Thursday, September 12, 2019

Apples of my eye

If you visited the Mabee Farm Facebook page or talked to John Ackner, SCHS Facilities Manager, in the last few weeks, you know it is harvest time at Mabee Farm! The apples and pears in the orchard are abundant this year. John and our volunteers started picking the Wolf River apples and Bartlett pears this week. Wolf River apples are a heritage variety usually used in cooking (rather than eaten raw or processed into cider). These apples are large, often weighing about a pound, with a lovely red and yellow speckled skin. They are mildly sweet and hold their shape when cooked.Wolf River apples are perfect for apple butter.

A gorgeous Wolf River apple picked at Mabee Farm this week, thanks to John and our volunteers!

While most of our produce will be used in the upcoming Mabee Farm to Fork dinner, you can find Wolf River apples and other heritage fruits at farms and markets around the county. Visit the Grems-Doolittle Library for recipe inspiration from the historical cookbooks in our collection. Below are two recipes that I'd love to try, written and collected by women in Schenectady.

Pages 76 and 77 from the 1903 First Reformed Church Cook Book by Ladies' Aid Society

DELICATE APPLES: Fill the place where the core has been removed from apples to be baked, with a raisin, a bit of lemon, cinnamon and as much sugar as possible. When baked, add a spoonful of sherry to each apple (from the 1903 First Reformed Church Cook Book by Ladies' Aid Society)

Page 103 from the 1890 Schenectady Cook Book by Ladies of the First Reformed (Dutch) Church

FROSTED APPLE PIE: Peel and slice tart apples enough from a pie, steam until tender, stir into this the yolks of two eggs well beaten, sugar to taste, one tablespoonful of butter, flavor with lemon and bake; take the whites and frost the top the same as for lemon pie (written by Mrs. H.J. Clute in the 1890 Schenectady Cook Book by Ladies of the First Reformed (Dutch) Church)

Bartlett pear picked (and eaten) at Mabee Farm
Happy cooking and eating!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Hello from the new librarian!

A walk along the lake, Central Park, Schenectady, NY. 1919 C.W. Hughes and Company, Mechanicville, NY (Wayne Tucker Postcard Collection at Grems-Doolittle Library). Like many of you, I enjoy postcards and collect them personally. This one caught my attention because one of my favorite activities is walking my dog in the park.

I’m thrilled to join the staff of the Schenectady County Historical Society as the librarian. I’ve been involved with historical societies and local history museums for most of my life, but my professional experience thus far has been in higher education. Most recently, I was the archivist at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH. 

I grew up in Harrisburg, PA, in a family of teachers. When I started as a history major at Northeastern University in Boston, MA, most of my family expected me to follow in their footsteps, but I fell in love with processing archives and special collections. I started as an assistant in the University Archives and sought volunteer and intern positions in a variety of archives and museums.  One of my favorite internships involved cataloging souvenirs and books in the USS Constitution Museum collection. I earned a masters degree in history from Northeastern and a masters of library science from the University of Pittsburgh. My first job out of college was as a library circulation assistant at Harrisburg Area Community College, but my passion for archives and history drove me to establish the college’s archives and serve as the first archives and reference specialist. I moved to Cleveland a little over three years ago to take the archivist position at Cuyahoga Community College. My work as the archivist there focused on collaborating with faculty to bring the collection into the classroom and increasing the discoverability of the collection through finding aids and other descriptions. Currently, my goals as the SCHS librarian include learning where everything in the collection is located and getting to know the SCHS community, especially our excellent volunteers! Looking forward, I plan to encourage the community’s engagement with the collection through increased access and discoverability, grow and preserve the collection, and use the materials in a variety of programs and outreach activities.

As a new resident of the Schenectady area, I have a lot to learn about the history as well as figuring out my new job and the library collections. All of the staff, volunteers, and researchers have been generous with sharing their knowledge and teaching me what I need to know. I have a long reading list and I’m excited to explore the county. If you have suggestions for books to read, places to visit, or people to meet, please share! I hope you’ll stop by the library to say hello and tell me about your research, family, and memories of Schenectady. 

Erie Canal crossing the Mohawk River at the Aqueduct in Schenectady, New York. 1907 Robson & Adee, Publishers, Schenectady, NY (Wayne Tucker Postcard Collection at Grems-Doolittle Library). I learned about Ohio's perspective on the Erie Canal while living in Cleveland, and I'm starting to learn about its impact on Schenectady.
Marietta Carr

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


This blog post was written by SCHS Executive Director Mary Zawacki

Postcards are one of my favorite collections in the Grems-Doolittle Library;
I love them for their color and for their nostalgia. Indeed, on vacations or trips
out of town, I find myself drawn to the postcard bins of antique stores,
searching for just the right one to take home.

For those among us who share that love of vintage “mailing cards”, and who
also possess an interest in Schenectady history (I’m guessing the latter is why
you’re here), I’m pleased to announce a new digital postcard project! Our
volunteer and board member, Mark Vermilyea, contacted me about the project
some months back. An acquaintance of his, Bill Davis, had some 500+ vintage
Schenectady postcards stored at his home. Mark asked if SCHS would be
interested in acquiring digital images of the postcards, and of course, I
enthusiastically said yes.

Bill’s family goes back a long way in Schenectady history. His maternal
great-grandfather was instrumental in erecting the Pulaski monument on
Lafayette St. He also operated R and G bottling works out of his backyard
on Prospect St. Bill’s paternal great-grandfather owned Davis Lumber Company
on Foster Ave, where the city garage is today. Davis Lumber supplied stakes
and posts to the circus when it came to town. With this family history behind him,
Bill began his postcard collection, which today fills numerous binders in his home,
and is now making its way to the SCHS digital archive.

The first step in acquiring Bill’s collection was scanning the postcards (thanks,
Mark!), and then transferring them over to SCHS computers. From there, I’ve
been going through the digital images and adding some of my favorites to
Facebook, where they are well-received. My love of postcards, it seems, is
shared by our community. However, the project has temporarily halted as we
search for our new librarian. I’m sure the next step will involve more detailed
processing, perhaps a finding aid, or the addition of meta-data. That’s where I
bow out of the process, yet invite you to become more involved. As we
continue to catalog the images and make the postcards available online, I hope
you’ll explore them and find them as fun and vivid as I do.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Farewell from Librarian Mike Maloney

Four years goes by way too quick and today is my last day as Librarian/Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society. The Grems-Doolittle Library blog will be on hiatus for a while as we search for a new librarian/archivist. This blog gave me a place to write about some of the more obscure and weird topics of Schenectady's history. It also served as a way to make readers aware of just how interesting our collections are.

When I first started as librarian/archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, I knew very little about Schenectady history. Over time I grew to become very fond of Schenectady County as I learned more about it and I got to see first hand just how passionate our members and patrons are about their county's history. This was demonstrated yesterday at my last outreach program which was a bit different than my usual programs that focus on genealogy or preserving family documents. I was asked to speak on the history of the Mont Pleasant neighborhood at the brand new Mont Pleasant branch of the Schenectady County Public Library. This was a fun presentation as I got to speak to people who were very passionate about their neighborhood and shared some great stories about living there. Seeing this passion has been one of my favorite things about working at SCHS. Whether it's a genealogist making a discovery that connects them to an ancestor, or watching the delight on someone's face as they go through images of historic Schenectady, it has been very satisfying to help people make these connections.

My position as Librarian/Archivist has given me everything I could ask for in a job and I am slightly jealous of my eventual replacement as they will get to work with a wonderful group of people. Everyone at SCHS has been supportive and fun to work with and I am greatly appreciative of my coworkers for creating such a great work environment. This position has been challenging in a way that has allowed for some great personal and professional growth. One specific accomplishment that I am very proud of is making our collections more accessible through digitization, finding aids, and catalogs. During my time here we have digitized and made available over 1,500 items on our New York Heritage Page. We have also rolled out our online catalog and created many finding aids and indexes that can be found on our library collection page.

Of course, very little of this work could be accomplished without the help volunteers. Our volunteers digitize, rehouse collections, create indexes and finding aids and work on a variety of other tasks. Looking back on the projects that our volunteers finished, I'm astonished. Our volunteers are a dedicated and wonderful group and I truly appreciate everything they have done for SCHS. When I first started, our volunteers showed me the ropes and were always around if I had a question or just to chat. Not being a Schenectady native, they were especially helpful in answering some of my more specific questions about the county. All of our volunteers have added great value to our library and have not only made an impact on our collections, but made SCHS a very welcoming place to work and I can't thank them enough for everything they have done.