate circumstances” suggesting the immigrant nature and modest income of most the community in 1916. By 1918, the community raised about $12,000, but Rabbi Joseph Jasin of Gates of Heaven, felt that while poor and middle class Jews had contributed he criticized, in an editorial “Shame of Schenectady Jewry,” the response of the wealthier members of the community.
When the war ended, local Jews also organized protests against pogroms in Poland and Ukraine against Jews. In May 1919, the United Schenectady Jewish Community held a protest meeting and drafted resolutions sent to President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of State Robert Lansing. Twenty years later, Jews organized protests against Nazi treatment of Jews in the wake of Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938). Five hundred people gathered at Union College to denounce Nazi policies. In fact, in December 1937, local Jews criticized the appearance of a leader of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund at Union College. During World War II, Schenectady’s Jews held ceremonies to highlight the persecution of Jews in Europe.
The situation in Palestine attracted Jewish attention since World War I. Zionist groups were established in Schenectady as early as 1898, and the Mt. Moriah Zionist Association was formed in 1913. The women’s Zionist organization, Hadassah, formed a local chapter in November 1915 which has been active ever since, and raised funds for philanthropic endeavors in Palestine, and later Israel. Local Jews supported the restoration of a Jewish homeland and contributed to the Palestine Restoration fund. Twenty years later, Jews in Schenectady petitioned President Franklin Roosevelt to pressure the British to open Palestine to refugees fleeing Germany. In the wake of World War II Hadassah and the Council of Jewish Women raised money and supplies for Jewish war refugees and Holocaust survivors. Eight hundred people attended a mass rally at the JCC to celebrate the independence of Israel. When Israel was threatened in 1967 and 1973 local Jews rallied, held meetings, and raised funds for the embattled Jewish state. Finally, in the 1990s, Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union were welcomed into the community, once again, showing the identification of Schenectady’s Jewish community with co-religionists abroad.

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Mordecai Myers

Throughout American history Jewish immigrants sought to identify with their new homeland and sought acceptance as Americans. When Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield in 1881, Schenectady’s Jews held a special prayer service at Gates of Heaven, and when he died they joined with their fellow Americans in mourning his death, and owners of businesses on State Street, like Isaac Levy, wholesale liquor dealer, and Lewis Behr, tailor, draped their shops in black for the fallen president. In times of national tragedy, Jews showed their loyalty as Americans.
Public service provided another means of showing loyalty and their acceptance by non-Jews as Americans. Mordecai Myers, native born, got elected mayor as a Democrat in 1851 and 1854. Fifty years later, Louis M. King, the son of a German Jewish immigrant, served as City Clerk from 1899-1902. Members of the Jewish community, like S. Levy, got elected to the post of city councilman. By the early 20th Century, Jews were well integrated into the civic and political life of the city—even forming a Jewish Republican Club in the 1920s. Jews also served on school boards, hospital boards, and city planning commissions. Integration into the social life of the city was evident in the membership of the Odd Fellows.
Jews served in every war since the Civil War. During World War I, the local Jewish newspaper published a list of every Jewish resident who volunteered or was drafted for military service. Members of the community organized a Jewish Welfare Board to support men in service and help Jewish soldiers from outside the area stationed in South Schenectady during the war. Men from the area wrote they missed the baseball games sponsored by the Y with their co-religionists from Albany, another sign of the Americanization of the sons of immigrants. Similarly, in World War II, the Jewish Welfare Board was recreated in 1943 to help the troops and encourage women to assist in war related events, like bond drives. Members of the community served on civilian groups aiding the war effort, like the county War Council. In 1935, veterans of World War I organized a chapter of the Jewish War Veterans. In May 1948, the community dedicated a plaque to the Jewish men from Schenectady who died in World War II. Jewish War Veterans Post 106 conducted a special memorial service that month at Ohab Sholom-Bnai Abraham. This service reinforced the community’s identity as Jews and Americans.

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