Published: October 9, 2007
A brass slave collar engraved with the name of a Montgomery County, N.Y., slave owner, and bones from a Chautauqua County elk, more than 170 years old, are among items from the New York State Museum’s collections now on exhibit at the State Museum.
Also on display are items from an archaeological collection, including trade goods from the early 1600s and additional artifacts relating to slavery in the early 1800s, such as a broadside offering a reward for a runaway slave named Harry, and three letters pertaining to his owners’ unsuccessful efforts to find him.
Harry was purchased jointly for $220 by John S. Glenn (whose name is on the slave collar) and John Diefendorff, prominent landowners in Montgomery County. Harry ran away from his Canajoharie masters sometime before March 1806. There is no proof that Glenn required his slaves to wear the collar on display. Such devices were usually associated with the southern plantation system and not with the type of slavery found in New York State, which makes its discovery more interesting and unique.
Archaeological artifacts on display include items that the Dutch, English and French traded to Native Americans for beaver pelts and other goods, or presented as gifts. These include a brass “Jesuit” ring of a type given to converts by French missionaries; brass ornaments and projectile points, possibly made from kettle scrap; a glass trade bead; a European gun flint, indicating the presence of firearms on the site; and a clay pot fragment, dating from 1,000 to 400 years ago.
Also on exhibit are projectile points from a site on Snook Kill Creek in Saratoga County, which date to approximately 3,500 years ago, and a banded slate bannerstone, from a site in Whitehall, dating from 5,000 to 4,000 years ago. There also is an undated mortar stone, which was used to hold nuts or seeds while they were being ground into flour with a smaller round stone called a “muller.”
These items on part of a revolving display that is changed periodically. The New York State Museum is on Madison Avenue, across the plaza from the New York State Capitol. Admission is free. For information, www.nysm.nysed.gov or 518-474-5877.
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