Albany is more than just the capital of New York — test your trivia knowledge about one of the oldest cities in the New World with the facts below!
On Henry Hudson’s 1609 voyage to the New World (which started as a trip north of Russia to look for an eastern passageway to the Pacific, but then turned south and west at the behest of disgruntled, shivering crewmen), he explored the river that today bears his name, making it as far north as present-day Albany, where the river became too shallow for his ship Half Moon to continue.
Fort Orange was the first permanent white settlement in the Albany area, founded in 1624 just north of the mouth of the Normans Kill. Both Dutch and French Huguenot families lived there, trading furs which were sent downriver to New Amsterdam, then on to pelt-crazed European ports.
Albany was originally called “Beverwyck” by the Dutch, until they surrendered their New World territories to the English in 1664. The English monarch, King Charles II, gave his brother James, Duke of York and Duke of Albany, the territories as a thoughtful gift. James promptly renamed Beverwyck for himself and turned New Amsterdam into New York.
Founded in 1791 and moved to Albany when it became the state’s capital in 1797, the Albany Institute of History & Art is one of the nation’s oldest museums. It houses an astounding collection of Hudson River School paintings, colonial furnishings, manuscripts and personal objects plus ancient Egyptian art and works by renowned sculptors.
The Erie Canal was largely the vision of Jesse Hawley, an importer of grain from western New York to the east, who had gone bankrupt trying to haul goods over the young state’s nearly impassable roads. Using his subsequent time in debtors’ prison to think deep thoughts, Hawley contacted wealthy investors, who began turning his canal proposition into reality, making Albany upstate New York’s most important city as the original eastern terminus of the Erie Canal. Hawley later became the canal’s first commissioner.
Albany is the oldest continuously chartered city in the United States, officially becoming a city in 1686.
Joseph Henry discovered magnetic induction while a professor at Albany Academy in 1829, sparking a revolution in technology that led directly to electric motors and the telegraph. Henry became the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC in 1846.
More than 11,000 state employees work at Albany’s Empire State Plaza, making its weekday population only slightly less than that of the entire city of Glens Falls.
Arriving in Albany on August 18, 1807 on a 2-day journey from New York City, inventor Robert Fulton’s steamboat was the first commercially successful steam-powered ship in the world. While the ship is now popularly remembered as The Clermont, named after its first port of call on the Hudson, Fulton called it simply The Steamboat.
sources: albany.org; albanyinstitute.org; ogs.ny.gov; siarchives.si.edu; pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/fulton