Friday, March 31, 2017

Riding in Style: The Campbells and their Chariot

The Campbell Mansion on State Street. This mansion was designed by famed architect Samuel Fuller. The mansion still exists and can be seen at 101 State Street. It currently houses the Campbell House Psychological Associates. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Photo Collection.  
Schenectady resident Daniel Campbell immigrated from Ireland to Schenectady sometime around 1754. According to historian Austin A. Yates, Campbell was "possessed of small means but on his arrival, he commenced as an Indian trader, with a pack upon his back, and by his native shrewdness, great industry and remarkable economy." He built his fortune by trading with local Native Americans, Schenectadians, and by purchasing soldier's rights to land after the American Revolution. Campbell married Engeltie "Angelica" Bratt after he immigrated to Schenectady. Campbell made quite a name for himself as a trader in Schenectady and by 1762 was able to construct his mansion on State Street. Campbell was also a close associate of William Johnson who was known for commanding Iroquois and colonial forces during the French and Indian Wars in the mid-1700s. Campbell would often entertain Johnson at his State Street mansion when he visited Schenectady.

Possible portraits of Angelica and Daniel Campbell. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Photo Collection.  
How Daniel Campbell gained his wealth is evident from his letter books which we have at the Grems-Doolittle library. He traded animal skins and furs, liquor, shrub (the fruit and vinegar based drink, not the foliage), various other goods, and most importantly, land. He had contacts with prominent merchants in Detroit, Montreal and London, among other places. There are several letters in his letter book that deal with people trespassing on his land, one biting letter from December 16, 1773 to William Brisby shows that Daniel Campbell was not a man you would want to cross. An image of the letter with a transcription can be seen below:

"Sir, I have sufficient proof that you have this winter cut 150 saw loggs of my land about a mile from your house for which villainy you may be assured I will prosecute you as the law directs if you do not immediately come and make me payment for the full value of every logg you have cut or caus'd to be cut for your deceiving me in this manner you shant have one acre of land from me altho I was determin'd to have given you a lease. If I don't see you or have proper satisfaction from you soon  you may expect the consequences for go where you will I shall have you taken. I am, D.C." 
Other letters refer to Campbell suing people who owed him money (sometimes threatening to arrest them), invoices for various goods, and letters about general business matters. There are very few letters of a personal nature, but from letters like the one shown above, you can get a sense of Daniel Campbell's personality. These letters show how shrewd Campbell could be in his business dealings and give an indication as to how he amassed his fortune. The letter shown on the left gives an example of the types of items Campbell was selling in 1774. They include, men's shoes, Jamican Spirits, pipes, salt, rifles, black wampum (the best sort), sugar, tea, pork and tobacco.

Campbell's wealth allowed him to buy a carriage for his wife Angelica in the 1792. Owning a personal carriage was a pretty big deal in the 18th Century. Carriages were heavily taxed as a luxury items and you had the added expense of hiring a coachman and maintaining a couple horses. Campbell's carriage was quite the luxury item. The carriage had two seats and a red Russian leather interior. It's build was similar to the European carriages that were fashionable at the time. Angelica's monogram was on both sides of the carriage, as well as the Campbell coat of arms and coronet. The carriage stayed in the Campbell family well after Daniel and Angelica died. The Campbell's had one child, David, who died in 1801. Without a direct heir, Angelica left much of the land to her nephew Daniel David Schermerhorn with the catch that he change his last name to Campbell which he did.
The Campbell Chariot in 1925. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Photo Collection.  
The Campbell Chariot at the Henry Ford Museum. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Photo Collection.  

Before the carriage was sold it had a brief theater career, showing up on the stage of the Van Curler Opera House in 1918. It played the role of "carriage" in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.
The carriage was kept by Daniel David Schermerhorn Campbell at the Campbell property in Rotterdam (the current site of Viaport Rotterdam) along with a 26 bedroom mansion that D.D. Campbell built. It was said that the Marquis de Lafayette rode in the carriage when he visited Schenectady in the 1820s. It passed from through the Campbell family until 1929 when it was offered to the historical society. The historical society declined due to a lack of space, the carriage simply wouldn't fit in the rooms of 13 Union Street where the SCHS used to reside. The carriage made its way to the Henry Ford's museum in Dearborn, Michigan where it was recently renovated by B.R. Howard & Associates.

The Henry Ford Museum has some very detailed photos of the carriage on their digital collections website. B.R. Howard & Associates also keep an online portfolio of projects they worked on. You can see before and after photos, and find out more about the Campbell Chariot at their website,

Friday, March 17, 2017

Jeanne Robert Foster

This post was written by library volunteer Diane Leone.

Women’s History Month usually calls to mind the achievements of luminaries such as Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman.  While these seminal figures rightly continue to be honored, other lesser-known women have made important contributions to society.  One such local individual is Jeanne Robert Foster. She escaped a poverty-stricken childhood in the Adirondack Mountains to pursue a varied career as a poet, journalist, model, art and literary critic, literary agent, municipal employee, and advocate for the Adirondack wilderness, before dying at the advanced age of ninety-one in 1970.  Mrs. Foster undoubtedly deserves the appellation of “Renaissance Woman.”

Early Life

Foster's mother, Lucia Newell
Oliviere was a staunch supporter
of women's suffrage. Find out
more in our previous blog post:
That Jeanne was to defy expectations was clear even at birth.  Born Julia Elizabeth Oliver on March 10, 1879, she was the first child of Frank and Lucia Oliver.  The infant was declared stillborn by the attending doctor and left on the windowsill while he took care of the new mother.  To his surprise, upon returning to the newborn a bit later, she was alive. 

Today, the Adirondacks are viewed as a scenic getaway destination.  In the latter part of the nineteenth century, although the monied class enjoyed the mountain resorts and camps, life for the residents was anything but easy.  They were a hardy sort, many of them immigrants, who eked out a hardscrabble life logging, farming, and mining.  Jeanne recalled that hers was the only family with deep American roots in the region; most settlers had ancestors from France, Canada and Northern Ireland’s Protestant population.  Born in Johnsburg, she spent her early years in the town of Minerva, in Essex County, where her father farmed.  When she was seven, the family pulled up roots again, moving southeast to Chestertown, where Mr. Oliver was a lumberjack and carpenter. As a poor family with four young mouths to feed, the Oliver's tried to reduce their financial strain by sending their oldest child to live with relatives for a period of about four years.  From the ages of eight to twelve, Jeanne stayed with several members of her extended family, returning home in 1892.

Jeanne’s early life was an indicator of her intelligence and will to succeed.   Her father, a religious man, was uneducated, whereas her mother was a graduate of the Albany Normal School and taught in Chestertown.  An extraordinary student, Jeanne was interested in writing, and several of her articles were published in the local newspaper.  Her first foray into that arena was the article “Autumn Leaves,” describing the seasonal foliage of her beloved Panther Mountain.  With her strong academics, Jeanne was permitted to take the teaching examination at age fifteen.  The following year she was teaching school and helping supplement her family’s limited income.  Unlike uneducated women whose lives were severely limited, Jeanne would use this initial opportunity to improve her prospects.

Marriage and Expanding Career

Jeanne Robert Foster as drawn by
Harrison Fisher. 
 What changed life her immediately, however, was Jeanne’s marriage on August 25, 1897, at age Vanity Fair, who asked her to pose for the magazine.  The December 1900 issue included a photo spread featuring his new find.  Her connection with Dodge led to an introduction to noted illustrator Harrison Fisher, who chose Jeanne to be the Harrison Fisher Girl of 1903, an archetype of the beautiful American woman.  Her modeling career led to a job as an assistant to the fashion editor of the Hearst newspapers.
eighteen, to 46-year-old Matlack Foster, a local man.  In 1968, she gave her reason: “I feared the usual life.  I did not want it.  I married a man older than my father so that I would be protected from –real—life” (Londraville 18).   The couple moved to Rochester, where Matlack was in the insurance business; they also traveled quite often to New York City for extended stays.  During this period, Jeanne graduated from Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (now Rochester Institute of Technology) and took classes at New York City’s Stanhope-Wheatcroft Dramatic School, landing several acting roles in the American Stock Company.  Considered quite attractive, Jeanne had a fortuitous meeting with David Dodge, the editor of

Photograph of Jeanne Robert
Foster taken in 1900. 
Many young women of the time would have viewed this position as the pinnacle of success.  Jeanne’s career trajectory, however, was on the rise.  Her sister Francesca’s bout with typhoid led Jeanne to travel to Boston in 1905 to help nurse her back to health.  Fortunately, her new situation allowed her to attend classes at Boston University and Harvard, with a particular focus on literature and writing.   Her literary talent led to a job with the Boston American, where, among other subjects, she wrote about the problems of the poor, a topic of lifelong interest.  Jeanne remained in the city until 1910, her husband eventually joining her.  A meeting with journalist Albert Shaw at a party led to a job with the American Review of Reviews, of which he was the editor in chief.  Her assignments were varied, requiring her to review books, critique poetry, and write about art, literature, theater, education, and topics of interest to women.  Her work took her to Europe several times, and gave her entrĂ©e to famous figures, particularly men, who were to play important roles in Jeanne’s life.


As noted earlier, Jeanne’s love for writing began in childhood.  In 1916, she published two books of poetry: Wild Apples and Neighbors of Yesterday.  The former is a collection of lyric poems. Neighbors of Yesterday consists of narrative verse, the poems telling stories about the people of her beloved Adirondacks. The idea for an important poem in that collection, “Union Blue,” was sparked by Jeanne’s editorial work on a photographic history of the Civil War.  In the poignant lines below (qtd. in Londraville 37-38), a father who joined the Union forces with his son tells his neighbor about his fallen son’s jacket, which he saved from a robber:

               It’s mostly tatters now, the pocket tore
               A dozen times; I always mended it.
               I couldn’t let those robbers lay their hands
               On Sonny’s coat.  I’ll have it laid at last
               Inside my coffin, when I come to die. 
                                                            (70, lines 97-101)

 A third volume of poetry, Rock Flower—like Wild Apples, traditional in form—was released in 1923 to positive reviews.  A versatile writer, Jeanne even penned a one-act play, Marthe, which won the Drama League Prize of 1926.  In 1986, Noel Riedinger-Johnson edited Adirondack Portraits: A Piece of Time, a posthumous anthology of Foster’s unpublished poetry and prose.  As Riedinger-Johnson notes, along with Willa Cather and Sarah Orne Jewett, Foster was considered the best of an “American feminine literary tradition,” highlighting “…universal human values and the self-reliant spirit of American pioneers” (xxxii).

Influential Relationships

Jeanne’s affairs of the heart were complicated. She was married to a much older man, who was not particularly successful in business. As he aged, he had heart problems, and spent a good deal of time away from his wife, residing at the Schenectady home that Jeanne had helped purchase for her parents in 1901. Meanwhile, Jeanne traveled widely, meeting many people. She became very close with several men, including journalist Albert Shaw; art connoisseur John Quinn; and the eccentric Aleister Crowley, noted as a spiritualist, philosopher, poet and mountaineer. As the authors note in Dear Yates, Dear Pound, Dear Ford, she denied being unfaithful with these men, but her diaries throw into question her denials (Londraville XXVII). In spite of these unconventional relationships, Jeanne was a product of her times, when it was not acceptable for a woman to be altogether independent. She wrote in a 1970 letter that “genius is male” (qtd. in Londraville 138), and commented in her diary that “ order to reach her potential she needed to be attached to a superior man (Londraville XXVII).

Drawing of Foster by John Butler Yeats in 1917.
John Butler Yeats, portrait artist and father of the great poet William Butler Yeats, was a major influence in her life. From their initial meeting in a New York City restaurant in 1911 until his death in 1922, they were the closest of friends. At the center of literary and artistic circles, Yeats mentored Jeanne as a writer and encouraged her to focus on dramatic poetry. He considered Neighbors of Yesterday to be her best work. His death was a great loss to Jeanne. Since his family did not have the financial means to transport his body to Ireland, Jeanne offered to have him interred in the local cemetery in Chestertown, New York, where he lies today next to her.

Art collector and love interest
of Jeanne Robert Foster.
Of singular importance was art connoisseur John Quinn, whom Jeanne considered the great love of her life. During their six-year relationship, from 1918 to 1924, when he died of cancer, Jeanne was indispensable to Quinn, renowned for his collection of modern art. Acting as his companion as well as his assistant, Jeanne used her journalism skills and appreciation of art to serve as “combination secretary, art buyer, and literary liaison” (Londraville, Dear Yates 172) for Quinn. In that capacity, she traveled to Europe and met important writers, such as Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, T. S. Eliot, and James Joyce, as well as the art world’s Constantin Brancusi, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. Before his death, Quinn entrusted Jeanne with the task of selecting some of his prolific correspondence for donation to the New York Public Library.
Two other important relationships were with with British novelist Ford Maddox Ford and American poet Ezra Pound, who lived as an expatriate in Europe. In 1923, Ford, Quinn, and Pound cofounded the transatlantic review, a monthly literary magazine based in Paris. Jeanne served as the American editor of the periodical, which folded after only one year. Friendships endured, however, with Jeanne promoting Ford and his works on this side of the Atlantic. They exchanged letters until his death in 1939. Ezra Pound, a towering figure in 20th century modernist poetry, was generous in promoting promising writers, including Jeanne. He critiqued her poetry and supported her continued efforts at writing dramatic Adirondack verse, which both he and Yeats praised highly.

Later Years

With Quinn’s death, Jeanne focused more on her family. Following her resignation from the American Review of Reviews in 1927, she shuttled between New York City and Schenectady, caring for her father, husband and brother, who all died over the next few years. Now middle aged, with limited resources, she was about to embark on still another career. For about a decade beginning in 1928, Jeanne engaged in research on the New York State Constitutional Convention for Dr. George R. Lunn, a previous Schenectady mayor. From 1938 to 1955, she was the tenant relations counselor for the city’s Municipal Housing Authority. In that capacity, she advocated for affordable housing for seniors, and founded the Golden Age Club at Schonowee Village, which eventually morphed into the Schenectady Senior Citizen Center.

Finally retiring in 1955, this dynamo of a woman described her new burst of energy as a “Renaissance” (Londraville, Dear Yeats 226), writing poetry again and even teaching poetry writing to senior citizens. Now in her twilight years, Jeanne’s Neighbors of Yesterday was reprinted in 1963, increasing an awareness of Jeanne’s work and the early days of the Adirondacks. Although Jeanne died before completing a new book on Adirondack verse, she often corresponded with, and drew inspiration from, noted Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer. Below is a poem in Adirondack Portraits (Foster 145), celebrating a mountain beloved by both:

Crane Mountain (for Paul Schaefer)   
How can I lift my mountain before your eyes,
Tear it out of my heart, my hands, my sinews,
Lift it before you—its trees, its rocks,
Its thrust heavenward;
The basic cliffs, the quartz of the outcrop,
The wide water in the cup of the lower summit,
The high peak lifting above the timberline
Gathering the mist of fifty lakes at sunrise;
The waterfall tumbling a thousand feet,
White with foam, white with rock-flower in summer;
The wreathing of dark spruce and hemlock,
The blood splashes of mountain ash,
The long spur to the north golden with poplars;
A porcupine drinking, bending without fear
To his image?
When darkness shall be my home,
Eternal mountain, do not leave my heart;
Remain with me in my sleep,
In my dreams, in my resurrection.
Crane Mountain
Jeanne received official recognition for her contributions to Schenectady. In 1959, she was named Schenectady Senior Citizen of the Year, and two years later named an honorary Patroon by the mayor. After suffering two heart attacks in the 1960s, Jeanne died on September 22, 1970 at the advanced age of 91. She is buried in Chestertown Rural Cemetery, nestled between the graves of Matlack Foster and John Butler Yeats.

As her biographers, Richard and Janis Londraville, aptly state, “…Foster literally walked out of the woods and into a brave new world (249).” Clearly, she left some very large footprints.

Works Cited

Foster, Jeanne Robert.  Adirondack Portraits: A Piece of Time.  Edited by Noel Riedinger-Johnson,          Syracuse, Syracuse UP, 1986.
Londraville, Richard, and Janis Londraville.  Dear Yeats, Dear Pound, Dear Ford: Jeanne Robert   
     and Her Circle of Friends. Syracuse, Syracuse UP, 2001.
Riedinger-Johnson, Noel. "Jeanne Robert Foster." Adirondack Portraits:  A Piece of Time, by Jeanne Robert Foster, edited by Riedinger-Johnson, Syracuse University Press, 1986, pp. xxi-xli.

Works by Jeanne Robert Foster

Foster, Jeanne Robert.  Marthe.  Boston, Sherman, French and Co., 1927.  This work is included in                Riedinger-Johnson’s Adirondack Portraits:  A Piece of Time.
---. Neighbors of Yesterday. Boston, Sherman, French and Co., 1916.
---. Rock Flower. New York, Boni and Liveright, 1923.
---. Wild Apples. Boston, Sherman, French and Co., 1916.