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  • The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library

Happy 200th Birthday, Henry Crandall

The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library created a new logo for its 25th anniversary in 2018, incorporating the log mark of Henry Crandall, the original benefactor of the library that bears his name. We’d like to honor Henry Crandall on his 200th birthday, by sharing some history, along with the few artifacts that we keep as the caretaker of this great man’s legacy.

Born on February 13, 1821, Henry Crandall was a self-made man, coming from very humble beginnings. He saved his first thousand dollars by the age of 30, by working as a teamster hauling logs in the Adirondack woods. With this money he began a lumbering business on the Hudson River, moved to Glens Falls in 1850, and invested heavily in real estate to make a fortune.

In 1858, Henry Crandall married Betsy Waters, a teacher from Horicon, New York. Soon he built a residence at No. 1 Bay Street in what is now City Park. About 1880, Henry retired from active business life and devoted his attention to public matters and philanthropy, including a library, Boys Saving Club, and two parks.

The Library began in 1892 when Henry Crandall offered Dr. Sherman Williams funding and the use of the second floor of a business building he owned next door to his home. He wanted the library to promote the “intellectual, moral and material welfare” of the community and beyond, and that it be free and open to all:

“If I give money for a library I want the books to be absolutely free to anyone who has interest enough in reading to call at the library for them, and I would not wish to be required to give any guarantee whatever. I would be willing to have the books go as far away as any person cares to come, even if it was as far as Quebec.”

Henry bankrolled the library almost entirely in its first 25 years, and many of those years he held the title of honorary president of the Library Trustees. The resting place for his fortune, the Crandall Trust, continues to contribute to the library’s budget.

The Boy's Savings Club was Henry's encouragement to local boys ages 12-16 to learn the values of work, temperance, and saving money. The club was limited to 100 members, each receiving a numbered pin, uniform and a bank account. Members deposited $25 into the account, and if they could bring the account up to $37.50, Henry Crandall would then add enough money to top off the account at $100. At the conclusion of their meetings on South Street, the entire club, led by members playing fifes and drums, would parade around the corner to Henry's home, shout out "Three cheers for Uncle Henry," and then be served ice cream and donuts.

Crandall Park really began in the 1870s when Henry began to purchase tracts of land on upper Glen Street, and begin a 40-year project to layout a public park. He and Betsy and a faithful workman Benjamin Betty, did much of the work themselves. They went there with a grey carriage team, harnessed to a light cart loaded with tools, to plant trees, dredge pools, prepare roadways. In his lifetime they also created places for children to play, baseball and football fields, tennis courts, golf links, picnic grounds and a swimming hole.

Henry Crandall died in 1913, and his wife Betsy, a year later. The library and parks remain, a gift to our community by this couple. They are buried in Crandall Park, beneath a tall granite monument topped with his log mark, a five-pointed star.

All photographs, paintings, and objects are a part of the special collections of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library:

  1. Henry Crandall, oil painting by P. Prescott 1880.

  2. Oil portraits of Betsy (Waters) Crandall and Henry Crandall, believed to be painted by a Professor Atwood of Philadelphia who was traveling through the region, and according to the Glens Falls Messenger article dated, May 24, 1867, "painted very life-like portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Crandall..."

  3. Henry Crandall's Cash Book 1889-1895, with a page from Oct 1893 reimbursing Dr. Sherman Williams for expenses related to Crandall Library.

  4. Boy's Savings Club assembled in uniform in front of Henry Crandall's home with Henry on the porch.

  5. Boy's Savings Club pin #77.

  6. Photographs of Henry and Betsy Crandall in later years.

  7. Henry's silver mustache cup and saucer.

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