Answers to “Amsterdam’s Congressmen” Trivia Quiz Preview Questions

Sam Stratton represented Amsterdam in Congress for a record 15 terms.
Here are the answers to my “Amsterdam’s Congressmen” trivia quiz. A total of fifty four men have represented Amsterdam, NY in the US House of Representatives since it started meeting in 1789. Many have fascinating stories and experiences associated with their lives. After completing this quiz, I’m sure you’ll agree. (If you have not yet joined my Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz mailing list, it is cost free to do and you can sign up here.)
Answer to Question No. 1: Jeremiah Van Rensselaer’s (pictured above) older sister Catherine, married Philip Schuyler, a scion of another Albany-area land baron family. Their daughter Elizabeth married the brilliant Alexander Hamilton, this nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and the subject of a best-selling biography by historian Ron Chernow, which was transformed into the Broadway hit “Hamilton” by the genius composer, lyricist and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Answer to Question No. 2: The man credited with instilling discipline in Washington’s Continental Army was the German baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (pictured at left above). Von Steuben first met Benjamin Walker at Valley Forge and it has been written by historians that the two became lovers. In any event, Von Steuben put Walker on his personal staff and after the war, legally adopted him. When Von Steuben died in 1794, he left half his estate to Walker. Walker would end up living in Utica, where he served as a land agent and in 1801 was elected to Congress as the representative of New York’s ninth district, which included all of current day Montgomery County. That’s Benjamin Walker standing directly behind the “Father of Our Country” from a famous painting by John Trumbull (pictured on right above) depicting Washington’s formal resignation of his commission as head of the Continental army in 1783.
Answer to Question No. 3: In addition to Paul Tonko, the other three Amsterdam natives to represent Amsterdam in the House of Representatives are:
Benedict Arnold: The unfortunately named but very wealthy local landowner(pictured above), who served in Congress for one term in 1829.
Matthias Bovee: A local teacher, merchant and farmer who was Arnold’s brother-in-law. He was Amsterdam’s congressman from 1835-to-1837 who then moved his family to Wisconsin, where he started a new farm.
John Sanford: Both his father and grandfather also served as Amsterdam’s representatives in congress but he was the first Amsterdam-born member of his family to hold that position. His grandfather and namesake was a native of Connecticut and his father Stephen had been born in Galway. In addition to being the last member of the family to hold the office he was also the only one to run for reelection and serve two terms, from 1889-to-1993.
Answer to Question No 4: John Starin– Starin was born in Fulton County in 1825 and attended school in Esperence, NY. From 1845-1858 he was a druggist and a postmaster in Fultonville, NY. He then left this area for New York City and got involved in the shipping industry just at the right time, as the Civil War was breaking out. He began building an armada of harbor vessels and proceeded to make a fortune loading and off-loading war supplies from ships in New York harbor. In addition, Starin is credited with establishing the Staten Island Ferry and a steamboat line to New Haven, Connecticut at this time. In the process, he built up enough wealth to be considered one of the twenty richest people in the country. He returned to Fultonville in 1874 and purchased 600 acres on the east end of the village where he had a palatial home constructed, high upon a hill overlooking the Mohawk River. He became a huge benefactor to his community, opening a silk mill, founding the Fultonville National Bank and building a library, a sewing school, and a dance/banquet hall. In the 1880’s, two of his barges filled with concrete would arrive at the village’s Mohawk River port every day to be used for the ornate family mausoleum he was having built at the Fultonville Cemetery. He won election to Congress in 1877 and served two terms. He was a personal friend to both Presidents Chester Arthur and Ulysses Grant. The Starin family mausoleum would be descerated and damaged beyond repair one Halloween night in the early 1970’s by vandals.
Answer to Question No 5: Lucius Littauer:Like John Sanford, who served in Congress before him, Lucius Littauer was born to a family in his hometown that was the biggest manufacturer of the product that hometown was famous for. While Sanford’s family was the biggest producer of rugs  in “the Rug City”, Littauer’s clan was the biggest producer of gloves in Gloversville. Before he became Harvard’s first ever football coach, he graduated from that prestigious school himself. When his gridiron mentorship eneded, he returned to Gloversville and entered the family business. When he was first elected to Congress in 1897, his district did not include Amsterdam. It wasn’t until he ran for a fourt term in 1903 that Fulton and Montgomery Counties were realligned into the same Congressional District that he became Amsterdam’s congressman as well. He made the largest contribution to the fund drive responsible for the construction of Gloversville’s Nathan Littauer Hospital, named in honor of his father, which opened in 1894.
Answer to Question No. 6: After Alfred Conkling graduated from Union College in 1810 and passed the bar exam two years later. He then set up a law practice first in Johnstown, NY and two years later, further west in Canajoharie before becoming District Attorney of Montgomery County in 1818. He was elected to Congress in 1821, by which time he and his wife had a family of five children. Their son Roscoe (pictured at left) would follow his father into Congress and become a powerful US Senator from New York State and the head of the Stalwart faction of the national Republican Party. In that role, the Senator was instrumental in getting Chester Arthur on the Republican ticket in 1880 as the running mate of James Garfield. When Garfied was assassinated just one month into his presidency, Conkling’s guy Arthur became the 21st  President of the United States.
Answer to Question No.7: Eleven men represented Amsterdam in Congress during the Twentieth Century. They include John K Stewart, Lucius Littauer, Cyrus Downey, Theron Akin, Samuel Wallin, William Charles, George Lunn, Frank Crowther, Bernard Kearney, Sam Stratton andMike McNulty. Eight of these men served during the first half of the 20thCentury which means just three different Congressmen represented Amsterdam during the last half of the last Century.
Answer to Question No. 8: Stephen Sanfordwas sworn into Congress in 1869, the same year that his good friend Ulysses Grant(pictured at left) was sworn in as this nation’s 18thPresident. The two had first met almost thirty years earlier at West Point when both were Cadets in the US Military Academy. Grant would go on to graduate and earn his commission in the US Army in 1843. Meanwhile, Sanford left the Academy when he was called back to Amsterdam to help his father run the family’s rug mill.
Answer to Question No. 9: Samuel Wallinwas one of the founders of the Amsterdam rug-mill known as McCleary Wallin & Crouse. The original partners were all employees of the Sanford rug-making firm when they opened their own factory in Amsterdam. While serving as one of the masterminds behind the new firm’s amazing growth, Wallin became deeply involved in all aspects of life in Amsterdam. A staunch Republican, he served as an Amsterdam alderman and was elected Mayor of the city in 1900, serving a two-year term. He later ran for Congress in 1914 and won a two-year term. He did not seek reelection in 1916.
Answer to Question No. 10: Sam Stratton’s successor as Amsterdam’s Congressman was a Green Island, NY third generation Democratic state assemblyman named Mike McNulty. When Sam Stratton became to ill to run for a sixteenth term in Congress in 1988, it was McNulty who was annointed his successor, thanks in large part to his father’s and grandfather’s long reigns as Democratic Party power brokers. Stratton had made New York’s 21stCongressional District one of the safest Democratic seats in the entire country, helping the charisma-lacking McNulty hold it for the next twenty years. That’s the congressman with his father Jack in the Troy Record above photo.
Answer to Question No. 11: Before George Lunn (pictured at left) and Sam Stratton were elected to represent the city of Amsterdam, NY in the the House of Representatives both had served as Mayor of the city of Schenectady. Lunn was a native Iowan, who landed in Schenectady when he enrolled in the Union College Theological Seminary after serving as a chaplain during the Spanish American War. After a short tenure as pastor at a church in Brooklyn, he was assigned to a Schenectady congregation, and became active in local politics and the Socialist Party. He was elected Schenectady’s Mayor in 1911, to Congress, as a Democrat in 1917, became the Electric City’s Mayor again in 1923 and New York State’s Lieutenant Governor, as Al Smith’s running mate, in 1923.
Answer to Question No. 12: (C).Amsterdam has been reassigned to different Congressional Districts a total of 20 times since being originally assigned to New York State’s Sixth Congressional District in 1789. Those reassignments have moved Amsterdam into the 10th, 9th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 25th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 35th, 29th, 28th, 23rdand most recently in 1993 back to the 21ststate Congressional Districts respectively.
Answer to Question No. 13: William Charleswas the original owner of the home on Brookside Avenue. A native of Scotland who migrated to America in 1884, Charles tried his hand at being a rancher in both Texas and Mexico before he moved north and switched careers, becoming a textile broker, who purchased and sold cotton and wool. Amsterdam’s rug and knitting mills were perfect customers for Charles so he settled here in the 1880s and his business immediately thrived. As his prominence grew locally it did not take him long to become involved in competitive politics and he became the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, a New York State assemblyman and finally a member of Congress. Charles built his private residence at 18 Brookside Avenue, adjacent to the home of the Thomas Bunn, the man who at one time owned most of the land on which the Market Hill neighborhoods were constructed. William Charles lived until 1950. His home was eventually sold to the Bigelow Weavers Association who still use it as their clubhouse.
Answer to Question No. 14: Bernard “Pat” Kearneypreceeded Sam Stratton as Amsterdam’s representative in Congress. A native of Ithaca, he began a law practice in Gloversville and then served as an officer in France during WWI. He remained in the National Guard and after WWII he was recalled to active duty, promoted to Major General and put in command of the 27thInfantry Division. He became a Fulton County DA and also a judge during the 1920s. He ran for Congress successfully in 1942 and was relected seven times before deciding not to run again in 1958 and retiring to Florida. He passed away there in 1976 at the age of 87.

Answer to Question No. 15: (B)– Frank Crowther’s parents brought to the US from Liverpool, England when he was just two-years-old. Raised in Lowell, MA, he went to MIT and became a fabric designer. Seven years into that career, he switched professions, completing Harvard Dental School and opening his own practice in Boston. He moved to Schenectady in 1912 and started a practice there, eventually getting involved in city government politics. By 1919 he was popular enough to become the Republican Party candidate for Congress, won the election and succeeded Amsterdam’s William Charles, who had decided not to run again. Crowther, on the other hand had no such aversion to reelection efforts and held his House seat for a total of 12 consecutive terms, finally retiring from office in 1943.

Answer to Question No. 16:(C) – Sixteen Republicanshave served as Amsterdam’s representative in Congress since the Rebulican Party was born over a century-and-a-half ago.

Answer to Question No. 17:Though the number of Republicans who have represented Amsterdam in Congress triples the number of Democrats who have done the same, it has been 60 years since a member of the GOP sat in the seat. Amsterdam’s last GOP Congressman was Bernard Kearney, who left office on January 3, 1959.

Answer to Question No. 18: Dan Buttonwas the popular two-term Republican incumbent of New York’s 29thCongressional District when in 1970, redistricting forced him into a race against Sam Stratton. Four years earlier, Button had shocked state political pundits by quitting his job as Editor of the Albany Times Union to run and win the seat, which had been owned for generations by Dan O’Connell, Albany’s legendary Democratic Party boss. In that election, Button had been aided by a federal government redistricting, which had diluted the 29th’s strong Democratic enrollment advantage in Albany with heavily Republican portions of neighboring Schenectady. Stratton had pulled off his own political miracle in 1964 by winning reelection despite the fact that Republicans had pushed through another redistricting plan that forced Stratton to run in a newly formed submarine shaped district with a two-to-one Republican party majority in registered voters. In the end, Stratton defeated Button handily to continue an unbeaten streak that would reach 14 consecutive elections.

 

Answer to Question No. 19: (d) Francis Joe Vitollo(pictured at left)lost two Congressional election bids to Tonko, losing to the Amsterdam Democrat in 2016 and again in 2018. Choice a, Jim Fischer lost to Tonko in 2014. Choice b, Bob Dieterich went down to defeat against him in 2012. Choice c, James Buhrmaster lost to Tonko in 2010 and Choice e, Ted Danz was Tonko’s first victim in 2008.

Answers to Question No. 20: Theron Akin’s Dad actually owned and lived in the historic main house of the Old Fort in Fort Johnson (pictured at left). The family sold the fort to the Montgomery County Historical Society in 1905. Before he entered politics, Theron Akin was a practicing dentist in Amsterdam. He then began working with his Dad, who owned a successful farm. Akin was the guy who led the successful campaign to incorporate the village of Fort Johnson in and he became its first Mayor. And by the way, it wasn’t named Fort Johnson at first. It was incorporated as the Village of Akin. Akin was elected to Congress representing the 30th district as the Progressive Party Candidate in 1910. His neighbors back in Akin, NY would grow so upset by his subsequent voting record in Washington, they voted to rename their village Ft. Johnson. Akin was unable to secure the Progressive Party’s nomination for a reelection bid in 1912, so he returned to the family farm in Ft. Johnson. He would spend the rest of his political life trying to get back in Congress.

Here is the lineup for the July 27, 2019 Reunion Battle of the Amsterdam Bands to take place at Riverlink Park on the Mohawk River waterfront.

From the late 1960s
The Dynamics: Two members of the original quintet, star drummer Bobby Belive and the talented guitarist Danny Ryczek will bring at least two new bandmates to get the evening off to a rousing start!
From the early 1970’s
Friends: The incomparable Louie Velez  and original band members Jon Knapik and Mike Furman hope to have others from the original group on board as well.
From the mid 1970’s
Tradewinds: Original bandmatesJohn Papa (bass and vocals), Bob Labate (guitar and vocal),  Carry Brunner (keyboards, vocals) can’t wait to play and we’re sure one of the songs will be a Boz Scaggs classic!
From the 1980’s
Ice-a-Tar: All the original band members: Steve Cowles-Guitar; Darryle Lanza– Keyboards and Bass; Lou Stark-Drums; and Jon Bramer-Lead Vocals will be on hand and expect them to bring some Bon Jovi with them!
From the 1990’s 
Flood: Expect some heavy rock from this trio which will include Dave Rafalik – Guitar; Vocals, AJ Simiele – Bass; and Mike Miseno – Drums.
From the 2000’s
Tunnel: N.J. Sherbunt, Mike Dunn and Joe Leone will be bringing their rock music to the waterfront along with a bunch of their old and loyal fans.
From 1960’s through Today
The Rogues – This band recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as a group and all of the original members are still on board and playing regularly at Rivers Casino. Though they are all Schenectady natives, they were the much admired musical entertainment at tons of Amsterdam dances. Member Tom Donahue now lives in Amsterdam and tells us his bandmates are thrilled to be taking part in this classic reunion.

 

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