Welcome to Staatsburgh State Historic Site's blog! Learn more about the Gilded Age home of Ruth and Ogden Mills!

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hidden Treasures of the Collection: Brunswick Panatrope

“Without music, life would be a blank to me.” — Jane Austen, Emma

Gilded Age entertaining and music went hand in hand.  Attending the opera, musicales, or grand balls with a live orchestra was a common social activity for the Gilded Age elite.  Live music was also a frequent component of at-home entertaining.  When Ruth Mills held a reception for Alice Roosevelt on the occasion of her father's election as President, the Staatsburg Band serenaded her, and the Hungarian Band played music for the evening's dancing.

It was during the Gilded Age, that a whole new way to listen to music was developed.  Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, which was the first generally reliable device to record and play back audio.  The sound was fairly scratchy by modern standards, but the technology worked and continually improved over time.  The phonograph was a cylinder playing machine, and by the 20th century it was replaced with the disk phonographic record.  With this new technology, a machine now existed that could bring recorded music into the home and public spaces.

Thomas Edison and his second phonograph, 1878

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Enslaved & In Service I: Colonial New York

If you're just joining us, consider going to the Introduction for Enslaved & In Service: here! Missed our last post? Find "A New Beginning" here.

"Anyone who calls themselves an explorer is an invader to someone else - someone is always paying for the gilding"
Alice Proctor
The Whole Picture 

A slave auction in Dutch New York.
"Slave Auction, 1655" Howard Pyle, 1895.

Sojourner Truth - a contemporary
to Staatsburgh - has introduced slavery
in the Hudson Valley to generations
of Americans.

            Slavery in the Hudson Valley has been an overshadowed aspect of our local history. To better understand Staatsburgh founder Morgan Lewis’ connection to enslavement, it is important to start with how central slavery was to New Yorkers for generations. The entire system of Northern enslavement, from the international slave trade to the local manor houses, operated in parallel with American slavery elsewhere. Yet our contemporary ideas of American slavery fail to acknowledge the scope of bondage in the North. The Hudson Valley offers a window into a world beyond southern plantations to underscore how ubiquitous slavery was for New York colonists and early Republic citizens.[ii] Our collective image of slavery must include people of African descent enslaved in northern states, such as Sojourner Truth and countless others, and not just southern plantations.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Staatsburgh & The Gilded Age

As the stewards of a site that interprets the Gilded Age, we were very excited to see an entire television series dedicated to the era.  We were especially interested because the show was created by Downton Abbey mastermind, Julian Fellowes who is known for the efforts he puts into the historical details and accuracy of his shows and movies.  The first season of HBO's The Gilded Age depicted 1882 New York and aired from January - March 2022; a second season is forthcoming.  The show brought the era to life with magnificent costuming, sets, and a dramatization of the clash between old and new monied elites.  In addition to this central clash of values, the show also depicted the life of the black elite in Brooklyn, the plight of servants, and the ways new technology was about to revolutionize the country.  Although the main characters were fictional, there were several real historical figures mixed in such as Mrs. Astor, Ward McAllister, and Mrs. Fish among others.  

Photo: HBO

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Enslaved & In Service: A New Beginning

Plato. William. Belinda. Stephen. Mary. Peter Williams. Dinah.
The recorded names of people enslaved by Morgan Lewis.

Morgan Lewis,
founder of Staatsburgh.
             Former g
Morgan Lewis is traveling home from Albany. His carriage drives down the dirt roads parallel to the merchant ships sailing in the Hudson River. Before long, he and Mrs. Gertrude Livingston Lewis stop along their way to visit her siblings in one of the countless Livingston estates between Albany and Clinton. Lewis soon arrives at his own country seat, “Staatsburgh,” named for the original Dutch land owners. Their carriage drives past the sheep grazing and horse stables nearby, when the magnificent Federal Style brick mansion comes into view. As Morgan Lewis steps out of his carriage, Stephen, his Black enslaved valet dressed in European-style livery, is there to carry his bags. The cook, a Black enslaved woman named Mary, is preparing the Lewis family’s dinner inside. The Black domestic staff have been busy all day preparing the home for their enslaver’s arrival.  

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Competitive Figure Skating in the 1920s

Although most rivers and ponds are far from fully frozen in January 2022, it is possible that avid ice skater Ruth Mills was enjoying skating season in the late nineteenth century.  January is National Skating Month and a time for figure skaters to share their love of ice skating with others.  It is the perfect time to learn to skate, but in lieu of getting out on the ice yourself, let us take a look back at skating in the United States a century ago.  Given the skating background of Staatsburgh's curator (me), the subject is one of great interest and I have enjoyed researching and writing about skating these past few years! *              

Unknown skaters enjoying the ice in 1925.
Photo Source

*For more information about Staatsburgh's past programs about figure skating in the Gilded Age, take a look at this Poughkeepsie Journal article, this blog essay, or these essays on Staatsburgh's blog