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By Lacey Gardner

New Historical Material from Alfred University now Available on New York Heritage Digital Collections


Read letters from Daniel Hall, view the 1991 Terra Cotta Roof Survey, and more

From Alfred University,

Alfred University librarians have been hard at work digitizing historical material and uploading them to the freely available website New York Heritage Digital Collections,

Over the course of 2023, AU libraries’ digital team working in conjunction with the archives team have added thousands of images from the College of Ceramics and the University Archives.

More than two hundred letters written by Daniel Hall were recently shared:  These letters were written by Hall to his wife Catherine Canfield Hall while he served in the U.S. Civil War as part of the Company H., 1st New York Dragoons in the years 1862-1865.  

Daniel Hall survived the war, although his half-brother Charles Hall was not so fortunate and died in the Andersonville prison.  Daniel returned to his wife and five young children on David Hill road in Scio.  They had three more children after the war, soon moving to Waugh Brook Road in Ward.

Daniel and Catherine’s great-granddaughter, Linda Saunders Fisher Smith, donated the collection in memory of Arling Hall Saunders, Revere Hamilton Saunders (AU 1928) and Milderena Lillian Saunders Fisher (AU 1929), Hall’s grandchildren.  The letters are fully transcribed and searchable, ideal for classroom use as well as recreational browsing.  

Thousands of pictures from a 1991 Terra Cotta Roof Survey were digitized:  These images were part of a documentation project funded by the J. M. Kaplan Fund and coordinated by the Alfred Historical Society, the Baker’s Bridge Historical Association and the Friends of Terra Cotta organization. The photographs from the Terra Cotta Roof Survey show buildings in Alfred, Alfred Station, and Arkport. 

Alfred’s natural shale rock and clay made it a prime location for the Celadon Terra Cotta Company, founded in 1889.  Dozens of local men were employed, making roof tiles that were very popular across the country and installed all around Alfred.  A fire in 1909 destroyed the Alfred plant and caused the company to move operations to Ohio, but that was after the company helped establish the New York State School of Clay-working and Ceramics at Alfred University in 1900.

Other digital collections from the New York State College of Ceramics Archives include Faculty Lectures:  These were lectures written by Charles F. Binns, the “Father of American Ceramics,” and other faculty members in the 1930s about the science and art of ceramics. 

The newest collection to be added is the Lantern Slides of the College of Ceramics:  Many of these photographic slides were used for lectures in the 19th century, and therefore cover the curriculum of the college at the time.  Some of the slides include views of student life, like sporting events and campus buildings, into the 1940s. 

These slides are a valuable resource for researchers, historians, and art enthusiasts alike, offering a glimpse into the educational methods of the past and preserving the unique history of the NY State College of Ceramics at Alfred University.

New York Heritage Digital Collections is a website managed by the Empire State Library Network, with nearly 500 contributing organizations, including Alfred University Libraries, Houghton University’s Willard J. Houghton Library, and the Allegany County Historical Society. 

For more information, contact Claire Lovell, Digital Services Librarian of the South Central Regional Library Council

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