Books on early Albany

The interpretive works listed below are the best and most frequently seen publications on the people of colonial Albany and their world. They are referenced throughout The People of Colonial Albany Live Here Website. This listing identifies and describes these traditional resources. Books are listed alphabetically by author or by title when no author is specified. Descriptive annotations follow the formal citation.
This skeletal list is open-ended and will be revised and augmented as new features are added to the website! For genealogical and source publications, see Sources.

        Albany Architecture, edited by Diana S. Waite (Albany: Mt. Ida Press, 1993), 278 pages, glossary, illustrations, maps, index.

      Ten chapters - each by leading experts, cover different time periods and parts of the city. "Early Albany: Buildings before 1790" by Paul R. Huey is well-illustrated and provides the most insight on the buildings of the city's first two centuries. However, it is also a thoughtful testimony to the mystery still surrounding many of Albany's earliest buildings. Selectively online from Google Books.

Albany Chronicles, or more fully, Albany Chronicles: a history of the city arranged chronologically, from the earliest settlement to the present time; illustrated with many historical pictures of rarity and reproductions of the Robert C. Pruyn collection of the mayors of Albany, owned by the Albany institute and historical and art society, compiled by Cuyler Reynolds (Albany, 1906), 528 pages, glossary, illustrations, maps, index.

   A compendium of information and lore arranged chronologically and according to mayoral administration. Includes fanciful biographies of each of the mayors of Albany that are full of errors! However, Cuyler Reynolds was one of the great Albany city historians who produced a number of important works. Albany Chronicles has been made available online.

Albany: Dutch, English and American by Codman Hislop (Albany, 1936)

    Professor Codman Hislop also was a historical writer - best known in Albany circles as the author of Albany: Dutch, English and American may have been the first book I read on Albany probably during the late 1950s. Perhaps it was the first modern (20th century) narrative history of the city's people, it appeared just after Hislop joined the English faculty at Union during the mid-1930s.

The Albany Hand-Book: A strangers' guide and residents' manual containing information about the city government, schools and churches; description and history of public buildings and institutions, with special reference to Washington Park, the Rural Cemetery and the New Capitol by Henry P. Phelps (Albany 1884), 178pp, index of major topics, advertisements, illustrations.

    This comparatively succinct (178 pages of actual text blanketed by substantial [yet separate] advertisements) guide to Albany history up to the date of its publication is a shrewd read for anyone seeking to learn more about the founding and history of the city from the perspective of Albany life during the 1880s. Online via Google books and available in print from online vendors.

Albany Institute of History & Art: 200 Years of Collecting, edited by Tammis K. Groft and Mary Alice Mackay (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1998), 332 pages, catalogue notes, color illustrations, index.

    This beautifully presented, illustrated history of the Albany Institute dating to its eighteenth-century origins is, in some ways, an illustrated history of Albany's material culture. However impressive, this work also demonstrates the limitations of even first-rate museum expositions in telling the story of the founding and growth of an important early American community.

Albany's First Church: And It's Role in the Growth of the City, by Robert S. Alexander (Albany, 1988), 312 total pages, illus, biblio, notes, index.

Based on an impressive archive of preserved material and written by the church historian, this work focuses on the structure, leadership, and locations of early Albany's major social institution.

Albany Silver, 1652-1825, by Norman S. Rice (Albany: Albany Institute of History and Art, 1964), 81 pages.

Catalog of an exhibition of Albany silver staged in 1964 at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Photographs of collections items, bibliographies and notes concerning the Albany silversmiths, selected bibliography, errata.

A Beautiful and Fruitful Place: Selected Rensselaerswijck Seminar Papers, edited by Nancy A. M. Zeller (Albany, 1991), 382 total pages, illus, biblio, notes, index.

Thirty-one articles by twenty-eight different authors from lectures presented at the first ten Rensselaerswijck Seminars. Available online. Introduction by New Netherland Project founder Charles T. Gehring.

Ezra Ames of Albany: Portrait Painter, Craftsman, Royal Arch Mason, Banker, 1768-1836, by Theodore Bolton and Irwin F. Cortelyou (New York, 1955), 398 total pages, notes, bibliography, index, illustrations, appendices.

Published by the New-York Historical Society, this well-illustated work is biographical and an annotated catalog of Ames' works. Includes biographical information on painting subjects.

Before Albany: An Archaeology of Native-Dutch Relations in the Capital Region, 1600-1664, by James A. Bradley (Albany, 2006), New York State Museum Bulletin 509. xvii, 230 total pages, illus, notes, index.

The latest historical work on Albany's earliest history. Centered on material evidence, it is much much more and a perfect place to begin learning about the place that became the city of Albany in 1686. Online and particularly well written and presented. It is a testimony to how a community of shared interest can transform data and lore into a wonderful historical exposition.

Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652-1664, by Janny Venema (Albany, 2003), 528 total pages, illus., notes, appendices, glossary, bibliog., indexes!

Available from State University of New York Press and also in the Netherlands. A masterful, in-depth study of the first decade of community life in the village that became Albany in 1664. Largely biographical in focus and thankfully in English, this is the work on Beverwyck and destined to become the long-awaited foundation resource for subsequent histories of Albany. It is of inestimable value to the Colonial Albany Project in that the author has navigated the often-mysterious web of historical resources on the "pre-English language period" of early Albany history - thus permitting us to begin presenting the stories of those not born in America with much more confidence.

Death of a Notary: Conquest and Change in Colonial New York, by Donna Merwick (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999), 281 total pages, illus, notes, biblio, index.

A meticulous, thoughtful, and probing biographical essay on the life and times of schoolteacher and notary Adrian Janse Van Ilpendam who hanged himself in Albany in 1685. This is a masterful work by a wonderfully learned humanist. Online review.

Government by the People: The Dongan Charter and the Birth of Participatory Democracy in the City of Albany, by Stefan Bielinski (Albany, 1986), 64 pages, illus.

A social history of the Albany city charter prepared for the Albany Tricentennial in 1986. Explains the chartering process and its impact on the community and region.

History of the County of Albany, N. Y., from 1609 to 1886, compiled by George Rogers Howell and Jonathan Tenney and "assisted by local writers" (New York, 1886).

Advertised as the "Bicentennial History of Albany," this monumental work is a classic Victorian local history and the most comprehensive antiquarian work on Albany. It has a detailed table of contents that reveals this work's great depth. It is commonly known as "Howell and Tenney."

The Gansevoorts of Albany: Dutch Patricians in the Upper Hudson Valley, by Alice P. Kenney (Syracuse, 1969), 322 total pages, illus, biblio, index.

A remarkable family history written by a professional historian who understood more than most will ever know about her family and its homeplace. This engaging narrative is resource-based and chronicles the family in Albany until the end of the nineteenth century! Alice Kenney's pioneering contributions have been memorialized in an annual award presented by the New Netherland Project.

Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, by Oliver A. Rink (Ithaca, 1986), 284 total pages, illus, footnotes, biblio, index.
         The basic book on New Netherland. Sensitive to earlier works and recommended above the others.

Images of America: Albany, compiled by Don Rittner (Charleston, SC, 2000), 128 total pages.

A handy compendium of more than two hundred historic photographs further explained and illustrated by local lore. Most of the photographs are from the local history collection at the Albany Public Library.

Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society, 1664-1775 , by Sung Bok Kim (Chapel Hill, NC, 1978), 456 total pages, illustrations, notes, index.

         A monumental study of New York's four major manors and a must-read for all students of colonial land policy and the manorial system. An incredible expansion of the author's 1966 doctoral dissertation on Van Cortlandt Manor.

Landmarks of Albany County, by Amasa J. Parker (Syracuse, 1897), 975 total pages, illustrations, index.          A two-part compilation of local lore on places and people. The second section is a biographical directory.

Albany: Capital City on the Hudson, by John J. Mc Eneny (reprinted: Sun Valley, CA, 1998).
         First published in 1981, this well-illustrated but sketchy work is the first comprehensive history of the city to appear in more than fifty years. It is indexed and has a useful bibliography.

The Merchants of Albany, New York, 1686-1760, by David A. Armour (New York, 1986), 275 total pages, chapter notes, bibliography. This transcription is taken from Armour's doctoral dissertation at Northwestern University in 1965.
         This work still stands as the best study of early Albany's most important enterprise. From the beginning, it testified to the potential of a focused inquiry into the foundations of this early American community. The Colonial Albany Project owes a great debt to David Armour's pioneering work!

Mohawk Frontier: The Dutch Community of Schenectady, New York, 1661-1710, by Thomas E. Burke, Jr. (Ithaca, 1991), 252 total pages, footnotes, maps and tables, biblio, index.
         An indispensable community study providing unparalleled windows on settlement, economic networks, and the perils of frontier life. Because the early history of Schenectady is so closely related to that of Albany, this work has informed the progress of the Colonial Albany Social History Project since Tom Burke first brought his new doctoral dissertation, great energy, and foresight to the project office more than twenty years ago!

Annals of Albany, presented by Joel Munsell in ten volumes and published 1850-59.
         The most basic compendious resource for early Albany history also includes many interpretive works. We plan to present some of those items on this website. Each volume is indexed.

Collections on the History of Albany, also presented by Joel Munsell (4 volumes - published 1865-71).
         A continuation of the same types of materials presented in Munsell's Annals.

The History of the City of Albany, New York from the Discovery of the Great River in 1524, by Verrazzano, to the Present Time, by Arthur J. Weise (Albany, 1884), 520 total pages, illus (engraved plates), apps, index.
         A readable but value-laden narrative based on what must have been a deep understanding of Albany's past. The author appears to have learned from many of the basic resources we use today. Despite its verbiage, it is a must-read for serious students of early Albany history. Online via Google Books.

The Mohicans and their Land, 1609-1730, by Shirley W. Dunn (Fleischmanns, NY, 1994), and her The Mohican World, 1680-1750 (Fleischmanns, NY, 2000).          The most comprehensive and most accessible of Dunn's substantial and long term work.

Philip Schuyler and the American Revolution in New York, 1733-1777, by Don R. Gerlach (Lincoln, NE, 1964), and his Proud Patriot: Philip Schuyler and the War of Independence, 1775-1783 (Syracuse, 1987).

These volumes comprehend Schuyler's career through the end of the War for Independence. Both are extremely detailed and essential for understanding the war effort in New York.

Remembrance of Patria: Dutch Arts and Culture in Colonial America, 1609-1776, by Roderic H. Blackburn, Ruth Piwonka, and other writers (Albany, 1988), 318 pages, preface, introduction, forward, color plates, illustrations, bibliography, notes, index.

A beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring large color plates of people, places, and things that have become icons of "Colonial Dutch" culture. Includes historical narratives, histories of various items, and defining information on objects in the collections of the Albany Institute of History and Art and elsewhere. Profusely illustrated! Besides memorializing a landmark exhibition staged at the Albany Institute in 1986, this exhaustive and well-thought-out book is an indispensable historical resource!

Visions of New York State: The Historical Paintings of L. F. Tantillo, by L. F. Tantillo (Wapppingers Falls, NY, 1996), 138 pages, intro, forward, color plates, illus., index.
         Another beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring historical essays including "From Outpost to Entrepot: The Birth of Urban Albany," by Stefan Bielinski. The exhibition, entitled "Visions of New York State," is viewable online.

Memoirs of Eilardus Westerlo, Pastor of the Dutch Reformed Protestant Church in Albany, NY (1760-90) translated and edited by Robert A. Nabourn (Amsterdam, Holland, 2011), 274tp,intro, illus, bibliog, indexes.

        Biographical memoirs of Westerlo Albany's wartime domine annotated and masterfully explained. This reconstructed entity is based on manuscripts in the collections of Historic Cherry Hill and the Albany Institute of History and Art and includes virtually all relevant illustrations. An excellent chronicle of the life and mission of the last Dutch-speaking minister.

The manuscript that became An Abridgment of the Indian Affairs Contained in Four Folio Volumes, Transacted in the Colony of New York, from the year 1678 to the year 1751, was compiled by Peter Wraxall in 1754.

The collection of records Wraxall inherited was not comprehensive but he provided a fairly meticulous summary of the collection. Apparently, Wraxall translated some records from Dutch to English. The "abridgment" manuscript passed through several hands (see pp. xcv-vi) and was purchased by the New York State Library in 1854. A copy of the manuscript was made in 1904. That manuscript was edited and presented with an extensive introduction by Charles H. Mc Ilwain. The work was published under the abovementioned title as volume 21 of the "Harvard Historical Studies" series by Harvard University Press in 1915. Wraxall's manuscript abridgments were destroyed in the State Capitol fire of 1911.


Dissertations and Theses
(By no means comprehensive and very much in-progress)

"Merchant and Redcoat: The Papers of John Gordon Macomb, July 1757 to June 1760,", by Joseph F. Meany, Jr. (Doctoral Dissertation, Fordham University, 1990).

Annotated edition of the business papers of a Belfast merchant in Albany during the Great War for Empire. That collection resides at the New York State Library. Prefaced by a lengthy history of the founding and development of Albany.

"Silent Partners: The Economic Life of Women on the Frontier of Colonial New York," by Aileen Button Agnew (Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Hampshire, 1998), 336 total pages, footnotes, tables and figures, bibliography.

Based on an extensive examination of merchants' account books from mid-eighteenth century Albany and Schenectady, Agnew provides the first focused look at the role of women in community and regional economies. Particularly instructive is her analysis of the business of Elizabeth Schuyler Sanders.

Articles online!
Items are added as we encounter them online!

“The Policy of Albany and English Westward Expansion,” by Arthur H. Buffington, Mississippi Valley Historical Review volume 4 (March 1922), pp. 327-366. Online June 30, 2002 by Dinsmore Documentation.

"The Role of Wampum Production at the Albany Almshouse," by Elizabeth S. Pena, International Journal of Historical Archaeology, Vol. 5:2, (June 2001). Available via Springerlink.


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first posted 06/06/01; last revised 2/28/18