Sunday, July 9, 2017


Philip Schuyler’s library generally contained over two hundred books at any one time, including books on law, math, science, philosophy, architecture and engineering, navigation, history, and a smattering of popular fiction and poetry. There were books in at least six languages - Dutch, English, French, German, Latin, and Greek- suggesting Philip had some of level of literacy in each of these languages. Tutors would have taught Philip in his youth, but given a dearth of university education available in the area (a problem Philip hoped to rectify when he helped found Union College in Schenectady), much of Schuyler's "higher education" would have been acquired through self-study.

Schuyler likely worked on personal, political, and military business from this room, perhaps from a round-about chair like the one on display, designed for writing [read about the green round-about chair]. Around the room you will see objects reflecting his many and varied careers, including maps indicating his work as New York State Surveyor; papers and currency indicating his business affairs as manager of a 20,000 acre industrial estate in Saratoga County; and maps, letters, and sword as tokens of his military career, during which he served first during the French and Indian War under the command of John Bradstreet, and then during the American Revolution as Major General under the command of George Washington. Throughout, and even after his military service, Philip Schuyler was operating a "Cabinet Noir" and spy network out of Albany. He was writing encoded letters, reading the majority of mail that was sent through Albany, and had agents, including some masquerading as Loyalists, who would report back to him with sensitive information, which was used to gain advantage in several battles throughout the Revolution. [Philip wasn't the only Schuyler interested in military intelligence; read about Angelica and women's military activity]. The painting above the mantel is of the Cahoes Falls just North of Albany on the Mohawk river. These were an obstacle to early water travel on the Mohawk, which inspired Philip to orchestrate a canal system to Lake Ontario as founder and president of the Northern and Western Inland Lock and Navigation Company.
A page from a 1780 letter from John Jay to Philip
Schuyler requesting Schuyler "send me a Plan and
Explanation of the Cypher you once shewed me at
Rhynebeck", referring to a Vigenère cypher which
used the name of Philip's personal attendant,
and enslaved man named Prince, to encode letters.

Though the Library was a private study, Philip occasionally invited guests, including John Jay and Benjamin Franklin, into this space for conversation, study, or to view his papers, all the while attended by servants bound to the family. [Read about Lewis, Schuyler's coachman who served Benjamin Franklin on one such visit] Alexander Hamilton used Philip’s library to study for his bar exams beginning in 1782. A young Aaron Burr also received such an invitation after establishing his law firm in Albany. Conversations in the library could continue well into the night, with the enslaved bringing in regular refreshments and tending to the candles as the evening wore on with discussions of politics, military affairs, business, or horticulture.

As You Exit :

You will pass through the Back Hall

Right will bring you to the Central Hall

Straight ahead, you will find the Dining Room

Left will bring you upstairs into the Salon

Other Rooms:

Best Parlor

Yellow Parlor

Blue Chamber (Upstairs)

Yellow Chamber (Upstairs)

Green Chamber (Upstairs)

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