About Us

Our Collection

The second article of the By-laws of the Canal Society of New York State reads: “The purpose and aim of this society shall be to foster study of the history of New York canals and their effect on the life and economy of the state; to provide a means for exchange of inquiry and information; to promote interest in the canals and to encourage preservation of canal records, relics, structures and sites.”

From the beginning in 1956, the Canal Society has accumulated various collections relating to the history of New York State canals. Its founding members were great collectors, and many of their collections are retained by the Society.

Interwaterways 101


Primary among the artifacts held by the Society is the 1894 canal hotel and bar, the Erie House, situated along the old Erie Canal bed at Lock 52 in Port Byron, N.Y. It is being stabilized, and will ultimately be restored to its turn of the century appearance. In addition, the Society owns the original Erie House sign and some of the fixtures from the original tap room.

The Society owns a number of collections as well: Birdseye views of canal towns and cities of New York State: large lithographs, dating from the 1850s through 1900, with aerial views of 19th Century towns showing how the canals shaped their character.

The Madden Collection:
printed and manuscript materials relating the history of the New York canals. It consists of over 300 cubic feet of materials, with a concentration on the Genesee Valley Canal. It is presently being indexed.

The Gayer Collection:
documents on the construction of the original Erie Canal, photographs and slides of the Barge Canal System, pamphlets, and other ephemera. It also has oral histories of people who lived and worked on the old Erie Canal and the Barge Canal System.

Bob Rose’s Collection:
hundreds of aerial photographs of the abandoned routes of the New York Canals as well as of the Barge Canal System as they appeared in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

Channing Soule Collection:
thousands of post cards showing the Erie Canal; maps, charts and plans of canals and canal structures

19th Century Staffordshire pottery:
large platters, bowls, pitchers and other forms were decorated with scenes of the original Erie Canal in blue and white.

Other collections:
models of both canal boats and canal structures. Boat building tools, including caulking irons and hammers, are in the collections. Prints, broadsides, stock certificates, and correspondences fill other parts of the collections.