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First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington (Exhibit Review, Albany Institute of History & Art)

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First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington, Albany Institute of History & Art, Review

George Washington Exhibit, Albany Institute of History & Art, Exhibit Review

George Washington Exhibit, Albany Institute of History & ArtFirsts are nearly always memorable, whether it’s the first day of school, a first kiss, or a first job. Firsts represent precedents set, benchmarks reached, goals accomplished. Our fairly young country holds onto its firsts in the same way: for example, our first president, George Washington. This legendary general is regarded as a leader, a hero, and a symbol of the way the United States of America began. It’s incredible to imagine the position he was in. But even more extraordinary is the legacy he left behind. His name and face have been celebrated and incorporated into our everyday lives, never to be forgotten. His immortality as a symbol of the United States is the theme of the First in the Hearts of His Countrymen exhibit at the Albany Institute of History and Art, on display through May 20, 2012.

Curiously, none of the items on display are direct artifacts of the man himself. None of them were touched by him, they were not his personal belongings, and no letters or metals were received by him. Everything in the exhibit is indirectly related to the significance of George Washington as our first president and as a general. The collection, full of items from the Institute and private donors, includes paintings, kitchenware, statues, magazines, and metals and ribbons from the Benevolent Society. Among the standouts were two flasks depicting Washington’s image: an 1825 by Kensington Glass Works and an 1832 from Keen-Marlboro-Street Glass Works, a 1877 bronze bas-relief of the former president’s face by Charles Caverley, and an iron link from the Great Chain that stretched across the Hudson (along with its companion book by E. M. Ruttenber, Obstructions to the Navigation of Hudson’s River).

George Washington, Albany Institute of History & ArtYet nothing was so impressive as the George Washington Dumb Stove, designed by Alonzo Blanchard. This working stove towered above the rest of the exhibit, black and imposing. Its lead design prototype stood feet away, a miniature figurine identical in every way to its brother. What would possess a person to design a stove in the image of this president? Concepts like this let us imagine what Washington meant to the people—and even now, what he still means. A Time Magazine was mounted to the wall from August 2011, depicting the image of Washington from the dollar bill, but with a black eye. Rather than a symbol of disrespect, it showed how abused our economy has become and the struggle we as a country have been facing.

In the United States of America, we value our image and the example we set for others. These core values have been set by our founding fathers and enforced through the years. The integrity, courage, and success of Washington has been memorialized and commemorated all over. Our currency depicts his image. The Institute, in fact, is actually located off of Washington Ave in Albany, just a few minutes from Washington Park.

If celebrating what former President George Washington means to you is intriguing, the exhibit is open in the Albany Institute of History & Art’s Round, Square, and Jabbur Galleries through May 2012. For more info, visit or call 518-463-4478.

Kate Smith is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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