A view of the portraits hanging in the Hall of Governors.

History on Display in the Hall of Governors

History on Display in the Hall of Governors
New York State's
Historic Documents


Bill of Sale of Slaves 1762
Bill of Sale of Slaves, 1762

This document records the sale and transfer of legal custody of slaves – a mother and her two children – held by Peter Bronck of Coxsackie, New York, to Mathew van den Berck. It is specifically noted that the sale is conducted according to the “customs of the plantation of British America,” a recognition that slavery had been outlawed in England by 1762, but was still legal in the colonies.

New York State Library Collection

The General Association Declaration, May 1775 Page 1
The General Association Declaration May 1775, Page 2
The General Association Declaration, May 1775: Front and Back

Almost a year and a half before the Continental Congress would dissolve the political bonds between the colonies and Great Britain and assert that people possessed certain inalienable rights, the New York State General Association declared its own independence from King George III. When news of how the Massachusetts militia successfully fought the British at Lexington and Concord, the delegates of the General Association drafted a statement declaring that New York was no longer a colony. This important sign of New York’s solidarity with Massachusetts helped strengthen the political bond between the colonies, which paved the way for the 1776 Declaration of Independence. New York’s leadership proved to be pivotal in securing a unified colonial statement of independence.

On loan from the Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse, NY


First Constitution of the State of New York, 1777
First Constitution of the State of New York, 1777

John Jay and other Revolutionary patriots drafted the Constitution, which was ratified by a convention at Kingston April 20, 1777. The constitution established the three branches of government and protected basic liberties. This is the final approved draft.

New York State Archives Collection 


Poughkeepsie Journal, 1788
Poughkeepsie Journal, 1788

A convention of delegates from each county in New York met at Poughkeepsie and after long debate ratified the proposed U.S. Constitution on July 26, 1788. The Poughkeepsie Convention proposed amendments that protected fundamental liberties and formed the basis for the later U.S. Bill of Rights (1791). Pages shown contain signatures of convention delegates, including Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

New York State Archives Collection

The Brooklyn Bridge Waltz: Musical Burlesque in the Style of the Flowery Kingdom
The Brooklyn Bridge Waltz: Musical Burlesque in the Style of the Flowery Kingdom

Cover illustration: View of Brooklyn Bridge by moonlight. Characters from burlesque as follows: seated couple in clouds at right (representing Miss Brooklyn and Young York); older man wearing 18th-century costume seated in clouds at left (representing Old Knick).

"A. Nam Foh" is an anagram for A. Hoffmann, designated as copyright holder, along with C. Bunce. This was probably Adolph Hoffmann, listed in contemporary Brooklyn city directories as a music teacher. Bunce, was probably Charles Bunce, who appears in the directories as a music dealer.

Foh, A. Nam. Brooklyn Bridge Waltz: Musical Burlesque in the Style of the Flowery Kingdom (Brooklyn, N.Y.: C. Bunce, 1875)

New York State Library Collection


Brooklyn Bridge Roebling Report, 1877
Tests, tests and more tests, 1877

In his report on the progress of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1877, Chief Engineer Washington Roebling commented on the efforts made to secure appropriate cable wire:


“[The cable wire] samples were … tested in conformity with paragraph 16 of the specifications, which says: ‘All parties who expect to bid on this wire are requested to send samples in accordance with these specifications, the samples to weigh no less than 100 lbs., and to contain two rings.’ 

“The only object of this section was first, to satisfy myself that each bidder could make such wire as was called for in the specifications, and secondly, that each bidder should satisfy himself that such wire could be easily make, and involved no impossible demands.

“The testing of these samples was performed by Col. Paine and Mr. Martin …”

Roebling, Washington Augustus. Report of the Chief Engineer of the New York & Brooklyn Bridge, January 1, 1877 (Brooklyn: Eagle Print, 1877). New York State


A History of New York and the Brooklyn Bridge, 1866-1883
The Brooklyn Bridge and the Human Brain, 1866-1883

In his history of the Brooklyn Bridge, Samuel W. Green waxed euphorically on the part the human brain played in the building of the edifice:

“The Human Brain … consider that this mass of masonry and metal is the product of that matter, of which each one of us carries more or less behind his eyes; that it was called into existence, and set its task by mere vibrations in that porous mass easily lost in the inside of a tall hat; that everything here was first a thought, and a thought only. Where has this Bridge been actually built? In the brains of the two Roeblings, father and son …”

Green, Samuel W. A Complete History of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, from Its Conception in 1866 to Its Completion in 1883. (New York: S.W. Green’s Son, 1883). New York State Library


Greater New York City Charter, 1897
Greater New York City Charter 1897

The charter “unite[d] into one municipality under the corporate name of The City of New York, the various communities lying in and about New York Harbor, including the City and County of New York, the City of Brooklyn and the County of Kings, the County of Richmond, and part of the County of Queens, and ... provide[d] for the government thereof.”

New York State Library Collection


The War Veterans Parade March, 1889
War Veterans Parade March 1889

The War Veterans Parade March illustrates the political power of the Grand Army of the Republic in the decades after the Civil War. Medallion portraits of Benjamin Harrison and Levi P. Morton are almost dwarfed by scenes designed to evoke images of the war: tents, soldiers in formation, stacked rifles, a cannon and an anchor.

New York State Library Collection