War Room – The Governor’s Reception Room

In original plans for the Capitol, this area was designed to be open space, part of a domed tower that was never built. In the early 20th century, the space was to be a forty-foot high rotunda with ceiling murals chronicling important events in New York State’s military history. Though the murals were painted and installed by the distinguished artist William deLeftwich Dodge, the floor was never removed. A reception room was created from this area from 1995-1997, and the murals were also restored to their original vibrant colors.

De Schaghenbrief, November 5, 1626

Pieter Schaghen, the author of this document, was the representative of the State’s General in the Assembly of the Nineteen of the West India Company. In the late summer of 1626 he reported the arrival of the ship Wapen van Amsterdam, newly arrived from New Netherland. In his report to the directors of the WIC he announced the purchase of Manhattan Island for the value of 60 guilders. The Schaghen letter is the earliest reference to the purchase of the island which would become the center of New Netherland. This letter also details the cargo taken on board the aforesaid ship, which included skins of beavers, otters, and minks.

New York State Library Collection

Contract of Sale of Land Along the Hudson River from the Mohican Indians to Killian Van Rensselaer, August 6, 1630

This is the legal conveyance or deed of the large tract of land to Killian Van Rensselaer that enabled him to establish a patroonship (colony) within the Province of New Netherland. The patroonship plan of colonization was created under the auspices of the West India Company as a means of enhancing settlement in New Netherland.

The patroon (lord of manor) was an investor empowered to negotiate with natives for a substantial tract of land upon which he was obligated to settle 50 colonists at his own expense. The patroon was also granted complete jurisdictional rights and could hold the land in perpetual fief of inheritance with the right to dispose of colony by last will and testament. Killian Van Rensselaer thus became the first patroon of Rensselaerswijck that would continue to exist under his heirs well into the nineteenth century. The lands granted in this conveyance are presently situated in Albany and Rensselaer counties of New York State. Peter Minuit, Director General of New Netherland, signed this document along with others on the governing council. In essence, this document can be called “the birth certificate” of Rensselaerswijck.

New York State Library Collection

The Half Moon Model

The Half Moon was only 85 feet long and 20 feet wide, manned by a small crew of 18. After a treacherous ocean voyage, the crew faced still more uncertainties. Believing the river might be a northwest passage, they spent four weeks exploring, sailing as far north as present day Albany. The uncharted waters posed a constant danger as the ship frequently ran aground on shallows and was becalmed, of halted by a lack of wind and the river’s changing tides.

Collection of Tom Wysmuller

The Great Seal of the State of New York

The Great Seal of the State of New York, as it appears here and on the state flag, is the result of four modifications made to a design first created in 1777 by a committee that included soon-to-be Governor John Jay, and Governor Morris and John Sloss Hobart, both of whom later became United States Senators. The seal was devised to replace the British Crown Seal. Final changes were made to the seal design in 1882.


The most prominent elements of the Seal are the figures representing Justice, with her blindfold, sword and scales, on the right, and Liberty on the left. The scales and sword represent the impartiality and fairness required in determining reward or punishment. Liberty holds a staff topped with a cap that from Roman times through the French revolution represented emancipation and freedom. At Liberty’s left foot lies a royal crown, thrown to the ground to illustrate the diminished power of the British monarchy over the new nation. At the center, a sloop and masted ship represent inland and foreign commerce. The river and mountains represent the Hudson River, so critical to the State’s establishment and growth, and its highlands, and the sunburst, traditionally a symbol of good fortune to come, rises over the highlands. At the top of the seal, an American eagle stands astride the globe, and at the bottom, a banner carries the State’s motto: Excelsior, which means Ever Upward.

DeWitt Clinton, Attributed to John Wesley Jarvis (1770–1840) Oil on Canvas c.1816

DeWitt Clinton (1769–1828), a member of a distinguished colonial New York family, served as governor of the state from 1817 to 1822 and from 1825 to 1828. A career politician, he also had served as mayor of New York City and as a state legislator. Clinton’s promotion of the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, spurred New York’s rise to national prominence by creating an avenue for interstate commerce.

New York State Museum Collection

Holmes Hutchinson Canal Survey Maps 1832-1843

Erie and Champlain Canal Feeders, with water color map of the Glens Falls Feeder Dam, 1834. Note the hand-drawn stag in the upper left.

Legislation in 1827 required a complete manuscript map and field notes of every canal to be completed, resulting in the creation of maps of properties on the Erie Canal, Chemung Canal, Crooked Lake Canal, Cayuga and Seneca Canal, Chenango Canal, Champlain Canal, and Genesee Valley Canal.

New York State Archives Collection

Daniel A. Butterfield (October 31, 1837 - January 17, 1901)

Born in Utica, Daniel Butterfield graduated from Union College in Schenectady before taking a position with the newly-formed American Express Company.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Butterfield joined the New York State Militia. During the 1862 Battle of Gaines Mill, Butterfield earned the Medal of Honor for heroism in rallying Union troops under fire. His lasting contribution came as the author of "Taps," the bugle call sounded during military funerals.

Following the war, Butterfield served as Assistant Treasurer of the United States under President Ulysses S. Grant before returning to private life.

Courtesy of the New York State Military Museum, Division of Military and Naval Affairs


This chair was used by President Theodore Roosevelt. It comes from Henderson House, the mansion in Jordanville, New York owned by Corrine Roosevelt Robinson – Theodore Roosevelt’s sister.

New York State Museum Collection

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt grew up in New York City where his Dutch ancestors arrived in the 1640s in what was then New Amsterdam. Born in 1858, he entered state politics in 1881 and became governor in 1898.

New York State Museum Collection

Bust of Major General John Francis O’Ryan (August 21, 1874 - January 29, 1961)

Son of an Irish immigrant, John Francis O’Ryan grew up in Westchester County. While in college, O’Ryan enlisted as a private in the 7th Regiment of the New York National Guard.

He was named commander of the New York National Guard in 1912. He led his division along the Mexican border in 1916 and throughout World War I.

Following World War I, O’Ryan returned to civilian life as an attorney and held a variety of civilian and government positions. In World War II, O’Ryan again returned to the service of his state, serving as director of civil defense.

Courtesy of the New York State Military Museum, Division of Military and Naval Affairs

Hudson River Sloop Victorine, Model by Jack W. Lowe, 1974

The Hudson River sloop was the most common method of transporting freight up and down the Hudson, from the 17th century until the steamboat gained prominence in the 1860s.

The Victorine was built in 1848 by John and Caleb Welsie and operated out of Cold Spring, NY. She was used exclusively for cargo, most commonly paving stones used on the streets of New York City. During the Civil War, the vessel carried cannon cast at the West Point foundry to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She was said to be fastest sloop on the Hudson.

New York State Museum Collection

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