Skip to main content

About this collection

This website provides a glimpse of the many kinds of unique cultural resources held among the library collections at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Founded in 1795, Union College was the first college chartered by the state’s Board of Regents and is situated in a campus that was the first in the nation to have been designed according to a comprehensive architectural and landscape plan. Its name, Union, reflects the founders' desire to create a welcoming, unified academic community open to the diverse religious and national groups in the region.

A small, residential, independent liberal arts community, Union today remains one of the oldest non-denominational colleges in the country with a rich history that blends respect for tradition with an emphasis on integrating the humanities and social sciences with the natural sciences and engineering in dynamic and innovative ways. Union’s unique cultural resources are housed in the Special Collections and Archives Department of Schaffer Library, in its Permanent Collection, and at the nearby Adirondack Research Library of the Kelly Adirondack Center. Works of enduring value in the collections include archival records related to the College’s history, over 600 manuscript collections in a variety of subject areas, maps, drawings, photographs, other visual material, sound recordings, ephemera, and three-dimensional objects ranging from scientific instruments to works of art from ancient through modern times. Among the library’s book collections are nearly all of the materials purchased to create the first College library in 1795 as well as numerous first editions that span the disciplines; samples of the latter include Isaac Newton’s Principia, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and a complete elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which was purchased directly from the artist himself when he visited the Union campus in 1844. Thus many of these primary resources document not only the reach of Union’s programs but the social and cultural history of upstate New York and the involvement of its citizens in the wider world.



Union College Sub-collections:

The Encyclopedia of Union College History:

"The product of ten years of archival research by Wayne Somers '61 and fifty-four other contributors, the Encyclopdedia of Union College History presents the most comprehensive study ever attempted of the College's past, from the grassroots movement responsible for its founding in 1795 to the close of the John Morris administration in 1990."

John S. Apperson Jr. and Paul Schaefer Collections:

A collection of 500 photographs, pamphlets, letters, and other materials highlighting 20th century citizen political activism, grass roots conservation, daily life, and outdoor recreation in the Adirondacks in New York State. Items were selectively digitized during the Grass Roots Activism and the American Wilderness: Pioneers in the Twentieth Century Adirondack Park Conservation Movement project using the John S. Apperson Jr. papers and the Paul Schaefer Collection.

Joseph Jacques Ramée Architectural Plans for Union College:

A digital collection of Union College architectural plans which includes Schaffer Library and the Nott Memorial, drawn by Joseph Jacques Ramée in 1813.

Aaron J. Feingold Judaica Collection:

North African Postcards of Jewish Women -A digital collection of approximately one-hundred postcards primarily portraying Jewish women, children and families dating back to the early 20th Century.

Union College Civil War Era Patriotic Envelopes:

This collection comprises a series of unmailed Civil War-era patriotic envelopes or covers that was presented to Union College by John M. Pearson. The patriotic covers featured in this collection primarily depict themes supporting the Northern or Union cause. This includes political cartoons and caricatures of patriotic symbols and political messages both for and against the Northern and Southern leaders of the time.

The Butler Family Letters:

Approximately 100 holograph letters written between 1861 and 1864 by members of the family of William Butler, who served during the Civil War in Virginia and elsewhere with the 69th Regiment of the New York Militia.




Union College Postcard Collection:

World War I Era Postcard Collection:

A digital collection of World War I-era postcards that were a gift to Union College from William Nelson Potter Dailey, a member of the class of 1884. Most of the postcards are of France, but some feature Great Britain, Italy and Monaco.


Schaffer Library Postcard Collection:

Postcards of the campus, its vicinity, artifacts, individuals, events, activities, and sites and scenes associated with the College, Schenectady and surrounding areas.

Union College Elizabeth Taylor Postcard Collection:

Black and white postcards of the Union College campus collected in the first half of the twentieth century by the daughter of Civil Engineering Professor Warren Crosby Taylor. They include a particularly rich representation of early campus fraternity houses.

Union College Frank Santaro Postcard Collection:

Postcards of the Union College campus and its vicinity,with a particular emphasis on scenes and buildings in the city of Schenectady.

Union College Robert N. Michaelson, UC 1972, Postcard Collection:

Postcards of the Union College campus and its vicinity, including postcards of student activities, individuals, and off-campus sites associated with prominent College alumni.

Union College William Hahn Postcard Collection:

Postcards of various Union College campus views. This collection shows exterior views and select buildings from the early twentieth century.

Select the collections to add or remove from your search