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War room: New military exhibit at Fulton County Museum filled with memorabilia (with photo gallery)

Thursday, August 4, 2011
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— A visitor to the Fulton County Museum's new military exhibit steps immediately into the World War I section where sandbags and barbed wire convey the images of trench warfare.

The sandbags frame a large glass display case presenting memorabilia from some of the county's own Doughboys. Much of the army-issue equipment belonged to Charles Newham, who survived a German gas attack. His gas mask along with his helmet, canteen, shaving kit and belt are on display near his photo. A World War I German helmet sits there as do memorabilia contributed by the heirs of local soldiers Frederick C. Bradford, William Harris and Edgar Anderson.

There are plenty of photos including a shot of local units marching south on Main Street in Gloversville during a post-war celebration.

The soldiers marched through a large reproduction of the Arc de Triomphe erected at Gloversville's Four Corners.

Museum President Mark Pollak said the military exhibit was planned over the winter in the effort to shape and organize what he described as "a haphazard collection" of artifacts and memorabilia.

The exhibit is dedicated to the late Navy veteran Victor Brumaghim of Gloversville, who operated landing craft in some of the hottest invasions in both theaters including Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

To enhance the presentation, Pollak said, museum officials actively campaigned to encourage area families to donate additional war material.

Just last week, Pollak said, a local resident brought in four World War II helmets.

Many photographs were donated including the collection of Sgt. Harry Hough, who carried a camera into Dachau soon after its liberation.

Most of the photos are scanned and added to a continuous photo exhibit running on a computer screen.

The exhibit is a work in progress and museum officials said they welcome contributions.

"If you have photos and don't want to leave them here, we'll scan them and give them right back to you," Pollak said.

Not far from a war bonds poster that reads, "For Victory...every $3 you put into war bonds buys 144 rifle bullets," are the war drawings of Arthur Mulhall, who served in Europe with the 37th Infantry, 9th Division. Mulhall, who taught art at Gloversville High School, apparently used idle time in combat to sketch gritty portraits of his fellow soldiers. One of them is a self-portrait based on a photograph.

A glass case holds World War II weaponry including American arms, a Japanese Arisaka in 6.5 x 50 mm caliber with a symbolic chrysanthemum etched on the receiver and a Luger taken from a German officer by Worden Potter of Broadalbin.

Among the letters sent home from the war are those composed by sailor Paul Pollak of Johnstown (Mark's uncle), who died in January.

The Civil War archives feature a military flute owned by Reuben Blowers, a money belt donated by the family of Duane Hillabrandt, who served in the 10th New York Infantry, and the Union Army dog tags of William Tell Bellen of Mayfield.

A collection of Civil War drums are in good condition.

Museum officials have compiled a booklet identifying every local soldier and their unit. Many served in the 153rd Regiment.

A gun case exhibits Civil War era muskets as well as an 1860 Colt Army Revolver and an 1851 Colt Navy Revolver and several swords.

Daniel Sweet of Northampton died and was buried on a battlefield somewhere in the south in 1865, but the government sent his family a gravestone anyway. It is on display.

The museum is still lacking personal memorabilia from the Revolution, though the Battle of Johnstown was fought here — ironically, after the truce at Yorktown.

A collection of late 18th century muskets and a pistol mayor may not have been used in the war.

There is one curiosity in the war room, but something of a non sequitur. The county gallows used at the old county jail on North Perry Street to hang at least six people is erected in one corner of the room.

Its last subject was 50-year-old Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh, convicted of poisoning her husband. She was hanged Jan. 24, 1846. She injured her hip while trying to escape from police and sat in a chair for the execution.

The museum's military exhibit follows completion of the FJ&G Railroad exhibit presented last year.

The next project, Pollak said, will be creation of a permanent exhibit on county schools.

A collection of memorabilia from the former Bishop Burke High School, which closed in the early 70s, was recently donated by the Knights of Columbus.

 
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