Collage of images of the collection


All Along the Erie Canal: The Pastels of J. Erwin Porter

J. Erwin Porter (1903-1981) found inspiration for his artwork "all along the Erie Canal." In over 70 drawings and rubbings, now in the collection of the New York State Museum, Porter captured mid-20th-century scenes along the mid-19th century route, scenes which are now considered to be historic documents at the dawn of the 21st century.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes: 'Birds of New York' Art Collection

Housed in the historical archives in the Cultural Education Center are a series of bird paintings by Louis Agassiz Fuertes done for The Birds of New York by Elon Howard Eaton in 1910 (vol.1) and 1914 (vol.2). Although there are one hundred and six (106) plates in The Birds of New York, there are one hundred and eighteen (118) original paintings. These are an important part of New York State's heritage not only because they were accomplished by a life-long resident of New York, but because historically, he is considered one of the world's greatest bird artists.

New York Chamber of Commerce Portrait Collection

In 2003 the New York State Museum received a donation of over 200 portraits from The Partnership for New York City Inc. The Partnership, formed in 2002, was the successor organization to the New York Chamber of Commerce, chartered in New York City in 1784 as The Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York. That organization originated with a royal charter granted in 1770 by King George III. The Chamber of Commerce portrait collection includes works by distinguished artists from the late 18th century through the mid-20th century, including Matthew Pratt, Daniel Huntington, and Eastman Johnson. The subjects are Chamber members and associates, many of whom were prominent in the fields of business, commerce, and politics. They include Cadwallader Colden, Samuel F. B. Morse, and John Jacob Astor III.

Rufus Grider Drawings

Rufus Grider (1817-1900) was a Pennsylvania drawing teacher who moved to Canajoharie, New York in late middle age and developed a fascination with Mohawk Valley history. He created dozens of drawings and watercolors documenting the sites and history of the region. In 1937 the New York State Museum received two dozen of his ink and wash drawings of the Piseco Lake area in the mid-1880s. They were drawn during summer vacation with a student’s family.


Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) was one of the most prolific American artists of the 20th century, producing hundreds of sculptures cast in bronze and even aluminum, showcasing her fascination with animals. She maintained a residence and a studio in New York City. Her studio at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina is open to the public, displaying numerous examples of her works and works by many of the most famous and talented artists of her time. Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927) turned his fascination with birds into a career as America’s pre-eminent avian watercolorist of the 20th century. His bronze sculpture of a mountain gorilla contemplating a butterfly illustrates not only his interest in other forms of art and animal life, but also his sense of humor.


New York Furniture at the New York State Museum

The Furniture Collection covers the period 1680 to 1950, and includes many labeled examples by New York cabinetmakers. Among those New York City cabinetmakers represented are: Thomas Burling (working 1769-1802), Michael Allison (1773-1855), Richard Allison (1780-1825), Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854), Joseph Meeks and Sons (working 1829-1835), John and Joseph W. Meeks (working 1836-1860), Alexander Roux (1813-1886), George Platt (1812-1873), George Hunzinger (working 1866-1899) Leon Marcotte, and others. Upstate cabinetmakers represented in the collections are from localities across New York State encompassing every region. Furniture by Roycroft, Gustav Stickley, and L. and J. G. Stickley represents the Arts and Crafts Movement. The Shaker furniture collection which was donated to the Museum by the Shakers themselves, comes largely from the Watervliet, Mt. Lebanon, and Groveland Communities.

New York Furniture: The Federal Period 1788-1825

Leadership in the design and production of furniture moved from Philadelphia to New York during the Federal period (1788-1825). This was partly because New York with its flourishing port, assumed leadership in many areas of trade and commerce at that time. The Federal Furniture Collection at the Museum includes examples by all of the major New York cabinetmakers of the time, including Duncan Phyfe, Charles-Honore Lannuier and Michael and Richard Allison. The style was light and delicate with use of inlay. It reflected the mood of the new nation. Symbolizing a sense of pride, the eagle appeared in inlays and was carved into finials and supports. Cornucopia were often carved and stenciled on the furniture, signifying abundance and prosperity.

Rustic Furniture: The Clarence O. Nichols Collection

In the fall of 1972, the New York State Museum was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Stewart. The Stewarts were looking for an appropriate home for the collection of rustic furniture made by Mrs. Stewart's father, Clarence O. Nichols, for his Briarcliff home in Westchester County. The Museum was pleased to accept this unique collection of 32 pieces made between 1926 and 1947. Nichols furniture is evocative of nature harnessed to human needs, and it works on both levels, of artistry and function.


Glass Negatives: Economic Geology, New York

These approximately 1,000 images are part of a much larger series of photographs gathered by the New York State Science Service from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. The entire collection encompasses all of the major themes of the Science Service, including botany, entomology and paleontology, and documents nearly every corner of the New York State landscape. The entire collection was transferred to the history wing of the Museum in 1990. The images shown here were created to show the relationship between the State's natural resources and commercial uses. A significant portion was taken as part of the effort that led to the State Museum's classic work, The Clays of New York (1900). Indeed, many were taken by the author himself, Heinrich Ries. His research documented brickmaking in the Hudson Valley or pottery production in Syracuse. The collection also shows iron mining in Essex County or limestone quarries in Onondaga County. The images come from the original glass dry-plate negatives. The collection was historically arranged by the size of the glass negative and by the county of origin.


Popular Entertainment Posters

The Popular Entertainment Collections include over one thousand circus posters spanning the era 1880-1950, and ranging in size from window cards and broadsides to billboard size. A large collection of theatre and vaudeville posters spans the same period and features turn of the century melodramas, musical comedies, and popular vaudevillians. The Strobridge Lithographing Company of New York and Cincinnati produced many of these posters between 1890 and 1920. They are colorful examples of the lithographer’s art and prime examples of early advertising.

World War II Posters

During World War II, various US government agencies including the Office for War Information produced posters designed to encourage citizens to support the war effort. While many had overtly political messages, many were simply moral and pragmatic lessons. From the military collection of the New York State Museum.


A Bird's Eye View of New York: Views and Viewmakers of New York State, 1836-1892

A Bird's Eye View brings together 32 panoramic and bird's-eye views of cities and towns throughout New York State. These large-scale lithographs, many in color, have been selected from the collections of the New York State Museum. The earliest views are panoramas drawn in the traditional manner of landscape painting. But by using some imagination, the artist could compose a view with the appearance of being drawn from a much higher elevation. After the Civil War, bird's-eye views became enormously popular. They showed the urban landscape from an imaginary point high overhead. To compose them, the artist consulted atlases, maps and land records as well as the structures themselves. Today, these lithographs are valued not only for their artistry but also for their accuracy and detail with which they document nineteenth-century buildings, streets, railroads, canals and terrain.

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