Summer Afternoon; Fashion and Leisure in the Hudson Highlands, 1850-1950

(Summer/Fall, 2012)


As America matured and its commercial capital, New York, grew in wealth and sophistication, city dwellers seeking respite from the summer heat joined local families along the Hudson River to enjoy a variety of sports and lively rounds of visits and parties. Summer afternoons—“the most beautiful words in the English language,” according to Henry James—became the setting for some of the most striking examples of women’s fashionable dress of the time. Many of these gorgeous garments survive in the collection of the Putnam History Museum, and thirty of them, along with a half-dozen accessories, are on display.

The garments and accessories, mostly custom-made, reflect women’s roles in regulating social life and maintaining standards of proper attire for every occasion. Examples of sportswear include special outfits for swimming and riding as well as the shirtwaist blouses worn for carriage drives and to play croquet, tennis, or golf. At the turn of the century, white cotton dresses trimmed with lace were most fashionable for luncheons, garden parties, and teas. The lingerie worn underneath and the dressing gowns worn only in private were equally elaborate and refined.

The exhibition traces the evolution of women’s fashion over this period, reflecting evolving social mores and tastes. Even on the warmest nineteenth-century summer day, for example, notions of propriety required high necklines and long sleeves worn over rigid corsets and layers of undergarments. Fashion responded by providing materials that were gossamer light—cotton batiste, net, and silk chiffon. Eyelet and cutwork embroidery and crochet lace allowed air to circulate around the body. After 1910, women’s fashion was increasingly simplified, but light, delicate materials, embellished in patterns and colors inspired by the beauty of the season, remained summer constants. By the 1920s, corsets were no longer worn and women were free to bare their arms and legs to the sun. The short summer dresses of the period hung loosely from the shoulders and were as light as a breeze.

A 56-page, color catalogue features photographs of many of the pieces on exhibition and two essays:  “Summer Leisure across the Social Spectrum in the Hudson Highlands” by Dr. Trudie Grace, curator of the Putnam History Museum, and “Fashion for Summer, 1850–1950” by Dr. Lourdes Font, associate professor of art history and fashion studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and guest curator for the exhibition.

Garrison resident Gale Epstein, creative director of Hanky Panky, the internationally renowned lingerie company and a major sponsor of the exhibition, has designed an exclusive collection inspired by Summer Afternoon. Examples of these will be on display, and the items themselves available for purchase at

The Summer Afternoon exhibition is made possible by major funding from Hanky Panky and The Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Foundation and additional generous contributions from Leslie Jacobson, Betty Green, Lisa and Lloyd Zeiderman, and Wells Fargo.

America the Beautiful: Women and the Flag

(Spring/Summer, 2012)








Philipstown Potpourri: Fine Art, Photographs,and Favorite Artifacts From The Collection

Stereoviews and Photographs from the Collections of Mark Forlow and Joe Diebboll

June 25, 2011 to December 11, 2011.

The summer of 2011 features old friends and new finds from the collection of the Putnam County Historical Society (PCHS) as well as photographs from significant collections of two local collectors.  Both exhibitions are on display at PCHS’s Foundry School Museum from June 25 to December 11.

Philipstown Potpourri:  Fine Art, Photographs, and Favorite Artifacts from the Collection presents multiple pieces from the PCHS permanent collection that have not been on view for several years as well as a number of recent acquisitions.  Running concurrently will be the first of a new, changing Collectors Corner exhibition featuring noteworthy works from local collections.  Stereoviews and Photographs from the Collections of Mark Forlow and Joe Diebboll inaugurates this series.

Among the old favorites on view in Philipstown Potpourri are a cast-iron bench made at the West Point Foundry after a design by Washington Irving; the circa 1850 card table that legend says railroad magnate Samuel Sloan played cards at in 1862 while awaiting the arrival of President Lincoln in Garrison; the 19th-century sleigh given to General and Mrs. Daniel Butterfield by the Russian government; and Michael Kelly’s 1969 oil View of the Interior of the Foundry School Museum.

New acquisitions on view for the first time include an 1862 hand-colored lithograph, The Hudson from West Point, by Fannie Palmer and published by Currier & Ives, and Hudson River Steamboats, a 1932 etching by Reynolds Beal, shown with Beal’s preparatory pencil drawing, also recently acquired by PCHS.

Launching the Collectors Corner is a handsome exhibition of more than two dozen photographs and stereoviews of local scenes in Cold Spring, Garrison, and surrounding areas. Many are enlarged rare images dating from the mid-19th to the early 20th century.  They are drawn from the collections of Mark Forlow, long-time Cold Spring resident, and Joe Diebboll, owner of the Highland Studio, a fine art printmaking business in Cold Spring.

Dock House at Garrison's Landing

Making a Living: Businesses in Philipstown and Beyond, 1850–1970

August 1, 2010 to June 12, 2011

The West Point Foundry was the cornerstone of the local economy for almost a century (1817–1911), but it was hardly the only business in town. Making a Living: Businesses in Philipstown and Beyond, 1850–1970, the new exhibition at the Putnam County Historical Society’s Foundry School Museum, takes a look at the other commercial enterprises that formed the diversifying Philipstown economy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Comprised of early photographs, books, prints, artifacts, and memorabilia drawn from private families and the PCHS’s own collection, the exhibition is organized geographically and provides historical portraits of five centers of local commerce: Cold Spring, Nelsonville, Garrison Landing, Manitou, and the Route 9/Albany Post Road corridor. It shows how local businesses developed as the community grew, illuminating an important dimension of Philipstown as a whole.

There are no General Motors or Microsofts here. The businesses depicted are the kind of essential enterprises that kept their owners — and the community — going through good times and bad: retail and hospitality establishments, transportation and construction companies, blacksmith shops, and real estate and other service firms.

Funding for this exhibition has been provided by:

The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area   The M&T Charitable Fund Josh Maddocks and Garrison Tree

Stunning 21st-Century School of Hudson River Images on View at Putnam County Historical Society.
Exhibition of panoramic photographs by Nelsonville’s Richard Saunders.

February 28 to July 25, 2010

New exhibition of panoramic photographs by Nelsonville’s<br />
Richard Saunders runs from February 28 to July 25<br />

Visitors to the stunning new exhibition at the Putnam County Historical Society’s Foundry School Museum, Seasons and Light: Photographs of the Hudson Highlands by Richard Saunders, will likely first be struck by the broad panoramas Saunders has captured. Many of the 42 photographs on view are more than three and half feet wide and depict nearly 180-degree views of the Hudson River and the surrounding landscape. But time and closer inspection reveal it is Saunders’s unerring eye for the quiet subtleties of light and color that gives these pictures their magically ethereal quality.

In one image, the blues, reds, and yellows on the side of a barge on the river appear hand colored against the steely grays of the Bear Mountain Bridge and surrounding hillsides. In another, orange sunlight illuminates mist over the river and the hills beyond. The silence of the Audubon Sanctuary boardwalk stretching into a wintry Constitution Marsh is palpable in a third.

“Fall and winter are my favorite seasons,” Saunders says. “Fall for obvious reasons, winter because of the light.”

Saunders, who owns Hudson Rogue Co., a shop that carries antiquarian prints on Nelsonville’s Main Street, grew up in Cornwall-on-Hudson and is a lifelong resident of the Hudson Highlands. But he didn’t start photographing his own backyard until four or five years ago.

“Customers kept asking if I had any pictures of the area for sale—not old images, but new ones, souvenirs. I usually don’t like to mix old and new, but I decided to try my hand at taking a few.”

Early on, he happened by accident on a software program that merges multiple images into the seamless panoramas on view at the Foundry School Museum. The effect can be dramatic. In one of a handful of photographs from outside the region, Saunders captures an entirely new view of the oft-photographed Brooklyn Bridge — it makes the structure’s span seem almost twice what it is.

Saunders has no formal training in photography, but “it helps to have an eye,” he says. He also readily admits the law of averages plays a role. For every hundred pictures he shoots, he prints two.

“It’s time consuming, merging the images, tweaking the color, getting it right. And what you see on the computer screen isn’t always what prints out on paper. So you have to start over. If I’m going to print a picture, I really have to love it.”

The quality of Saunders’s photographs becomes all the more remarkable when he discloses, with a smile, that he does all his work on an oversized version of a home-office ink-jet printer that accepts a maximum size of 13-by-44-inch sheets of paper.

Viewers who look closely will notice Saunders signs his photographs with a pseudonym, Linda Mason. He took the name from one of his family’s favorite movies, a 1942 classic, Holiday Inn, starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, in which Marjorie Reynolds plays Linda Mason, and she and Crosby sing the first recorded version of Irving Berlin’s hit “White Christmas.”

“I know too many people in the community,” he says. “When I started selling the photographs, I didn’t want anyone to feel an obligation to buy one just because they knew me.”

Seasons and Light:  Photographs of the Hudson Highlands by Richard Saunders opens with a reception for Historical Society members February 27 and runs through July 25. The photographs on view are for sale through the museum shop.

Traveling the Hudson in the Wake of Robert Fulton: 1,000 Postcards from America’s First Working River

Traveling the Hudson in the Wake of Robert Fulton: 1,000 Postcards from America's First Working River at the Putnam County Historical Society Oct 3 - Dec 13, 2009

October 3 – December 20, 2009

It’s a different kind of view of the Hudson River, actually a thousand different views, comprising their own Hudson River School.

Traveling the Hudson in the Wake of Robert Fulton:  1,000 Postcards from America’s First Working River contains printed images of the river and its environs from New York Harbor to the headwaters north of Albany.  The postcards date from the first third of the 20th century, with most from 1905 to 1911.  They are drawn from a collection of some 4,000 cards compiled by Larry Demers, a resident of Cold Spring from 1984 to 1997.

Postcards today usually feature tourist attractions, but a hundred years ago postcards presented all manner of life, including working life, along the river.  Mr. Demers’s collection includes images of bridges, factories, landscapes, street scenes, boats, lighthouses, hotels, tunnels and historical events.  The exhibition is organized geographically so visitors to the PCHS Foundry School Museum can travel the river from its base to its source.  More than 20 cities and towns are represented.  A special section of the collection – and the exhibition – focuses on postcards from the 1909 centennial of Robert Fulton’s historic first commercial steamship voyage from New York to Albany.

Mr. Demers began his collection only six years ago.  His interest developed originally from seeing postcards of the Hudson River region in an antiques store in Nelsonville, New York (the village next door to Cold Spring).  His first acquisition was a book of postcards of covered bridges in Vermont, where he now lives, but he soon turned back to the Hudson and credits his years in Cold Spring, where he developed an appreciation for the enormous historical significance of the river, for that becoming his focus.  He has traveled all around New England and the mid-Atlantic region, and he acquired the postcards from antique stores and postcard dealers in New York State, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Maryland.  Perhaps amazingly in this virtual day and age, only one card was purchased on the Internet.

Mr. Demers’s collection is surely one of the largest on the subject of the Hudson River and has never been on public view.  Individually the postcards present a thousand snapshots of a bygone age.  Collectively they contribute to the understanding of the history of the river over an extended time and in an immediately accessible form.

This exhibition is funded by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. Additional funds have been provided by Terry & Charles Polhemus, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp., Robert’s Total Care Salon, and Mind, Inc.

George Pope Morris: Defining American Culture at the Putnam County Historical Society April 19 – August 23, 2009

George Pope Morris: Defining American Culture April 19 – August 23

Exhibition on Life and Work of Leading Editor, Publisher,  Poet, Songwriter and Cold Spring Resident Opens April 19

Patriots Day marks the opening of a major new exhibition at the Putnam County Historical Society’s Foundry School Museum. George Pope Morris:  Defining American Culture explores the life and times of one of 19th Century America’s most interesting and influential cultural figures. More here.

The West Point Foundry: Unearthing the Past, Forging a Future

March 30 – December 14, 2008

Alicia at the WallMichigan Tech student Alicia Valentino confronts a ruin of the blast furnace wall.

The full arc of American industrial history, from thriving manufacturing to malign neglect to rediscovery and restitution is on display at The West Point Foundry: Unearthing the Past, Forging a Future, which tells the story of two centuries of industrial innovation and ecological destruction and renewal at West Point Foundry Preserve. Visitors can take in the exhibition of photographs, schematics, artifacts and interactive displays as well as PCHS’s permanent collection of historical materials from the West Point Foundry. They can then tour the actual foundry site, now owned by environmental group Scenic Hudson and the subject of a multi-year industrial archeological exploration by the Industrial Archaeology Program at Michigan Technological University. (View the West Point Foundry Preserve Trail Map or download the pdf). More here.

March 24 – July 15, 2007

“A Ramble through the Hudson Highlands: A History in Pictures and the Writings of Donald H. MacDonald”

Hudson Highlands: A History in Pictures and the Writings of Donald H. MacDonald

Donald McDonald, Philipstown Historian

Philipstown Historian Donald H. MacDonald is celebrated with our new     exhibition that illustrates excerpts from 51 of his articles with more than 100 photographs,     prints, postcards, and maps.  A 56-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition which includes     excerpts from his writings, images from the exhibition, and an appendix listing all of     MacDonald’s articles written for the Putnam County News and Recorder.