On the date of Friday, May 4, 2018 the students once again took a trip to the distant past with the History class instructed by adjunct professor, Michelle Brown. Our history was once again found in our veritable backyard as we packed the vehicles with students to head out to Fort Crailo in Rensselaer, NY. Fort Crailo is a brick fortress owned by Kiliaen van Rensselaer who lived from 1585 to 1643. The students also learned that Albany used to be known as Fort Orange when the Dutch West India Company built it back in 1624. The tour guide handed out a sample of beaver fur, which was a highly sought-after commodity during those days when Fort Orange was responsible for the fur trade in the upper Hudson Valley.
Featured in one of the photos is an old-fashioned toaster as well as a device used for making candles, which were the chief source of lighting long before the advent of electricity. While we live in our modernized state capital, it is easy to forget there is history peering around every corner and archeology is not necessarily synonymous with the Tombs of Ancient Pharaohs! For example, the ground beneath some of our local highways was excavated in the early 1970s and yielded many fragments from the past such as plates as well as utensils used during festivities. Many of us had no idea that Dutch settlers had colonized Albany and settlements such as Fort Orange were constructed with the sole purpose of keeping the English out. The distant past from nearly four hundred years ago is often filled with dark truths related to slavery and brutality. On the other hand, the students were shown paintings depicting the vital role of women in the home and community. In fact, Dutch women had numerous and progressive rights until the English came to revoke such freedoms. Furthermore, the Dutch settlers are credited within having introduced the tulip to our area, and it is ultimately the reason why our fine City of Albany celebrates the Tulip Festival every May.
The perfect end to cap this historical adventure was posing for a photograph right by an old well overlooking the Hudson River. This was said to be the exact place where British Army surgeon, Richard Shuckburgh wrote the timeless song, “Yankee Doodle” to poke fun at the “soft and unmasculine” New England colonial troops who fought alongside the British soldiers. Dr. Shuckburgh supposedly wrote “Yankee Doodle” in 1755 while boarding at Fort Crailo. (A Yankee was a pejorative term for an American even before this country officially declared its independence in 1776 and “dandy” referred to someone excessively concerned with fashion and physical appearance).
The students and staff learned too many interesting facts to retain at once. This epic field trip marked the final History class of the semester. Professor Brown thanked all the students and staff drivers for their help before privately giving every student their well-deserved grades. We look forward to the wisdom of Michelle Brown when she makes the transition as our instructor for the Public Speaking class during the Summer I session!