Historical Artifacts

Object name: Keg with stand from Erie Canal celebration

Object number: X.48

Date: ca. 1825

Medium: Wood, metal, paint
Description: Small wooden barrel with an eagle and the words "WATER" and "Lake Erie" painted on front; brass plaque with inscription attached below rim.


Historical Relics and Souvenirs

The New-York Historical Society’s collection of more than 300 relics includes eyewitness artifacts linked to key moments in American history, such as fragments of the gilded statue of King George III torn from its pedestal on Bowling Green by a jubilant crowd after a public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776; a draft wheel used during the Civil War in the draft lottery held on July 13, 1863, an event that touched off the worst urban riots in American history; and the wooden barrel used by Governor DeWitt Clinton in the ceremonial marrying of the waters of Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean that celebrated completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. In addition to unique relics, the collection includes hundreds of souvenirs recalling public events, from the inauguration of George Washington at Federal Hall in 1789 to the most recent presidential campaign.

Toys & Games

Approximately 3,000 toys and games, primarily from the 19th century, document the leisure pursuits of American families. Toys in wood, tin and cast iron; lithographed board games; and dolls and doll furniture offer a miniature window into family life. Notable toys include a Noah’s ark with several hundred wooden animals; the tin steamboat Excelsior, made by George W. Brown around 1870; and charming carved and painted toys gathered by sculptor and folk art collector Elie Nadelman. The Liman Collection includes more than 500 examples of lithographed board and table games from the late nineteenth century, including many fine examples produced by the New York City firm McLoughlin Brothers.

Tools for Home and Trade

The collection includes thousands of objects used in the home, on the farm or in workshops and offices, from the Dutch colonial era to the 20th century. Included are items related to food preparation and household maintenance, as well as tools used in manufacturing, trades and professions. Notable in the collection are a chest of woodworking tools used by the New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe and tools used by glassworkers at Tiffany Studios.

Maritime, Military, Fire & Police

New-York Historical has deep collections related to naval history. Maritime holdings include ship models, such as the builder's half-model for the ironclad USS Monitor, and the George W. Murdock collection of Hudson River steamboat artifacts. The military collection spans the French and Indian War to World War II, with its most significant holdings in Civil War uniforms and accoutrements. Fire and Police holdings include helmets, leather buckets, lanterns, presentation shields, trumpets and fire-fighting vehicles, as well as 20th-century objects such as bullet-proof vests and police radios.


New-York Historical owns 14 carriages, notable among them the ca. 1770 Beekman family coach, the 1898 road coach Pioneer, and vehicles produced at Brewster & Co. in Manhattan. In 2001, New-York Historical acquired “Betsy,” one of the last Checker cabs to ferry passengers around New York City.

9/11 Collections

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, New-York Historical led the way in compiling, cataloguing and exhibiting historical evidence. Staff members gathered artifacts at the site and worked closely with city, federal, and non-profit agencies to collect materials. New-York Historical has thousands of objects from many sources, including the Fresh Kills Landfill, New York City’s Police and Fire Departments, the 24-hour relief centers at St. Paul’s Chapel and Nino Vendome’s Canal Street restaurant, and local schools and hospitals. Also, countless individuals contributed meaningful artifacts, images and stories. New-York Historical’s archive holds architectural relics, eyewitness objects, shrine and memorial materials, support and sympathy materials and children’s creations. It also includes intact objects related to the World Trade Center prior to the attacks, including a table setting and chairs from Windows on the World restaurant.

Creative: Tronvig Group